Photo by: Ayana Gray
We caught up with New York Times bestselling young adult fantasy author Ayana Gray about her debut novel Beasts of Prey (September 2021). The book has since been translated in ten languages across five continents and is being adapted for film by Netflix.
In Beasts of Prey, “fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home—and discover much more than they bargained for.” Last month, Ayana released her highly anticipated follow up Beasts of Ruin which is part of the Beasts of Prey trilogy.
Check out our conversation below!
What is your favorite thing about storytelling?
Ayana Gray (AG): My favorite thing about storytelling is the opportunity to find connections in the most unlikely of places. Stories are passed down in myriad ways; they’re used to find and foster friendship, preserve memories, and entertain. It is one of the world’s oldest and most sacred forms of expression, and I love how universal the power of a single story can be.
When did you start to realize that being an author/storyteller was something you wanted to do?
AG: I don’t know that I ever realized I wanted to be a storyteller; it was simply something I always did. I love stories, and always have. As a child, I thought the idea of being an author and making a job out of storytelling sounded interesting, but at the time there was no clear path forward to realize that dream. It wasn’t until I was much older, and writing Beasts of Prey as a twenty-something-year-old, that I began to let myself imagine that this could be my real job.
What were the main goals and messages you had in mind with your debut novel Beasts of Prey?
AG: In many ways, I wrote Beasts of Prey for the teenage version of myself who was insecure and terribly afraid of what the future held. I wrote a story of two teens who learn to face their fears, who discover good and evil are not always clear cut, and who learn to love and be loved without condition. Of course, it’s also my hope that people reading this story are introduced to mythologies from parts of the world that are less often discussed widely, and perhaps able to learn about something they find interesting.
What is the best advice someone has ever given you about writing and storytelling?
AG: An author I admire deeply, Stephanie Dray, once said “sometimes you have to let yourself write badly,” and I’ve always cherished that piece of advice. Oftentimes, people want to get things right the first time, and apply way too much pressure on themselves to be perfect instead of focusing on what actually matters: gradual improvement through practice. In the context of writing, my advice is to write the story.
What was going through your mind when you found out that your novel would be adapted for a Netflix film?
AG: It was indescribable, truly. For so long, all I wanted was to finish a single book in the hopes that maybe a few people would read it. A film adaptation seemed like the stuff of my wildest dreams, an impossibility I didn’t even allow myself to entertain. Learning before my book was even published that it had been picked up for an adaptation was mind-blowing, I truly couldn’t believe it, and still want to pinch myself when I think of it.
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