[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Sara B. Larson guest posting on the site today! She’s taking all things sisterly love.]
Here’s a fun scenario to imagine: six girls, all on the same cycle, PMSing at the same time, with only one guy in the house to wade through the emotional madness. That guy was my dad. And technically, one of the girls was my mom, but she still counts. My parents had five daughters in ten years, so our home was definitely full of drama and clogged drains and sugar of all kinds. It was chaos and hormones and giggling and late nights watching Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and tears and dancing and eating entire pots of mashed potatoes and pans of brownies and I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess that’s why we’re all best friends, even now, when we’re all grown up and married and busy, and could have chosen to part ways a long time ago. We occasionally fight with each other, it’s true, but more importantly, we fight for each other. We love each other deeply. My sisters are some of the greatest blessings in my life.
Have you ever heard the advice to “write what you know?” I’ll be honest: I don’t always follow that advice. I like to learn about new things, new places, and new people. Writing only what I know all the time would make for a boring job—and boring books. I can see the pitch now: 30-something mom cooks and cleans and chauffeurs her four children, vacillates between eating healthy and shoving her face full of sugar, works out daily for mental sanity, longs for exotic vacations and then misses her kids and the chaos when she actually gets to go on one. Confusion abounds in this sticky, gooey mess of a story, that sometimes smells of a stinky diaper that didn’t quite make it to the outside garbage can. Oooh, I can see the bestseller lists lining up already!
Not exactly, right?
Also, I write fantasy, so I make up at least 85% of the stuff in my books anyway, and I’ve yet to experience having to fight for my life by shape-shifting, or fighting a power-hungry, emotionally-wounded sorcerer. In all seriousness, there are always hints of things I know or have experienced in my books; I think that it is inevitable as a creator that pieces of our life experiences will seep into our stories. But with my most recent book, what do you think I decide to do?
Yep. Follow that advice, and write what I know.
After all these years, and five published books, I finally wrote a book with a major plot about something I know really well, something I’ve wanted to explore for quite a while: sisters! (But it’s also a fantasy, so there are very few clogged drains and a few more gryphons and magical hedges than I experienced growing up.)
I love all of the books I’ve written, but Sisters of Shadow and Light has a special place in my heart, because it is my book about the bond that can exist between sisters and the power it can bring into your life. If you don’t have a sister like that by blood, I firmly believe you can find “sisters of the heart” who fulfill that role. But I was lucky enough to have mine born into the same family as me. Zuhra and Inara, the sisters in my book, have a very different relationship than the ones I had with mine, at least on the surface. As far as I know, none of my sisters had (or have) magical powers or glowing eyes. (Well, there was that one unfortunate experiment with crazy-colored contacts buuuuut not quite the same thing.) And though our mom got fed up with us at times (I’ll never forget the INCIDENT where she finally lost her cool and dumped every drawer in the entire house on the floor and then took my dad’s credit card and said she was leaving to go shopping while we all cleaned it up), she wasn’t emotionally broken and completely closed off, so you know, that’s a tad different. But there are deeper, more important, similarities. I’m the oldest of the bunch (gaggle? squad? What do you call a literal handful of girls that are related to each other and still want to go on girl’s trips together every year?) so I can definitely relate to the fierceness of Zuhra’s love for Inara—her desire to protect her younger sister, and her willingness to do anything for her.
That was something I related to in my favorite book as a teenager, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. I read it at least ten times. It’s a book about four sisters forced to live in the Belgian Congo by their preacher father who has dragged his family there to convert the natives. Each of the sisters has very different experiences living there. For the record, if you’ve read it, the oldest sister in that family was not like me. I always related more to the sister who ended up staying in the Congo the rest of her life. I’ve always been fascinated by the jungle, and that book definitely increased the fascination. And again, pieces of my life experience did end up influencing my creative process, because when I first sat down to write DEFY, I didn’t intentionally set it in a jungle kingdom. It began with a free writing experiment—purely writing from an emotional space I was in at the time—and that first scene I wrote came out as taking place in a jungle without any conscious choice to do it.
If you choose to pick up Sisters of Shadow and Light (and I hope you will!), you can expect to delve into a world that is still trying to heal from a war, a family that was torn apart by the choices that were made to end that war, sisters who are fiercely dedicated to one another, a scholar who might hold the answers their mother refused to give them, gryphon-riding-magic-wielding warriors, both male and female, a magic, sentient hedge that may be holding the sisters hostage—or protecting them in its own misguided way—and love in all its forms, good and bad, healthy, needed, yearned for, and hurtful. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a few pieces of my life woven in, whether consciously or not.
About the Author:
Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy Defy trilogy (Defy, Ignite, and Endure), the Dark Breaks the Dawn duology, and Sisters of Shadow and Light. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.
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Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson, out now!
“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.
Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.
On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.
For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.