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Photo credit: Rhea Whitney

How many pageants and beauty competitions have you won? What was the most recent?
I’ve won six pageants. The most recent being Miss Black Illinois USA in 2012. Before that I won the titles of Miss Chicago and Miss Cook County for the Miss America Organization.

Did any of those competitions inspire you to write books for teen girls and adults?
Yes! Competing in pageants was a unique and inspiring experience. I actually wrote a short story called “Crowned” that will be published by the Young Adult Review Net (YARN) on March 20, 2017.

Here’s a synopsis: High school junior, Robyn, would rather go over Niagara Falls in a barrel than compete in the Miss Teen City on the Lake Pageant. Her older sisters tried and failed, and with a less-than-enthused mother and an aunt who’s the show’s biggest cheerleader, Robyn prefers to stay on the outskirts of the spectacle than take center stage. But when a particularly humid summer sways Robyn to ditch her straightened locks and go au naturel, unexpected blowback from her decision convinces her to shake things up. For Robyn, it’s time to win that damned pageant in all her coiled glory.

What is The Blazing Star about?
The Blazing Star is a self-discovery story at its core. It’s about a 16-year-old girl named Portia who has been in the shadow of her twin sister, Alexandria, much of her life. You see, Portia’s twin is a Mensa-inducted genius while Portia hasn’t discovered what gifts make her special yet. When Portia touches an ancient Egyptian scarab (jewelry shaped like a beetle), she faints. This begins a week of strange events for her and new powers that emerge from within. And when she accidentally touches the scarab a final time, she wakes up on the Nile banks of ancient Egypt with her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow. The story unwinds as Portia learns to trust herself and gain confidence. The girls also must band together to fight an ancient evil and find a way home.

What would you like people to glean from reading your book?
I want readers to feel inspired by the story, especially teens. Though Portia is an underdog, she learns that she is the captain of her own ship. She is as powerful as she allows herself to be. How many of us have been there? I know I have. We all have to find our gifts as well as the best ways to use them. I hope people see themselves in Portia.

What are some books out that resemble yours?
It’s been compared to Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova, but honestly that’s the only consistent comparison I’ve seen. The book draws on a lot of recognizable themes packaged in a unique way. When I was shopping the book around to agents, I described it as The Mortal Instruments (by Cassandra Clare) meets The Heretic Queen (by Michelle Moran). I have seen a few comparisons to The Mummy movie series. The first The Mummy movie is one of my favorites, so I was very excited to see that popping up.

Why did you want to write a fiction book versus writing a nonfiction book?
I’ve always loved fiction, particularly fantasy. The Blazing Star is considered portal fantasy, which rarely stars African American protagonists. I’m very excited The Blazing Star could lend its voice to the genre, and I’m equally excited to have an African American teen on the cover of the book.

What do you do besides writing?
I teach fitness and dance classes, from time to time. Sometimes I judge pageants or coach contestants if the circumstance is right. The same goes for dance competitions or young ladies interested in professional cheerleading, as I was a Bulls cheerleader in a previous life.

Do you plan on participating in any other pageants?
Oh no. I’m out the game! I did pageants until I was 25, and I was a cheerleader (pro and semi-pro) for about the same length of time. Right before my 26th birthday, I was ready to explore new things. I’ve always danced (which is why I had a talent ready for pageant competitions), and I’ve always written. So I decided to jump back into writing.

What are the next steps for Imani?
The Blazing Star series will be a trilogy, and I’m currently getting book two into production, and starting on book three. I also have a short story coming out in March, as previously mentioned. Aside from that, I hope to become a better writer and continue to grow.

How can our readers keep up with you?
Order The Blazing Star on Amazon or my website www.ImaniJosey. To join the social conversation, follow @Officialimanij on Twitter, and @imanijosey on both Instagram and Facebook via the hashtag #TheBlazingStar