From the moment 15-time Grammy award-winning artist Alicia Keys heard the hook for her 2012 single, Girl on Fire, she knew she had made something great. As the singer-songwriter told USA TODAY, “We wrote the hook, you heard that big beat,” she said. “And I was in another room, and I heard it banging against the wall. I called my husband (Grammy-award-winning producer Swizz Beatz), and I said, ‘Babe, I think something special is happening right now.’ ”
Her instincts were right. Alicia Keys’ single went five-times platinum, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and the song’s lyrics inspired women and girls around the world to boldly proclaim that they were powerful and special.
And now the hit song has inspired Keys to create a book with the same name. Girl on Fire is a young adult graphic novel co-written by Keys and Andrew Weiner. Keys, who insisted on working with a black illustrator, chose comics and storyboard artist Brittney Williams to create the images for her first book which was released on March 1.
As my 11-year-old loves to argue, graphic novels are books and are fair game when I tell her to unplug and read. And this one has a powerful message about tapping into your inner strength during a difficult situation. The main character, Lolo, is a teenage girl who discovers a power she never knew she had when her brother is threatened. But when a dangerous person with evil intentions learns of Lolo’s special abilities, he wants her to work for him and use her powers to hurt other people. It’s up to Lolo to find the strength to stand up to a bad person and do what is right.
In an interview with CNN, Keys said:
“‘Girl On Fire’ is such a special song … I mean, who knew that this song would have this kind of energy, that it would hold and create. [The book] has been in the works for about five years. It felt like it would be so beautiful to really go deeper into the story of a girl on fire named Lolo, who is being raised in Brooklyn. She’s 17 years old. She has a single father who’s raising herself and her brother and her brother ended up getting harassed by a police officer. Out of the anger and the desire to protect her brother, she discovers that she has this power that she never knew she had.”
A decade after the song was released, Keys knows how important it is that Girl on Fire continue to inspire women and girls to stand up for the rights that are threatened on a regular basis. Keys says she’s already considered the idea of developing the Girl on Fire book into a film or television series.
“It’s just as powerful now as we continue to see the world around us making us choose to stand up for peace, to stand up for justice, to stand up for the rights that we deserve. We wanted to use this song to really be that vehicle to remind people: ‘This is your voice. And we can use it to make a beautiful noise.’ ”