Natalie C. Anderson is here today at Dark Faerie Tales to talk to us about her debut novel City of Saints & Thieves. This novel is set in Kenya with the main character trying to solve the mystery of who killed her mother, except for the fact that she knows exactly who did it and she wants to destroy him. This novel portrays the horrors of war in Africa. I was really shocked with the twists and turns that this novel took. At the end of this post, enter for your chance to win a copy of this fantastic novel. City of Saints & Thieves was released on January 24, 2017 from Penguin books!
Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) finished copies of City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie Anderson (ARV: $18.99).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on January 16, 2017 and 11:59 PM on February 3, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 8, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
Want to read more from Natalie C. Anderson?
Dark Faerie Tales: To start things off, will you tell us a little about City of Saints and Thieves and where you got the inspiration to write it?
Natalie: City of Saints and Thieves is a murder mystery set in a fictional city in Kenya. It started out as a bit of a Robin Hood story, if Robin Hood was an African refugee girl. I was based in Nairobi for several years, and traveled for work around the continent doing thousands of interviews with refugees who were being considered for resettlement to the U.S. The stories I heard were just so intense. I knew I wanted to weave the refugee background into the story, but I didn’t want it to be so in-your-face. The stories are haunting and I think you have to tread carefully in telling them in a non-sensationalized way. Hence, it starts out with the current day, years after Tina and her mother fled Congo, but inevitably winds it’s way back to the events that so hugely shaped Tina’s life.
DFT: I love, love, love that the book is set in Kenya, but it is definitely a unique setting for a YA book. What made you pick that particular country as your setting?
Natalie: I started writing the book when I was on a work trip back to Kenya after a few years of being away. Just stepping off the plane was such a jolt to my senses! Everything seemed so full of life – from the jungle-like gardens to the bustling streets to the packed markets. I wanted to set a street-savvy girl in a place like that where she’d really have to hustle to stay afloat. And I wanted Sangui City to feel both exotic and accessible. For anyone who knows the area, I like to think of it as having the coastal beauty and culture of Mombasa with the verve and edge of Nairobi.
DFT: Tina has had a very difficult life full of many trials but that has made her who she is. Out of all her amazing qualities, which one would you say is her best?
Natalie: Ooo, that’s tough! I think she would say that her best skills are as a cat burglar – those are the ones she’s worked so hard to hone. But I think underneath her tough exterior, and even though she makes her living in a morally questionable way, I’d say her best quality is that at her core she wants to make things right in her complex world. She lives by “rules,” that give her a sense of control. Every bad thing that happens leads to a rule, so she won’t make the same mistake twice. She’s super strict on herself. She desperately wants to know the truth about what happened to her mother, and set it right. She feels a huge sense of responsibility to make sure her sister is safe. But all of this rigidity, of course means that when she breaks, she breaks hard. Can’t say anymore without spoilers!
DFT: Out of your entire cast of characters, who do you personally relate to the most and why?
Natalie: Ha! I think I’m probably the most like Michael. He’s a little naïve, a little love-struck, torn in his loyalty to competing interests (his family vs. Tina). And at the end of the day, he probably wants everyone to just get along and play nice. Of course, that would make for a boring story, wouldn’t it? Sorry, Michael.
DFT: I imagine that to write a book like this it took a great deal of research on your part to make it accurate. But I’m curious while performing your research, what was the craziest piece of information you came across?
Natalie: Definitely! Like I mentioned before, I’ve interviewed thousands of refugees – not just from Congo, but from all over Africa, and the stories I could tell would make your hair turn white. People entrusted me with those stories for very specific reasons, so I don’t disclose personal stories, but use the general details to fill in over-arching narratives. Maybe the craziest part – the most gut-punching part – is that in the process of helping people access resettlement, I discovered that the US has some seriously messed up rules and restrictions in place that prevent some of the most deserving refugees to access. For example, if you provide “material support” to terrorist organizations you’re barred from entry. Sounds like a good law, right? Until you find out that “material support” can include unwillingly “giving” your body as a sex-slave to a group of militia. Or maybe you were forcibly recruited at 9 years old to be a child soldier. You’re made to carry a gun, participate in violence. You were just a kid, and you were forced, but it doesn’t matter. You’re barred from resettlement. Or, on the other hand, maybe your government is terrible and corrupt and you sympathize with freedom fighters. If you so much as give a fighter a drink of water, boom, you’re barred. There are a lot of good people working to fix these laws, but I do worry that with this new administration, it could get even worse.
DFT: We all know that the editing process can be rather vigorous and at times scenes have to be cut whether you want them to be or not. If you can, without spoiling anything, share one of your favorite deleted scenes?
Natalie: Okay, well, after that rather dark digression, let’s talk about make-overs! I love a good Cinderella make-over scene, and I had a really fun one where Tina has to go to a fancy party with the Greyhills, and Boyboy decides to take her grooming into his own hands. He comes to the Greyhill’s mansion, strip-mines Michael’s sister’s closet, puts her in a gorgeous dress and does Tina’s hair, nails, the works. Sigh! It was so fun!
DFT: City of Saints and Thieves is your debut novel, can you tell us what your reaction was when you found out you were going to be a published author?
Natalie: Um, I stuck to the normal routine of running in circles and screaming my head off. A little crying, some dancing. Isn’t that what everyone does?
DFT: Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that City of Saints and Thieves is a standalone novel, so can you tell us anything about your current project you are working on?
Natalie: It is stand-alone, but boy I hate giving up these characters! Right now I’m working on a story that is set in the same world – Sangui City — but the MC is a refugee boy from Somalia who has to become a spy in order to save his family. Readers will probably find it a bit darker than City, but it’s a story I just can’t shake. One of those ideas that gets stuck in your head and demands to be written. And who knows, maybe there will one day be a story that overlaps both sets of characters! But nothing is in the works… yet.
This contest is provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers/Penguin!
Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) finished copies of City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie Anderson!
Available January 24, 2017 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers/Penguin
About this Book:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
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