Author Chat and Teen Book Club with L.L McKinney

Teen Book Club is discussing “A Blade So Black” this month, and we’re honored to be joined by the book’s author, L.L. (“Elle”) McKinney! The group will meet over Zoom on Tuesday, June 23 at 6 p.m. Ages 12-18 need to register here to receive the Zoom link.

Elle is a prolific young adult author and an advocate for equality and inclusion in the publishing world. Along with the Nightmare-Verse books, starting with “A Blade So Black”, she is also the author of an upcoming graphic novel for DC featuring Nubia, Wonder Woman’s twin sister.

We were recently able to chat with Elle, and it made us even more excited for our teens to get to talk with her about writing and publishing! Below is a sneak peek into how engaging and passionate she is about what she does.


JCPL: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Elle: I’ve always been a storyteller. I’ve written since I was a little thing, mostly accompanying pictures in crayon. I thought about being a writer as a teenager, but I had an unfortunate experience with an English teacher in 9th grade who told my parents writing was a distraction for me, and I should stop. I didn’t write again until college.

JCPL: What draws you to writing fantasy?

Elle: I’ve always loved fantasy. The world is constantly on fire, has been for a long time now. Bad things didn’t just start happening in 2016. Fantasy was an escape for me. I could go to an entirely different world or planet and get away for a few hundred pages at a time.

JCPL: Why do you write for young adults?

Elle: These are the books I loved to read, but didn’t really love me back. I didn’t see anyone who looks like me or my family on the covers or in the pages—unless it was some stereotype like the sassy best friend or a gangster or something. Teens are far smarter than many people give them credit for. They notice when something’s not right, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly what or explain why. I feel like I can do things and say things in books with them and they’ll just get it. I don’t have to water it down like I do for adults.

JCPL: Who or what are your main literary influences?

Elle: I don’t really have any. At least, I don’t have like a favorite author or book. I didn’t like reading in school because it was always the same old dead white dudes. I mean, I didn’t get to read Octavia Butler until college so…I have lots of influences. Toni Morrison, the aforementioned Butler, Maya Angelou. In fantasy, NK Jemisin is a hero of mine. I don’t think they influence me so much as show me what’s possible for Black women to accomplish both on and off the page.

JCPL: What do you do when you have writer’s block?

Elle: I don’t believe in writer’s block. I have a whole presentation that I give at conventions and festivals. I believe that you come upon parts of a story that you don’t understand. You don’t understand why something is happening, needs to happen, or how it’s happening and needs to happen. If I end up stumped, I’ll maybe try the scene from a different character’s point of view. Or maybe I’ll change the setting. If it’s really bad, I’ll walk away. I’ll go watch a movie or play video games. That way I’m interacting with storytelling in some way. Usually that shakes something loose. Or I’ll take a shower. Good ideas always find writers in there for some reason.


Even with our building closed, your Library is here for you and your family. If you haven’t used curbside pickup yet, learn more here and come get some books. Also, there’s still time to register yourself and/or your kids in Summer Reading!

To find out what else your Library is up to during this time of closure, visit our website, call (423) 434-4450, and follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook and Instagram.

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