An Interview: Jemilla Mills-Smith, Author of Bastet's Legacy.
Below, we asked debut and self-published author Jemilla to share her inspiration and process that led to Bastet's legacy. Enjoy!
Hi Jemilla, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Jemilla Mills-Smith: a Canadian-Jamaican writer. I am a bunch of things that don’t seem to agree with each other, but also complement each other at the same time. I proclaim myself a writer and have a bachelor’s degree in marketing. I’m a Christian that questions the way the faith is used today. I’m an intersectional feminist and equality advocate that supports the rights for all BIPOC and LGBTQA folx, and I’m proud of all of these parts of myself. And I’m proud to have finished my first book, because I never thought I’d actually make it here.
What was the inspiration for the story, Bastet’s Legacy?
During an eye-opening drive back from an event that broke off a long year of depression, the plot line just popped in my head. Literally. I used to love everything about Egyptian mythology, and realized I didn’t really read many Caribbean novels in the fantasy fiction genre — not that they don’t exist, but the access to them was limited or not well publicized. I wanted to write a book of my own, for a little girl like me that could see her culture and her imagination reflected in the pages of a book, and that’s how the plot manifested itself. I thought to myself ‘Wow, that’s a really great idea. Someone should write that.’ And then a voice in the back of my head replied, ‘Why don’t you write it?’ So I did.
The story deals with/highlights many societal constructs and systematic/institutionalized racial views. Why was it important for you to include these instances and how did you set out to use your main character as the conduit?
A lot of what I understand about the construct of race and how it affects our society I learned on my own after entering college — I often think to myself how helpful it would’ve been to my adolescent growth to know these things. They don’t teach nearly enough of this in school, and a lot of the books I read never made note of it, let alone talked about so extensively. I wanted to participate in the movement of authors that create stories that weave in reality — and the reality is that life is unfair, biased, and not built to benefit BIPOC, LGTBQ+, but, most namely, black girls.
What do you hope for with regards to the impact this will have?
This isn’t my best work — I’m fully aware of that. But I think that actually helps my argument. When you first begin to learn about the injustices that life hits you with because of the construct of race, things get messy. You try to make sense of it, get defensive against the world, have conversations that get heated, and try to improve your viewpoint and understanding so you can be a fully aware and conscious member of society — so that you can inevitably change it, and challenge it in the process. As I write the next two books in the series, I want it to mirror this experience — how it starts off a little imperfect, evolves into a more aware and conscious piece of art, and ends with being a relic of literature that challenges the constructs of society and plays a hand in changing them. I hope it will inspire readers to do the same.
Jamila obviously has very strong black women in her life, but they also show their vulnerabilities. Why was it important for you to write this dichotomy of black women, who are not often seen as being vulnerable?
Black women are only strong because they have to be, but there are weaknesses and undealt-with trauma underneath all of that strength. It’s the truth — the real, raw reality of Black women. Not enough people talk about it, and when we do we’re hit with the blanket statement of us being a Strong Black Woman. But what happened if we actually faced the complexities of Black women instead of sweeping it under the Strong Black Woman rug to clean up the traumas we face when the neighbours visit? I think facing it, and acknowledging its presence, can do much more good than the harm we and the world have been committing ourselves to.
Where did the idea for the big bad originate?
I assume you’re referring to the Toubabs. Not to give too much away, but I wanted to show that our worst enemy could be the very presence that upholds society. Law and order. The business class. I wanted to show that simply needing a means to an end can be the very thing that threatens black women. That’s what happened when they enslaved black people, and exterminated Indigenous people. It was a means to an end: to create a successful economic market, and expand their society to new lands. At the expense of black and brown bodies. I wanted to show that it may be grey when you translate it to the present day — but when you get to the root of the motivation, which you will see in the coming books, it’s pretty black and white.
Was it cathartic writing about growing up as a young black woman in Toronto and all that entails?
It was, but I’m not done yet. Growing up as a black girl in Toronto is nuanced, multi-layered, and a sh!&-show. It’s definitely not possible to encompass that entire experience in one book — but I hope I can do it justice in the entire trilogy.
Thank you Jemilla for sharing just a little bit about you and your inspiration for writing this book. We have read and love this story for what it does. Like Jemilla said, it's not perfect, but it is important and we have only the highest expectations for what comes next as it can only get better. Check out our review for Bastet's Legacy on Instagram.com/2treads and on Goodreads at 2treads.
Bastet's Legacy is available on @iuniversepub, @indigo, @amazon, @barnesandnoble and other international retailers.