This blog post is part of the THE COST OF KNOWING tour hosted by Colored Pages Book Tours. Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for providing me with an eARC. And a huge THANK YOU to Brittney Morris for taking the time to answer my questions.
One of my favorite books is SLAY by Brittney Morris, which follows a Black teenage girl whose created a huge VR game specifically for Black gamers to have a safe space. I loved everything about this book, and it will forever have a place on my Favorites shelf. So when I heard that the indomitable Brittney Morris had another YA novel releasing, I knew immediately that I wanted to get my hands on it.
THE COST OF KNOWING follows Alex, a 16-year old Black boy who, by touching items, can see their future. Battling anxiety of the everyday variety and the overwhelming feeling of constantly seeing the future in vivid color, Alex tries his best to keep his head down. The one thing Alex knows for sure is that, no matter what he does, he can’t stop the already predetermined future he sees. So when he has a vision that his younger brother Isaiah is going to die in a few days, Alex is thrust into action. It’s a race against the proverbial clock, and the two boys must grapple with grief, the future, the past, and what it means to be a young Black boy in America. THE COST OF KNOWING has themes of grief, anxiety, and taut sibling relationships while also featuring humorous dialogue and fascinating characters. Plus, can we just take a moment to appreciate how absolutely BOMB the cover is!
I asked Brittney Morris some questions dealing with her latest novel and her writing process. Check our answers below!
Q: What was one of the most difficult aspects of writing this novel?
A: Definitely the emotional labor. To write about two young men sandwiched between anxiety about the future and trauma from their past, I had to step into their shoes and look my own anxiety and trauma in the face and ask myself why it was hard for me to live in the present too.
Q: When crafting the character of Alex, what was your main goal? How did you go about finding Alex’s voice and fleshing out his character?
A: I really wanted to create a character who grows throughout the story and discovers different facets of himself. As with SLAY, I created Alex and then let other characters in the book bring out different parts of him.
Q: Can you describe how the idea of THE COST OF KNOWING came to be?
A: It started with a character I couldn’t get out of my head who worked in a toothpaste factory (no idea why), and who could see the future of each tube of toothpaste. Then I began to wonder how having powers like that would affect the character if he were Black, and then I began to wonder how it would change if he could see the past. And voila — all of those questions get explored in THE COST OF KNOWING. Except with way less toothpaste.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: That the experiences of Black men are uniquely theirs, that discussions about mental health need to be intersectional and accessible for them, and that micro-aggressions, internalized racism, subtle prejudice, and even well-intentioned but misguided activism can be just as harmful as blatant in-your-face bigotry.
Q: Which character in THE COST OF KNOWING do you most relate to?
A: Maybe Aunt Mackie. She’s juggling [a] career with caring for those she loves. Or maybe Alex, because I’m an extremely anxious person with depression.
Q: What was your favorite part to write?
A: The intimate moments between Alex and Isaiah where they’re happily getting to know each other all over again. I love conflict, but I also relish the warm fuzzy moments. I also love seeing Black men and boys loving and supporting each other.
Q: What are some of your writing ritual or habits that help get you in the headspace to write?
A: Usually, I watch video games let’s play videos while I’m writing. If I’m overcome with writer’s block or a lack of motivation, I’ll read some of my old writing that got cut from different projects. It usually gets the juices going.
Q: Regret and anxiety about the future are cornerstone themes of this book. Why did you choose to center the novel around these themes?
A: So much of mental health discussions focus on being present — that is, living in the moment and not worrying about the past and the future. I don’t think most people understand how difficult that is as a Black person, when every day the world screams your past and present at you. The news, history class, Black History Month, none of it says anything about Black people being okay right now. I felt like this topic deserved a book to discuss it.
Q: What’s the biggest or more crucial lesson you learned in between the writing of SLAY and the writing of THE COST OF KNOWING? Were there any mistakes/areas of improvement from the former novel that you made sure to explore in The Cost of Knowing?
A: I learned that not every novel can be speed-written. THE COST OF KNOWING took lots of introspection and time to delve into before executing it in the way it deserved. I also felt SLAY celebrated so many different backgrounds, cultures, and genders, but it didn’t contaIn much in the way of Black men thriving and living their best lives. I knew I wanted THE COST OF KNOWING to celebrate Black men like SLAY celebrated Black women.
Once again, thank you so much to Brittney Morris for taking the time to answer my questions!
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Thanks for reading!