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Sunday, May 4, 2008


Finally! In June, my novel Blood Colony will appear as the third book in my African Immortals series. It can be read as a stand-alone novel—but I’m happy that readers who have followed this series since 1997’s My Soul to Keep will finally have a new installment. Readers, I have had a long and rewarding relationship with you, and I thank you for your patience.

Any new project is a bit scary, especially when you feel pressure to “live up” to previous works. That has been a particular challenge with Blood Colony, and it’s one of the reasons that seven years have passed since its predecessor, The Living Blood.

I knew I had to get it right, or as close to “right” as I could. That meant the right story.

But the African Immortals are back, and here’s what Publishers Weekly just said about Blood Colony in a Starred review:

“This profoundly moving third Blood book (after 2001's The Living Blood), set in 2015, finds that beneath the seemingly endless conflict in the Middle East is another, secret war waged over the drug Glow, made from magical blood that can heal any illness and even bestow eternal life. Psychic teen Fana Wolde, the daughter of 500-year-old assassin Dawit Wolde, was born with this “living blood” running through her veins. The Life Brothers, Ethiopian immortals who believe the living blood first came from Christ, think Fana is a deity. When she escapes their American compound, wanting to control her destiny and dispense her healing blood via a complex underground railroad, the Life Brothers and her parents race to protect her from the Italian immortals of the Sanctus Cruor, false priests who want Fana to fulfill a terrible prophecy. Due brings Fana's complex and passionate story to life with her trademark flair.”

In addition, Blood Colony has some terrific blurbs from people I admire:

Talented actor Blair Underwood (“In Treatment”/ “Dirty, Sexy Money”) helped inspire my imagination as I created my first immortal character, Dawit. (Recently, Blair worked with us on the Tennyson Hardwick mystery novel, Casanegra, which I co-authored with my husband, Steven Barnes. The Casanegra paperback also comes out in June, and its follow-up, In the Night of the Heat, will be published this fall.)

Blair is also a producer on the film version of My Soul to Keep currently in development at Fox Searchlight. Here’s what Blair said about Blood Colony:

“The genius of Tananarive Due is in weaving an imaginative tale so expertly that the reader is convinced she has suspended time and all reason. …I found myself, once again, utterly engrossed by the heart-pounding odyssey of Dawit, Jessica, and their daughter, Fana. Her storytelling is at once intimate and wholly epic. Her characters, though otherworldly and supernatural, are profoundly relatable and eerily familiar.”

Award-winning science fiction master Greg Bear, author of Quantico, Darwin’s Radio and City at the End of Time, called Blood Colony: “an elegant, scary, richly exciting tale—all that we’ve come to expect of Tananarive Due.”

And powerhouse L.A. Banks, author of the New York Times bestselling Vampire Huntress Legend series, said: “Blood Colony will steal your breath on every impossible-to-put-down page. Due is masterful in creating this thrill-ride of a tale that was truly worth the wait!”

Of course, you’ll have to judge Blood Colony for yourselves. (If you can’t wait until June, I posted an excerpt, Chapter One, on an earlier post—January 15.)

In the mean time, I thought I’d share a little about the tale behind the tales. Your comments and questions are welcome below!


It has been eleven years since I published my novel about a newspaper reporter, Jessica, who discovers that she is married to a 500-year-old Ethiopian immortal named Dawit. That novel, My Soul to Keep, has been vastly influential in my life as a writer.

I was a frustrated single woman writing feature stories and a dating column for The Miami Herald when I started My Soul to Keep, and bits and pieces from my life bled into the story. “What would it be like to discover that someone you thought you knew was a complete stranger to you?” “What would it be like to live forever?” “What if there a drop of your blood could heal almost any ailment?”

The answers to those questions became My Soul to Keep.

And so began a wondrous journey.

I first met science fiction giant Octavia E. Butler at a conference on black science fiction, fantasy and horror at Clark Atlanta University in 1997, and had the true honor of many visits with her. (I met my soon-to-be husband, Steven Barnes, at the same conference, and he had been Octavia’s friend for many years.) Octavia, whose sudden death and absence are still inconceivable to me, was generous enough to write kind words about my work as a fledgling writer: “I enjoy reading the kind of novel that seduces me right into it and makes me forget work or sleep. My Soul to Keep does that beautifully.”

Her words were precious then, and are more so today.

Shortly before publication, I also met Stephen King while playing keyboards and singing backup with the Rock Bottom Remainders at the Miami Book Fair—and I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone to later write the horror master to see if he would be willing to give me a blurb. I screamed when I saw his return letter from Bangor, Maine, in my mailbox.

King promised to read my advance manuscript, and he faxed his blurb to my editor on the precise day it was due. He wrote: “I loved this novel…it’s really big and really satisfying, an eerie epic that bears favorable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. Ms. Due accomplishes the hardest thing of all with deceptive ease, creating characters we care about on their most human level. I read it nonstop, and think it’s destined for bestseller lists.”

But the most enduring thrill has been reader response. In the years since, readers have read and re-read My Soul to Keep, keeping it in print, asking me to sign dog-eared copies, and forcing their book clubs to read it. Actor Blair Underwood—whom I imagined as Dawit while I was writing the novel—fell in love with the character and even traveled to Lalibela, Ethiopia, to shoot footage for a My Soul to Keep film. I hear inquiries from readers about that movie every week: WHERE IS IT?!

It will come. My Soul to Keep is still in development at Fox Searchlight, and once Steve and I finish our screenplay version of my novel The Good House for Fox Searchlight (we’re currently writing the third draft—wish us luck!), we want to tackle the My Soul to Keep script next. I have learned that patience is everything in Hollywood.

Come to think of it, patience is everything in publishing, too.

I never planned to write another novel about Jessica and my African immortals after My Soul to Keep. I expected it to be a stand-alone story, like my first novel, The Between. But as I wrote the epilogue set in South Africa, I began to wonder what would happen next. What was going to happen to Jessica’s baby born with immortal blood?

I eventually picked up the story about eighteen months after My Soul to Keep ends, when Jessica’s baby is three-and-half. What if a stormy toddler had supernatural powers?

Sounded scary to me.

But I couldn’t sell The Living Blood right away. Because My Soul to Keep had earned such buzz—optioned for film right away by Samuel Goldwyn Productions even before Blair and Fox Searchlight—I thought it would be a breeze to sell The Living Blood. I wrote three sample chapters and an outline, then I waited to hear how much my publisher would offer.

My publisher passed. That moment was one of my most jarring lessons about the uneasy union between art and commerce: Take nothing for granted. It took time—and a few detours—but I finally published The Living Blood in 2001, four years after its predecessor. The acquiring editor at Pocket Books, Jason Kaufman, is today the editor at Doubleday who discovered Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown. My new editor, Malaika Adero at Atria Books, is highly influential in black publishing, responsible for publishing Zane and Nathan McCall, among others, and is a rare island of stability in a business full of turnover. I have been blessed with good allies.

The Living Blood won an American Book Award, and Publishers Weekly said it should “set the standard for supernatural thrillers of the new millennium.”

But my life had changed between the novels, so the stories are very different too. In The Living Blood, Jessica is flung from one part of the globe to another. While My Soul to Keep was primarily the story of one family, The Living Blood was the story of two. And Jessica’s world expanded, both across the world and across realms. The Shadows appeared, and the world’s oldest man. In that book, I took readers to the mysterious Life Colony in Ethiopia.

But despite the ways The Living Blood grew in scope, I always saw it as a very simple story:

Two parents must overcome their troubled past to raise a powerful child.

Again, I thought I had finished with my African immortals series.

But I always wondered what had happened to Fana, whose volatility and power were so overwhelming in The Living Blood. I knew what Fana was like as a toddler—but what would she be like as a teenager?

And so, Blood Colony was born.

In many ways, this novel picks up almost exactly where the previous one left off: A remote colony in the woods of Washington state, where immortals have chosen to share their healing blood with humanity. One drop can wipe out a patient’s AIDS. Or cancer.

The question that gave birth to this novel: What is the price of power?

In Blood Colony, 17-year-old Fana isn’t satisfied with her parents’ cautious distribution of the blood, with strict limitations on the nations where the blood and its healing powers are available. So, she and a mortal friend, Caitlin, have created an Underground Railroad to provide Living Blood on the black market as a street drug known as Glow.

But Glow is making the news, and a handful of Glow dealers are being murdered. Fana has brought an unknown force to her doorstep. Through a collision of history and prophecy, an immortal prince, nurtured on the Shadows, believes he has found his mate at last.

Blood Colony is unique: It’s my first near-future novel. Because I wanted Fana to be seventeen, the novel is set in 2015. That one difference was very intimidating to me, but the world of Blood Colony is very much shaped by our country’s foreign and domestic events in the past seven years. In science fiction, there is a common what-if that serves as the writer’s fuel: “If this goes on…” Blood Colony is written in that spirit.

If this goes on…

With great sadness, I have dedicated this novel to Octavia E. Butler, whose works never let us forget that our future will be dictated by our actions in the present. Her example has been an inspiration beyond words, and I miss her every day.

I hope you enjoy Blood Colony. When you read it, please let me know what you think.
Now I know I have more stories of Fana, Jessica and Dawit waiting to be told. Blood Colony is the latest in my African Immortals series, but it will not be the last.

Next time, I won’t make all of us wait so long.