‘Beasts Of Prey’ Author Ayana Gray Talks The Epic Sequel & The ‘Amazing’ Netflix Adaptation

'Beasts of Prey' author Ayana Gray spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife about 'Beasts of Ruin,' the Netflix movie in the works, who she's envisioned as Koffi and Ekon, and more.

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At 29 years old, Ayana Gray has already made a name for herself in the young adult world. Her debut novel, Beasts of Prey, became a New York Times bestseller and is currently being adapted by Netflix. Her highly-anticipated follow-up, Beasts of Ruin, is out now, and she’s already hard at work on a third book in the Beast of Prey series.

HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Ayana and asked whether or not she’s had her Beasts of Prey books mapped out from the beginning. “I knew a fair bit. I tend to plot my stories out in a lot of detail, but I always leave a little bit of mystery for myself,” she admitted. “Sometimes that changes the story a little bit, and sometimes it changes it a lot as I write. In this circumstance, once I started writing and came up with better approaches, it caused me to have to do a lot of rewriting. So I kind of knew where I was going, but I surprised myself.”

Ayana Gray
Ayana Gray is the author of the ‘Beasts of Prey’ series. (Ayana Gray)

The author noted that a “series of things” inspired the Beasts of Prey story. “I took a course while I was a university student called political violence where we grappled a lot with ideas of good and evil and that really struck me,” Ayana said. “I studied abroad in Ghana and got the chance to really see Blackness in a new lens and that had a tremendous impact on me. There’s a very famous story about two man-eating lions in East Africa called Tsavo Man-Eaters that I always thought was a really chilling but very interesting story. All of those things sort of came together in a really unique way. I started to think about the world of Beasts of Prey. That’s always where I start, with the world. And then I think about what stories could not really fit into that world. And then I think about what characters could fit into that story. So that’s it all kind of came together in pieces.”

Ayana’s first novel, Beasts of Prey, is being developed as a feature film by Netflix. The 29-year-old has been blown away by the book’s response from fans and the streaming service.

Beasts of Ruin
‘Beasts of Ruin’ is Ayana Gray’s second novel in the ‘Beasts of Prey’ series. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s really beyond my wildest dreams as an author,” Ayana told HollywoodLife. “You’re just kind of hoping that a single one of your books will make it into the world, let alone three, and then a movie deal is just unthinkable really. And then that happens and it’s truly surreal. I’ve gotten to look at the screenplay for Beasts of Prey, and it’s just hard to find words to describe how that feels to see your words converted into a new format. It’s so cinematic and rich. It’s amazing.”

When it comes to how hands-on she’s going to be with the film, Ayana said she’s “in the middle. I am an author first. Books are my first love, and that’s always where I’m going to feel most comfortable. I do have a lot of trust in Clubhouse Pictures and Melody Cooper, who’s written this beautiful screenplay. A lot of times I’m happy to defer to people when they’re working in their area of expertise. Of course, I want to have an active role, and they’ve been really lovely about consulting even in the early stages. So I’m kind of in the middle. I’m definitely not a control freak.”

Now that the film is in the works, fans have started to bring up actors they’d like to see in the roles of Koffi and Ekon. But what about Ayana?

Letitia Wright
Letitia Wright in 2022. (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

“I’m a big fan of Letitia Wright. I think she’s probably rather busy at the moment,” Ayana revealed. “He’s not necessarily an actor to my knowledge, but when I first saw Giveon, who is an R&B musician, I thought, ‘He looks so much like how I pictured Ekon in my head.’ It was really striking. If he ever wanted to have a foray into acting, we would love to snag him.”

However, Ayana pointed out that “so many people have given me a shot as a previously unheard of new name in publishing, and it would be really cool to be able to do the same thing on the acting side and bring in new, undiscovered Black talent for Beasts of Prey. Because at one point, the two people I just named — Giveon and Letitia — were also new up-and-coming talents, and someone gave them a shot. I have pictures in my head of it’d be really cool to have this person somehow, but it’s also just as exciting to think about maybe there’s the perfect Koffi and Ekon out there. I just haven’t found them.”

Ayana also weighed in on the state of diverse storytelling in the publishing industry. While there have been breakthroughs, Ayana wants to keep pushing forward with even more diverse authors and stories.

“I’m very proud of the progress. I mean, even in my lifetime, I’m turning 30 next year, and I’m proud to have seen so much progress in such a short amount of time,” Ayana told HollywoodLife. “But, of course, I want to see more. I want to make sure that diversity isn’t treated as a trend, as something to jump on and then do for a little while, and then move on to the next exciting fashionable thing. I want it to be sustained. I want it to be inclusive. I want it to be ever-expanding. So I’m happy with what we have, but I want more.”

As for the third Beasts of Prey book, Ayana revealed that the novel is due around the end of 2022 or early 2023. “I did actually submit an outline to my editor earlier this year before Beasts of Ruin was even published,” Ayana said. “I worked on it a little bit, but what I’m continuing to learn about my creative process is you do have to let ideas breathe. Listen to your head and listen to your body, so I’m Beasts of Prey 3 but also taking time and writing for the fun too, not just with the expectation of publishing but also just letting myself be creative.”

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