4 Q&A’s From Your Favorite Y.A. Authors on The Epic Reads Tour

Epic Reads Tour
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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview four authors on the Epic Reads Tour. Find out more about the tour here]

5(ish) Questions with Sara Raasch, Author of These Divided Shores

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Sara: THESE REBEL WAVES came from a late-night geology class and the term “stream piracy” (which is a real scientific thing!). It evolved over about five years into the current mash-up of the Spanish Inquisition, the Golden Age of Piracy, and the botanical magic. 

Aurora: What character do you most relate to and why?

Sara: I most relate to the character of Vex — the snarky-but-wounded raider. He deals with almost every situation through sarcasm. Which, I mean, how else do people deal with situations.

Aurora: Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

Sara: Everyone wants to feel empowered — especially now. Our country lately has been in such a state of turmoil, and I know I, at least, have felt helpless more often than not. Getting to escape into a world where the characters overcome their villains and vanquish the enemy . . . it’s a necessary catharsis.

Aurora: Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Sara: THESE DIVIDED SHORES picks up right after the end of THESE REBEL WAVES, where we left the three main characters in kind of a dire situation (understatement). Ben had just revealed his treachery to his religion-driven father; Vex had barely escaped capture by his uncle, who hey guess what is also Ben’s father; and Lu had just been stabbed by the person she fears most, Milo Ibarra. 

Aurora: What’s next for you in the book world?

Sara: Next summer, I have the first book in a new duology coming out called SET FIRE TO THE GODS. I co-wrote it with Kristen Simmons over the past few years, and we are utterly obsessed with this story and characters. It’s set in a fictional world ruled by six gods who settle their disputes with each other by making their mortals fight to the death in gladiator arenas. I wrote from the POV of Ash, a descendant of the fire god who is trying to figure out a way to kill their immortal oppressors.

Aurora: Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

Sara: CS Pacat. I reread her Captive Prince trilogy an embarrassing amount at this point. She’s an expert at concise, punchy, vivid prose, and there is no one who does slow-burn romance better!

5(ish) Questions with Rena Barron, Author of Kingdom of Souls

Auora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Rena: When I was growing up, I heard stories about people in my community who practiced voodoo. It was something that gave me many bad dreams, but also inspired me to want to know more about my family’s history. I could only trace my ancestry so far before I ran into dead ends. What I do know is that my West African ancestors survived the impossible, or else, I wouldn’t be here. I decided to take my desire to learn more about my family and sprinkle in a lot of imagination to create Kingdom Of SoulsThe story evolved around this idea of magic being something unobtainable for Arrah because she’s an outsider, and she must survive the impossible to accomplish her goals.

Aurora: What character do you most relate to and why? 

Rena: I relate the closest to Arrah, the main character of Kingdom Of Souls. She is someone who feels that she’s caught between two worlds and doesn’t quite fit in either. I sometimes feel that way as someone trying to understand my place in the world and within my own community. She also is someone who doesn’t necessarily follow the prescribed path set out for her. I like to think that she got that bit of rebellious nature from me.

Aurora: Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

Rena: I think people want to see the best (and sometimes the worst) of themselves reflected in the stories we read. We want to see people who are fallible, who have complex emotions and face situations that can be difficult or scary. We want fully-realized people, not caricatures or stereotypes.

Aurora: Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read. 

Rena: Kingdom Of Souls is about sixteen-year-old Arrah who hails from a powerful family of witchdoctors, but she doesn’t have magic of her own. When the Demon King threatens her kingdom, she must trade years off of her life in exchange for the magic she needs to stop him. But each trade brings her closer to death and to a devastating truth.

At its core, Kingdom Of Souls is a story about love, loss, sacrifice, and redemption.

Aurora: What’s next for you in the book world? 

Rena: I’m currently diving back into the world of Kingdom Of Souls to write book two in the series. There’ll be some new revelations and surprises in store for Arrah and her friends. I’m also doing fun quizzes and behind the scenes looks of the world of Kingdom Of Souls over on the official website: KingdomOfSoulsBook.com.

Aurora: Who is your favorite writer right now and why? 

Rena: On the young adult side, I am forever a Laini Taylor fan. I adored the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, then she dropped Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmare, effectively turning my world upside down in the best possible way. On the adult side, I love N.K. Jemisin’s work. I knew she was a genius when I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series, and then I read The Fifth Season and the books in the Broken Earth series. I’m still speechless after finishing up The Stone Sky. It was just that good.

5(ish) Questions with Shelby Mahurin, Author of Serpent & Dove

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Shelby: My inspiration for Serpent & Dove came from Outlander Season Two, Episode Four, “La Dame Blanche.” In the episode, Jamie refers to Claire as a dame blanche, or white lady, and the term immediately intrigued me. I did a little research about these infamous women—sometimes thought to be witches, other times spirits—but there just wasn’t a lot of information easily accessible. And there definitely weren’t any novels about them, which is what I really wanted. So I decided to write one!

Aurora: What character do you most relate to and why?

Shelby: I relate most with Lou, probably because we share a sense of humor. Hers might skew a little cruder than mine, but we essentially think the same things are funny. Beyond that, she strives to understand each side of a situation—even if she doesn’t agree—and that’s something I’m always trying to emulate. That said, I relate to Reid’s obstinacy more than I’d like to admit.

Aurora: Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

 Shelby: It’s easy to feel powerless against all the bad in the world. Books can provide both the vehicle we need to enact change and the vehicle we need to escape. Powerful and relatable characters, whether they’re protesting in Garden Heights or battling at Hogwarts, do both. They give us their voice. They help us find our voice. And—if sometimes the change is slower than we’d like—they keep us believing in a world where good can triumph over evil.

Aurora: Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Shelby: Serpent & Dove is a YA fantasy about a witch, Lou, and a witch hunter, Reid, who inadvertently find themselves married—and he doesn’t know she’s a witch. But she’s hiding from someone bigger and badder than her husband, and the fate of the kingdom is tangled up with her secret(s). There are witches, huntsmen, magic, religion, forbidden romance, ritual sacrifice, secret identities, arranged marriage, and—my favorite—French patisseries.

Aurora: What’s next for you in the book world?

Shelby: Serpent & Dove’s sequel! I can’t reveal much about it—not even the title because it still doesn’t have one!—but it takes place immediately after the events of Serpent & Dove. We’ll meet lots of new characters and travel to lots of new places, but as with S&D, Lou and Reid are still our protagonists. It’s a continuation of their story…and dare I say their relationship?

Aurora: Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

Shelby: I have too many favorites to narrow them down: Sarah J. Maas for her characters, Naomi Novik for her stories, Adrienne Young for her world-building. I recently discovered Madeline Miller via Circe, and she’s now an auto-buy author for me. Libba Bray was incredibly influential to me as a teenager, and to this day, she remains one of my favorites. As a child, Gail Carson Levine and Lloyd Alexander were my favorites, as Ella Enchanted and The Arkadians were (and also remain) some of the best books I’ve ever read.

5(ish) Questions with Kendare Blake, Author of Five Dark Fates

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind Five Dark Fates?

Kendare: When I was writing Five Dark Fates, my only goal was to hang with these queens and their friends to their ends. Since the start of Three Dark Crowns, these young women have very much become the masters of their fates, and I was merely along for the ride. I wrote it so slowly sometimes, because I feared what would happen, and honestly I didn’t want it to be over!

Aurora: What character do you most relate to and why?

Kendare: I understand them all, from the naturalists to the poisoners, but I think I’m most similar to Queen Arsinoe. She and I both have difficulty finding our place–in friendships, on teams, within new environments–and we both only really soar when we’re backed into a corner. Also, she’s always hungry. And I feel that. 

Aurora: Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

Kendare: I’ve always thought the best books were the ones with great characters. Perhaps not necessarily relatable, but understandable. With interesting drives and motivations, fascinating responses to things. I think young adults respond to powerful younger characters because their own lives are very much about breaking into new areas, finding their own voices, discovering their strengths and where their hearts lie.

Aurora: Please describe the content of Five Dark Fates and what can readers expect from the read.

Kendare: Expect it all to go down. The rebellion vs the crown, the dead queens vs the living. Expect sweet moments with adorable familiars and bittersweet goodbyes. It all ends here so…anything can happen.

Aurora: What’s next for you in the book world?

Kendare: Another fantasy series about an order of mystical warriors and a girl who wants to become one. But first, a standalone spree-murder book: think Interview with the Vampire meets In Cold Blood, inspired by the Clutter murders and the Starkweather killing spree of the 1950s, with a supernatural twist.

Aurora: Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

Kendare: This question is impossible to answer. I admire and adore too many writers. Right now I’m reading Olive Kitteridge, which is my first reading of Elizabeth Strout, and it’s excellent. I also really loved SADIE by Courtney Summers this year. And I’m so excited for DARKDAWN by Jay Kristoff. Very excited to read one that might not be on your radar yet: currently titled CURSES by Lish McBride, who wrote the absolutely bloody and hilarious HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER.

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