ONE FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH VICKI L. WEAVIL, AUTHOR OF CROWN OF ICE

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Hi everyone!  Sandra Waugh, here, interviewing the YA fantasy author Vicki L. Weavil for the Fifteeners blog today! Here’s the summary of her awesome CROWN OF ICE, which released from Month9Books in September:

VWeavil_CrownofIce_M9B_eCover_900x1350Thyra Winther’s seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can’t reassemble a shattered mirror by her eighteenth birthday, she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra’s willing to do anything–venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous journey lies within her breast.  Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s desire, the thawing of Thyra’s frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing.

Here is where you can find this wonderful fantasy:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Indie Bound

Now to the interview!

SW: Tell us about the inspiration to re-imagine Hans Christian Andersen’s THE SNOW QUEEN.  In particular, I’m wondering if this story has long been a favorite of yours and why?

VW: THE SNOW QUEEN was one of my favorite fairly tales when I was young (and I read a LOT of fairy tales).  Something about it always intrigued me–looking back, I think it was the fact that the supposed antagonist wasn’t really evil.  In Andersen’s tale, the Snow Queen’s actions harm humans (including the protagonists Kai and Gerda) abut she is really more of a force of nature than a true villain.  She has her own, self-absorbed, reasons for her actions, and they do cause damage, but she isn’t actively seeking to destroy the protagonists.  As a child, I found this concept of a character who was neither good nor evil fascinating. I guess I enjoyed the concept of a “gray” character even then.

One thing I would like to make clear–I had no inkling of the existence of any film based on THE SNOW QUEEN when I wrote my book.  In fact I didn’t hear about FROZEN until I was already querying CROWN OF ICE. So the popularity of that film had no influence on my choice because of the subject matter.  Ironically, one of the key phrases in my book–“Let it go”–became the anthem of the movie.  I promise there was no connection! (Unless it was one of those “collective unconsciousness” things).

SW: You chose the Snow Queen’s story rather than the fairy tale’s heroine, Gerda.  Please talk about that. 

VW: Actually, that was sparked by a discussion on Twitter.  I was following a Twitter exchange where several literary agents said they’d like to see more stories told from the villain’s point-of-view.  I’d been considering a fairy tale retelling, so when I read these tweets, THE SNOW QUEEN immediately popped into my mind–primarily because I love that fairy tale, but also because I feel the Snow Queen’s perspective could be an interesting “villain” POV.

As I developed the book, a major theme emerged–whether someone who has “frozen” their heart and emotions in order to survive can ever learn to love again.  This theme is very dear to me, because I believe there is always hope, even for those who feel they have no love in their life and never will.

When I created Thyra, in my mind were images of all the young people who deal with war, illness, family problems, abuse, mental illness, poverty, or other tragedies and challenges.  I believe those who survive often have to fight their way back to a sense of happiness and an ability to love, but I also believe it is possible for them to do so.

I always describe my protagonist, Thyra, as a survivor.  She isn’t a warm, fuzzy, character and she sometimes does things that aren’t particularly nice. But she’s still human and, beneath her “frozen” exterior, she still feels as deeply as others.  Having known the struggles of several friends–and having dealt with my own battles with depression–I really wanted to explore the growth arc of a character whose story begins in isolation and despair.  How does such an individual learn to embrace life again?

I realize Thyra is a very divisive character for some readers, and that’s okay.  I truly wanted to present a character who’s not particularly “loveable” in the beginning–a person who has become self-absorbed in order to survive.  I know such characters (and people) are not always easy to relate to.  I actually don’t expect readers to like such a “difficult” character at the beginning of the book.  I do hope, as they follow her journey to self-awareness, they learn to respect and care about her.

SW: I’m still brushing off ice crystals–Thyra’s world was so real!  What was it like immersing yourself in this frigid landscape? 

VW: Honestly, at one point, I wondered if I could find enough different ways to describe ice and snow!  It definitely was a challenge to create Thyra’s world, but I was able to draw on my own experiences a little bit.  I grew up at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and when I was a child we did get significant snowfalls. I also spent a little time living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which taught me a great deal about the effects–and dangers–of cold weather.

SW: Your secondary characters are all as richly alive as Thyra, human and animal, so I’m wondering which secondary character was your favorite to write?  

VW: Oh, I love all my characters (even the villains) but one of my favorite secondary characters is Sephia.  I actually based her on the old woman with the magical garden from Andersen’s original tale However, as I was creating CROWN OF ICE, I embraced her as a more significant character and a true foil for Thyra–someone who’s also neither absolutely evil nor perfectly good.  Sophia has power over green and growing things, in direct contrast to Thyra’s power over ice, snow, and cold, but they are very much alike in other ways.  Like Thyra, Sephia has her own agenda, and isn’t about to let anyone or anything stand in her way.  But Sephia–whose name is a combination of “Persephone” and “Sophia” (or “Wisdom”) is much older than Thyra and has acquired knowledge and understanding over the years.  Even though she opposes Thyra at many points in the book, she also sees elements of her own younger self in this Snow Queen.

Of course I also loved writing the two animal characters, Bae and Luki.  Bae is actually based on a talking reindeer in Andersen’s original story, but Luki is my creation. I included animals as primary characters because I believe they’re an essential part of life.  We share our lives and our world with animals, and I think they can have a great influence over human beings.  (Just consider the joy of snuggling up with your dog or cat at the end of a long, hard day!) Luki is really the first creature in a long, long time to show Thyra affection.  His unconditional love and loyalty are a lynchpin in the plot–Thyra’s growth arc would not be the same without him.

SW: My heart always catches hold of certain details an author chooses to explore–in this case the fabrics in Mael Voss’s chambers.  What were you thinking as you were describing them?  

VW: I have a “secret” past as a costume designer, so fabrics are something that speak to me in a special way.  The materials a character chooses to surround themselves with, as well as wear, can tell the reader a lot about their personality and their inner feelings.  Voss has greatly extended his life through his use of magic, but he hasn’t really grown over all that time.  He’s still stuck in the past, which is reflected in the clothes he wears and the items he keeps in his chambers.  In one scene, he even wears a garment that reflects his long ago connection to another character–not certain how obvious that detail is to readers, but Thyra does notice!

SW: I understand you write poetry! How did that influence CROWN OF ICE? Writing in general?

VW: When I was younger, poetry was pretty much all I wrote.  I played around with short stories and started a few novels, but never finished one.  Poetry was my main writing outlet (and I did actually win a few awards for it).

Once I finally sat down and completed a novel (an adult sci-fi that is currently being revised) I discovered that certain aspects of poetry writing had crept into my prose.  For one thing, I’m very conscious of rhythm–how using certain patterns in sentences, paragraphs, and so on can create atmosphere or change the tone and (sometimes) meaning of what I write.  Also, because poetry is such a condensed medium, it requires to choose words very carefully.  This helps with writing descriptions–it makes me strive to convey the most potent image with the fewest words.  I haven’t perfected this yet by a long shot, but it’s something that’s always on my mind.

SW:  Without spoilers (!), I’m sensing your passion for learning.  Did you anticipate this as a theme in your story?

VW: The love of learning is so much a part of my life, I think it tends to just appear in whatever I write.  For CROWN OF ICE, this theme is essential because it shows a side of Thyra that hasn’t been “frozen” by her choices and circumstances.  The fact that she still has a passion for learning is the one thing that first connects her to another human, the equally education-obsessed Kai. It also raises the stakes.  Since Thyra values her intellect above all things, the threat of losing her mental abilities if she fails to reconstruct the mirror and becomes a mindless wraith is truly a fate worse than death.

SW: Speaking of fates worse than death, and because this community is fearless, what is something you are afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?

VW: Following up on my answer to the previous question, one thing I truly fear is the loss of my own mental faculties.  I sincerely fear that more than the threat of any physical disability or illness.  When he was older my father, a brilliant scientist, suffered a brain injury from a fall and lost much of his mental acumen.  I think somewhere deep down he knew, and was frustrated and saddened by this loss throughout the last years of his life.  That was a tragedy, and something I hope never happens to me.

One thing I’m not afraid of is change.  A lot of people have trouble with that, but I’m not one of them. I love to travel, to embrace challenges, and to continue to learn new things.  I think I could happily move to a new location every five years or so, just to experience different environments and cultures.  Certainly one reason I love writing is because I can create new characters and new worlds with every book!

We’re so glad to have you share this on our post! Thank you, Vicki!

 

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Raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Vicki L. Weevil turned her early obsession with reading into a career as a librarian and author.  She holds a B.A. in Theatre, a Masters in Library Science, and a M.A. in Liberal Studies.  Currently she’s the library director for a performing and visual arts university.

An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Vicki has been known to read seven books in as many days.  When not writing or reading, she likes to spend time watching films, listening to music, gardening, or traveling.  Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats.

Vicki is a member of SCBWI.  She is represented by Jennifer Mishler at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.

You can connect with Vicki here:

Website/Blog  Twitter  Tumblr 1 or  Tumblr 2  Goodreads  Pinterest  Facebook  Amazon

 

Sandra Waugh cropped final.Sandra Waugh grew up in an old house with crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library with even more crowded bookshelves. It goes without saying that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT because of its bookshelves and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and Daisy the snoring goldendoodle. Her debut fantasy, LARK RISING, is out from Random House. SILVER EVE follows 9/15. Follow Sandra on Twitter at @sandrajwaugh.

ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMBER LOUGH, AUTHOR OF THE FIRE WISH

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I nabbed this interview, not only to feast early on THE FIRE WISH, but Amber and I are also editor siblings! So it is with extra pleasure that I inquire about this intriguing author and enchanting story, which debuted yesterday from Random House Books for Young Readers!

Fire Wish new Cvr comp B[1]

 

In this romantic and evocative fantasy, Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human, on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad–which she’ll do anything to avoid.  So she captures Najwa and makes a wish.  With a rush of smoke and fire they fall apart and re-form–as each other.  A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered–enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.

Yum!

You can find THE FIRE WISH here:

AMAZON   BARNES & NOBLE  INDIE BOUND  POWELL’S BOOKS  BOOKS A MILLION


 SW:  I’m so curious about the inspiration for THE FIRE WISH.  I know you spent time in Baghdad, where, you say, the ancient sands still echo (how beautiful!)  Tell us more!

AL:  I must admit I did not write that bit about the ancient sands–my editor did–but it’s true that I thought about that all the time. The real inspiration for THE FIRE WISH began years and years ago, when I was first listening to the stories in 1001 Nights.  I was completely captivated by the magic.  Then I spent my middle school years in Bahrain, and it grew on me. Unfortunately the war has prevented me from seeing the best parts of Iraq, but I hope to go there again.

SW:  One of the things that makes THE FIRE WISH so richly vivid is the way you drop tiny details within details. How you describe a rose, a barge, a loom, a scent lures us into this world.  What was research (and how did you research?) and/or what was drawn from fantasy?

AL:  Thank you!  Most of the details just come to me as I write, but there are some things I had to research, such as what the barges would have looked like, the fact that people travelled by canal more often than by camel or horse, and what sorts of flora and fauna (and in the case of the Cavern, crystals) actually exist in that environment.  I wanted the sensory details to be as accurate as possible because it’s the best way for me to get the reader into the setting, and for this story, that’s important.

SW:  How was it tackling two main (female) characters?

AL:  It was not something I planned on doing.  I wrote the first draft entirely from Najwa’s POV and then realized I’d ignored Zayele, and she’s not one to stand by and be forgotten.  I had to go back many times and try to make them sound less like the other girl.  It wasn’t easy.

SW:  And Najwa and Zayele alternate chapters–was that a challenge to write?

AL:  Yes.  Najwa was easiest for me because she senses the world the way I do.  Zayele, however, often interacts with the world the way I do (such as making huge mistakes and having to own up to them in the end).  It’s hard to focus on the shadows of your own character.

SW:  A palace filled with silks and gardens, or the Cavern riddled with gems and crystals–which would you choose?  And while we’re at it: prince or jinn? (I’ll just note here that both are swoon-worthy!)

AL: I can’t choose between the two places!  I’d like to go back and forth as I please, but always with Kamal by my side.  I’m a sucker for smart, inventive people.  What about you?  Which place and boy would you prefer?  Or girl, as the case may be?

SW:  I’ll take Kamal and the palace, with the option to visit the Cavern!  I agree that it’s difficult to choose–persons and places are so richly drawn by your hand.  Which leads me to another question:  Was there a particular moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?  Which came first:  imagining a story, or the need to write?

AL:  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade, but I never seriously pursued it until I was deployed to Iraq.  I came face-to-face with the reality of life and death, and decided I could no longer put it off. If I wanted to write a book before I died, I need to do it now rather than later.

SW:  Any wish you would make, if given the opportunity?

AL:  I’d wish to be able to speak and understand all the world’s languages like a native.  Or at least ten more, starting with German, since I’m moving to Germany this September.

SW:  Ah… safe travels.  But WAIT: I understand there’s a sequel (yay!)  What can you divulge?

AL:  Not much yet, but I can say the title is THE BLIND WISH and it is told from the same two characters, Najwa and Zayele.  It follows the story not long after we left off at the end of THE FIRE WISH.

SW:  Before you go: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of!

AL:  This is a fantastic question, and it’s one of the things I’m interested in–I want to know what people are afraid of.  I’m afraid of losing my memories, but I am not afraid of spiders, snakes, or storms.

SW: Thank you Amber!  Best of luck on your move and so many congratulations on this fantastic debut!


Amber_Dawn_Lough_Color

Amber Lough spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain.  Later, she returned to the Middle East as an Air Force intelligence officer, deployed for eight months in Baghdad, where the ancient sands still echo the voices lost to wind and time.  She currently lives in Syracuse, NY with her husband, their two kids, and their cat, Popcorn. For a pronunciation guide, a cast of characters, and more, please visit amberlough.com.  You can also follow Amber on Twitter @amberlough and Tumblr amberlough.tumblr

Sandra Waugh cropped final.Sandra Waugh grew up in an old house with crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library with even more crowded bookshelves. It goes without saying that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT because of its bookshelves and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and Daisy the snoring goldendoodle. Her debut fantasy, LARK RISING, will be out from Random House September 2014. Follow Sandra on Twitter at @sandrajwaugh.