Kwame Mbalia brings his Tristan Strong series to a conclusion with the latest Rick Riordan Presents novel Tristan Strong Keeps Punching. The book was released on October 5, and I had a chance to ask the author about his latest work.

LP: Since the publication of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky what has surprised you in the public response to the series? 

KM: Probably the overall reception. It still feels unreal that there are people actively following the series because they love the story.

LP: Fans are anxiously awaiting the release of Tristan Strong Keeps Punching in the next few weeks. Did you find it difficult to end the story of Tristan with only three books? How much of a struggle was it to write the last sentence? Is there more to Tristan’s story beyond the last word in the newest book?

KM: It wasn’t difficult to end because I know their adventures continue, although this particular story came to a close. Somewhere they’re still off having adventures.

LP: Can you please give us some assurance that readers will not be emotionally scarred by the death of an important character? (Happy endings are my personal favorite)

KM: No.

LP: Tristan’s knowledge of the mythology comes from reading Eddie’s journal and listening to his grandmother’s stories. How did you come to learn the tale of John Henry, High John, and the multiple other mythological characters that are a part of the books?

KM: I listened to the stories, read the stories, and heard the stories as a part of my upbringing. It’s really an accumulation of sources over a lifetime. Some are well known, like Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Zora Neale Hurston, while others are passed by word of mouth.

LP: Your work reaches a wide variety of diverse audiences. What are some of the most important ideas that you hope readers take away after reading Tristan’s stories?

KM: I hope readers actively seek out more stories from Black and African storytellers. There are so many out there.

LP: Your Twitter account is a brilliant mix of humor and motivation. How has social media affected/influenced your writing? (I loved your writing tent adventures)

KM: It’s a connection with other like-minded creative people. That’s how I use social media—develop and further relationships that would’ve been impossible (or much slower) even a decade ago.

LP: Will there ever be Gum Baby merchandise?

KM: That is out of my control.

LP: Which of the many mythological characters that you have included in your story is your favorite(s)? Why?

KM: I love High John the Conqueror because he’s an amalgamation of personas. He symbolizes different things to different people, and his story is one that is assembled from hundreds of “John Tales”.

LP: Would you like to see Tristan adapted for television or film? In which medium do you think he would be served best? 

KM: Either!

LP: What’s next in the writing world of Kwame Mbalia? 

KM: I’ll let you know once I know myself.

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching is on sale now.