Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.
April 1, 2022
B. B. Alston lives in South Carolina. His debut middle grade novel, Amari and the Night Brothers, has been published in 27 countries and is an international bestseller, including a Sunday Times bestseller. In the United States, the book has spent more than 30 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. In 2021, the book was named the Overall Winner of the Barnes & Noble Children’s and YA Book Awards. A major motion picture is currently being developed by Universal, starring Marsai Martin. His second novel, Amari and the Great Game, will be released August 30, 2022.
When not writing, he can be found eating too many sweets and exploring country roads to see where they lead.
Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?
I’ve always loved fantasy books for their ability to spark the imagination. One of the first books I can remember loving is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because I could relate so much to Charlie. He was a kid from modest means but who still had big dreams and did his best to accomplish them.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I was a voracious reader as kid. I read every book I could get my hands on!
What book should everybody read before they turn 18?
Every kid should read a book about someone completely different from themselves in some way. I think it’s easy to gravitate towards books about people like us, because it feels safe. But I would challenge kids to step outside of that–I think they’ll find they have much more in common than they originally thought. It’s the difference between seeing someone as other, and seeing another human being.
What kind of books are on your bookshelf?
Fantasy and Sci-fi are my favorite genres by far, so mostly those books! Everything from middle grade like Tristan Strong to Red Rising on the adult side. I do try to mix it up with some contemporary — Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds. Also I’ve recently gotten into YA thrillers — Ace of Spades is incredible and I have lots of Karen McManus and Kara Thomas.
What are you reading currently?
I literally just finished When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. It’s incredibly touching and the voice feels so authentic. Tae tackles big issues in a way that feels accessible for any age. It’s brilliant.
What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?
Since becoming an author, I mostly read by way of audiobooks. I’m just always so busy it allows me to read when I’m out and about. Listening to audiobooks while I’m driving is my fave for sure.
Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?
This one is tough and I’m having such a hard time narrowing it down (Gandalf? Katniss maybe?) that I’m going to cheat a little and pick Amari. So much of my own journey as a kid is mirrored in her story–from learning to believe in myself to learning to accept myself too.
If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?
I’d choose Tolkien for sure. I’d love to ask him about the parts of Middle Earth he kept for himself. Also I’d love to sit with Maya Angelou and soak up some of that wisdom. And I’d love meet to Rick Riordan one day. He’s still alive so maybe that’ll actually happen!
What are the children in your life currently reading?
The kids I know are loving the Wimpy Kid and Dog Man graphic novels. The Rick Riordan Presents novels have also been a really big hit with them.
Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?
I love this quote by Tolkien: “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
Thank you to B.B. for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions! You can read more about his work and his books at bbalston.com.