Author Interview: L.J. MacWhirter

Author Interview

Meet L.J. MacWhirter.

LJ MacWhirter by Kate Gren_5MB.jpg

L.J. MacWhirter was born in London, England, and now lives in the Scottish Borders with her husband and family. Black Snow Falling, her debut novel, launched in 2018 to critical acclaim. When she’s not writing fiction for adults and teens, Liz runs an award-winning copywriting studio which takes her all over the world.

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Black Snow Falling is available to purchase from Amazon. You can follow the author on Twitter @LizMacWhirter, Facebook @LJMacwhirter and her website.

 

The Interview.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

In England, 1592, 15 year-old Ruth is betrayed, and trapped by monstrous sexism. Her devastation splits apart time itself, where she encounters dream thieves coming to steal her hopes and dreams. Black Snow Falling was published last summer to critical acclaim and has been nominated for three book prizes to date, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

 

Who would your book be perfect for?

At its heart, Black Snow Falling has a strong, simple concept yet is a satisfying ‘meaty’ read. It’s perfect for readers who enjoy a fast-moving thriller with an intricate plot. Ruth’s personal crisis becomes enmeshed with greater issues, spreading across dimensions.

 

Did you have a favourite character to write?

It’s hard to pick one out. Ruth was the teenager I wish I’d been – to tell you why would give away spoilers! Jude just broke my heart – you want justice for him, right from the first page. By contrast, Sagazan is the manifestation of my worst fears. Bringing him to life actually freaked me out a couple of times, especially when writing late at night, but in that way he’s a fantastic villain. He reminds me that courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the determination to carry on despite your fear.

 

What inspired you to the write the book?

In 2002 I was volunteering for a charity for young adults who had been referred by parole officers and care workers. It was the end of a weekend adventure in a mountainous glen in Scotland and we were all walking back to the van. A young man was telling me that he really wanted to be a gardener. It really struck me that, despite everything he’d faced, he still had a dream. I found myself wishing that nothing else would happen to him that would snatch this away… and then I had the writer’s ‘what if’. What if our dreams were a physical entity that could be stolen away from us? The heart of the novel came to me in about ten minutes.

 

Can you share with us a photo from 2018 that meant something special to you?

This was my first book event, Feisty Fantasy with Alice Broadway at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It felt such a privilege to share my passion for Black Snow Falling and connect with readers for the first time.

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What has been your proudest bookish moment?

Can I have more than one? Holding the book in my hands for the first time after 12 years from first draft, all the while loving this story but fearing that it would never be published. In the author’s yurt at EIBF, a literary critic told me he loved the book and wished me ‘great success’. A week later, someone suggested that Black Snow Falling should be nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and a couple of months later, it was. It all felt surreal and exciting – it still does!

 

Do you have any questions for your readers?

I’d love to know which part of Black Snow Falling speaks to you the most? You could let me know on my author facebook page or via my website, ljmacwhirter.com

And here’s a question to ask yourself – like Ruth in the story, is anything stopping you from following your own hopes and dreams? Is there one thing you can do this week to help make that happen?

 

What is your favourite read of your whole life and why?

I’ve loved so many books, some reflective non-fiction as well as novels. At the time of writing Black Snow Falling it was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which I re-read four times. It’s set just before the time of my character Jude, but still during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. As a primary-aged child, I often read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. But if I had to choose one, it would be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, not really for the read but for the way Lewis created a beautiful myth that has taken on a life of its own.

 

What are you working on now?

More historical fiction. Set in on wild, windswept Scottish islands, it’s Romeo & Juliet meets Macbeth

 

 

Author Interview: Malayna Evans

Author Interview

Meet Malayna Evans.

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Social Media Links:
Website: http://malaynaevans.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Malayna
IG: https://www.instagram.com/malaynaevans/
GR: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17571369.Malayna_Evans

 

The Interview.

Hi Malayna! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a single, working mom. I live just outside of Chicago with my two kids and a lovable but loud rescue dog. I grew up in the mountains of Utah and spent my childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, I earned a Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. I’ve used that education to craft a middle grade, time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh is book one. With my book on the shelves and books two and three in the works, it’s exciting to chat with book supporters like yourself, so thanks for having me.

What has been your favorite bookish memory as a fan and then as an author?
My most vivid book memory is mourning Gandolph. I must have been in middle school when I read The Lord of the Rings, and when the wizard died I cried for days. I’m not sure why my big sister, who’d given me the books, didn’t pat me on the back and tell me it would all work out in the end. But then again, maybe my joy when he came back in a subsequent book was worth the pain.
As an author, my favorite memory so far is telling my kids the book was going to be published. This manuscript was a family affair—my two little people inspired the Jagger and Aria characters and we spent a fair number of dinners discussing plot twists and character arcs. So the day we learned Jagger was going to be a real life book was a very good day at my house.

If someone asked you to describe Egypt in three sentences, what would you say?
What we think of as ancient Egyptian history lasted for thousands of years—the length of time between the pyramids being built and Cleopatra dying is greater than the time period between the time of Christ and today.
Ancient Egypt really is as fantastical as it’s made out to be in books and movies, and it’s not just mummies and the mysteries of the pyramids but the culture and daily life and religious beliefs as well.
Ancient Egypt contributed to the systems we take for granted today, like our calendar and writing system, for example.

What was it about the middle grade reader level that spoke to you as a writer?
In part, I think my interest in having a conversation with middle grader readers about my favorite topic, ancient Egypt, stems from the fact that middle grade shaped me, perhaps more than any other period in my life. My passion for reading, fantasy, and interest in the different ways people could just be in the world, depending on when/where/who they were born to, started in middle grade.

When brainstorming for your debut, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, did you already know you wanted it to be a series?
Yes! I had an ancient Egyptian blessing in mind early in the process. Ankh, wedja seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity and health. I thought life, prosperity and health would make good book themes. So I set out to examine the concepts, one per book, from an ancient and modern perspective. So in book one, it’s not the princess’s life Jagger has to save, but her afterlife. Book two looks at prosperity (wedja) and book three considers health (seneb). I think the very different meanings these ideas held for ancient people is pretty fascinating and I hope it comes across in the series … in a fun, adventurous way with mummies and killer scorpions.

What is something you wish you could ask any of your characters?
Jagger and his little sister, Aria, are extremely well travelled. She’s an adventurous spirit so she loves that about their life, although he resents it. I’d love to ask Aria your question below—where, and when, would she travel if she could go anywhere, anytime. By the end of book one I know the answer—she’d go back and visit her ancient Egyptian friends again. But I have no idea what she’d say prior to that, although Jagger would no doubt choose ancient Egypt—it’s his favorite subject—if he was forced to make a choice and his bedroom with deep dish pizza was out of the running.

If you could live in one area, in one timeperiod, for the day, where are you headed?
Oh I’d definitely head to the Amarna Period, which is when/where this book is set. It’s the most bizarre periods in ancient Egyptian history. The pharaoh, Akhenaten, tried to replace the traditional gods and goddesses with a single god, the sun disk, the Aten. He moved the court to the middle of nowhere, developed an artistic style that departs dramatically from the rather static canon of Egyptian art, and basically upended culture in all sorts of big and small ways. As an ancient historian, it can be hard to get a beat on who the rulers we study were as people—the documents they left behind tell us about their building programs, wars they won, etc. but not who they were. But occasionally, an ancient actor stands out. I’d love to go spy on Akhenaten’s court. I wouldn’t want to stay long, but maybe a one week vaca in ancient Amarna? Yeah, that would do the trick nicely.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
Just a thanks, especially to all those readers who’ve bought or read the book, extra thanks to those who’ve left reviews. It’s a surreal feeling having people spend time with your book and I don’t take it for granted. I hope there are a few kids out there who see themselves in my characters, or figure out that ancient history is fascinating, or just enjoy the adventure. That would make my little writer heart very happy!

 

Thank you for your time Malayna!

Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh is out now.

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Review: Witch Born

Book Reviews, Misc.
*** Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. ***

 

“Fordham was all ash and smoke. It had started raining an hour ago, but the remains of the bonfire still smoldered…” – Nicholas Bowling, Witchborn

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Witch Born Review

By: Rae

 

Let me introduce the beautiful oddity that is Witch Born

 

*** Note: May contain spoilers! ***

 

Meet Alyce, a young teen who has escaped the clutches of the witchhunters. Her mother is dead burned at the stake, leaving the instructions of “Make for Bankside. Find the hangman John Dee. Give him this letter.” Half dead from exposure on her way to London Alyce ends up in a Bedlam asylum after being discovered by one of the governors of the hospital. Weeks have passed and Alyce is desperate to escape and find the hangman. Haunted by the burning and memories of her home, as well as the deed she had done to manage her escape from the witchhunters, Alyce’s opportunity to run comes and she seizes it. Enter Solomon, Mrs. Thompson, a bedraggled Raven, two warring queens, and other odd creatures as Alyce’s story unfolds. Will Alyce find the hangman John Dee? What is this growing power Alyce has? Did witches really in the 16th century exist?

My general consensus upon finishing Witch Born was the overall oddity of the tale. I was mystified by a warring London setting in the 16th century where religion, magic, and creatures ran amuck underneath the ruralness of a city that was falling apart at the seams. Every character had an individual identity that somehow connected not only to the story, but a bit of history too. Could Queen Elizabeth and Bloody Mary Queen of the Scots had been witches? Could John Dee really have performed magic for his experiments. The lines are drawn, no one can fully be trusted, the secrets are many, and… I adored it! Bowling did a wonderful job with the prose of the story and writing descriptions that put me in this past world. I felt the heaviness of the air, the cold, the hunger, and the emotions of the story as I traveled back in time. While it wasn’t ‘spooky’ the darker themes of the supernatural pulled at a play on the mind at points and suggested at heavier issues of humanity and history to deal with.

Rich with setting and characters I am keeping my review of Witch Born shorter to not reveal further key plot moves – *cough* Alyce’s hair color *cough*

 

My Rating: 4/5

 

Check this story out for yourself and enjoy the oddity of 16th century London – who knows what you’ll find!

 

Witch Born is out tomorrow! *cheers*

 

My rating: 4/5

Forbidden Romance with Kristina Pérez

Author Interview, Misc.

Kristina Perez PHOTO.jpegMeet Kristina Pérez.

Kristina Pérez is a half-Argentine/half-Norwegian native New Yorker. She has spent the past two decades working as a journalist and academic in Europe and Asia. She is the author of The Myth of Morgan la Fey and holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

As a journalist, her work has appeared in the South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal Asia, CNN, and Condé Nast Traveler, among others. She has taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong.

She has a penchant for non-defanged vampires, fringe science, ice skating, and dulce de leche.

Sweet Black Waves is her debut young adult novel.

Social media links
Website: http://www.kristinaperez.com/
Twitter: @kkperezbooks
Instagram: kkperezbooks
Facebook: KKPerezBooks
Tumblr: Kristina Pérez
Pinterest: KKPerezBooks
Goodreads: Kristina Pérez

The Interview.

Your upcoming YA, Sweet Black Waves, focuses on a the tale of Tristan and Eseult. What made you want to spin a tale of forbidden romance, war, and family conflict based on this classic?

While I was doing my PhD in Medieval Literature, I ended up teaching the Old French versions of the Tristan legends one semester and became fascinated by the character of Branwen (often called Brangaine in the French). In the medieval legends, she is the confidant of both Iseult and her mother, the Queen of Ireland. She takes part in conjuring the infamous love potion and it’s Branwen’s fault that Tristan shares the potion with Iseult instead of King Marc, her intended husband. Consequently, Branwen becomes embroiled in covering up the affair and keeping the peace between their two kingdoms.

I wanted to know how Branwen felt about her mistakes and the part she played in changing history, as well as her feelings for all of the characters involved. So that’s what I did! I’ve taken some liberties from the original so that the reader won’t quite know what’s going to happen, and I’ve put Branwen at the center of the story––where I believe she belongs.

What is your favorite aspect of writing a forbidden romance?

One of the best things about writing a forbidden romance is that the stakes are inherently high. To quote the Bard, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and the obstacles presented by a romance that is in direct conflict with another aspect of a character’s life helps me, as an author, to dig deep into that character’s motivations. Keeping secrets and the fear of discovery are other great ways to test the love relationship as well as the character’s conscience. Plus, it’s tantalizing!

As Branwen took life on the page, what was your favorite and then least favorite characteristic she showed you?

Branwen’s loyalty is her guiding principle and it’s both her best and worst characteristic. When the story opens, she is fervently devoted to her kingdom of Iveriu and her cousin, Princess Eseult. Those loyalties soon come into conflict with her growing feelings for a half-drowned man she rescues from the waves––who happens to be from the enemy kingdom of Kernyv. Branwen’s actions are compelled by her desire to be loyal to all those she cares about, which leads her to do increasingly rash, ruthless, and dangerous things.

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today?

In the mists of time known as 1998, I lived in Ireland and studied Celtic Civilisation at University College Cork. While I was writing Sweet Black Waves, I went back to Ireland and did a road trip, scouting locations for my Iveriu. I wanted to share a photo with your readers of the coast and the waves, which mean so much to Branwen.

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Sweet Black Waves comes out next week! Are you ready?