Yasmin Angoe is the author of Her Name Is Knight and a first-generation Ghanaian American currently residing in South Carolina with her family. She’s served in education for nearly twenty years and works as a developmental editor. Yasmin received the 2020 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award from Sisters in Crime, of which she is a member. She is also a proud member of numerous crime, mystery, and thriller organizations like Crime Writers of Color and International Thriller Writers.
We talked with Yasmin about the follow up to Her Name Is Knight, They Come at Knight, the series' unforgettable assassin-heroine Nena Knight, and what draws her to writing thrillers.
How did you first become interested in writing? What draws you to thrillers in particular?
This may sound cliché, but I first became interested in writing when I was in elementary school. That was when I wrote my first manuscript on looseleaf paper with a blue Bic pen. I still have the story in a plastic container of all the books I wrote throughout my school years. I started writing because I was my mom’s only child and she worked two jobs which left me with babysitters or at home. Reading and then writing became my siblings and my babysitter and my best friend. Does that sound pitiful?
What draws me to thrillers is the sense of not knowing what’s going to happen next, but still knowing that something is going to happen. It’s that tension and that roller coaster of anticipation that the author puts you through that drew me to thrillers. I started off reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Then I moved into horrors with R.L. Stein and Christopher Pike. So yeah, thrillers and horrors have always been the genres to read for me.
They Come At Knight is the second installment in the Nena Knight series. This time, Nena, an elite assassin for a powerful business syndicate called the Tribe, must confront an enemy on the inside. When did you know you wanted to take Nena’s story in this direction?
Oh, I knew I wanted to take Nena’s story in this direction from the moment I pitched a three arc series to my editor Megha Parekh at Thomas & Mercer. I wanted the first to be a sort of origin story about Nena, how she came to be this assassin. The second was going to be a threat from within this amazing organization because even though it wants to do good, there are still factors who set out to destroy it. And then the third would be about a more global threat to the Tribe and Nena deciding about where she fits in all of it, what she wants to be.
This book follows up on what was your debut—Her Name Is Knight. Did your approach or writing process change between the two books? Were there challenges unique to writing a sequel?
My mindset had to change when writing They Come At Knight and that dictated the change in my writing process. The first book has two distinct points of views that come together toward the end. The second had to be about the fallout from certain choices Nena had to make in the first. And it also had to deal with how she moves forward, forgives herself, tries to regulate herself. The challenge for me was creating something as compelling as the first, but in a different way, in Nena’s present. I just had to totally be all Nena instead of Aninyeh and Nena and once I committed to that, it came along very well.
What are you most proud of within the book?
I am most proud of the fresh and different ways in which the audience gets to see African and African American people. I’m especially proud of how Nena is a survivor and saves herself instead of depending on adults or on men to help her. She may be a killer, but she’s one with purpose, and I’m proud of the running thread of strength and survivorship and the importance of relationships that runs throughout all of the books. I’m also darn proud how Nene bucks the perceptions of Black women. She’s as good as all her male counterparts in all those other books and has a little bit more. She has a personal story the readers love and find relatable and something they want to know more of. Shoot, I want to know more about her life too!
Was there anything you read, listened to, or watched while working on They Come At Knight that influenced its creation?
I have a playlist that I listen to when writing of carefully curated songs I think exemplify different aspects of Nena’s personality and overall vibe. I think I posted it on IG one time so you can guess what I may have been listening too during certain scenes of the book. As far as watching anything, I tend to put on movies or shows I’ve already seen and don’t need to pay much attention to for background noise. Two movies I’ll watch because they reinforce the African lifestyle, I strive to highlight in my books are Black Panther and Coming to America 2. One movie I can’t wait to add to my repertoire, Viola Davis’s The Woman King which comes out the same week as They Come At Knight because it’s about an elite group of elite women soldiers protecting their king which is Nena Knight!
If someone is new to reading thrillers or crime fiction, what books or stories do you think are essential?
Oh my gosh, so many books and so little time! Well. I love Robert Justice’s They Can’t Take Your Name; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Rachel Howzell Hall is phenomenal with We Lie Here. Tracy Clark with Runner. If you like cozies there is Mia Manansala. I also really enjoyed Angeline Boulley’s Firekeeper’s Daughter….wow! And I love everything S.A. Cosby puts out like Razorblade Tears. Also Amina Akhtar’s Kismet which is recently out.
What are you currently reading? Are there any upcoming books that you are really excited about?
Currently, I’m reading Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson. Books coming up that I’m excited about are Cheryl Head’s Time’s Undoing, which is coming Spring 2023 and is AMAZING! A Very Typical Family by Sierra Godfrey comes out September of 2022, and Wanda Morris’s Anywhere You Run comes out November.