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Q&A with Ashley Thorpe - The Boy to Beat the Gods

By Saffron Coutts

We are excited to welcome Ashley Thorpe to The Reading Corner to talk about his new release, The Boy to Beat the Gods,  released on the 4th July 2024.

Kayode dreams of eating the forbidden fruit of the Orishas, so he can gain the power of the gods and stop them terrorizing his people. So when a fruit mysteriously appears in his path after the Orishas snatch his sister, he leaps on it.

Surging with new and difficult-to-control powers, he joins forces with a shapeshifting trickster god and a vengeful princess to save his sister and put an end to the mighty Orishas. But each has more fearful powers than the last - and Kayode's stolen half-god strength won't last for ever...

The Boy to Beat the Gods was such a pleasure to read, I am endlessly fascinated by mythology surrounding gods so this was a read I was excited to pick up! You created

such a beautiful balance between light heartedness and soul ache, this is definitely a book I am planning on re-reading so I’m excited to get my own copy of the novel!

The foundation of the book was so beautifully curated from creating the Orisha’s characters, to the food, to the different community dynamics. What was the world building research like and was there anything cut out during edits that you particularly loved!?

The final version of The Boy to Beat the Gods ended up being about 5,000 words longer than it was when I submitted, so my experience is a rare one where we’ve edited up rather than down! I was actually grateful for that because it allowed me to keep adding these little details about clothing, currency, the traditional dishes I love, about the different landscapes and character relationships too.

Research is always fun, although it can sometimes be difficult researching a place and time where histories weren’t recorded on paper but told through stories instead. I consulted a variety of sources and checked details with Yoruba peers for authenticity. The existing lore and characteristics of the Orishas quite heavily informed their personalities and attributes in my book.

The locations in the book really existed on old maps of Yorubaland (part of what would eventually become modern day Nigeria) but I have taken some liberties in terms of the scale or importance of places like Abigi and Mahin to serve my own story.

In the Author’s Note you pay homage to the Yoruba spirits, is there a particular Orisha that

inspires you not only to write but also day-to-day?

There are still people across the world who celebrate the true Orishas and take spiritual inspiration from them, so it was important to me to acknowledge that. I’d say my fascination is more on an academic level than a spiritual one, but my favourites are Orunmila (the Orisha of wisdom and knowledge, whose likeness doesn’t feature in my book), Eshu (you can probably tell I’m a fan through my portrayal of Eko), and Oshun who embodies the spirit of creativity.

I loved that the Orisha’s were able to be witnessed and hallowed, you often find Gods within

stories completely separated from mortal humans which maintains an almost mystic reverence. I found the Orisha’s own narratives, particularly Eko’s, being detailed made the story that much richer, what inspired you to do this?

In the mythology, the Orishas are often flawed characters just like the humans they’re meant to be guiding. I really like that about them – that despite their amazing powers they can be relatable rather than divine. This was key to developing my story, as it’s the humans who believe the Orishas are untouchable and immortal. But the reality, as we see through Eko’s eyes, is very different.

Eshu (re-imagined as Eko) is the real life Orisha of the crossroads/road of life, as well as being a trickster. In my story, he provides an opportunity for Kayode – his call to action – but he’s also at a crucial crossroads in his own journey as an Orisha.

The topic of sacrifices was a tough one to grapple with, it battled with the two basic human

instincts of survival and compassion. Would you describe Kayode’s youthful determination to

combat this as reckless or brave when faced with the might of the Orishas?

Brave. The only alternative is maintaining the status-quo and losing precious lives to the Orishas anyway! There’s an old adage that it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, which sums up Kayode pretty well.

I found the way you wrote Kayode fighting the Gods particularly striking, instead of the usual

combat fight scenes you explored your creative artistry to beat the Orisha’s with their individual weaknesses. Can you explain your thought process about this decision?

This probably comes from being a gamer if I’m honest! In action games and RPGs you have to learn the weaknesses of each boss to beat them and progress through the story. There’s very much a feeling of sub-bosses and big bosses as Kayode and his allies go on their quest. I was just able to draw from the source mythology to identify such potential weaknesses. Take Obatala (reimagined as Obatunde) getting drunk on palm wine when he was meant to be creating the world!

Behind many stories involving myths and fables there are lessons to learn, is there anything you wanted your readers to take away from this story?

I think readers will always take different things away from any story, in whatever way it resonates with them. But I hope on some level young readers will feel empowered to act when they see injustices, to understand that just because things have been one way for a long time it doesn’t mean they should stay that way, and that when people come together for a common good, great things can happen.

I loved the narrative for Tiwa and was sad to say goodbye to her character. Is there any chance of a sequel following her travels?

Funnily enough I’ve thought about this very premise if I were to ever revisit this world, as Tiwa has a whole new life of discovery ahead of her. Anything is possible in the future; I will never say never. We’ll just have to see how this book is received first!

Finally, where can our readership purchase their own copy of The Boy to Beat the Gods?

Please support your local independent bookshops with lovely knowledgeable sellers to help you find the perfect reads. And you’ll also find The Boy to Beat the Gods in your high street bookshops, online and via a fantastic audiobook as well.

Ashley Thorpe is a Black British debut author who works as an editor at Storymix, where he helps other writers to create epic stories. His greatest wish is to bring diverse characters to life that he would have loved to have seen, but sorely missed, as a young reader.

When he isn't writing or reading, Ashley enjoys making music, outdoor pursuits, indulging in anime and gaming. He lives in Manchester. The Boy to Beat the Gods is his first book.


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