Author Interview: Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer is the epic debut YA fantasy from an incredible new talent—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir. We spoke with author Jordan Ifueko about the inspiration for the novel, how the audiobook captures West African storytelling traditions, and more.

“Immerse yourself in a rich fantasy world with wishes to cheat death, struggles for power, and hopes to find love. Jordan Ifueko has given us the start of a series where peace may not be as it seems and who you are versus who the world tells you to be can have life-threatening and history-shaping consequences. One of my favorite aspects is the chants, prayers, and songs that are essential to the story, and the narrator rhythmically enriches the reading.”

Jessica, Once Upon A Time

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

The earliest drafts of Raybearer appeared 13-ish years ago, when I was 13! It features a group of children who are handpicked to be raised in isolation with the future emperor, and groomed to someday rule the empire of Aritsar. At the time, I was attending a tiny school of close-knit kids—my graduating class was only 17 people. We did absolutely everything together, and took ourselves a tad too seriously, so it wasn’t hard to imagine we would someday rule the world (haha).

Raybearer also deals with the trauma we inherit from our ancestors, and so the book explores some difficult familial relationships as well.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

Raybearer heavily features the rich storytelling traditions of West Africa, and so the audiobook is full of sung lyrics and fun sounds! Both the US narrator (Joniece Abbot-Pratt) and the UK narrator (Weruche Opia) did fabulous jobs.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I have! It was so interesting to [hear] someone else’s interpretation of each character. That’s what makes books magic, I think—they take different shapes in everyone’s heads.

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I am an avid audiobook listener! I couldn’t possibly pick favorites, but a few I’ve recently enjoyed are The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

A place to call home! As a kid, I could spend hours in the carefully crafted (and always cozy) kids section of an indie bookstore. Now I appreciate them for the special care they take with authors—they’re always so enthusiastic and genuine.

Header photo by Tenikomo Photography

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