So if you’ve read a fantasy novel in the past, oh ever, you may have noticed that most of the protagonists are white men. And for women and people of color, that can be a little disconcerting, because while we can still enjoy the stories, it can be hard for us to completely connect with the characters or imagine ourselves in that world.
That’s exactly how cousins Sarah “The Rebel” Rodriguez and LeTeisha Newton often feel when they read fantasy novels. LeTeisha Newton has written and published many books, mostly in the romance and paranormal romance genre. But she’s had an idea and a world slowly kicking around in her head for the last five years. A fantasy world full of magic and dragons and gods that represents everyone. She sat down to write it, but got discouraged. After working so long on something, she wasn’t sure if it was actually worth anything.
That’s where Sarah “The Rebel” Rodriguez came in. Sarah is the author of Marvel’s Agent Carter Season One Declassified. LeTeisha sent her lengthy manuscript to Sarah, asking her not if the idea was good, but if she should just throw all of this away. Sarah’s response was a resounding no, and more than that, Sarah asked if she could come play in LeTeisha’s world.
Their novel, Avarice Touched, is a story of two incredibly different women. Kavion is a mage of the Avarice Talo. A Talo is a house or place of learning for mages, and Avarice mages specifically study power and greed. Kavion herself is hungry for power and influence. The other protagonist, Casia, is a bastard-born princess with a strict moral code. Her life was supposed to be spent far away from her cruel father, until he tore away the person who mattered the most to her.
They’ve entered their book into the Nerdist Inkshares Contest. Inkshares, in partnership with Nerdist, will publish the five books with the most pre-orders. So I sat down with LeTeisha and Sarah to get more of a sense of the depth of their world.
So far I’ve read the first chapter, which they have posted on their Inkshares page. When I started talking to them about their novel, what excited me the most is that LeTeisha, with help from Sarah, has built a whole world with conventions, gods, sayings, magic systems, creatures, and more. One thing that makes a fantasy novel great is the background and worldbuilding an author does, and they’ve done a lot of work to make Altvaria make sense and seem real. Just the description of the different Talos makes me hungry to read the rest of the book! You can check out that description on their Inkshares page. LeTeisha’s vision for the world extended to the topography too. She designed and drew a map of the world herself.
I’m also excited about the amount of diversity in the novel. Every skin tone is represented. They said their goal was to make sure that no matter who you are, you can find yourself in this world.
LeTeisha and Sarah also wanted to do something very different than what most fantasy novels do. They’re working to take everything you expect and twist it.
“It spins the world on its ear, as far as your general what you expect for something. Let’s say I say Lucifer. Lucifer is Satan and he’s the devil, well, in our world he’d be the person you worshiped. That’s part of the twists and turns of the world – flipping what you expect. That’s something I love, and the more this world grows, it makes it more and more amazing to me.”
Definitely check out their page and read the first chapter. The book is $9.99, and the contest runs until September 30th. Both Sarah and LeTeisha are active on Twitter, so if you want to interact, use the hashtag #AvariceTouched and they’ll respond.