Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young

SKY IN THE DEEP doesn't debut until next year, but I'm so excited about the premise and story that I couldn't wait to feature it. In addition, Bustle just featured SKY IN THE DEEP as one of its 27 most anticipated YA Fantasy Books hitting shelves in 2018.

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she's been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

On to the FAQ page on your website, you said, "I didn’t pursue publication until I was 26 and it took several books and many, many rejections before I sold SKY IN THE DEEP." What kept you going through those many rejections, and how did you prioritize which projects to focus on? 

Honestly, I had to learn to let go of the first project that never sold. It was really hard because I'd put so much of myself into it and I'd learned how to write a book through that experience. I was really attached to it and it took a while to finally admit to myself that it was time to move on. I studied the market a lot more and made my best guess about what would work and which idea inspired me the most and that's how I decided where to go next. As far as perseverance in rejection, I'm fortunate enough to have people in my life that didn't let me lose sight of my dream. It's really easy to give up when you're facing so many obstacles, and I needed those voices around me pointing me in the right direction when it was most difficult.

Those voices are necessary--and I'm glad they were there. THE SKY IN THE DEEP is Viking-age inspired fantasy. What about the Viking age do you find most compelling, and in what ways does Eelyn find her place within that world? 

So, I'm a huge fan of history in general. There really isn't a culture or time period that doesn't interest me, but I do love the Viking culture for many reasons. I think they were culturally very rich and one of the things that are most compelling to me is the role of women in that society. I wouldn't say that women had equal rights, but they definitely had more than most of the women during that time in that region of the world. I find it fascinating. Eelyn finds a place in that world as a warrior, fighting right alongside the men of her clan. We also see female spiritual, community, and political leaders in this story and I love that.

Me too. And I love your monthly newsletter! How do you determine the kind of content that is included each month, and what do you recommend to writers wanting to start a mailing list? 

I am not really a fan of newsletters myself, so when I was developing the format, I tried to only include things that I would want to read. And I also try to keep things short and sweet! No need to ramble. If you're wanting to start your own, I say just be authentic. Be yourself and let it come through in your newsletter, but be sure to edit. Less is always more.

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

Right now I am working on a companion novel to Sky in the Deep that I am really excited about! After that, there are a lot of ideas I want to get cracking on but they are all under wraps for now.


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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ROYAL BASTARDS by Andrew Shvarts

Andrew Shvarts is an absolute delight. I met him at a recent author event, and when I found out that his book, ROYAL BASTARDS, was "The Breakfast Club meets Game of Thrones," I knew I had to snatch a copy immediately.

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

According to your website bio, you were born in the Soviet Union, but immigrated to the US when you were four years old. In what ways, if any, has this shaped your experience, and can you tell us about your journey toward becoming a published author? 

Interesting question! I think there certain elements of the immigrant experience that leave an indelible impression on your perspective, and that comes out in all my writing. I think there are certain themes I come back to a lot, like the illusory nature of home, the limits of ideologies, and ambiguity of the notion of nations and Kingdoms, that comes directly from that experience.

As for my journey, I always knew I wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid. When I graduated college, I was sure I'd be the next Stephen King, so I wrote a bunch of horror and scifi... none of which sold. My lucky break was when I got a job writing for a mobile videogame, Surviving High School. It was middle-grade comedy, so the opposite of what I used to, but I discovered I really liked it. That's how I got into writing YA, and a few years on the job, I gave fiction writing a try. After the usual struggles of publishing (one novel that went nowhere, another that died in submission), I got my big break with Royal Bastards!

I like how you said, "The usual struggles of publishing." It really helps those of us still on the journey. ROYAL BASTARDS has been described as Game of Thrones meets The Breakfast Club. How did the story come to you, and what do you hope readers will take away from it? 

ROYAL BASTARDS began as the combination of two different ideas that I was trying to get going. The first was a contemporary story about a group of very different teens who get framed for a murder and have to go on the run. The second was an attempt to do a truly YA version of Game of Thrones, with that series world-building and feuding Houses and backstabbing intrigue. The breakthrough came when I realized these were actually the same idea!

In terms of read takeaway, that's an interesting question. I hope readers have a great time and love the action and the humor (and maybe cry a little). More broadly, in terms of themes, I think ROYAL BASTARDS is about the moment in adolescence where you realize that your parents are not the perfect models you thought they were, that the values and beliefs you were brought up in might be flawed or even harmful. It's about challenging your upbringing and finding yourself as an individual.

Well said--and that's a journey that many of us, myself included, definitely identify with. And, I love the stories you tell. What is one of your favorite anecdotes?

Ha, thank you! I recently remembered a pretty good story about my favorite celebrity encounter. It was back in college, during a play. A buddy of mine went to the bathroom during intermission, and after using the toilet, he flushed it... and it started backing up, overflowing, the whole mess. My buddy decides, not his problem, and starts to leave the stall... only to run into none other than Tom Hanks walking in. Turns out he was on campus to give a talk and decided to catch a play. So my friend is just standing there, stunned, and Tom Hanks looks in and sees the overflowing toilet and says, "Were you really going to just leave that for the next person who came in?" And my friend sheepishly nods. So Tom Hanks goes in, gets the plunger, and plunges the toilet, all to my friend's deep shame. And as my friend is walking out, Tom yells, "You tell everyone! You tell them that Tom Hanks cleaned up your mess!"

Ha! That's awesome! And a good moral for us all. :) CITY OF BASTARDS, the sequel to ROYAL BASTARDS, will debut in 2018. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet? 

Ooooo, let's see. It's set in the city of Lightspire, the capital of the Kingdom, and is structurally almost more of a murder mystery. You'll get to see the heart of the Kingdom, and encounter shadowy cults, charming revolutionaries, and the creme de la creme of the nobility. Also, there's a masquerade and maybe the secret nature of magic. Maybe.



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