Book lovers everywhere have been celebrating the release of Queenie, the critically acclaimed novel about a young British Black woman trying her best to get her life in order.
TBB caught up with the book’s author Candice Carty-Williams, to find out more about the novel and her inspiration for creating the eponymous character Queenie.
Tell us who you are and what you do…`
My name is Candice Carty-Williams and I write! Mainly on culture, but more recently novels.
Your debut novel Queenie has just been released. Tell us what it’s about?
Queenie is about a young black woman living in South London. When we meet her at the beginning of the novel, she’s about to go through a sort of concentrated quarter-life crisis, triggered by a tricky breakup. The journey that she goes on; through bad dates, worse sex, mad politics at work and trying to convince her Jamaican family that therapy is necessary (and normal) is a tough one. But it opens her eyes to her place in the World and what that place means.
What was your inspiration for writing Queenie?
The World for Black girls around me, mainly. I’ve heard too many stories and have too many amazing women in my life for it all not to have a platform and a place in literature.
There has been a lot of pre and post-publication excitement (well-deserved) around Queenie. Were you expecting it?
I wasn’t expecting it at all! When the buzz started increasing, I didn’t really know how to process it- I still don’t, really. I’m not very loud on social media and am pretty quiet and self-contained in real life, so it was really weird to keep seeing my name around the place. One of the weirdest things that happened so far is going to see Dave at the 02 Academy in Brixton and have one of the Black male security guards shout ‘Queenie! You’re going to have to sign my book for me you know’ across the crowd outside. That made me laugh.
One of the most noticeable things about Queenie is that she is Black British and the main character, which is not often seen in British literature. Why do you think that is?
Sadly, the gatekeepers to the publishing industry are still waking to the fact that Black people need to see their own stories, and that when catered to, we will all support. My publishers understood this from the beginning and have made sure that when Queenie was published, it wasn’t published quietly, it was a loud event.
What’s your favourite moment in the book?
Definitely, Kyazike’s bad date because we’ve all been there. She’s my favourite character as well as the most fun to write and it was amazing giving her a chance to take centre stage even though the book is (selfishly) about Queenie.
Dating as a Black woman is a key component in this novel. What would be your number one dating tip?
Know your worth. I think it’s really easy to get swept up in someone’s attention without thinking about what their motivations are or how those motivations will impact you. When you know who you are and what you stand for, you’ll know what you deserve and will accept.
Queenie covers a range of issues affecting Black womanhood from dating, mental health to family drama and career insecurities. What would your advice be to someone going through similar experiences?
TALK. I spent so much of my life not talking about things and thinking that I could carry and endure everything, but all of the tricky stuff will make its way out, believe me. Talk openly and honestly to people that you can trust and also to those who are open to listening (and can take your stuff on). Talking to my friends has kept me (sort of) sane
Queenie was so named so she could rule everything. If you were Queen for a day what would you do?
I’d get rid of the monarchy.
If and when the TV series/movie is optioned. Who would you cast in the role of Queenie, and the ‘Corgis’?
I’ve thought about this a LOT- I think Queenie kind of has to be an unknown actor- both because I think it needs to be someone we haven’t seen in X, Y or Z- she needs to be fresh, and also because I want to give someone unknown a chance to shine. As for the Corgis, I want them to be played by unknown actors for the same reasons! Hypothetically, I’m going to have so much fun with casting.
Name some of your favourite authors
I love Roxane Gay’s writing because it always feels so legitimate, open and honest. I love Diana Evans because she writes human nature impeccably, and I think Alexia Arthur is fantastic. Courttia Newland, who basically wrote his own version of Kidulthood before Kidulthood was a thing, is the only writer whose book The Scholar I’ll read over and over again. I also read an early copy of a novel called The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence, which takes place on a London bus, and the pace of which is delicious. And I love the writing of Lemara Lindsay-Prince, whose collection of short stories I’m editing. The World is not ready for her.
What book would you recommend reading?
The Scholar by Courttia Newland. It is the perfect novel.
What’s next after Queenie? Is there a sequel?
Not for now! My next novel is quite different from Queenie but just as dark and messy. I hope to revisit Queenie in book form again. Maybe when she turns 30? I doubt she’ll have got her shit together by then…
Queenie is available to buy from all good book shops and online book retailers, now.
Read TBB’s Out of 100 review of Queenie here.