Root Magic debuts this month
Police harassment, racial tensions in schools, a weary wariness among Black communities—the backdrop of Eden Royce’s debut middle grade novel, Root Magic (HarperCollins, January 2021), seems current despite being set in 1963. The story of twins Jay and Jezebel growing up on Wadmalaw Island, the novel is an incantation of adolescence—that awkward stage when change and unrest casts a spell over everything. Stir in some ancient potions and Gullah-Geechee rootwork, and you’ve got a potential best seller on your hands. That’s at least what HarperCollins sensed when it signed Royce for her first major publishing deal.
“I wrote this book to explore stories I grew up hearing from my family members. I wanted to put out work that is very Southern, but also says that the Black experience isn’t a monolith,” says the Charleston native, who graduated from Bishop England and the College of Charleston.
After self-publishing two short story collections, Spook Lights 1 and Spook Lights 2, as well as numerous narratives in journals and anthologies, Royce has developed a devoted readership of Southern horror fans. Her new novel began as interrelated short stories, most written several years ago while Royce was living in North and South Carolina. “A novel was something I’d yet to tackle; it was the next hurdle,” says the author, who did the editing of the short story collections in Kent, England, where she and her British husband have lived since 2014.
“I didn’t start out aiming for commercial success; I started out wanting to tell stories. It’s in my nature, a deeply rooted part of me,” says Royce, who grew up downtown and spent time on the sea islands with her extended Gullah-Geechee family. “Ours is a storytelling culture. I grew up listening to stories from my elders, learning how to weave tales,” she says. Crafting endearing characters and lyrical prose is Royce’s preferred mode of working magic. Look for Root Magic this month at your local bookseller to fall under her spell.