Helena Native to publish debut novel

Published 4:02 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

HELENA – LaDarrion Williams, a Helena native and 2011 graduate from Thompson High School, is on track to publish his debut novel, “Blood at the Root” next year.

Williams, who moved to Los Angeles in May 2015 in search of better career opportunities, has been writing since he was 17 years old and has primarily utilized his love of the activity in the art of playwriting.

“I moved to LA with three suitcases and a dream and came here to become a screenwriter, filmmaker and playwright,” Williams said. “After years of working hard—struggling to make my dreams come true—my plays finally started to taking off. I was producing staged readings here and there with friends, and I have also written, directed and produced three short films.”

In that vein, “Blood at the Root” was not originally intended to be a young-adult fantasy book.

“After going viral on Twitter during the lockdown due to Covid-19, I asked a question, ‘What if Harry Potter went to an HBCU (historically black college or university) in the South,’” Williams said. “And from then on, I created a screenplay called ‘Blood at the Root’.”

Following his playwriting and short film work, Williams intended to use this screenplay as his entry ticket into Hollywood, but was met with a lack of interest.

“I was met with rejections, false promises and flat out radio silences from Hollywood,” Williams said.

While that development would be discouraging for most, for Williams, it simply became the latest step in a journey of hard work, self-expression and not taking no for an answer. He decided to retool the project in March 2021 and began the work that’s brought the project to its current state.

“I signed with the best agent ever, Peter Knapp, at Park and Fine Literary and we went to publishers to try to ‘Blood at the Root’ published in September 2022,” Williams said. “Rolling deep in rejections from editors, I was honestly a bit scared that this book wasn’t going to make it and be seen on bookshelves.”

However, with the thanks of the cultivation of a viral following on social media and generating public support with a viral and award-winning short film based on the same concept, Williams finally found a home for his work at Penguin Random House publishing. In January 2023, Williams signed a major three-book deal with the publisher under the publishing imprint of Labyrinth Road.

“This book is about a Black boy’s journey of magic and reconnecting to his heritage,” Williams said. “I wrote this book because I felt like there was a lack of representation for Black boys in the Young Adult Fantasy space. It’s about friendship, learning oneself and takes a different perspective of childhood trauma through the lens of magic.”

“Blood at the Root”, which follows the story of a teenager on the run from his past and finding family he never knew existed and the community he never knew he needed at an HBCU for the young, Black and magical, is currently available for pre-order wherever books are sold. Pre-orders can be placed directly with Penguin Random House at Penguinrandomhouse.com/books/738959/blood-at-the-root-by-ladarrion-williams.

Williams first forte as an author is currently expected to be released both digitally and physically on May 7, 2024.