She’s the executioner.
As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.
But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.
However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?
Melinda also answered some interview questions:
According to your website bio, Matilda by Roald Dahl was a big influence. What else inspired your writing journey and paths toward publication?
I'm sure almost every writer who's new to the game right now is citing J.K Rowling as an influence, and I'm more than happy to jump on that bandwagon. As a child, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't think I could be. I'd got it into my head that only people with rich families, or those with industry connections, or top-tier educations, could become writers. And I had none of those things. My background is very working class; state school, free school meals, plastic bag for my PE kit. So, whilst I wanted it, I thought it was impossible, and that trying would just lead to heartache and bitterness. Until J.K Rowling came along...
I kept hearing about Harry Potter everywhere I went, at school, on telly, in the papers - this story about a boy wizard that everyone, not just children, wanted to be part of. I asked for the first book for my birthday and fell in immediately in love, taking my birthday money to the shops to buy the next two books. And two t-shirts. And some Chocolate Frogs.
After that, my Nan would save me everything she found in her papers about Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling and the one thing that kept coming up was the way she had written the first book as a single mum, in a council flat, whilst receiving benefits. Though it's horrible to me now that this, rather than the books, was what the media focused on, at the time these were things I could identify with. It rekindled a hope in me. and knowing that is wasn't impossible became the wake-up call that maybe, if I tried, and if I worked hard, and if I didn't give up, I might do it too.
So I started writing again, first to see if I still could, and then with the serious intention of trying to get published. So it's really (like with a lot of things in my life) all thanks to J.K Rowling, and the Harry Potter books. They've had such an impact on so many lives, made so many lives better, saved so many lives, and I'm proud to be one of them.
I love Roald Dahl (Matilda especially) and all the Harry Potter books too, for similar reasons. And I especially love the premise of THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER! How did the idea come to you and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading?
It started innocently enough, I was singing away in the shower and idly wondered what it would be like to have to sing on demand, instead of just for fun. My brain started to play with that idea - why would anyone have to sing on demand, because they were famous, were contracted to do it? Or was it because they were a prisoner, and had to do it? Suddenly there was a girl in my head, red haired, alone and scared, miles from anyone who cared about her, a pawn in a game she couldn't comprehend. She had to sing for a king, her one joy become her prison, her solace now a cage. That girl was Twylla, and I couldn't shake the idea of her story from my mind. It grew from there, became darker as more elements that fascinate me became involved; food, death, trust, choices... All weaving together until the story of The Sin Eater's Daughter was there.
I didn't write it with the intention of anyone taking anything from it, other than a few hours of entertainment, but I think one thing I'd like for people to see in it is that there are many types of bravery, and ways to fight, and that you don't have to be a feisty, ass-kicking, sassy sort of girl to be able to save yourself in the end.
Twylla isn't like a lot of typical fantasy heroines, she's not physically trained to, or really capable of, wielding a weapon or fighting, she doesn't have friends and allies to help her. She's spent her whole life being told who she is and what she'll be, her window on the world is so small to start with, there's so much she doesn't know because her life has been orchestrated for her from her birth. As the story progresses, her world expands and opens up, and she does with it. Her victories are small ones, her rebellions often go unnoticed by anyone but her, but she's immensely strong, to survive as long as she has without going mad, she's had to be. That kind of strength doesn't get enough airtime, in my opinion. I wanted her to be exceptional, but in an accessible, real, and identifiable way.
So I think that's what I'd like people to take away, if anything. That you can be quiet, but that doesn't mean you're not strong. That you can be oppressed, but that means bending, not breaking. Twylla is a heroine for all of those young women who are figuring out who they are, and what they want. Twylla is a heroine for the quiet ones.
Sounds like great character development--and it's nice to see Twylla transcending fantasy tropes!
You've seen The Grand Budapest Hotel 11 times. What do you love most about it, and in what ways (if any) has it informed your creative process?
It hasn't informed my creative process at all, in fact it's probably hindered it due to spending so much time watching it! I love the aesthetic of it, like all Wes Anderson films it's full of gorgeous colour palettes, and symmetry, and subtle, beautiful, detail. It's just a joy to watch, though I have to confess seeing it so many times in the cinema was a kind of joke. I saw it once at home, then went again with a friend who hadn't seen it. A couple of weeks later, me and the same friend went to Paris for a few days and, at a loss for something to do, but not wanting to go back to the hotel yet, we decided to go and see it again. Then I went to Amsterdam, decided to go to the cinema and thought it would be funny to see it there, to be able to say I'd seen it in three countries. But it happened again in Copenhagen, and then in Bergen, and it sort of took on a life of its own, became a bit of a hobby, almost, to watch it in the cinema. But I never got bored of it, and I love to pop it on in the background when I'm making jewellery at home. It was never supposed to be a serious thing, more an in-joke that got very out of hand!
What a great story! And I agree--it's a wonderful movie, and a great example of comedic timing. What are some of your current projects?
I've just sent the first draft of Book 2 of the The Sin Eater's Daughter trilogy to my editors, so once I have their feedback I'll begin working on a final version of that. I'm plotting Book 3, and also writing 2 companion stories that people may or may not get to see one day. I wrote them for me, because I need to know that backstory, but I guess if people were interested we could see about making them available. I'm also working on a secret project, which had nothing to do with The Sin Eater's Daughter, but it giving me some much-needed respite from such a violent and dark world!
Sounds exciting! Thanks, Melinda, for such great answers!
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