Rivers of London Award Shortlist Interview: Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson

This is a story we are hesitant to tell…

Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson – The Principle of Moments

Shortly after Gollancz’s Rivers of London Award, I got in touch with the winners and other shortlistees to find out more about them and thier projects. In this post, Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson talks to me about her winning novel, The Principle of Moments, and her influences as a writer.


Tell us about the work you submitted to the RoL award in a tweet or less.

It’s about a girl living in the far future, under an oppressive regime, who discovers she has a sister imprisoned by the emperor and risks everything to go and save her. But it’s also about the power of righteous anger, family, and the importance of friendship.

Where are you in your process with the work?

Somehow, I have managed to finish writing it! At the moment I am going through the first round of edits with my agent, and hoping they’re the only ones I have to do before we go out on submission.

What are a few things that inspired or influenced your novel?

  • The idea of Black Girl Magic! It isn’t often that Black girls and women get to see themselves as powerful beings in huge adventure stories, and so I wrote what I always wanted to see.
  • My love of stories set in space that are character driven rather than just about the Cool Space Stuff (though I have definitely written more than my fair share of Cool Space Stuff into this book!)
  • My sisters! I have two sisters, and they mean the world to me (even if they drive me up the wall most of the time). But I remember thinking when I knew I wanted to write this book, that sisterhood would be at the centre of it. Essentially it asks the question: how far would you go for your sister? And the answer is: as far as it takes. Which is true for me too!

Could you share the first line or paragraph?

This is a story we are hesitant to tell, though it is true we are many years removed from it now.

What is one key part of your writing process?

One key part of my writing process is not having too much of a process! I really think that (if you are someone who enjoys going with the flow) it can be very helpful to let the characters lead at times. Mine are especially bad at following the plot, so for the first two thirds of the first draft, I’m usually plan-less, letting them run around in the world.

Which book or author has most influenced you and why?

The list is so, so long, but probably N.K. Jemisin. She is my absolute hero. I don’t think my writing style is similar, but in terms of showing me what it is possible to do — to make people feel! — with the medium of a novel, or a series in three parts, she is the one I keep returning to. Also to see a Black woman in science fiction become as successful as her is like wind beneath my wings when I’m questioning everything. She feels like an awesome aunty I’ve never met. One day I’d love to be able to tell her that!

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m in the middle of The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. It’s incredible on every level! It’s definitely an aspirational book in terms of craft. One day I’d love to have such a handle on political writing and the things that make a rebellion — but for now I’m just enjoying being completely blown away.

And finally, what is one book you would wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read right now?

It’s always anything by N.K. Jemisin, and An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon.


You can find out more about Esmie and her writing by following her on twitter, and of course, make sure to check out her winner’s video from the Gollancz awards ceremony!

Published by thatexpatgirl

Traveler, Reader, Writer, Scribbler. Go ahead and email me at aborg.teaches@gmail.com

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