Sunday Brunch: A Chat with Authors Everina Maxwell and AK Wilder

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[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the chance to chat with authors Everina Maxwell and AK Wilder and ask them a few questions each! Up first, Everina Maxwell!]

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

Everina Maxwell: I set out to write exactly the book I wanted to read – which was a combination of court politics, space opera, and the best bits of fanfic. I wanted a slow burn romance with spaceships and feelings and treks through snowy mountains and huddling for warmth. And it turns out you’re just allowed to put everything you like in one book? Wild.

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why? 

One of the characters is a strong introvert who over-analyses everything, so that was easy to write! On the other hand, I’ve also been the aide organizing everything from someone’s diary to their IT issues, so I strongly sympathize with the prince’s PA.

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

Personally I love a main character who has a unique way of looking at the world; I’m always looking to sink totally into someone’s head when I open a book. I’m especially a sucker for characters who are funny. For me, getting a break from your own head is one of the main benefits of reading.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from it. 

Winter’s Orbit is a royal arranged marriage romance set in space. Kiem is an extroverted playboy who’s used to being the center of media attention; Jainan is a quiet diplomat dealing with his own past trauma. They’re ordered to marry in the middle of a political crisis to save an important treaty. And although they both agreed to do their duty, they don’t expect to fall for each other.

What’s next for you in the bookish world? 

I’m working on another book in the same universe with two utter disaster characters that I’m very excited about. 

Who is your current favorite writer? Why? 

This changes all the time, but I’m currently reading Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert and I’m having an absolute blast. Hibbert’s voice just fizzes off the page.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?  

Read everything and lean in to writing what you really love; it’s the seeds that really speak to you which will speak to everyone else.

Up next, author AK Wilder!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel? 

AK Wilder: I love this question because, with the Amassia Series, there were two strong and powerful inspirations. It began with a John Waterhouse print my father sent me. This 19th century painter’s work, called The Siren, haunted me until a love story between two sundered beings awoke. Even though there are no real sirens in the series, there are Mar and their relationship to the ‘landers’ seems impossible to navigate, so of course, I wrote characters that would have to try. 

But when it came to the actual world, the single continent of Amassia surrounded by sea, the vision seemed purely accidental. I was researching for something else entirely and clicked on a Youtube video, by ‘mistake’. It showed the progress of the continents, from the original Pangea, to today’s seven major landmasses, and forward, projecting to a future where all the continents return to form one again. The process captured my imagination and I started to wonder, in all those millions of years, what else had change…

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why? 

It’s hard to choose! I feel like there is a piece of my soul in every character I write, but if I had to pick one, it would be Ash. She’s a wordsmith, loves storytelling, horses and talks to herself. She’s also an outside in the company of Savants yet makes it her life’s goal to find a place in the world, to be respected. I relate to these aspects of her, and also her loyalty to those she loves. Mostly, I think her search for belonging is universal, something we never outgrow.

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

In fiction, we seek ourselves. We want to fall into the pages and live vicariously through the characters and the world they live in. The more challenging our everyday life becomes, the more fantastical and heroic we want our stories to be. It serves to keep us hopeful and strong. I’m sure it has been this way since we first gathered around the fire and listened to the hunters retail their tales. Tough times breeds even tougher heroes and villains, and let’s face it, we’ve had some challenges recently…

Please describe the content of your latest book and what readers can expect from it. 

Crown of Bones, book #1 in the Amassia series is a YA Fantasy set in a world where Bone Throwers decide every child’s fate, determining if they are savant, those who can raise their phantom, non-savants, those who cannot, or marred, those who are sacrificed to the sea. It’s Epic in scope yet written with a more contemporary voice. 

With an ensemble cast and multiple points of view, the story begins with Marcus, the Heir to the throne who raises an out-of-control warrior phantom. He’s sent to the Isle of Aku for further training, accompanied by Ash, his best friend, a non-savant wordsmith, and Kaylin, the mysterious guide they meet along the way. From the moment they set foot outside the realm, bad things happen…

Readers can expect fast-paced adventure, betrayal, danger and mystery in a magical, romantic world full of secrets. They can also expect to be shocked by choices some of the characters make, and by the things they don’t see coming. 

What’s next for you in the bookish world? 

Crown of Bones is the first in a trilogy, so now it’s on to editing books #2 & #3. In the back of my mind, another story waits, gathering momentum like a storm. But first, Amassia!

Who is your current favorite writer? Why? 

I have quite a few favs for 2020. At the top of the list is Nikki Drayden. Her book Escaping Exodus blew me away. In this SFFantasy, the storytelling and characters are excellent, and the world-building extraordinary. The concept is so unique, so spectacular, and so real…sure is sure is sure. What a gift! 

I also enjoyed Holly Black’s, The Cruel Prince for her artistry in portraying anti-heroes. It’s not easy to pull off immersion in such a dark world, but she always does it.

Also, Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds got my attention. Aside from being a favorite theory of mine, the many-worlds, her exploration of the multiple facets of each characters’ personalities based on ‘there but for fortune’ experiences, was riveting. Talk about nature vs. nurture. I enjoyed it so much.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?  

Yes! I have a few tips that certainly helped me and I am happy to share.

  1. Read. Read. Read. The more you immerse in story, the more of a storyteller you become.
  2. Think of yourself as a writer. If you take your writing seriously, others will too. 
  3. Make it your job. Set up a specific time every day to write and/or have specific goals. You might say to yourself, “Today I will outline a scene, or edit five pages, or write five-hundred words….” Without guidelines and focus, it’s just you, a blank page and infinite possibilities/distractions. Set the timer. Make it doable, and do it every day, no exceptions. 
  4. Hone your craft. There are two basic aspects to writing: the creative imagination (Muse) and the mechanics of putting words down on the page. You need both sides of this coin to produce a great story and even if the inspiration well goes dry, you can always focus on improving your craft. That way, you are ready and able when the Muse returns.
Grab both of these great books from your favorite bookstore!
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