New Leaf Literary
(Black PR Wire) On the heels of the success of Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there has been an uptick of mainstream interest in black/African stories and creators. One such rising star, Rena Barron, snagged two three-book deals with two prestigious publishers that totaled in the seven-figure range.
“Rena Barron has kicked off an adventure that puts the epic in epic fantasy," writes Stephanie Stein at HarperCollins who acquired Kingdom of Souls in a joint deal with Vicky Leech from HarperCollins UK. "One with a richly textured world, star-crossed romance, and a story that’s fresh and twisty and fun, that makes you care so much about its sky-high stakes by making them deeply personal."
While getting a contract in the ballpark of a million dollars in the world of publishing isn’t unheard of, it is exceptionally rare for a new African/black creator just entering the scene. HarperCollins who publishes New York Times bestselling author, Angie Thomas of The Hate U Give won the heated auction to acquire Barron’s first series. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, known for the award-winning The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, will publish her second series.
Barron signed the two deals within three months of each other. Her debut novel, Kingdom Of Souls, a young adult fantasy novel for ages thirteen to eighteen described as Black Panther meets Wonder Woman hits stores September 3 and has sold in several international territories. In this West African-inspired fantasy, sixteen-year-old Arrah hails from a powerful family of witchdoctors, but she doesn’t have magic of her own. When the terrible Demon King threatens her kingdom, she must trade years of her life in return for the magic she needs to stop him. The book evokes folk magic, voodoo, and builds an intriguing world in which black nations have thrived without a history of oppression.
In Barron’s second series, focused on ages eight to twelve, she returns to her Chicago roots in the contemporary fantasy, Maya And The Rising Dark, which has been called Strange Things meets Percy Jackson. Set on the south side of Chicago, a twelve-year-old girl discovers her father is the keeper of the gateway between our world and The Dark, and when he goes missing she’ll need to unlock her own powers and fight a horde of spooky creatures set on starting a war. Maya And The Rising Dark hits stores on May 5, 2020.
“When I saw Black Panther I cried,” says Barron. “Growing up, I rarely saw stories about people who looked like me that weren’t centered on our suffering or oppression. Those are important stories, but we’re more than that. Our children deserve to see themselves centered in magical tales, go on fantastical adventures, or be the chosen one too.”
To request a review copy of either book or interview, contact Meredith Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.