Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Queens of Renthia series by Sarah Beth Durst

I first featured Sarah Beth Durst here, and her new book, THE RELUCTANT QUEEN, the second in the Queens of Renthia series, came out this month. It's a beautiful story about confronting hard choices. The main character, Daleina, has had her share of trials and tribulations:

An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . . 
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns. 

Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

In our last interview, you said, "Write the kind of book that you want to read, the kind that gets you excited to read, the kind that carries you away into its world, the kind that makes you laugh and cry and think and feel." In what ways have your books done this for you, and which of your books is your favorite?

Every time I start a new novel, I ask myself, "If I were to walk into a library or a bookstore right now, what would I want to find?" and then I try to write that book.  I firmly believe that the old adage "write what you know" should really be "write what you love."

My favorite is usually whatever book I'm currently writing.  :)  Right now, I'm working on THE QUEEN OF SORROW, Book Three of The Queens of Renthia.

These books have been such a joy to write!  It's been a truly immersive experience -- every day when I sit down at my laptop, it feels like walking through a portal.

And I do laugh and cry while I write (which is part of why I don't write in cafes – it's a wee bit embarrassing when you find yourself acting out a fight scene or weeping over a conversation in your head between two imaginary people).  I always fall in love with my characters, whether I intend to or not, and I end up feeling what they're feeling.

And so do we! In what ways do you explore nature in THE RELUCTANT QUEEN, and what kinds of internal conflicts will Daleina be facing?  

Renthia is a world filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits.  So nature... it's rather a big deal in these books because it's constantly trying to kill you in a very direct way.

In book two, Daleina is coping with the challenges of being queen when she begins experiencing these terrible blackouts that cause her to lose control of the spirits.  She has to face the fear of her own mortality, as she scrambles to secure her country's future.

I also introduce a new character, Naelin, who is a middle-age mother of two small children.  Naelin has immense power, but she's unwilling to use it, because if she does, she runs the (very, very real risk) of leaving her children motherless.

At their heart, these books are about power: who has it, who wants it, what you do with it, and what it does to you.

Power is indeed a corruptible force. What keeps you writing? Are there days when your creative well runs dry, and if so, what are some strategies you've used to help get the juices flowing again? 

Chocolate always helps.

And music.

I also take walks.  I give myself pep talks.  My husband gives me pep talks.  I cuddle my cat.  (She doesn't give me pep talks, unless you count the occasional bite.)

But I have found that, for me, the solution to all writing problems is to write more.  Even if you don't end up keeping any of the words you write, often the key to unblocking yourself will show up -- even if it's just a single phrase or a word or a fragment of an idea -- while you're in the middle of the act of stringing words into sentences.

(Note: this doesn't work for everyone.  As with all writing advice, your mileage may vary.)

My cat gives me the same kind of pep talks. What are some of your current projects?

I am currently working on THE QUEEN OF SORROW, Book Three of The Queens of Renthia, for Harper Voyager.  It will be followed by a standalone novel also set in Renthia (in the islands of Belene).  Very happy to be returning to Renthia!

And I am working on my next middle-grade book, THE STONE GIRL'S STORY.  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!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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