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Forget Hogwarts: Author Tracy Deonn Uncovers Magic And Darkness At UNC-Chapel Hill

A diptych showing author Tracy Deonn and her new novel.
A diptych showing author Tracy Deonn and her new novel.

Bree Matthews is a 16-year-old girl with a desire to separate herself from her old life after her mother’s passing. While attending a residential program for bright high schoolers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bree is thrown into the world of magic. 

Host Anita Rao talks with local author Tracy Deonn about her new book.

She witnesses a flying demon feeding on human energies and learns about the “Legendborn,” a secret society of students dedicated to hunting these creatures. The young hero must grapple with her grief in order to save her peers from dark antagonists and their allied law enforcement. Author Tracy Deonn joins host Anita Rao to talk about her debut young adult novel “Legendborn” and her local vision for Afrofuturism and fantasy.

Interview Highlights

Tracy Deonn on navigating grief:

I think whenever any of us lose someone close to us, the natural instinct is to ask the question: What happened here? I remember when my mother passed away having that instinct. I'm a storyteller, lifelong storyteller, and writer.

Tracy Deonn about the history of UNC Chapel-Hill:

I often tell people: You're walking beside history when you're on that campus because there are so many buildings and statues and memorials and plaques. When you go into the arboretum, look at the plants. This cultivar came from this year, but it feels like you're walking amongst really 200-plus years of history.

Deonn on being a second-generation fangirl and how that influences her writing:

I am first and foremost a fangirl. I'm a second-generation fangirl. My mother was as well. Once you get into the world of online communities, there's a lot of sharing and a lot of community creation. What I love is that fans will sort of find the crack in a story and get into it like water, and then expand like ice.

Deonn on future books:

I'm in the middle of book two right now. … [I’m] launching a universe. I see LegendBorn as an expansive magic system. We could go forwards and backward. We could look at other character’s histories. We could look at Bree’s mother's history. I think there's a lot of room to wiggle around there.

Copyright 2020 North Carolina Public Radio

Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.
Grant Holub-Moorman is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show that features the issues, personalities and places of North Carolina.
Elikem will graduate from North Carolina State University in 2022 with a degree in science, technology and society, with minors in Africana studies and mathematics. During her time at NC State, Elikem has been actively involved in her campus newspaper, Nubian Message. This publication is focused on lifting the voices of Black and other marginalized people. Elikem hopes to continue her advocacy for underrepresented communities by pursuing graduate school or law school.