First, here's a bit about DEFY:
Defy by Sara B. Larson.
To be published: January 7th, 2014
by: Scholastic Press.
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?
Sounds pretty fantastic, right?
Sara's here today for an interview, so without further ado... here we go!
Jess: Welcome, Sara! To start us off, let's focus in on your main character. Describe Alexa in 5 words or less.
Sara: Fierce, determined, guarded and strong-willed, but still vulnerable.
J: I like her already! What drew you to fantasy from a writing perspective?
S: I don't know that I've ever consciously thought "now, I want to write fantasy"--the stories I come up with just always seem to have some sort of magic or something fantastical about them. I did try to write an adult fiction once, complete with very sad, real-life experiences, and then something difficult happened to me (almost exactly like a scene in my book) and I swore I'd never write anything that could ever actually happen to me again.
J: Was there a specific book that inspired you to start writing?
S: No, because I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I have notebooks from 2nd and 3rd grade that are full of my "books" that I wrote way back then. Reading and writing have always been an integral part of who I am, so I can't pinpoint any one moment that led me to want to write. However, there have definitely been books along the way that have inspired me to want to write better. In 2nd and 3rd grade I loved THE BABYSITTERS CLUB, I even dotted all my i's with a heart like Stacey. As a teenager, some of the books I read and read again were A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT by Madeleine L'Engle, and THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbra Kingsolver (what an amazing lesson on voice!); now there are too many favorite books to list, but some of my contemporaries who I could only dream of being able to write like include Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor, and Kristin Cashore. There are so many more I love, but I don't want to go on and on and on...
J: So many fantastic books! Say I wake up in the middle of the kingdom in which DEFY is set. What do I experience when I first awaken?
S: The first thing you'd notice would be the oppressive heat, the way the humidity in the air feels like a living thing, wrapping around you, slicking your skin with perspiration, even though you haven't moved yet. You'd smell the lush heaviness of the jungle and the hint of flowers on the air. If you are in a village or smaller town in Antion (the jungle kingdom where DEFY is set), you'd probably also wake with the tang of fear on your tongue, because you're never completely safe in the jungle, no matter how well you know it. Predators can lurk behind any bush, around every tree--or even in them, above your head--and you never know when you might become the prey. If you lived in the palace, you would feel a bit more safe from jaguars and snakes, because of the massive wall that surrounds it, but the fear would still be there, beating in time with your heart, because there are plenty of threats within the palace walls as well.
J: Ooh, wow. I can't wait to dive deeper in! Why will I swoon for Rylan and Damian? Who would you personally go for, a "safe and steady" guy or a "dark, intriguing" one?
S: Oh boy, what a question! Not sure I can completely answer it, because I definitely don't want to cause any spoilers. But I will tell you what will make you swoon for them both. When you look into Rylan's warm, chocolate-brown eyes, you feel safe and protected. He's strong and kind, a lethal combination to any girl's heart (even one who's pretending to be a boy). He's loyal and brave and an excellent swordsman and somehow still gentle. He's also the only guard who has come close to beating Alexa in a sparring match. But Prince Damian, on the other hand, is more like the jungle kingdom that his father rules. He's dangerously beautiful, and deceptively calm, with intense blue eyes that can be as cold as the jewels they resemble. But, just like the jungle, beneath the tantalizing exterior lurk many secrets. Secrets that could pull you in and save you--or lead to your demise.
J: So intriguing! I must admit, I'm already feeling drawn to Rylan. Can't wait to meet him for myself! Do you listen to music while you write/edit? If so, can you share one song you listened to a lot while working on this novel?
S: I absolutely HAVE to have music. Especially since I often write while my kids are napping/watching a movie, or after a long day when they're finally in bed, I rely on the music I pick to help me quickly immerse myself in the emotions of my story, so I can write faster and more effectively. I envision my books like movies in my head, so it's not surprising that I LOVE to use soundtracks to write to. One of the songs I had on repeat a lot was RISE by Hans Zimmer (from The Dark Knight Rises) --but I'd skip the first 45 seconds to get to the good part. ;) I also listened to BREATHE ME by Sia a LOT.
J: Excellent choices! Can you share a favourite quote from DEFY?
S: "As I gripped the hilt of the sword, my mind calmed and my body filled with purpose. This is who I was--this was what I knew how to do. I was a fighter."
J: Can you share a secret about DEFY?
S: I almost quit writing this book. The inspiration came from a very dark place in my life, when someone I loved (my cousin's husband) had just passed away from cancer. He was just 24. The very first scene I wrote stemmed from that grief, and for a long time I thought that was all it was--an exercise in grief. But the characters wouldn't leave me alone so I kept going. However, about 7 or 8k words in, I hit a wall. I couldn't figure out where the plot needed to go. So I put it down. But again, the characters wouldn't leave me alone. When I finally figured out that one of them was keeping a major secret from me, the rest of the plot suddenly clicked into place and the rest of the book flew out of me. (I finished writing it 2 weeks after I figured out that one, integral secret.)
J: That's amazing. Thank you for sharing that with us, Sara. And thank you again for taking part in the interview! I loved having you here on the blog!
S: Thank you for having me, these were fun questions to think about!
Doesn't this make you want to pick up DEFY right this second? I know I'm itching to read it! Make sure you keep an eye out for it early next month!
About the author:
I love writing, reading, and dessert--but the order varies by the day. I write books that have magic and romance and kick-butt girls and a whole lot more. My husband and I live in Utah with our three children. I write during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. My husband claims I should have a degree in "the art of multitasking." On occasion you will find me hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary and my YA debut DEFY is coming Spring 14 from Scholastic!
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Or pre-order a signed copy from Sara's local indie, The King's English.