It’s a classic urban summertime scenario: The temperature rises, everyone is running air conditioners full blast, and the power goes out. Blackout (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, June 22) takes it as the jumping-off point for a young adult novel constructed of interlinked stories about Black teens in love, all leading up to a Brooklyn block party. The roster of contributing authors reads like a who’s who of YA fiction: Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon. We emailed the collaborators to ask them about their own blackout experiences and the books that keep them entertained, with or without electricity.
The power is out: No TV, no video games, and your phone is rapidly losing juice. What favorite book will we find you reading by flashlight?
Dhonielle Clayton: You’ll find me rereading Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse series so I can escape to cold Ravka!
Tiffany D. Jackson: My blackout baes already know…the Twilight series. Always sucks me out of a funk.
Nic Stone: The Mothers by Brit Bennett.
Angie Thomas: Anything that Jesmyn Ward writes. I would truly read her grocery list.
Ashley Woodfolk: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
Nicola Yoon: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Have you ever experienced a serious blackout? What did you do to occupy yourself?
Dhonielle Clayton: The last blackout I experienced was after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and we lost power downtown. I napped and read books.
Tiffany D. Jackson: During Hurricane Sandy. I started writing Allegedly while eating sandwiches and soup.
Nic Stone: I haven’t, but I’m 99% sure that I would just try to find somewhere to take a nap until the power came back on. Never forego an opportunity to nap!
Angie Thomas: During and after Hurricane Katrina, we experienced a serious blackout. We were withoutpower for several days. There was a massive heatwave that followed the storm, and Mississippi is humid already, so with no air conditioning we were pretty miserable. I read a lot of books and wrote stories on a notepad. I spent a lot of time in my mom’s car, too, blasting the AC and listening to the radio for updates.
Ashley Woodfolk: During Hurricane Sandy I was living in Hoboken, New Jersey, and we were out of power for days. We watched movies on our laptops until they died, then read, and cooked canned food over the stove like we were camping.
Nicola Yoon: Nothing that lasted more than 24 hours. The last blackout we had in Los Angeles, my family and I lit candles, got our book lights out, snuggled up, and read.
What’s the new book you’re most looking forward to reading this summer?
Dhonielle Clayton: I’m most excited to read Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury.
Tiffany D. Jackson: Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney.
Nic Stone: Instructions for Dancing by our Queen, Nicola Yoon!
Angie Thomas: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon.
Ashley Woodfolk: I technically already read it, but I can’t wait to own Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson.
Nicola Yoon: While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory.
Favorite summer reading spot?
Dhonielle Clayton: The beach.
Tiffany D. Jackson: The beach with a cold Coca-Cola.
Nic Stone: As close as possible to water: pool, beach, lake.
Angie Thomas: The beach! Specifically, in a tropical location where the water is super blue and the sand is practically white.
Ashley Woodfolk: My terrace, with my dog right beside me.
Nicola Yoon: On my backyard couch.
Activity you’ve most been looking forward to doing once everybody is vaccinated and we’re mingling again?
Dhonielle Clayton: A huge dance party.
Tiffany D. Jackson: I cannot wait to go dancing. There is nothing like a New York City summer rooftop party.
Nic Stone: As dorky as it sounds, going to book festivals!
Angie Thomas: Traveling! I miss airports.
Ashley Woodfolk: Eating out! I’ve missed restaurants so much. And museums. I can’t wait to spend a rainy day wandering around one.
Nicola Yoon: I’m looking forward to actually mingling! Also, I really miss getting to meet readers and chat and hug.
Favorite part of working on a collaborative novel?
Dhonielle Clayton: The best part is getting to have a mind meld with such brilliant women. There’s no problem we can’t solve together.
Tiffany D. Jackson: Our insane group text discussing ideas and swooning over each other’s stories.
Nic Stone: Seeing how amazingly talented my beloved friends are!
Angie Thomas: Six heads are better than one.
Ashley Woodfolk: The way we were all able to play to our strengths and bounce ideas off each other. It was collaborative in every sense of the word.
Nicola Yoon: The group chat! Seriously, though, I loved just getting to work with some of the most talented writers in the world. How lucky am I?
Most challenging thing about a collaborative novel?
Dhonielle Clayton: Coordinating and making sure everyone remembers everything to pull through their stories.
Tiffany D. Jackson: Being so far away from each other. I’m dying to have a sleepover party with my boos.
Nic Stone: Making sure our stories align and coordinating schedules for stuff.
Angie Thomas: Coordinating the locations, the times, and the character relationships.
Ashley Woodfolk: Scheduling anything together! Everyone is so busy.
Nicola Yoon: I have to say I’m surprised at how seamless it all was. We all had the same goal: to write joyful love stories about Black kids. We all kept that goal in mind and just wrote our hearts out.
What do you hope readers of Blackout come away with?
Dhonielle Clayton: That they deserve to have a great love story.
Tiffany D. Jackson: That they are delicate, beautiful, flawed things who are worthy of magical love.
Nic Stone: Hope! And a solid reminder that love really can overcome anything. Oh, and ooey gooey feeeeeels inside, ha!
Angie Thomas: That they are just as deserving of a beautiful love story as anyone else.
Ashley Woodfolk: A feeling of joy and worthiness that lasts and lasts.
Nicola Yoon: I hope they fall in love with themselves, who they are now and who they can be.
Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief.