Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your debut novel! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Veronica G. Henry: Bacchanal is a historical fantasy set in the Depression-era South. It’s about a young woman, Eliza Meeks, who joins a far from ordinary traveling carnival. Bacchanal’s fueled by an ancient evil that preys on the country’s most vulnerable, and Eliza must use her latent magical abilities to defeat the evil.
BD: The novel deftly combines African folklore, Black histories, fantasy, and carnival culture. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
VGH: I’d written a few (wholly unsellable) novels prior to Bacchanal and what I learned from those early drafts was how stories evolve. From one draft to the next, I wove in a new layer of the story.
It was the most difficult book I’ve written, but also, far and away, the most rewarding. If you look closely, you’ll see my influences: Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, Helen Oyeyemi, Neil Gaiman, and Toni Morrison. I’m a lifelong reader and each book leaves a little something with you. What’s fascinating is that rather than mimicking, those influences converge with your own experiences and imagination to produce something wholly unique.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Eliza’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
VGH: I love how Eliza is simultaneously vulnerable and incredibly brave. I’ll try to be mindful of spoilers, but she’s suffered a huge loss, one she’s still angry about. She’s alone, ostracized, and struggling to understand her abilities.
But she also has such a strong will to survive, to learn. And when she sees an opportunity, she hesitates for a only sliver of a second before she takes it. I think in Eliza, readers will find a character they can empathize with, shake their fists at occasionally, but still root for. As an author, my hope is that my audience will see something of themselves if not in Eliza, then in her supporting cast. It is through literature, and really all art, that we come to understand ourselves and those unlike us, a little better.
BD: What makes 47North the perfect home for Bacchanal?
VGH: It’s all about the team. From my brilliant editor, to marketing team and everyone in between, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with. They’re simply on point.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
VGH: Though I wrote this as a standalone novel, I’ll always leave the door open just in case inspiration strikes. And since you asked, I think Bacchanal would make one heck of a television series or film.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
VGH: My second novel, a fantasy set in New Orleans, is tentatively scheduled for an early 2022 release.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Bacchanal?
VGH: The best way to learn of my upcoming projects is to sign up for my newsletter at veronicahenry.net.