NYT Bestselling Author Ayana Gray Brings Stories to Netflix

By Katelyn Allen on Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Jason Masters
Ayana's first trilogy ends with "Beasts of War," releasing in January 2024.

Ayana Gray
Job title: New York Times Bestselling Author
Age: 30 | Higher Education: University of Arkansas

Ayana Gray has always been a storyteller. She dreamed of becoming a successfully published author, but never thought it could be her full-time career. Everything changed three years ago, however, when she struck a deal with Putnam Young Readers of Penguin Random House for her fantasy trilogy (at the age of 27!).

In Ayana’s series “Beasts of Prey,” readers are sucked into the magical story of Koffi and Ekon, two teens journeying through a magical jungle to find a murderous creature. 

“I’ve always loved stories,” she said, “but I didn’t think I could have a sustainable living doing what I loved until I’d sold my first series.”

“I think there’s something really profound about being able to connect with a total stranger through art, be it books, music, film or any other medium.”

Getting published was a remarkable accomplishment for the Little Rock-based writer, but reaching the New York Times bestseller list was a dream come true. The first two books in her series, “Beasts of Prey” and “Beasts of Ruin,” have already been translated into 10 languages across five continents, and now Netflix is developing the series into a film. Ayana was named a producer on Netflix's adaptation of her books.

“I think there’s something really profound about being able to connect with a total stranger through art, be it books, music, film, or any other medium,” Ayana said.

Her stories do resonate, especially with young Black readers for whom Ayana pens her stories. She said her books explore the nuances of the Black experience. 

“Meeting readers who felt seen creates a really beautiful connection, one that is deeply rewarding,” Ayana said. “I hope to continue writing stories that allow readers to see glimpses of themselves within the pages.”

Although Ayana is experiencing enormous success early in her career, she said some challenges come with the job. 

“Surprisingly, one of my biggest challenges is getting people to understand that my job as an author—despite how fun and easy it may look from the outside—is, in fact, a real and full-time job, and one I take very seriously!”

Ayana advises aspiring authors to keep reading by utilizing their public library and to take mental notes of likes and dislikes. She also recommends researching the publishing industry. 

“The best way to learn how to tell good stories is to read a lot of them,” Ayana said. “Every book has a lesson to teach if you are willing to learn.”

Ayana anticipates the debut of the third and final book in her beloved series—“Beasts of War”—on January 16, 2024.

“Readers can expect more magic, higher stakes and fiercer monsters in this book,” she said. “I am so happy to have a complete series under my belt, and I am really looking forward to holding all three books in my arms next year.”

A release date for the Netflix adaptation has yet to be announced.

Jason Masters

5 Majors for Aspiring Authors

  • Creative Writing
  • English Literature
  • History
  • Journalism
  • Psychology

Star Power

Ayana's series has catapulted her career and garnered much media attention, including but not limited to:

  • Kirkus Best Books of 2021
  • Featured on "Good Morning America"
  • Featured in Essence, Entertainment Weekly and more magazines
  • Stephen Curry's Literati Book Club Pick
  • Amazon Editors' 2021 Rising New Stars
  • Apple Book of the Month (October 2021)