The Big Idea: Kemi Ashing-Giwa

Tea is best enjoyed with friends. So is revenge! Author Kemi Ashing-Giwa brings us a tale of tea, friendship, revenge, and so much more in her new novel, The Splinter in the Sky.


There wasn’t one singular idea that sparked The Splinter in the Sky; it was more of a situation. For the first few months of quarantine, whenever I wasn’t attending class on Zoom, I would read the news, watch the news, and doomscroll on Twitter.

I needed a healthy way to process everything I was learning and feeling, and since writing has always been a great comfort to me, it seemed only natural that I should start a new project. From the get-go, I wanted this story to have: (a) an assassin who takes revenge on the empire that razed her homeland; (b) a close sibling relationship at the center because there will never be enough of those stories; and (c) lots of tea, because that was my current obsession. From this hodgepodge surfaced a tea specialist-turned-spy-turned assassin who embarks on an interplanetary quest to rescue her sibling and avenge her fallen lover. Being a pantser (at the time), I cracked open a Google Doc and got right to work.  

I soon ran into a major problem: while a character running around kicking ass and taking names is always fun to write and read about, there’s not much substance in it. What’s the point of it all? Say Enitan successfully saves her sibling and gives her lover’s murderers a taste of their own medicine… Then, what? The classic hero’s journey typically ends with a return to the normal world. But the “normal world” of The Splinter in the Sky is a broken one; it’s the world that allowed for the bloody colonization of her moon, for the abduction of her only remaining family member. Enitan’s enemies aren’t just the people who personally ravaged her home and her life. Her enemy is the system itself—the autocracy on the brink of sparking yet another war of conquest. So the whole Holy Vaalbaran Empire has to go. (Or, at least, it has to change on a fundamental level).

Of course, a single person can’t take on a superpower alone, even if she’s a polyglot and knows a lot about tea. She’d need a great deal of help: allies, and even—dare I say it—friends. I’ll be honest, I did not want to write about found family (at first). I just wanted a bloody cathartic revenge tale. But my initial plan wouldn’t have made for a good story, and it wasn’t even true to myself. At the end of the day, I’m an inveterate optimist, and the tale I’d originally imagined was missing the very thing that got me through quarantine and everything that happened in it: hope. 

I’m sure you found that as corny as I felt writing that, but it’s true. Hope is no less powerful, nor less meaningful, than rage or sorrow. And, maybe, that’s the real big idea in The Splinter in the Sky. Hopefully, I did a good job of conveying that in the book. 

The Splinter in the Sky: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Books-a-Million|Bookshop

Author socials: Website|Twitter

2 Comments on “The Big Idea: Kemi Ashing-Giwa”

  1. The book sounds very cool and I learned a new word: “pantser.” Thanks!

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