Jennifer here. Welcome to Chicks on the Case, Nekesa! Thank you for sharing the drive and inspiration behind your debut, Dead Dead Girls!
Do you know when you have, maybe accidentally, created a brand with clear interests? It’s when a TV show premieres and seven separate people message you on three different social media websites saying, “Nekesa! This show is set in the 1920s, it’s right up your alley!” This show, a CBC production (yes, I’m Canadian,) called the Frankie Drake Mysteries (2017-2021) is … fine. I’m glad to see the most beautiful woman in the world Chantel Riley portray Trudy Clarke, the brilliant, talented, Black best friend and partner-in-solving-crime of main character Frankie Drake. But it’s also easy to see, that in a show which takes place in Toronto in the 1920s, has one main Black character. One! Sure, Trudy has family, recurring characters of her mother and younger brothers, and every season, there’s the Black Person episode to show that yes, Black people exist, but it’s an overwhelmingly white show, which does not reflect Toronto of that era.
Let’s back up. In my sophomore year of university, I came across Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I discovered it the same time as most people in America, I assume. I had a VPN and unlimited access to my brother’s Netflix account. When it popped up in my recommended feed, I was hooked. The costumes! The music! And, of course, the slow burn between the Honorable Phryne Fisher and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson! Who could forget the scene in season two where they sing Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave”? Or the scene in season three where Jack asks Phryne to waltz, and she says, “the waltz is a serious dance,” and Jack replies, “I’m a serious man.”
Seriously, folks, DI Jack Robinson has ruined all men for me. All of them. If my mother ever asks me why I’m single again, I’m showing her that scene and not only will she agree, she will stop asking me for grandchildren.
I’ve always loved solving puzzles. That’s all a mystery is, really, solving a puzzle. I’ve watched every procedural I can get my hands on, devoured thrillers and mysteries of all genres. I’ve watched Humphrey Bogart track down a falcon or something. I’ve read and loved The Big Sleep, Rebecca, Gone Girl, and Sharp Objects. I’ve always been looking for and trying to solve mysteries that weren’t there. I’d love to solve a real mystery, and that’s why I gravitated towards writing my own. There’s also something so particular about binging and devouring all of this media, and none of it stars someone who looks like you.
I’ve grown up being the side character, the sassy best friend, the token Black girl. I’ve never been the star of the story. And watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the Frankie Drake Mysteries, everything made it clear that if I wanted to see myself as a crime-solving badass, I was going to have to write it myself.
When you really want something, the best way to get it is to do it yourself. That was the exact case here. Spending time with Lou in her world, getting to know her as she stumbled, failed and persevered made it clear that this was the story I wanted to read. This was the character I wanted to know. I wanted a prohibition-era mystery with a brave and bold Black girl. I wanted her to be the hero, the girl on the cover. I wanted to write and read a character I knew I could relate to because we have something in common. Who we are and where we come from are linked.
I loved writing this book. Every moment of it, even though there is grief and darkness in its pages. I loved writing a character I could connect with and other Black girls would be able to connect with. Finding Lou within in these pages has been the greatest honor.
Readers: When have you needed to take things into your own hands?
The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young Black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home…
Harlem, 1926. Young Black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.
Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She’s succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie’s Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan’s hottest speakeasy. Louise’s friends might say she’s running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don’t tell her that.
When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she’s been trying to ignore–several local Black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her.
Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She’ll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process.
Nekesa (Nuh-kes-ah) Afia (Ah-fee-ah) is a Canadian millennial who is doing her best. When she isn’t writing, she is either sewing, swing dancing, or actively trying to pet every dog she sees. DEAD DEAD GIRLS is her debut novel.
Author website: http://nekesaafia.com/