“Writing is…the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”
The easiest way to get to know someone is to talk to them, but you can’t really do that with a fictional character. At least, not in the traditional sense. In the imaginary sense, however, you absolutely can ☺. A fictional world has no boundaries, after all.
The Beyond Androva series will continue with Averine at the centre of the next story, and I can’t wait to write about her! However, I need to get a sense of who she is before I can do her character justice. With that in mind, I created a new character interview to discover a bit more about her personality and motivation.
If you had the chance to interview a character from one of your favourite books, would you take it? What would you ask them? Thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕.
Interview with Averine, set immediately after Lost in Magic
Me: Thanks for talking to me. I know you have plans with Kellan this evening.
Averine: (smiles politely) It’s fine. Whatever you need. The case against my father… Wait. How do you know I have plans with Kellan?
Me: Well, I wrote about them. At the end of Kellan’s story.
Averine: Story? (pauses) You mean his witness statement.
Me: Not exactly. I’m not with the Xytovian government.
Averine: Who are you then?
Me: I’m writing a series of books about Xytovia. There are three so far. Your story will be the fourth.
Averine: What? My story? (laughs) Are you serious?
Me: Yes. I’m looking forward to it because you’re my first non-magical protagonist.
Averine: Who on Xytovia would read a story about me?
Me: That’s a good question. No one, actually. The books are for a Terran audience approximately two thousand years in your future.
Averine: (shakes head) This is so weird. But I’m not going to tell you my life story. It would take too long, and anyway, I’m not sure I want to remember. I mean, about… (swallows) about losing my mother and everything.
Me: I’m sorry. I wish it hadn’t happened that way. But you—and Xytovia—wouldn’t be where you are right now without it.
Averine: Maybe not. (frowns) You seem to be very well informed.
Me: Yes and no. I’m up to date with everything so far. But in terms of what happens next—not so much. That’s where you come in.
Averine: And what if I don’t want to be your protagonist?
Me: I’d be disappointed. I think you’d be great. And I also think you deserve an adventure.
Averine: Well… I am looking forward to exploring Xytovia. But there’s no guarantee anything exciting would happen.
Me: I disagree. I doubt Vayl is the only territory with a secret. Besides, don’t you want to give readers the chance to find out who you really are? They’ve only seen you from Kellan’s point of view.
Averine: (eyes widen) What did he say about me?
Me: I don’t know if I should tell you. It wouldn’t be fair on Kellan. But…
Me: Maybe you could swap stories when yours is written. That way, neither of you is at a disadvantage.
Averine: Hmmm. Maybe.
(Kellan pushes the door open abruptly, his scowl softening when he sees Averine)
Kellan: Here you are. What’s going on?
Averine: Another interview.
Kellan: Now? I thought we were done. (turns) Can’t this wait until tomorrow? Wait… I know you. You’re the storyteller. You visited me in the Dimension Cell. (smirks) I said you should give me my own book, and I was right, wasn’t I?
Averine: (rolls eyes)
Averine: Of course you would be the person who demanded your own book.
Kellan: (grins) Why stop at one book? Can’t there be a Kellan series?
Averine: OK, that’s it. I’ve made up my mind. I’ll be your next protagonist.
Kellan: What do you mean?
Me: It’s the reason I’m interviewing Averine. I want to tell her story.
Kellan: Oh. Well, that’s great. You’ll be great. Obviously.
Averine: Good. It’s decided then.
Me: You know, I’ll need to give readers some background. The majority of Kellan’s story took place after he escaped the cell. So, I was thinking that Averine could tell the part about when the two of you first met.
Kellan: That’s not a good—
Averine: I’d love to.
Kellan: You hated me.
Averine: I didn’t hate you.
Kellan: You said if kissing me would cure you of mage-sickness, you’d rather die.
Averine: I suppose I did say that. (smiles sweetly) But I discovered that underneath your arrogant exterior, you’re actually an adorable little xyleander blossom.
Kellan: (groans) Adorable? Xytovia help me, that’s even worse. Storyteller, you have to stop her. I’ve got a reputation to maintain.
Me: I think it’s important that readers see the real you, Kellan. And Averine knows you better than anyone.
Averine: (laughs) I like you, Storyteller.
Kellan: I give up. Will you at least let me read it before anyone else?
Averine: You can read it. As long you don’t expect me to change anything, and as long as I can read your story too.
Kellan: OK. But you should know I said only good things about you.
Averine: Thank you. You’re adorable.
Me: (hastily) I think this is a good moment to wrap up the interview. Averine and Kellan will return in the fourth Beyond Androva book. Thank you for reading!
“Truly, there is magic in fairy tales. For it takes but a simply-uttered 'Once upon a time...' to allure and spellbind an audience.”
—Richelle E. Goodrich
The term “fairy tale” or “conte de fées” was first used by French writer Countess d’Aulnoy at the end of the seventeenth century. “Once upon a time” is even older and can be traced back to an English poem from 1380! Of course, short stories based on myths and folklore existed long before people started to call them fairy tales, and they continue to evolve as new writers reinvent the characters and their circumstances.
Last year I wrote a blog post about Beauty and the Beast retellings. It was the first time I’d used a fairy tale as the basis for my reading choices, and I really enjoyed both the research and the reading. With that in mind, I repeated the exercise this week with a different fairy tale. I chose Rapunzel, partly because I’ve always loved the film Tangled and partly because I was curious—it’s a less mainstream fairy tale and arguably more difficult to reimagine.
The earliest version of the story, Petrosinella, is from 1634. Persinette followed in 1698, and the Brothers Grimm published Rapunzel in 1812. The story begins with the theft of some special salad leaves from a witch’s garden to save the life of the main character’s mother. In fact, the names Petrosinella and Persinette came from the Italian and French words for parsley! Most people are familiar with what follows: the tall tower, the long hair, the handsome prince, the witch’s revenge, and the main character’s magical tears.
Once again, the research was a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to exploring a new fairy tale in the future. I hope you find my choices interesting, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕.
** Writing update: Further to my previous post about villains, I’ve written prologues for both new books, and now I feel like I should apologise to my characters for what they’re about to face! **
What if Rapunzel was Snow White’s evil stepmother? In this kingdom, only one fairy tale can end with happily ever after.
I love descriptions that begin with “What if…?”
I also like the idea of bringing two fairy tales together and exploring what happens to Rapunzel after she marries her prince. Then I read the prologue, and I was hooked. I can’t resist a sympathetic and complicated villain.
I was the girl with the long long hair, trapped in the tower. You have no doubt heard of me. As a young woman I was very famous for those tresses, even though I lived in the middle of the woods and had never been to court, not for a feast or a wedding or a matter of law.
Poets and troubadours sang of my beauty then.
It was sorcery, that hair. Sometimes now I wonder if things would have been different, had I been plain.
It is a hard thing, not being that girl any longer. Even as I sit here, I cannot help but turn toward the mirror and ask the question I have asked a thousand times before:
“Who is the fairest of them all?”
The mirror shifts. The glass moves back and forth, like water. And then my image disappears, until a voice, like a memory, or something from my bones and skin, gives me the same answer it always does now:
I turn back to the parchment in front of me and try to ignore the ache inside. The apple waits on the table next to me, gleaming with poison. All that’s left to do is write it down, everything that happened, so that there will still be some record in this world.
Gothel is a witch. Punished for the actions of her mother, her choice is simple: either she stands guard over Princess Rapunzel—or she dies.
This caught my eye because the story is told from Gothel’s POV, and she’s not the villain from the original story. Rapunzel’s father, the king, became a powerful sorcerer by stealing from Aethel, Gothel’s mother. Aethel took her revenge by cursing Rapunzel. Rapunzel can only be freed by a prince of noble heart and some special, heavily-guarded magical shears. Oh, and the prince also has to kill Gothel, the innocent witch forced to guard Rapunzel. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, what happens if Gothel and the prince fall for each other along the way? I can’t wait to find out... Here’s a short extract from the beginning of the book.
“My name is Prince Merek Duc’Line.”
“You’re the king’s son?”
My stomach knotted. A prince? Could he be the one? If he was, then I should’ve fought him off. I should’ve kept him as far away from the tower as possible. There was a foretelling that a prince of noble blood would free the princess and kill the witch. Kill me.
She never wanted to leave the tower. He never wanted to rule the country. But when war breaks out, this reckless prince and reclusive maiden are faced with overcoming their deepest fears in order to determine not only their own fate, but that of their entire country.
I was intrigued by a Rapunzel who doesn’t want to be rescued, and the Italian setting, and a prince with his own character development challenges. Plus the main character’s name is Nella, short for Petrosinella—just like the original version of the story 😀. Here’s a short extract of some dialogue between Nella and Prince Benedict about a third of the way through the book.
“And do you—that is, have you any betrothals currently?” she asked.
He laughed. “I do seem to go through them at an alarming rate, don’t I?”
“Well, you did when I was a child. I think there were five before I reached the age of twelve.”
“Oh, probably at least eight or nine.” He grinned. “No, not currently. I seem to have a bit of bad luck with that.”
Nella was horrified to find herself glad. Jealousy was a sign of attachment. Or worse. “Well, I wish you all the best in that, then.” She hated saying the words, and she hated that she hated it.
Benedict seemed not to notice. “Do you ever hope of getting married?”
He looked at her and grinned. “I suppose being tethered to a man for the rest of your life makes you shudder.”
“Until the rest of his life,” she corrected, not able to restrain a smirk.
My tale has been told again and again, and I’ve heard each one. Except for my hair, I barely recognize the pitiful renditions. Muddled versions, crafted to entertain laughing children… but the children wouldn’t have laughed if they’d known the real story. It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t know the truth. Nobody did. My name is Rapunzel. I will tell you my story. I will tell you the truth.
The first person POV in the description works really well, and it sets the scene for a fresh take on the story with a strong protagonist. Anything could happen following an introduction like that!
I peered out my window, waiting for the right moment. There. The sun dropped below the horizon, casting the castle grounds into darkness.
I tied the corners of my blanket together into a knot then slung the makeshift sack over my shoulder. I scurried to the door. Looking back was not an option.
I had thirty minutes, maximum. That’s all I had between the setting of the sun and when the dragon would expect to see the candlelight flicker in my window, my daily assurance to him of my presence in the castle. If he didn’t see that glow from my tower…
Rapunzel is not your average teenager. For one thing, she has a serious illness that keeps her inside the mysterious Gothel Mansion. And for another, her hair is fifteen feet long. Not to mention that she’s also the key to ultimately saving the world from certain destruction.
I had to include a retelling with a contemporary setting, and Rapunzel Untangled is my choice. At the beginning of the story, Rapunzel is reluctantly accepting of her captivity because she’s been told she has an immunodeficiency. But she also has a computer with internet access, and one day she discovers social media. She connects with “Fab Fane Flannigan” from the local high school, and her perspective soon begins to shift. I’m interested to know Fane’s backstory in this version and his real name. Here’s a short extract from one of Rapunzel’s and Fane’s early conversations.
Rapunzel closed her eyes tightly, thinking, debating. Then, before she could change her mind, she typed:
There was nothing but her flashing cursor, then
Rapunzel? That’s your name?
You’re not kidding around?
Unusual. Rapunzel. Never heard of it. I like it.
Please don’t try to guess my last name.
Okay, you win. For now. Rapunzel.
“Maybe it’s the very presence of one thing—light or darkness—that necessitates the existence of the other.”
— Jessica Shirvington
Heroes and villains are typically defined in opposition. The hero becomes a hero because the villain gives them a reason to do something heroic. And villains make things interesting. They push other characters out of their comfort zones, forcing them to discover things that would otherwise remain hidden. Without conflict, there would be no story.
I’m at the beginning of a new book right now, and I find myself in need of a villain. When it comes to the writing process, I’m not a natural planner (unfortunately!) which means I discover each story one chapter at a time. But it helps if I have something to write toward, and that’s why I try to figure out the villain first.
Taking my most recent book as an example, Lost in Magic’s prologue introduces Averine and her father. I knew Averine’s father would be the villain Kellan ultimately had to face. However, I didn’t know the villain’s identity or how Kellan’s and Averine’s paths could possibly cross. Wanting to know the answer motivated me to keep writing.
It got me to wondering about the key ingredients that make for an interesting fictional villain. Of course, I’m not an expert, and I can only speak from my own experience, but my list includes the following four things:
What’s the villain’s endgame, and why are they pursuing it in the first place? In their eyes, their choices should be defensible. They are the protagonist of their own story, with an agenda that lends a certain logic to those choices, even if it doesn’t excuse them.
“I need to know what happened, but she can’t tell me. She’s too damaged. And if she could? Would it make a difference? Would I understand? Would I understand the depth of grief and fear that could’ve led her to take my entire life away from me?”
— Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon
Every hero deserves a worthy opponent, and a hard-won victory is a lot more satisfying. If the villain is so powerful that you can’t imagine how on earth the hero can ever beat them, then it sets the scene for something unpredictable and engaging.
“Rhen coughs again, wetly, and presses his forehead to the ground. He’s coughed up enough blood that a dark pool sits beneath his jaw. […] ‘Make your request,’ says Lilith. ‘I grow bored, girl. Rhen knows what happens when I grow bored.’ She jerks his head back and he makes a sound I never want to hear again.”
— A Curse so Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer
Determined villains drive the story. The stakes are raised when the audience knows a change of heart is impossible.
“The Darkling would not hesitate. He would not grieve. His darkness would consume the world, and he would never waver.”
— Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo
When there’s a heartfelt connection of some kind between the villain and the hero—be it family, or perhaps a former friendship, or a romance that ended badly—everything is more complicated. It gives the villain’s motive an extra edge, and it really puts the hero’s conviction to the test.
“Cinder studied her aunt. […] Her trembling lip and defeated shoulders. She was too exhausted for even her glamour. Too weak to fight anymore. A shock of pity stole through her. This miserable, awful woman still had no idea what it meant to be truly beautiful, or truly loved. Cinder doubted she ever would.”
— Winter (The Lunar Chronicles), Marissa Meyer
What makes for a memorable villain in your opinion? Would your list be different from mine? A great villain sets the stage for the hero to shine. A lot of my favourite books and movies became my favourites because of the villains as much as the heroes. And now I’m off to write a new prologue so I can discover another villain for my characters to face! Thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕.
Under the trees
light has dropped from the top of the sky,
like a green
latticework of branches,
on every leaf,
drifting down like clean
A cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air.
The world is
a glass overflowing
— Pablo Neruda
I have a small update about the Light Mage books, which gives me an excuse to post this beautiful poem about the magic of light. Because I already shared Spell Tracker from start to finish on this blog, I can’t put it into Kindle Unlimited the way I have with all of the Androva books, so I decided to make Spell Tracker and Spell Mason free to download in other sales channels (per the universal book links below).
The final book in the trilogy, Spell Master, is likely to be the next story I write, but I’m really excited to continue the Beyond Androva series too. Perhaps I’ll swap back and forth between them so I don’t have to choose! Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope you liked the poem 💕.
Tuesday, 8 June 2021
“There are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”
― Leo Tolstoy
Love is an enigma. It can be the best thing that ever happened to you, or the worst. It’s impossible to plan for, and it can’t be controlled. I guess that’s why love is such an enduring theme in storytelling. It’s endlessly complicated.
I’m a hopeless romantic. I enjoy reading and writing stories where love shows up to challenge the protagonist. And love is on my mind right now as I consider which book to write next. It’s a choice between the fourth Beyond Androva story and the conclusion to the Light Mage trilogy. The former will begin with the love story that happened off the page in the previous Beyond Androva book, and it has a real ‘enemies to lovers’ vibe (fun to write!). The latter concerns two characters who deserve to find their way to a happy ending because they’ve been mad about each other almost since the day they met.
In the name of writing research, today’s post is a collection of ten beautiful poems about love. A few of them are famous, others are less well known, but they all capture something of the pain and joy that love can bring. And because I’m such a Shakespeare fan, he gets to open and close the list! I hope you enjoy the poetry, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕.
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
— William Shakespeare
and if you are to love,
it does not steal the night —
it only unveils the beauty
of the dark.
— isra al-thibeh
and you call him quite in vain,
if it suits him not to come.
― Ludovic Halévy
What was that sound that came in on the dark?
What is this stance we take,
To turn away and then turn back?
What did we hear?
It was the breath we took when we first met.
Listen. It is here.
— Harold Pinter
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
— W. B. Yeats
So deeply I never thought I would
I love you
More than you will ever know
So much more than I can show
I love you
I believe in you and me
With all my heart until infinity
— Ann Hirsch
The world seems
when you are
next to me.
As though my senses
— Blake Auden
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find
— Roy Croft
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
— William Shakespeare
Thursday, 3 June 2021
Saturday, 15 May 2021
Averine watched as the hint of golden light disappeared behind the mountain. Her last sunset. She had not made a habit of staring at sunsets before this one. And yet, when the fiery colours filled the sky, she felt a pang of regret, knowing she might not see them again. She set her jaw, pushing the emotion away. Regrets were manageable. Regrets wouldn’t keep her from the cure, but dying would.
Shadows gathered as the light faded, hiding the rocks and grass on the mountain’s slopes beneath a veil of darkness. She drew up her knees, looping her arms around them as she leaned into the corner of the window seat. The Gallium Dagger lay on the table where her father had placed it after creating the message she would leave behind. Its magical energy shone brightly in the gloom, reminding her that she was almost out of time. The Stasis Spell had to be applied tonight. Before the deadly mage-sickness attacking her body reached her heart.
With a sigh, she turned back to check the horizon. A breeze found its way through the partially open window, lifting the curtain of reddish-brown hair resting against her collar. The last of the light had gone. Averine reached to close the window, carefully pushing aside the sprawling blue leaves of the vines clinging to the exterior wall. Though much of the city was in ruins, her father’s house was still standing due to the extensive use of Protection Spells—a privilege of his position. It was hoped the imminent truce would enable rebuilding to begin. After forty years, the war was finally over. And everyone lost, thought Averine bitterly.
The door opened. It was time. She was trembling a little, but her fear did nothing to lessen her resolve. This was the only solution. To Averine’s disappointment, her father wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by the alchemist, Averine’s least favourite person by a considerable margin. Both of them were wearing titanium gloves that shone silver in the semi-darkness.
“What’s she doing here?”
“I’m not taking any chances with your life,” her father explained.
“It’s bit late for that,” said Averine.
“I know,” he said. His face tightened. “I am going to put this right, Averine. You will wake up, and you will survive. We will find a magician whose force field is undamaged to administer the cure.”
The alchemist smirked. “We’ll find them. Especially with that message of yours. Who could resist such a heartfelt cry for help?”
“Shut up,” said Averine fiercely.
“So authentic,” the alchemist continued. “No one would ever suspect.”
Averine’s eyes narrowed. “Suspect what?”
“Marath, don’t,” said her father with a scowl.
The alchemist, Marath, gave him an assessing look, her grey eyes expressionless. “Your father and I disagree on something.”
“On what?” said Averine. “Father?”
“He thinks we shouldn’t tell you the cure will kill the magician who administers it. I think we should. What’s your view?”
“Marath!” said her father.
“Is this true?” said Averine, backing away. “Is it?”
Marath didn’t answer. Averine’s father examined his shoes.
“Is it true?” Averine repeated, her voice raised.
Her father gave a heavy sigh. “It is. But you have to understand, the cure could save everyone. Half of the world is already dead. What’s one more life if we can save the rest?”
“Are you going to warn them?” said Averine.
The silence that followed her question was as good as any confirmation.
“I’m going to change my message,” said Averine. She turned to the table, and Marath and her father exchanged a glance of perfect accord, stepping forward together.
“I won’t let you send someone to their death without giving them all the facts. I have to—”
Averine broke off with a choking sound as Marath flicked a thin titanium rope around her neck and tightened it. Her father grasped her shoulders and dragged her to the table, pinning her to its surface while she kicked and arched her back in a desperate attempt to escape.
Marath picked up the dagger and held it to Averine’s struggling body. It burned her skin through the tailored grey shirt she wore, and she froze, her eyes wide and bloodshot. Marath didn’t hesitate. The second Averine stopped moving, Marath drove the dagger straight into her heart.