For the Artists Who Like to Remain Strictly Out of the Box
About Sang Kromah
Sang Kromah was born in Philly, raised in Sykesville, became confident as a writer in New York, but is Liberian at heart. She was a storyteller well before she could write, transforming her family’s African folklore into evolved stories that her teachers would allow her to tell in class. As a communications specialist, her credits range from Seventeen Magazine to UN Women and Half the Sky Documentary. As a model, she’s been featured in Essence Magazine, Jet Magazine, and more, but her greatest accomplishments are with Project READ, a female-run library initiative she started and Project GirlSpire, an online global media platform she started where girls and women empower each other through digital storytelling. Sang can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Project GirlSpire.
Honestly, I’ve always been a storyteller. Well before I could read or write, I was taking apart the traditional Liberian folklore my parents would tell me and reassembling them as stories of my own. When I became literate, I always had a notebook and a novel with me, reading and writing simultaneously. I would write down the things I’d see daily, and adding magical aspects to make reality seem a little more fantastical. In the seventh grade, I had the best Language Arts Teacher, Mrs. Norvell, who would allow me to read my stories to the class every Friday. After that year, I knew more than anything, I wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world.
2. Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you? What projects are you currently working on?
My Young Adult Fantasy novel, Djinn, comes out in March 2018. Growing up, I was told countless tales of powerful mystical beings from my parents’ native land of Liberia. Stories of these beings exist in every culture, disguising their true identity from human eyes. But generally, they were referred to as Djinn. While reminiscing on the many stories of dwarfish baby snatchers, watchers, unearthly beauties, and shapeshifters, I started to think, what if there was one human—different from all others—with the ability to see what wasn’t meant to be seen by human eyes? Someone not quite like them, but not exactly one of us either?
As a child, there was one story that stood out to me about a strong-willed, mischievous girl named Femeni who escaped—what should have been sudden death at the hands of a notorious Djinn. After hearing the story, I always wondered what happened to Femeni, and did she have any other encounters with the Djinn? As I grew older, the questions became more complex; what was so special about Femeni that helped her escape the Djinn? What if Femeni had a child, would there be something special about that child as well? These questions and my obsession with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ gave birth to my novel, Djinn.
Currently, I’m working on the follow-up to Djinn as well as a contemporary fiction novel about an anonymous advice columnist, Maggie May I. Outside of writing books, I’m working on an initiative to open Project READ, a female-run library and girls’ drop-in center initiative in Liberia, as well as my online media site for girls and women, Project GirlSpire.
3. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
I’m proud of the way Djinn has evolved, but to be honest, I feel like the work is just getting started and I have yet to be proud, so I’m working diligently to make sure I accomplish something significant enough to be proud of.
I would be lying if I said that rejection has never hurt, but I’ve heard no so many times that I take it as a challenge, because all it takes is one “yes” to change your life. So I look at “no” as a message from the universe to keep going.
4. Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
Not really. I just usually plan around my work schedule, but I do write every single night. I do outline my novels, because I made the mistake of not doing so before and it made the writing process a nightmare. An outline helps you keep track of things that may seem small to begin with, but if misplaced or forgotten, can send your book into chaos. First drafts usually take about 2-3 months, but it’s the editorial process that takes forever.
5. Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I don’t want to sound full of myself, but I see myself writing for television. If not a series based on my books, then as a writer on a network like Freeform, CW, or Netflix.
6. Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
No. I think that the media plays a major role in ageist thinking, inciting fear in those who want to be bold enough to take a chance. What if the Harry Potter series had been writer by a 70-year-old grandmother? Would it have changed how great those stories were? A good story is a good story, no matter who writes it, but we’re so caught up on appearances that, sometimes, we overlook the exceptional because of our own prejudices. I think the chances of an older writer getting a late start could be high if they have the right team behind them.
7. What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? What’s the first book you read that made you know that you could do this for a career? What book are you currently reading?
This probably sounds very cliché, but To Kill a Mockingbird is the first book that moved me to tears. I actually read it before my classmates, because my mom made me read it the summer after seventh grade. I think I read it in two days. I remember hiding to read it at night, because it was after my bedtime, and crying so hard during the trial.
In the fifth grade, I became obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street series. After reading Say Cheese and Die, I thought, I could definitely do this too. By that time, I was already used to writing every day, but I asked my mom to make sure I wrote a hundred words a day. I wrote my first book in middle school about vampire cheerleaders.
Currently, I’m really into witches so I’m currently reading A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan. After that, I’m going to read A Discover of Witches by Deborah Harkness.
8. So many writers say that they hate reading their own work? Do you ever just sit down and curl up with your own book?
LOL I won’t say I sit down and curl up with my own book, but I do enjoy re-reading my work, but after various stages of editing, I start turning against my own characters and yelling at them like I do with characters from 80s horror movies.
9. What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing? Are you more of an e-book person or a traditional book person?
I do love how writers are creating their own spaces for their work to be seen and heard, but I do believe mainstream publishing has much room for improvement in terms of diversity and the amount of investment that is put into women who write. I still feel that we have a long way to go in terms of diversifying the industry.
I have a Kindle, but I still buy physical books, because I know from experience how fast batteries die and if, you’re like me and travel a lot, a physical book is always your best bet. Of course, e-books are convenient, but there’s nothing like the feel of an actual book or seeing your collection grow into a library.
10. I feel like so many of us writers, us artists in general, are made to conform to other people’s idea of what we should be. I think we creative types should be unafraid to be whoever it is that we feel we have the right to be. So what is your write 2 be? What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity?
I’ve never really been able to conform. As a kid, I was bullied and never truly fit in at school, so I went through a stage, where I didn’t think I was good enough. Even though I was born and raised in America, you could look at me and tell I wasn’t a typical American kid and my name was definitely foreign. Then on the other hand, I didn’t truly fit in with people from my parent’s country as well. I always seemed to be on the outside, looking in. What helped a lot was having parents and a younger brother, who believed in me and supported my endeavors so much that I became so sure of myself that I didn’t mind marching to the beat of my own drum or sitting alone at lunch.
By the time I made it to middle school, I knew exactly who I was and what I was capable of. As I’ve grown, I’ve seen that there are other kids who can relate to how I felt and what I went through, so even when I write fantasy, my stories and characters reflect those experiences, how to cope, and how to rise above it. It seems easy to try to conform, but the more time you take trying to fit in, the longer it takes to find yourself.