To say I’m thrilled to have Antwan Eady on the blog today would be an understatement. Antwan can evoke an entire mood, transport readers to a new place, and make you salivate for some southern-style cooking in a single 280-character tweet. Needless to say, I’m psyched for his debut picture book—which recently received two starred reviews!
NIGEL AND THE MOON, written by Antwan and illustrated by the talented Gracie Zhang, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins on February 15, 2022. This is a story about a little boy with some big dreams; but, he’s worried about what other people will think of his aspirations. I can’t think of a better way to end the year—and prepare for the start of 2022—than talking about betting on yourself and making your dreams come true.
LL: Welcome, Antwan. I’m so happy to have you on the blog. To start out, tell us more about NIGEL AND THE MOON. How did you come up with this story?
AE: Laura, thank you so much for having me! I’m glad we could make this happen.
NIGEL started with an opening line. “At night I tell the moon my dreams. And here my dreams are safe.” I was working my day job at the time. And as I’ve always done when this happens, I opened my notes app to write it down then carried on with my day.
At the time, it was a first person POV story titled BETWEEN THE MOON AND ME. This was in 2019.
That opening wouldn’t leave me. So I decided to explore who this character was. His voice was so clear, so distinct. And I wanted to know more about his safe space and relationship with the moon.
In our world, we’ve lost children and we’ve had some taken from us. From school shootings to bullying and more. It’s difficult for me to process those losses. When this happens, so much goes on in my head about who they were, what their mornings were like, who they wanted to become, etc. NIGEL became my way of processing that grief. I asked myself, “what were their dreams?”
In short, I wanted to give the youth a place where their dreams could live forever. I also wanted NIGEL to be braver than I was at his age. I wanted to him to be all and have all simply because he deserves.
LL: Readers, do you see what I mean? Am I the only one getting choked up over here?
Antwan, when we were talking about this blog post, you mentioned that when embarking on your writing career, you came to the realization that you had to start where you are. Can you talk about what that means? How did you stop waiting for the perfect time, place, and means to write?
AE: “Start where you are.” I guess I’ve adopted that as my slogan now.
For decades, I’ve waited for everything to be perfect. I realize now that I was too afraid of getting started. I assumed I needed a brand-new laptop, a quiet space or a café, better stories, and more. I kept waiting for all these things to align in a way that made me feel comfortable. But writing doesn’t require me to be comfortable…sometimes these pages expect me to just come as I am. Messy. Naïve. Afraid. All of it.
But the best thing that I could’ve done for myself was meet my characters halfway, finally.
So, with a bulky, hand-me-down laptop that couldn’t hold a charge, I got started. With paper and a pen, I got started. Day in and day out. I gave myself to the craft. This seems easier said than done, but once I stopped making a mountain out of a molehill, I saw just how powerful I could be. I just needed to get out of my own way.
Once I overcame that, everything else followed. The mind is a powerful thing, right?
LL: I love the idea of getting out of your own way. Tell us more about how you got from that point—deciding to start—and where you’re at now. You have some other exciting picture books on the way. Like Nigel, were you dreaming big from the moment you decided to start writing?
AE: Love this question. People that follow me on twitter know that I say this often…but I’m from the dirt roads of South Carolina. So being here is a dream. But getting here was the “easy” part. Staying here is what I’m focused on now. And when I say getting here was easy, it wasn’t, obviously. NIGEL is my third book. My first was rejected by every agent. The second book that landed me multiple agent offers was then rejected by every publisher. So NIGEL’S my third. Okay, back to the question…
I’m here. NIGEL’s given me the courage to dream bigger for sure. And to take ownership of those dreams. I have MICAH’S RISE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, ill. Ricardo Edwards) coming in 2023. THE LAST STAND (Knopf BFYR/Penguin Random House, ill. Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey) in 2024. A second book with Penguin Random House and a few more unannounced projects coming down the pipeline.
When I saw what I could do with NIGEL, I knew then that I’d never limit myself again. I knew then that I was right where I needed to be, and I’m going to give it my all to keep it forever.
LL: What practical writing advice would you give to writers who are starting out, or perhaps have been writing for a while but are still looking to break into the market?
AE: Hmm…I’m always afraid of offering advice. 1) I’m still new here. (2) Our paths are all so different. (3) Who do I think I am!? haha
With that said, use social media to find organizations seeking to demystify publishing. Use social media to find community. I’m not suggesting you spend hours a day on there. But get what you need from it then get back to writing. I joined twitter in 2019. Instagram too. I didn’t use IG until late 2020. From pitch contests to learning about publishing organizations, I slowly found community. Small. Tight. I never worried about follower count. I knew going into it that I wanted to build organically, so that’s what I did and continue to do. I guess the advice here is to network organically.
Now, if this doesn’t work for you (or if does work for you)…my overall advice is to never compromise self. That’s a clear indicator of whether you’re on the right track. When you start compromising yourself, you’re not only hurting your readers, but you’re also hurting yourself. It may take longer for you to get to where you want to be, but at least you’ll get there by standing in your truth. And when you get there, you never know how much life may accelerate things for you. So hold on.
LL: This is excellent advice! Let’s end with a fun question. You have an apple on your shoulder in your social media profile picture. Tell us more about Apple.
AE: Haha! I’ve never spoken about Apple in an interview before.
But Apple’s my comfort. It’s my reminder to have fun and remember my joy. But I’m also not comfortable taking pictures sometimes. I’m getting there slowly, but Apple’s been such a fun friend to have with me on this journey. Sadly, Apple may be leaving when I update my profile pictures since I’ve grown my hair out now. Who knows…maybe another fruit will make an appearance?
LL: Thanks so much for being on the blog today, Antwan; it was a pleasure to have you here. Readers, if you’d like to connect with Antwan, you can do so here:
Social media: Twitter @antwan_eady, IG @antwan.eady
And if you’d like to pre-order NIGEL AND THE MOON, you can do so here:
For signed and personalized copies,
Antwan Eady grew up in Garnett, SC, where he spent most of his days riding four-wheelers, fishing, and imagining a world without limitations. Eady is the author of upcoming titles NIGEL AND THE MOON (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books) – February 15, 2022, MICAH’S RISE (2023), and THE LAST STAND (Knopf BFYR) – 2024. When he isn’t writing, he’s searching for the best Low Country boil in Savannah, GA where he currently resides. Antwan is represented by Steven Malk of Writers House. You can find him on Twitter @antwan_eady and on Instagram @antwan.eady.
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