Author Interview #10: Sarah Beth Durst on The Reluctant Queen

Sarah Beth Durst author photoSarah Beth Durst is one of my favorite authors. It’s hard to pick just one of her books to have as my absolute favorite but I have to say The Reluctant Queen might be it. This book is the second in Sarah’s award winning Queens of Renthnia series which starts with The Queen of Blood. Today Sarah is here for our tenth interview to talk a little more about The Reluctant Queen.

Miss Print (MP): When we last talked about The Queen of Blood you explained that the Queens of Renthia series originally started with The Reluctant Queen as the first book before you made a switch and started the series with Daleina’s path to the throne. What was it like going back to this story after shifting the beginning in that way? Did The Reluctant Queen have any big changes because of the shift?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): Starting with book two, then creating book one, and then returning to book two made for a surprisingly fantastic writing experience.  It was nothing I could have planned or predicted, but it turned out to be the best thing for me.

The entire time I was working on THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, I had the story for THE RELUCTANT QUEEN churning in the back of my mind.  So when it was time to write book two, I knew the world, the story, and the characters so well that it felt like coming home.

Well, “home” if home were a massive forest with cities high up in the trees and tons of bloodthirsty nature spirits eager to destroy humanity…

MP: As its title suggests, this story focuses on a woman who doesn’t want to be queen. Naelin is very powerful and, as one character describes her, “deeply committed to living a forgettable life” and never attracting the attention of the spirits. Naelin’s lack of ambition and focus on her family is often in stark contrast to Daleina’s own position as Queen and her deliberate choices to take up that role. If you were in Renthia, whose path would you be more likely to understand and follow yourself?

SBD: I love writing about brave heroes like Daleina — she’s not particularly powerful (in fact, she’s at best a mediocre student, lacking the innate talent and skill of her classmates), but she’s determined to protect her family and save her world anyway.

I do consider myself to be determined (being a writer requires a certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness), but I’m not very brave.  Daleina ziplines all around her forest and faces down vicious spirits.  I, on the other hand, can’t even handle a nice, placid bike ride without being terrified, and I’m afraid of skunks.

So I’d probably chose Naelin’s path.

Actually, I agree with many of Naelin’s life choices.  She has immense power but chooses not to use it out of a (very, very reasonable) fear that she’ll leave her children motherless.

MP: The Reluctant Queen shows readers several new parts of Aratay including a much more in-depth view of the palace in Mittriel. What was your favorite room or place to showcase in this book? Which are you most excited for readers to discover?

SBD: My favorite room is the Chamber of the Queen’s Champions, even though Daleina isn’t as fond of it as I am:

Carved into the top of the palace tree, the Chamber of the Queen’s Champions was known far and wide as a marvel. It was said to have been created by one hundred tree spirits, working together under the command of a long-ago queen, in a mere instant. It was enclosed by arches of curled wood—living wood with leaves that whispered together when the wind blew. Sunlight poured into the center of the chamber, illuminating the queen’s throne in a perfect star pattern. The champions’ chairs circled it, each chair alive, budded from the tree. Higher than the surrounding trees, the only way to reach the chamber without using spirits was to climb the stairs that spiraled up from the palace on the outside of the tree’s vast trunk.

 

It was indisputably impressive, but today Queen Daleina hated it. She also hated the nameless long-ago queen who’d thought it was a grand idea to construct so many stairs.

MP: Since Renthia is filled with spirits that want to kill humans, we have already seen a lot of them by the time this book starts. What struck me while reading about the spirits is how unique they are. What inspired your vision for the spirits in Renthia? How do you make sure they are all distinct?

SBD: I wish I could tell you I’ve developed some fancy, professional-sounding writerly technique for creating the spirits… but honestly, I just try to make them as awesome as I can.  My personal favorite is an air spirit that is essentially a giant ermine with bat wings.  It looks kind of like Falcor from The Neverending Story.  (That’s the spirit on the cover of THE RELUCTANT QUEEN.  The cover artist is the amazing Stephan Martiniere.)

MP: In this book readers meet new characters like Naelin and her children Erian and Llor while also learning more about some of the familiar characters from book one including Daleina’s sister Arin, Healer Hamon, and Champion Ven. This book features quite a few more perspective shifts as the story unfolds from several points of view. Did you always know that this series would feature multiple perspectives? How did you go about balancing that aspect of your storytelling in your outlines and drafts?

SBD: That’s one of my favorite things about writing epic fantasy.  I love deciding whose turn it is to tell the story.  It feels like conducting an orchestra.

Mostly, I chose the POV character based on who is most affected by the upcoming scene, but I also color-code my outline to make sure that all characters have the appropriate amount of screen-time and that everyone has enough time to complete their character arc.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

SBD: Right now, I’m working on my next middle-grade novel.  It’s called THE STONE GIRL’S STORY, and it’s about a girl made of stone, forever twelve years old, who has outlasted the father who carved her and gave her life.  But now the magical marks that animate her are fading, and she must leave home and find help, if she wants her story to continue.  It will be out in spring 2018 from HMH/Clarion Books.  I’m so excited about it!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also check out our previous interviews discussing Sarah’s other novels here on the blog.

If you want to know more about The Reluctant Queen be sure to check out my  review.

COMICS EXTRAVAGANZA: A Q&A with Scott Westerfeld

I’m excited to be part of First Second’s Comics Extravaganza Blog Tour!

All week you can follow the blog tour (click to see the full schedule) for interviews with authors talking about their own comics, what they love about the genre, and more.

Today I’m hosting a Q&A with Scott Westerfeld, author of Spill Zone. Scott Westerfeld is the author of the worldwide bestselling Uglies series and the Locus Award–winning Leviathan series, and is co-author of the Zeroes trilogy. His other novels include the New York Times bestseller AfterworldsThe Last Days,Peeps, So Yesterday, and the Midnighters trilogy.

Tell us your first memory of reading a comic or graphic novel.
Scott Westerfeld (ST): My first little-kid comics were Casper the Friendly Ghost. He’s the ultimate visual character, thanks to the weird physics of his incorporeal body. I don’t think you could do those gentle but highly disconcerting sight-gags in any other medium. (If you don’t know what I mean, google “Casper Ghost Physics.”)
What’s your favorite comic or graphic novel, and what do you love about it?
ST: I love all deconstructions of comics, so I was tempted to say The Boys or something gritty like that. But really, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the best self-aware meta-comic going right now. The writing and art are crisp and sharp, the perfect combination of sweet and knowing.
Tell us a little about your latest graphic novel. 
ST: Spill Zone is set three years after a strange event destroyed the hometown of 20-year-old Addison Merritt. Nobody knows what the Spill even was, but it took her parents and left her little sister silent. (Except for psychic conversations with a creepy doll.) Now Addison supports them both by sneaking into the Zone to take photographs, which sell as a mysterious, voyeuristic outsider art. And then one of her collectors offers her a million dollars to bring more than photographs out of the Zone. (My elevator pitch: Stranger Things with motorcycles.)
What comic or graphic novel are you reading now? 
ST: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. An amazing immigrant family memoir, stretching from the bloody division of Viet Nam to blue-sky California in only a few decades. An amazing look at how history imprints itself across generations.
Remember, check out the other tour stops for more interviews. I’ll leave you with some more information about Spill Zone:
SPILL ZONE
by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Author Interview: Tara Altebrando on The Possible

Tara Altebrando is the author of several young adult and middle grade books including thoughtful contemporaries like The Best Night Of Your (Pathetic) Life and gripping thrillers like The Leaving. Her latest novel, The Possible, explores the growing popularity of investigative podcasts and what may or may not be a case of genuine telekinesis. I’m happy to have Tara on the blog today for our interview.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Tara Altebrando (TA): I’ve been writing since I was young and actually started out writing for grown-ups. But about ten years ago YA exploded in new ways and I shifted to writing for teens and have never looked back. What’s fun about the books I’m writing now (The Leaving, The Possible…and two more to come) is that the YA psychological thriller zone is a new space for me. It feels like a mid-career rebirth.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Possible?

TA: I’ve always been fascinated with telekinesis and telekinesis stories. Matilda. Escape to Witch Mountain. Carrie. Even Bewitched! And when the podcast “Serial” started I became obsessed with it and thought it would be fun to write a YA novel that featured a podcast that everyone was listening to. Everything grew from there.

MP: The Possible podcast features heavily in this book and you include some scenes about production and even transcribed audio clips that Kaylee listens to during the novel. Are you a podcast fan yourself? Do you have any that you would recommend or any that you listened to while writing and researching The Possible?

TA: I am a fan of podcasts for sure, particularly ones with a true crime bent. I loved Serial and binge-listened to In the Dark and S-Town. I love My Favorite Murder in a big way. I also listened to a bunch of episodes of The Paranormal Podcast when writing The Possible. The interview with Uri Geller, who started the whole spoon bending party trend in the seventies, is especially fascinating.

MP: A lot of the tension of this story comes from Kaylee and the reader not being sure what’s true about Kaylee’s biological mother and what’s been fabricated. How did you work out the pacing of this story and decide when to reveal (or not reveal) key details to readers to maintain the tight narrative?

TA: There is a lot of trial and error with regard to reveals in drafts when writing these kinds of suspense stories. It’s a real hat trick to know how long you can withhold something from a reader or character before it strains believability or patience. I’m still learning.

MP: Kaylee has a lot of “what if” moments in this story as she considers whether or not she may have inherited Crystal’s telekinetic powers. Have you ever had similar “what if” moments? How did you decide which situations would be used to question Kaylee’s presence (or possible lack) of telekinetic powers?

TA: I haven’t had any moments in my life where I thought I had telekinetic powers, no. I think we all have moments where we think maybe we’re psychic, though. Like you think about someone for the first time in ages and they call you right then…that kind of thing. For Kaylee and the book I just wanted a handful of really creepy and ambiguous scenes that could really be interpreted two ways: either she clearly had a hand in what happened, or she didn’t. I like the idea of throwing it back on the reader, making them question what they believe.

MP: Given the choice, would you want telekinetic powers?

TA: I would! And I would be sure to use my powers for good and not evil. Like I’d put the laundry away with my mind and deliver healthy snacks to my children without having to lift a finger. In my fantasies, I see telekinetic me walking down the aisles of the grocery store, filling my cart with my mind; I see the vacuum running around the house while I’m taking a bath. I’m so glamorous, right?

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project?

TA: My next book is called The Opposite of Here. It’s a Hitchcock-inspired YA thriller set on a cruise ship. Basically, a girl on the cruise meets this amazing guy the first night and then he seems to disappear into thin air. Where could he have gone? 

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

TA: Just to read widely and write what excites you.

Thank you to Tara for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can find out more about Tara and her books at her website: www.taraaltebrando.com

You can also find my review of The Possible here on the blog.

Author Interview #2: Susan Juby on The Fashion Committee

susanjubyI have been a fan of Susan Juby’s books since I read her debut novel in 2004. After falling in love with Susan’s writing all over again in The Truth Commission, I was thrilled to hear The Fashion Committee would return to the world of Green Pastures. I’m happy to have Susan back for another interview about The Fashion Committee.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for The Fashion Committee? When did you know that you had more stories to tell about Green Pastures?

Susan Juby (SJ): There were three distinct inspirations for The Fashion Committee. One came from a story told to me by a woman who used to be a drug dealer. One night she was in a drug house and when she was looking for a bathroom she opened a door and found a preteen girl in a preternaturally tidy and nicely decorated bedroom. The girl was sitting at her desk, quietly doing her homework. The girl and her room were as orderly and calm as the rest of the house was disordered and dangerous. That image stuck with me and made me think about how some kids can transcend brutal home lives.

The second inspiration was my own history as a fashion college drop-out. I wanted to be a costume designer for film and TV, but lacked the discipline and single-minded focus that seemed to be required. (I lacked quite a few other things as well.) I was both alarmed and envious that some of the students didn’t think about anything except fashion.

The third inspiration was a This American Life story called Three Miles. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/550/three-miles It’s about kids in an underfunded public school who go on a tour of an expensive private school. When I was younger I struggled with class resentment, even though I lived in a place where most everybody was working class. It would have blown my mind and not in a good way if I’d been taken on a tour of a school catering to super wealthy kids. I still struggle with the systemic unfairness that limits the opportunities for low income kids in North America.  Before I finished The Truth Commission, which is set at the same school, I already knew I wanted to write about aspiring fashion designers.

MP: The Fashion Committee is written in dual narrative with entries from Charlie Dean and John Smith-Thomas in their respective fashion diaries over the course of the competition. Interestingly, despite their competing together and going to school together, Charlie and John have very little overlap within the pages of this book. How did you go about organizing their two stories to become the plot of one novel? How did you balance having two first person narrators with such distinct personalities and styles?

SJ: I wanted their different perspectives on the contest and the act of designing clothes to act almost as a conversation about fashion. What’s wonderful about it? What’s problematic? Is it a legitimate and serious art form? Their worlds wouldn’t intersect much because they are not likely to be friends but I imagined that their observations of each other would be quite revealing. The two of them helped me to sort out some of my feelings about fashion. Charlie allowed me to explore the costs and benefits of true artistic obsession and John’s experiences let me think about how good people sometimes betray people they love and how self-righteous anger can be a trap. John is a less extreme and less stylized (and stylish!) character than Charlie, so his voice took longer to develop.

MP: This book all comes down to perspective and perception. Charlie grapples with the choices she has to make to pursue her dreams and ambitions while navigating the turbulence inherent to her father’s addiction. John, meanwhile, has to let go a lot of his own biases and unpack his privilege as he tries to reconcile his own self-perception with a newfound desire to be more. One of my favorite quotes is from John as he begins to realize this and says, “It was beginning to occur to me that I was a little too in love with stereotypes and preconceptions.” Did you always know that Charlie and John would have these multifaceted personalities and secrets? How did you handle layering that into their narratives?

SJ: My understanding of Charlie and John deepened with each draft and I kept my mind open to multiple possibilities in each scene as they progressed through the application process and created their designs for the fashion show. They surprised me at every turn. It’s not a terribly efficient way to work, but I’m a believer in letting the characters lead the way.

MP: This book isn’t your first foray into fashion or art school in your writing or in your life. What was your favorite thing about your time in design school? Did you do any hands on research with fashion design or metalwork for this book?

SJ: It was thrilling to learn some new drafting or sewing technique. When I attended fashion design school I was having quite a few personal problems. It was my first time away from my small town and I was living in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Unfortunately, I brought all my problems with me and developed some new ones. I ended up dropping out of school after six months. Not long after I left I learned that I’d won an award from the Costume Society of Ontario for one of my designs. I was gratified, but it felt bittersweet too. I could have been a contender!

For research, I read many books on fashion design, fashion theory, fashion history, and haute couture techniques. I visited the Manus x Machina fashion exhibit at The Met for inspiration. That was mind blowing. I also took a couple of metalworking classes and interviewed artists who work with metal. The research for this book was thoroughly enjoyable.

MP: Charlie and John each have to design a piece of clothing for the fashion competition. What would you have designed if you were in the competition? What are some things that would feature on your mood board?

SJ: I loved the period in 19th century fashion sometimes referred to as the Extravagant Period so I would likely have done something over the top. Huge crinolines, feathers. Completely impractical. My mood board would be full of photos of waterfalls, sheer cliffs and black birds resting on bare branches.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

SJ: I’m working on a new comedic crime novel for adults (and young adults who like that sort of thing) and a deeply bizarre picture book.

Thanks again to Susan for this awesome interview.

You can see more about Susan and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of The Fashion Committee.

Author Interview #9: Sarah Beth Durst on Journey Across the Hidden Islands

Sarah Beth Durst author photoSarah Beth Durst is here today to talk about her newest middle grade novel, Journey Across the Hidden Islands. This book is a rollicking adventures about twin princesses who have to set out to save their home from a dangerous threat. There are dragons, flying lions, sword fights and lots more.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for Journey Across the Hidden Islands?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): One day I said to my husband, “I want to write a book with a winged lion.”

He said, “Great! Um, anything else?”

“Winged lion,” I said.

“Don’t you need, I don’t know, a plot? Characters?”

“Winged lion.”

“Um, okay. Have fun.”

And that’s how this book was born. Everything else–the islands protected by a magical barrier, the monsters that hunt in the sea and sky, the sister princesses, the journey to the dragon–grew from that one solitary idea.

 MP: Your story starts with Ji-Lin who is training at the Temple of the Sun to become an imperial guard while her twin sister, Seika, stays at the palace learning everything she needs to know as the emperor’s heir. What was it like writing this story with two “main” characters? Which sister do you most resemble? If you had a choice would you rather train to be an imperial guard or an emperor?

SBD: The trick to writing two protagonists is that you need to fall in love with both of them. You can’t secretly favor one over the other. Both of them have to carry equal weight in your heart if they’re to shoulder equal halves of the story.

As for me personally… I love imagining I’m like Ji-Lin, fearlessly riding my flying lion to battle monsters. But in reality, I’m more like Seika, better at diffusing battles through words than winning them with swords.

Besides, I’d probably get airsick on a flying lion.

MP: What kind of research and thought process did you use to imagine the Hundred Islands of Himitsu? Were any of the places (and islands) in the story inspired by actual locations?

SBD: I drew my initial inspiration from feudal Japan and Renaissance Italy, specifically Venice. I emptied out those sections of the library, took copious notes, and then put it all away so that the Hundred Islands of Himitsu could grow into its own fantasy land from its birth in that real-world soil. As it developed, a lot of Italy fell by the wayside, though you can still spot traces of it (for example, the gondolas in the imperial city), and new imagined elements blossomed.

It was important to me both that my new world be primarily inspired by a place and time that wasn’t medieval Europe and also that it develop into a distinct fantasy land that isn’t a carbon copy of this world.

MP: In addition to her sister Li-Jin’s companion throughout the novel is Alejan–a winged lion. At what point in your drafting/writing process did Alejan and the other winged lions show up? If you had to choose would you rather hang out with a dragon or a winged lion?

SBD: The winged lions were there from the start. Everyone else joined the party later.

Before writing this book, I would have said I’d rather hang out with a dragon. But now… I want to meet a winged lion! They’ve got it all: the flying, the soft fur, and the personality.

MP: Which scene are you especially excited for readers to get to in Journey Across the Hidden Islands?

SBD: Whenever my husband reads one of my books, he insists on going into the other room, because otherwise I’ll just sit there and stare at him while he reads, watching his reactions. I am so, so, so excited for readers to journey with Ji-Lin and Seika! I can’t wait for them to meet Alejan and Kirro, to flee from the koji, and to see the islands… Okay, I guess that means my answer is “all the scenes.” Basically, I just want to sit and stare at everyone and watch them read. :)

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next projects?

SBD: Yes! My first picture book, ROAR AND SPARKLES GO TO SCHOOL, comes out from Running Press Kids in June. It’s about a little dragon named Roar who is worried about his first day of school, and it’s illustrated by the fantastic Ben Whitehouse.

And then THE RELUCTANT QUEEN, Book Two of the Queens of Renthia, comes out from Harper Voyager in July. It’s an epic fantasy for adults set in a world filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits. I am having the best time writing these books! I’m currently working on book three, which will complete this story arc.

If you’re interested, there’s a bunch more info on my website: www.sarahbethdurst.com

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also check out my previous interviews with Sarah and reviews of her books.

Author Interview #2: Estelle Laure on But Then I Came Back

Estelle Laure’s debut novel blew me away last year. I’ve been waiting for the release of her followup novel But Then I Came Back ever since. But Then I Came Back is set shortly after This Raging Light but follows Eden, Lucille’s best friend. But Then I Came Back is a story about love and friendship, moving on, and letting go. It’s also what Estelle is here to talk with me about today.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for But Then I Came Back?

Estelle Laure (EL): While I was writing my second book one of my best friends my whole life committed suicide. I was trying to write a different book and it wouldn’t come together because I was preoccupied thinking about questions of life and death and making an argument for choosing to live even though life is so hard sometimes. I finally gave into the fact that this was the story that was really needing to be written by me just then, and that’s when it really took on life.

MP: But Then I Came Back is set in the same world as your debut novel but focuses on Eden’s recovery after she wakes up from her coma. Did you always know you would write a companion to your debut novel? How did writing about a place and characters you’ve encountered before influence your writing process?

EL: It takes me a long time to find out about characters and their backgrounds and motivations. I’m talking years. I’m always envious of people who can come up with them so quickly. Then, once I have them I get pretty invested and it’s hard for me to let them go. As This Raging Light was coming out, I got a lot of positive feedback about Eden. People wanted to know more about her. Having had the accident in This Raging Light it provided a natural place for a story to begin. It was really fun for me to explore the way we view other people and then when we’re really in their skin there’s a whole other thing going on, meaning even if life looks easy for them, they have their own challenges and insecurities to deal with. No one gets off easy. As far as writing process, I suppose it saved me some time having to discover characters, although there were so many new ones here I still had a lot to do!

MP: In your debut, This Raging Light, Lucille has some magical moments but they are all based in reality complete with natural explanations. Eden, by contrast, experiences something like an afterlife during her coma and begins seeing magical flowers everywhere after she wakes up. Not to mention her connection to Jaz–another comatose girl in the hospital. What was it like incorporating these fantastical elements into your otherwise contemporary/realistic novel?

EL: I LOVE magical realism for its freedom of expression. I would say there have been some things I couldn’t explain in my own life. Let’s say I think of reality as being on a spectrum, Life can be totally magical and connected and filled with signs if you’re open to it. I’m not insane I promise, and I have never hallucinated anything, but I found it quite natural to incorporate more magic into an otherwise realistic setting. I just considered it on the far side of reality, rather than the recognizable grit of Lucille’s life.

MP: After she wakes up, Eden starts a long road to recovery with physical therapy, talking to a therapist, and getting back into routine things like school or ballet. She also starts reading about near death experiences and some anecdotes about it are included in the book. What kind of research went into writing all of these things? What books did you read? Who did you talk to?

EL: I put out a general call on social media for anyone who had experienced an NDE. I was shocked at how many people responded. I had email exchanges, met for coffees, had a few phone calls, and got a lot of interesting answers. I got a little obsessed actually and read books and a bunch of articles, plus talked to a couple of doctors who had worked with coma patients. The book that I found most fascinating was Proof of Heaven. It’s a controversial one, but I liked it for putting some kind of structure to Jaz’s experience in the hospital. I didn’t want to be held responsible for making claims about the afterlife, but people consistently felt there was something, and I felt comfortable enough to put that out there.

MP: Eden is a tough talker and uses bravado to hide a lot of her vulnerability. She is also passionate about ballet and an avid reader who collects quotes. In our previous interview you said you’d like to think of yourself as similar to Eden. Do you have any of these things in common with her?

EL: I am NOT a ballet dancer (I wish you could see the blooper dancing reel in my head right now). I think I liked having a graceful character because that’s so not me. But I do read a ton and collect quotes. I like my wisdom distilled in ways I could never say it. And I think I used to use bravado that way until I talked to a therapist who told me being defended was weak, not strong, and that vulnerability and honesty were the strongest stance. I never forgot that and it changed my way of being. So maybe I was more Eden as a teenager than I am now.

MP: What was your favorite scene to write in this novel? Which seen or character are you most excited for readers to encounter?

EL: My favorite scene and the one that still gives me goosebumps every time I read it is when Eden jumps out of the plane. It’s so short, but it gets me every time. It’s when she is the most free and for me, who is deathly afraid of heights, even reading it gives me that falling, out-of-control feeling. I think I’m partial to Gigi as a character, actually. Though she isn’t in the book that much, she is based on my grandmother’s best friend, a woman from Martinique named George, who read cards and talked to ghosts. She completely fascinated me when I was little, and this is my way of letting some of her eccentric magic stay here on this earth even though she’s gone.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? Will we be seeing more of the characters here?

EL: I think I’m done with Cherryville, actually. I feel complete there. I’m working on another magical book now and I’m afraid I can’t share much except that it’s still YA and is the book I’m writing for all the badass ladies in my life. I am totally letting loose in this one and it feels so good.

Thanks again to Estelle for this awesome interview.

You can see more about Estelle and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of But Then I Came Back.

Author Interview #2: Roshani Chokshi on A Crown of Wishes

Remember last year when I read The Star-Touched Queen early to review it for School Library Journal? I loved it so much that I requested the privilege to review Chokshi’s follow up and companion to her debut novel, A Crown of Wishes. Rosh once again completely floored me with her vivid imagery, complex characters, and thrilling story. I am thrilled to have Roshani Chokshi here again today to talk about her fantastic new novel A Crown of Wishes.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for A Crown of Wishes?

Roshani Chokshi (RC): I always wanted to tell Gauri’s story ever since she walked onto the pages in The Star-Touched Queen. Both female characters have such different experiences in their childhood (reviled vs. revered) and this affects their sense of responsibility as they grow older. I wanted Gauri to push back on everything that seemed to come so easily to her. And I really wanted to address how our relationships with our childhood stories change over time :) Plus, any opportunity I can get to wax poetic about the Night Bazaar and talk about food in the Otherworld is always a YES.

MP: Like your debut, A Crown of Wishes is filled with memorable characters. Is there anyone you are especially excited for readers to meet? Did you always plan to write a companion novel about Maya’s sister Gauri?

RC: Thank you!!! Yes. I’m very excited for readers to meet Aasha. I loved writing her character so much because she’s got so much heart. I also really liked how her relationship with Gauri grew from one of convenience to actual friendship.

MP: In this novel you write from multiple viewpoints as Gauri and Vikram compete in the Tournament of Wishes. What was it like writing a linear narrative with multiple points of view? Did shifting from one narrator to multiple narrators change your writing process compared to writing The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Omg it was so harrowing…there were days when I would just walk away from my laptop in tears because I felt like their voices were *just* out of reach and I couldn’t grasp them. But once I sat down, and really thought about who they were and why they wanted certain things, the narration became a lot more easier and genuinely enjoyable. It changed my writing process too by making me a lot more aware of characters interacting with worldbuilding. I think it made me a better writer too because it required a level of character engagement that wasn’t as present in TSTQ.

MP: Time to gush about two of my favorite characters: While Gauri is often impetuous and fierce, Vikram is more measured and thoughtful. Like Maya these two are unapologetic about their ambitions and self-aware enough to acknowledge their potential. They both negotiate the various facets of their personalities and how they present themselves both in person and through story to make the most of being underestimated throughout the narrative. Did you always know that story would play a big part in this story? How did you go about making perception, particularly with Gauri, a key part of the plot?

RC: I always knew this would be a story about stories :) To me, it felt like the most fitting end for the TSTQ universe. Maya’s story is also about perception, and Gauri’s story is about the consequences of perception. But it was challenging not to make it too on the nose, and for my characters to be reflective without being too…plodding, I guess? One of the things that allowed me to bring perception to the forefront was building that foundation of Gauri’s love of stories in The Star-Touched Queen. I could pull on those examples to explain how what she sees in A CROWN OF WISHES is filtered through two experiences: past and present, whimsy and wariness.

MP: You once again feature elements from Hindu mythology in this novel including a lot of new characters. How did you decide which myths to reference for characters in this story? Did you have a favorite character to write in this novel? Which character would you say you most resemble? 

RC: Growing up, one of my favorite stories was about the vetala and Vikramaditya, which directly inspired the characters of Vikram and, surprise, the vetala! I also drew a lot on tales from the Ramayana, as opposed to tales of the Mahabharata which had more of a presence in TSTQ. For the myths in this duology, I chose based on a gut reaction to the story. They read so personal to me because they were the tales I heard most growing up and that lingered in my head long after I heard them. My favorite character to write in this story was the vetala! I think my readers can tell that I have a soft spot for monsters with strange senses of humor…

As for the character I most resemble. Inwardly, I am Kamala. Outwardly, I hope we share zero characteristics.

MP: In A Crown of Wishes you expand the world that you introduced in The Star-Touched Queen as your characters visit familiar locations like Bharata and the Night Bazaar and new locations like Bharata’s neighboring kingdom Ujijain and the Otherworld kingdom of Alaka. Did any real locations help you envision these places? Did you turn to any specific myths for inspiration?

RC: Real locations that inspired me were the Red Fort in Agra (India), the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (Turkey), and the nightlife of St. Tropez in France (lol…). The Red Fort is a beautifullll palace that made me wonder who had walked through those halls. I loved the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul for its riotous colors and the beautiful fragrances that unfurled around every corner. And as for the slight chaos and sinister beautiful people, I had to include a touch of St. Tropez. During the witching hour when the club lights are strobing, and someone turns on a smoke machine, it’s not altogether clear who is human. And who isn’t…

Mythologically, Alaka is a real place. And I had a lot of fun researching tales about mischievous yakshas and yakshinis to get the story right!

MP: Did you have a favorite scene to write in A Crown of Wishes or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?

RC: I think one of my favorite scenes is with the Serpent King and the seven brides. To me, that’s a true lesson in perception. Because it’s not so much about the images before you, but how they make someone feel. *dun dun dun*

MP: Can you share anything about your next project?

RC: I’m currently working on THE GILDED WOLVES! I really love anything that has to do with secret societies, occult objects and vague heist-y feels, so this story set during La Belle Epoque in France is basically ALL of my favorite things. Expect tons of romance and intrigue, over-the-top glamour (you know I can’t help myself…) and horrible secrets lurking beneath all that beauty…

Thanks again to Roshani for this great interview.

A Crown of Wishes releases next week but thanks to Alex at Macmillan Audio you can listen to a clip from the audiobook right now at this link: https://soundcloud.com/ macaudio-2/a-crown-of-wishes- by-roshani-chokshi-audiobook- excerpt

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of A Crown of Wishes.