This is a very thought-provoking and timely novel. What inspired you to write this story?
I grew up in South London in an area known for its diversity. My high school was made up of mostly Black students, with a minority of white students. I had never experienced the feeling of being the only Black face in a white space until I moved to a small town in Scotland for university. I had a huge culture shock as I found myself in situations I had never been in before – such as going days without seeing another person of colour while also being stared at by everyone as I walked through campus – as well as new microaggressions. I felt so isolated, and started to watch Gossip Girl for the first time and instantly fell in love with the characters and the story. I really wished there was more diversity on the show and so I thought to myself, how cool would it be to write something like Gossip Girl, but with Black main characters? I’m also a huge fan of puzzles and stories that have deeper meanings, and before I knew it I had this whole wild idea for a story called Ace of Spades.
Characters Chiamaka and Devon are both complex yet relatable characters. What was your favorite part about writing them?
I am obsessed with the psychology behind the ‘mean girl’ and with Chiamaka, I really loved being able to challenge the idea that mean girls are one dimensional. Chiamaka’s ruthlessness is the result of her experience growing up as a Black girl in a very anti-Black world. With Devon I find writing his dry humour a lot of fun, and my favorite scenes are the ones where two personalities collide.
Aces is an anonymous figure shrouded in mystery who wreaks havoc throughout Niveus Academy. What do you want readers to walk away with about the effects of bullying?
I used to get bullied pretty badly when I was younger and even more than a decade later, it still affects the way I interact with others and how I perceive myself. I want people to know that bullying has long-lasting effects and can stay with someone for the rest of their life.