Q: Please tell us about your current or upcoming release. (Title & Blurb)
Emerald Bound is a dark YA retelling of the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. Here’s the book blurb:
A princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. This is the sliver that survives of a story more nightmare than fairy tale.
Maggie Rhodes, high school junior and semi-reformed stalker, learns the tale’s true roots after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. At the center of the curse lies an enchanted emerald that has been residing quietly in a museum for the past fifty years. Admirers of the gem have no idea that it feeds on life. Or that it’s found its next victim in Kate.
Enter Lindy, a school acquaintance who knows more than she’s letting on, and Garon, a handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and Maggie is left wondering who to trust and how to save her best friend before it’s too late.
If only Maggie knew her connection to the fairy tale was rooted far deeper than an endangered best friend.
Q: What is this book’s genre? Is this the genre you usually write in? Are there any genre’s you haven’t written that you’d like to try?
Emerald Bound is YA fantasy/magical realism. Most of my stuff is YA, but a year or so ago my writing group convinced me to branch out and write a zombie story to contribute to their zombie anthology geared toward adults. That was new for me. I love to read historical fiction and I’ve always wanted to give it a try, but I’m really bad at history so that may never happen. My books are best when the details come from my imagination, not from a history book.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved fairytale twists, but there are some tales that are done over and over and some that are completely overlooked. I started thinking about The Princess and the Pea and wondered what it would be like if the Pea was actually an enchanted emerald, created to steal life from the unlucky maiden sleeping above it. There would have to be a curse. There would have to be some kind of magic. And there would have to be a handsome prince. But what if everything else went completely against the rules? That’s how Emerald Bound was born.
Q: How did you pick its title? Did it come first or did you have to write the story first?
The original title was The Emerald Binding, which I changed early on to Emerald Bound. I played around with some variations that made it more clear this was a Princess and the Pea retelling, but they were all pretty lame. Even though I had the title early on, the story still came first in my mind.
Q: How did you create your characters? Did you use any real life people in their making?
I didn’t plan these characters out too rigidly before I began writing. I knew who I wanted them to become and where they were starting out from and I let the details and their personality quirks evolve from there. It’s a good thing, too, because one of my favorite characters popped onto the scene without me even knowing he was going to. I could never have planned him out the way he came—he just showed up on the page this way.
Q: Who is your favorite character of this book and why?
I like both of my leading ladies, Maggie and Lindy, but my very favorite character is Garon. As I said in the previous question, Garon arrived on the scene without permission or previous planning from me. Maggie was running around a corner, and suddenly, there he was. I knew the second he stepped onto the stage of my mind that he was going to stay. He’s charming, clever, and ruggedly handsome. He’s also a little bit awkward—adorably so—because … oh wait, I don’t want to spoil anything. Let’s just say he’s adorably awkward for good reason and leave it at that.
Q: What is your favorite part of this book? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
My favorite part is probably the end, but since I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll tell you about another part that was fun to write. In this part, we see Calista, the villain, after she’s dropped her sugar-coated pretenses:
My frantic banging did the trick. I heard the metallic grate of a key in the lock. There was a click, a turning knob, and the door swung inward. Calista’s eyes went impossibly wide when she saw me standing there, locked inside her room full of precious gems. But then a wicked grin lit up her face. She licked her lips.
“Theo,” she called, her voice dripping with sugar-coated disdain. Her eyes stayed locked on mine. One hand shot out and grabbed me by the wrist. “Our guest has returned.”
She pulled me roughly to the wood paneled room I’d poked my head into earlier. Theo joined us a moment later. Taking me by both wrists, Calista murmured something in another language (Latin maybe? Or was it more sing-songy?) while forcing me into the lone chair in the center of the room. When she let go, my arms were stuck to the armrests. My feet felt like they’d been set in concrete on the floor.
My stomach groused, roaring in protest. And I still had to pee.
Calista’s ice-gray eyes gleamed as she stepped back to survey her handiwork. Oddly, she was dressed just like I’d pictured her: in another evening gown, silver this time. On the surface, she looked the same as she had the previous night, but the overall effect had changed. The straightness of her spine now seemed imposing, not sophisticated. The twist of her features was no longer elegant, but like a coiled up snake. I didn’t know if I was seeing her through new eyes or if she’d taken off some kind of mask.
Her slender fingers came together in front of her. “Since you’re here, perhaps you’d like to explain why you and your friend left early last night? We were so looking forward to … receiving you in the morning.”
I struggled in vain against the invisible force that held me bound to the chair. “Where’s Kate?” I demanded, ignoring her question and setting my jaw.
“Sorry, dear, but you won’t be seeing your friend again.” Calista smirked at me. Her black dangly earrings brushed her collarbone as she spoke. “She is, shall we say, no more.”
“What did you do to her? Kate’s family will call the police, you know. Piper knew we were here last night.”
Calista chuckled and clucked her tongue, making me feel like a two-year-old insisting on having dessert before dinner.
“Ah, child. Such passion. You don’t seem to understand, though. Your friend no longer exists. Which means, nobody remembers her and nobody will come looking for her.” She cocked her head. “Except for you, apparently. Tell me, how did you escape last night?”
“Escape?” My voice rose. “I thought we were guests, not prisoners.”
Her eyebrows shot up and she laughed, genuinely amused. “Yes, perhaps I should have made that more clear. You were not guests. You were trespassers. Naturally, I neglected to specify the terms of your overnight stay. If I had, you never would have agreed to it. But no matter. We’ll try again tonight.”
Q: What was the hardest part of this book to write? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
Probably the hardest part to write was also one of the most fun parts. It was hard to write because I wanted to make sure I had all the details correct, but it was fun because I was taking all the wacky stuff I’d imagined and putting it into concrete, explainable terms. I am definitely not an expert in Chemistry. But Garon is, and that’s how he does his magic. (As a side note, one of my writing critique partners is a Chemistry expert as well, and I made sure she approved of what I’d written on the subject.) Here’s the bit where Garon is teaching Maggie about how he uses chemistry to do magic:
Garon interrupted my internal rambling. “Okay, it’s time to talk. You’d better pull over.”
My inner monologue screeched to a halt and I looked at him for longer than I should have, considering I was behind the wheel going seventy miles an hour. This sounded serious. I pulled off the two-lane highway that connected my hometown to civilization, parking in the shady corner of a mostly empty grocery store parking lot.
Once we were safely immobile, he swiveled in his seat, calming me once again with his hot-cocoa eyes. “Okay, first I’m going to teach you a little trick. So you’ll understand what I was saying earlier about accessing magic through a knowledge of science. This is the first bit of so-called magic I ever learned. And it’s how Olivian was created.
I perked up. He was going to show me how the magical emerald that held my friend captive was created? I cut the engine and set my keys into the cup holder.
Garon reached into his pocket and pulled out his Washington DC souvenir keychain. He worked on it for a moment, separating the decorative part from the chain and ring part. He set the chain and ring aside and held up the part stamped with the White House. “See this? Most metal keychains, this one included, are made out of stainless steel because it holds up well against the elements and is rust-resistant. Stainless steel is a metal alloy made up of iron, chromium, nickel, and manganese.”
I tried to keep up, frantically searching my brain for the stuff I’d crammed into it in Chem class last year.
Garon pressed the disk into his palm, where it fit nicely, and closed his fingers around it. The lines of his face became serious, but his eyes danced with obvious excitement. “Now, before doing anything else, we have to visualize the elements that make this metal. I must see them in my mind’s eye. So clearly I could trace them.” He reached out with a finger and drew on the fogging up window.
He drew a row of circles. Underneath it, he drew another row, starting slightly to the right of where the first one began. He drew a third, and then a fourth. Each row began slightly to the right of the one above it, so together they formed a diamond shape. No … a parallelogram. (SAT points in geometry now!)
Garon pointed to the circles. “These are iron atoms.” Then he drew tiny circles in the spaces between the larger circles, and finally, lines linking everything together. “There’s a carbon atom inside each cube of iron, and bonds hold it all together.”
I stared at the diagram, my head swimming. I hadn’t had enough sleep for this.
He continued. “When you can see the atomic structure in your head, as clearly as if it were suspended in midair before you, you can change it at will by reaching in with your mind. For example, you could exchange the elements, one at a time, until you’ve turned the metal into something else entirely. In our case, we only want to weaken the atomic structure, not change it. So we just need to add entropy until the bonds become malleable.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“In other words, we have to spread apart the atoms by making them move around.” Garon poked the diagram he’d drawn on the windshield. The glass didn’t give way, obviously, but I understood what he meant. If he nudged them, they would knock into each other and spread apart.
“Here, I’ll show you.” Garon closed his eyes again and focused on his fist, squeezing tightly. His brow furrowed and his lips tightened. He stayed that way for what felt like several minutes. I spent the time studying his face, his hair, his lips, his hands. He had good hands.
Soon his face relaxed and his fingers opened. A shimmery, bendy, silver thing rested in his palm. It wiggled. He held it up and I saw that it was the keychain, only, it wasn’t. It now looked like a silver disk of Jell-O.
Oh, wow. Wow! I peered closer, my heart beating way too fast. How had he done that? Okay, technically he’d just told me how but still, how? I reached out a shaky finger to touch the silver mass in his palm. It gave way where my finger pressed into it, then bounced back when I pulled away.
“See?” He grinned at me. “All you need to do is prod the atoms a bit, in your minds’ eye, of course, and they’ll move around. That weakens the structure and makes the metal pliable. You try. Oh, just make sure to prod gently or the structure will fall apart completely.”
I laughed. Hard. “Yeah, right! I barely understood a word you just said! I can’t do it! There’s no way.”
He shrugged, squeezing his fist again and opening it to reveal the keychain, hardened once again. “With enough practice you could.” He stuffed the disk back into his pocket and glanced at me sideways, his eyebrows raised as if in challenge.
I didn’t think I could do it, but my curiosity was piqued. And I couldn’t back down from the subtle dare. I fished out my own keychain from my pocket and held it in my fist like he had. His diagrams were still on the window, but fading. He refreshed them with his finger so I could study them. Then I closed my eyes, focusing on the disk in my palm. I pictured it, saw the elements, and drew the diagram in my mind. When I was sure all the details were right, I poked, gently, just as he’d said to, to get the atoms moving. In my minds’ eye, I saw them jiggle. Then they jumped, crashing into each other with increasing intensity. I visualized the metal turning to putty in my hands. Smiling, I opened my eyes and relaxed my fingers.
A hard, metal keychain rested on my palm. It hadn’t changed at all. A twinge of disappointment tickled my chest. I sniffed, jutting out my chin when Garon peeked into my hand. “See? I can’t do it.”
“Well, now you have something to practice.”
Q: Did you have any special rhythm or quirks while writing this?
I have to write in complete silence. Or, in the absence of silence, white noise works as well (and by “white noise” I mean the clamor of my house when all five of my kids are home). I have a really hard time writing to music or with the TV on. Or even in Starbucks since I can usually overhear conversations going on around me. That environment is great for picking up new ideas but horrible for executing the ones I already have.
Q: Is this a stand-alone book or is it part of a series? If so, we want to hear about it and what’s next in the series. If not a series, what comes next to be released?
I’m not a fan of cliff-hangers at the end of books, so I made sure to tie everything up in the end of Emerald Bound. But I also wanted the opportunity to delve further into the world, so I did leave an opening for myself to do that. I’m planning to have two more books follow Emerald Bound, and each will take another little-known fairy tale and turn it on its head. Gemstones will definitely be involved. Both books have been plotted out, but that’s about as far as I’ve taken them. Right now I’m working on finishing a YA contemporary suspense novel called Windfall that I started when I began querying Emerald Bound.