Welcome to Sortilege Falls
By Libby Heily
Genre: YA Magical Mystery
Release Date: June 12th 2016
Fire & Ice Young Adult Books
Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather has just moved to Sortilege Falls and already she knows something isn’t right. A small pack of teenage models, too beautiful for words, holds the town in their sway. The models have no plans on making Grape’s life easy. But no matter how cruel they are to Grape and the other “Normals”, no one can stay angry with them for long.
Grape’s life changes for the better, or so she thinks, when Mandy, the only “nice” model, befriends her. But that’s when the trouble truly begins. Mandy’s friendship places Grape smack in the middle of a medical mystery that has the entire town on edge. One by one, the models fall ill from an incurable disease. Grape quickly realizes that the models’ parents are hiding a secret, even as they watch their children die. To save her only friend, Grape will have to find the truth–and that means putting her life in danger.
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About the Author
I was born during a blizzard. I’m told it was pretty cool, but I have no memory of that time. I grew up in two tiny towns in Virginia and spent most of my twenties moving around the US. I’ve lived in Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Washington. I’ve settled down, for now, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I’m a writer and improviser. I studied acting in college but spent more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. My first play, Fourth Wall, was produced my junior year. Since then, I’ve written several full length plays, one acts, and screenplays. I started writing fiction in my late twenties. Now, I focus mainly on novels but still dabble in theater.
Fun facts about me: There are none. I’m sorry to disappoint you so soon. But, I do love to read, write, and run. My hubby is my favorite person on earth. Dogs are my second favorite. All dogs. Know that. I love orange juice, especially when it’s mixed with club soda. Carbonation is better than alcohol. Jaws is my favorite movie. Everything I’ve said so far is true.
How did you become an author?
I studied theater in college. In theory, I wanted to be an actress but I wasn’t actually good at it. When I did get cast, I would spend more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. I wrote my first play during my sophomore year and I never turned back.
What would you be doing right now if you were not an author?
I’d probably go back into film work. I went to film school in Seattle and made commercials for a bit and did some production work on independent films. I’d imagine I’d be back in that world if I wasn’t writing.
5 years ago: what were you doing?
I had just finished the 2010 Playwriting Intensive at the Kennedy Center in DC and I was hard at work on a new play called STUFF which explored the world of hoarding. I lived in DC and worked in a call center by day. I also ran a lot back then. It was a good time, minus the call center.
Do you have a certain writing ritual?
Right now, I wake up, make coffee, stretch my arms (I had a seriously bad bought of tendonitis a year ago) and then head up to my office on the 3rd floor and start taking care of business. I take breaks throughout the day to go for walks, go work out, and occasionally to go to lunch with friends.
Who are your major writing influences?
Short Answer: Virginia Woolfe, August Strindberg, Brocke Clarke, Terry Pratchett, Muriel Spark, Harold Pinter and Eugene O’Neill.
Long Answer: Virginia Woolfe’s experimentation and exceptional grasp of language constantly floors me. I first encountered August Strindberg in college when I read his “A Dream Play.” I was immediately hooked. I delved for a bit into other expressionist playwrights but Strindberg was always my favorite. Brock Clarke is just fantastic. I haven’t read a book of his yet that I haven’t loved. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are fun and sly. I love how he mixes humor and satire while constantly world building. Muriel Spark is devilishly dark in her work but also stark and honest. The Driver’s Seat is the closest a book has ever come to changing my life. Harold Pinter was another college encounter. My entire vision of theater changed when I watched “The Dumb Waiter” my freshman year. Above all, perhaps, I respect Eugene O’Neill. I love fearless writers who constantly experiment and I think O’Neill embraced that fearlessness better than most. His plays run the gamut from natural to expressionistic. Did he fail? Sometimes, yes. But when he succeeded…damn.
Biggest writing pet peeve?
Forgetting to take breaks. I need to move and sitting is just not that great for long stretches of time.
What drove you to write “Welcome to Sortilege Falls”?
The idea of the book came to me during a conversation with my husband. He had just read my first novel, “Tough Girl”, and he assumed that I was depressed due to the dark nature of that book. I decided to write something happy. WTSF didn’t quite turn out as I’d imagined. Once I got into the story, I really delved into the idea of how our society worships beauty and celebrity to the point where it’s nearly an illness. I wanted to really explore how pervasive that attitude is but from the point of view of a character who is caught up in in it as well.
What makes Grape Merriweather an interesting Main Character?
Grape starts the novel as a confident yet awkward young lady. She’s always been popular, always been able to make friends easily. She’s not arrogant but is definitely self-assured. Like most of us, she makes a lot of assumptions based on past occurrences. As the story unfolds, Grape’s assumptions are proven wrong time and time again. Not only is Grape is roundly ignored by students and teachers alike, she’s teased by the Models. The only person in the whole school who befriends her is a boy whose approach to dating leaves Grape incredibly ill at ease. What I most like about Grape is that she tries to be true to herself and not compromise while attempting to be kind. That’s not always an easy feat to accomplish. She says the wrong things at the wrong times and gets carried away with ideas. I think Grape is very human and I let her keep all of her flaws. My least favorite main characters are the ones who do nothing wrong…ever.
What did you draw on for inspiration as you were writing this novel?
Several areas. There was a huge back-lash a few years ago about YA novels where women were treated as less than and stalking was an approved from of courtship. I really wanted to explore that in this book. I gave Graeson, the doomed love interest, every good intention but Grape still saw his odd approach to wooing her as just that, odd.
I read more teen and young adult fiction when I was a young adult and I remember a certain brand of character from the 80s. I think I kind of drew on that for Grape. I wanted a main character who was flawed, smart, and somehow clueless at the same time.
Besides the above, headlines and news stories were also an inspiration. I’m constantly surprised by the degree with which we invest in celebrity gossip. It’s not just curiosity, it goes deeper than that and I wanted to explore that world.
What do you want readers to take away from this novel?
The very first thing is that I want them to have fun while reading. This book is definitely meant to be a fun, fast read. I would love it if afterward they felt like they had to talk to someone about it–not just “oh I enjoyed this” or “I didn’t enjoy that”, but if they felt like they had to talk to someone about a specific moment or a theme. I purposely put in a few moments that should strain credulity, ie, people in the town not getting angry if a Model were to spit on them. In no way is that ever okay and Grape echoes that sentiment, but how did the people of Sortilege Falls get so far enraptured that being completely humiliated was okay, even appreciated?
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