My Life’s Tower of Fantasy

Here at the end of all things, Samwise Gamgee the end of the second Silmarillion Awards, wherein we celebrate all things fantasy, Tolkien, and favorite characters, I have a bit to say about these things and their importance to me in my life so far.

So today, the 63rd birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring’s publication, seemed a good time to do so.

*distant cries of “Happy birthday!” and Bilbo saying (un?)complimentary things concerning knowing people half as well as he should like etc.*

*also birthday cake for one and all*

*and 63 still-burning candles to feed to your dragon*

(You’re welcome. I hope he likes wax.)


The following is a somewhat lengthy post that is more of an essay than many posts I’ve written (don’t worry, it’s broken into segments with handy headers, so you might survive), and contains such things as Middle-earth, Diana Wynne Jones, Prydain, Stephen Lawhead, epic heroines, tower metaphors, nostalgia of some books/series that have shaped me, and how wonderful and life-changing Fantasy can be.

If this does not sound like your cup of tea, turn around and flee — for here in the realm of Faerie and Fantasy, truths are hidden behind every tree, characters are noble as can be, fancy runs free, and here . . . there be dragons.

On The Silmarillion

This month, using the Silmarillion Awards as a much-needed excuse, as I was re-reading The Silmarillion for the first time in many years, it startled me how much it felt like coming home. I used to read that book (as well as The Lord of the Rings, etc.) a lot when I was younger and just discovering the amazing worlds of Middle-earth. I lived in Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I lived in Beleriand in The Silmarillion too, and in a sense that was more “mine” since fewer people were into it than LOTR. The Silmarillion and surrounding mythology was like my special world that I went to live in, learning to write the Tengwar Elvish alphabet in calligraphy, studying maps, creating family trees of all the characters I knew by name…

It’s been a lovely journey, returning there and meeting these long-lost friends in this place I’ve been absent from far too long. I’m also bringing more to it now at a slightly older age, which has been fascinating. I’m aware The Silmarillion might not be for everyone, but it’s extremely special to me. I met it at a younger age and was so immersed in it that I knew all the names so well that returning was like going home and meeting old friends.

On The Tower of Fantasy

I’ve been thinking about the impact Tolkien’s works and other beloved works of fantasy have had on my life. Looking back, I can trace a few books and series that stand out as those important, life-changing, core-of-your-being books that I believe everyone (or all bookworms, at least) have. Those ones that are so much a part of you that, consciously or unconsciously, you are changed by them and they inform much of who you are and what your life is, your tastes in fiction (and in writing, if you’re a writer like me), and form a core part of your heart. They are different through the years, and that’s how I measure parts of my life (about three or four of them so far, I think) — by what was the most ME books I was reading or loving or living at the time.

Imagine your life is a tower that you are slowly building as the years go on. I see those books as the building blocks of the tower of my own life, the stones of my foundations (or at least, for the purposes of this post, the foundation for my love of fantasy in both reading and writing, which is what I’m here to talk about) that come and go in a way as I gain new interests, so that sometimes it feels like betrayal . . . How could you move on? But I can always go back down the winding stairs of the tower and visit them again, and they’ll always be a part of me. They all inform who I am, and what my reading taste is, and how I think, and what I want to be and do, and most especially (for this writer) what I write as well.

I can see blocks of time in this Fantasy Tower of my life.

Level One: Prydain and MacDonald

It started with George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. I don’t know which were first, I only know, looking back, that they were very early and, I believe, introduced me to Fantasy. Those are at the base of the tower; they were the first, and I read them and was enchanted. I LIVED in those worlds, and I loved those stories and characters so much. I still do, as with all of these. I’m afraid some of my earliest writings bore an uncanny resemblance to both those works, but we all start somewhere, yes? 😉

So, first was my beginning years of loving fantasy, with MacDonald and Prydain. (I believe Narnia came in somewhere around there a little after, and other works of Fantasy, though I don’t know how extreme their influence was.) That’s the first layer of stones at the base of the tower of Fantasy. They’re awhile ago from when I was younger and wasn’t aware of my tower, so it’s a little jumbled and vague, hidden in mists near the ground, and more instinctive than my deeper understanding of the later portions as I grew older, as I look back and remember better.

(Do you know why it’s called “in the mists of time”? Because YOU CAN’T SEE VERY WELL INTO IT. Ahem. Foggy memories… *shakes head*)

Level Two: Tolkien

The next really big thing, which is the largest on the fantasy tower so far, was Tolkien.

I read The Hobbit at one point, and then I later read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten or so, I believe. Some writers (and readers) come to Tolkien first, as their big fantasy introduction, but for me I already had the groundwork of fantasy laid; Tolkien served to strengthen it and built the next part of the tower, and was a focus of mine for many years, my absolute favorite. As I mentioned, I was enchanted and fell in love with these books, and went on to read The Silmarillion (several times), as well as reading any other works, finished or unfinished, by Tolkien that I could get my hands on. But not only were these stories, this world, these characters and languages, epic and beautiful and beloved and some of my favorites of all time, but the author himself simply seemed . . . right.

Tolkien was a kindred soul, and I know that sounds pompous to say, but when I read his letters and thoughts, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking “Oh! Yes! I’m just like that!” on so many levels. He and I just agree so well and have such similar temperaments. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near his level of talent or genius etc., I’m merely saying that he and I click, in a way that no other author that I can currently think of who I’ve run across does.

Tolkien’s works remain the next solid layer of my Fantasy tower, a very large portion of it, and still inform so much of my life and core personality and interests today.

Level Three: Diana Wynne Jones

(also concerning strawberry icecream)

Then, in 2012, I read Howl’s Moving Castle on a highly-trusted recommendation, and discovered Diana Wynne Jones. This is the third layer of my Fantasy tower. As some who read my blogs might have noticed, I’ve been very big on DWJ for awhile now. XD I’m captivated by and addicted to her books, particularly certain ones which have just stuck with me really well. I love her writing style and the humor she always had in her books, and her quirky but charming and lovable characters, and the absolute originality of her fantasy, mashed together with other genres to make her books unpigeonholeable (not a word, but should be), as well as how I always learn things about life and the world and people when I read her works. I’ve seen a bit of an influence on my writing as well, wanting to write more whimsical and amusing things.

It’s funny: when I decided Howl’s Moving Castle shared my top-favorite spot with The Lord of the Rings, and have been very DWJ focused, I didn’t realize (until recently) this thing about the Tower of Fantasy, how I can have different stages and favorites; and because I had just come from the Tolkien stage, I felt disloyal to Middle-earth, as if loving something else as well meant that I was betraying it by not loving ONLY it.

But I’ve realized that we have different stages in our lives, and that’s okay — it doesn’t make the previous stages any LESS important or less a part of you, you’re just on a different part of your journey so different things are more important right now. It’s not a betrayal. It’s growth and continuing and layers over the core.

I’ve always thought of myself as the girl who loves Middle-earth and the color green and Celtic music and chocolate and writes medieval fantasy. That’s still at my core and I will always be that person. But lately, if I’ve been a DWJ person who loves the color blue and dabbles in Christian rock or pop and loves strawberry ice cream and writes contemporary fantasy . . . that doesn’t mean I’m not STILL that same person as before too.

Because I can love both, I can have different layers of favorites, different layers of interests, and it doesn’t mean that blue or green or chocolate or strawberry are better than each other, or that in trying other kinds of books, music, and genres, that I’m abandoning the ones I used to have. I can do all of it, and it can all be me.

This is a slight tangent, but I feel like I need to address it while on the subject of moving through different books that are your favorites at the time. It’s okay to have different favorites at different times in your life, and it’s not being disloyal. I’m saying this partly to remind myself (especially when I feel bad about not having re-read some of these favorites in several years; I still plan to sometime), and partly in case anyone is having problems with it like I have. XD

I still interchange LOTR and Howl’s Moving Castle as my “favorite” books (and let’s be honest, sometimes I put Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal up there because I love it and it’s amazing) but hey, I can have more than one top-favorite, right? 😉

Level Four? (Bright Empires)

It’s always hard to know, while you’re currently on a part of the tower, if something you’re reading is going to be the next part or if it’s just another great fantasy work but not quite a core one. But I think and suspect that, perhaps (time will tell), my latest addition to the Fantasy Tower of my life are Stephen R. Lawhead’s works. I just read his Bright Empires series, and while (like I said) I can’t be sure whether or not they’re the next ring of building blocks for my tower, at the very least, it’s the best series I’ve read in a long time.

Definitely favorites, the Bright Empires books have expanded my mind so much, broadened my horizons, were thoroughly epic, mind-boggling, and fun, with beloved characters, and introduced me to the first heroine in a very long time who I want so hard to be, namely Mina. She inspires me so much. Plus, the books are simply masterpieces. I think very differently after reading these books, I clicked so well with them, and they were absolutely amazing.

Speaking of Mina, let’s talk about heroines for a minute, since the award I hosted was Most Epic Heroine.

Of Heroines

Heroines are hard to write, my friends. One strange thing about my personality is that I rarely come across a favorite female character. I think it’s because I’m a girl and I find that it’s harder for an author to write a girl character that I actually like, because I am one and we’re complicated, and the fictional girls often end up either too tough or too wimpy, neither of which I like. I more often am interested in the male characters, who are generally cooler and doing more interesting things. I do run up against female characters that I like sometimes, and that’s often a sign that the author is a good one.

But there have only been a handful that have stood out as my favorites, the ones who at some level I feel like are ME, and at another level I feel like are what I want to be, what I want to become, what I want to take and emulate because they are noble and good and show some part of humanity that I want to BE. They make me want to be a better person, while I also feel like I am them.

And those are basically:

  • Princess Irene from The Princess and the Goblin
  • Princess Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain
  • Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings
  • Luthien Tinuviel from The Silmarillion
  • Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug from the Bright Empires series.

(I think on some level, I was Lucy from Narnia when I was younger, and many of Diana Wynne Jones’ characters have been instant connections for me, like Sophie and others, as well, though I haven’t thought as much about those for this post; likely because they’re more recent for me but not as mind-blowing as Mina was — who was the character that got me started thinking about all of this — so I haven’t thought them out as much.)

(Also, I find this a good time to mention the dedication in The High King by Lloyd Alexander, which I never understood until now: “For the boys who might have been Taran and the girls who will always be Eilonwy.“)

Of Heroism/Nobility versus Mediocrity/”Realism”

And I think it’s important to have favorite characters one can look up to, have as role models, but still feel you are like them. There’s a sort of connection there that is marvelous. Heroes tend to be more favorites of mine than heroines, and I can learn things from them as well, of course, and they’re simply awesome sometimes, so there’s that; but I can’t exactly BE them, quite the way I can be a heroine like Eilonwy or Mina.

I think these heroines stand out to me partly because it is so rare for me to find a timeless one like that. There are many other noble and wonderful heroines I’ve liked over time, don’t get me wrong! Some even other favorites. But these are my FAVORITE favorites, the ones I want to be like. 🙂

And that’s part of why I’m tired of this “make them relatable and ‘realistic’ by giving them flaws and making them fallen and ordinary” trend in modern writing.


I don’t want mediocre Main Characters. I want Epic Heroines.

If your favorite characters are mediocre, you’ll only want to be mediocre, you’ll only believe that’s how far you can go.

If, on the other hand, your favorite characters are noble and epic and extraordinary, then you’ll want to rise above your ordinary and mediocre, fallen and flawed life, and try to emulate them, to BE them; and these fictional characters who aren’t “real” can change your life and make you a better person. All by being fantastic characters. What’s not to love?

Things These Core Books Have In Common

What do all these books and series have in common? They are Fantasy, yes. But they each hold things that truly resonated with me — not just one thing but all the elements and the whole.

I love the stories. I love the worlds. I love the characters — not only the heroes, not only the heroines, but both, as well as the entire cast of characters, really. They have favorite heroes. I want to be the heroines. I want to live in the books.

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

(from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis)

I also “click” with the authors — when I read things that these authors like Alexander, Tolkien, Jones, and Lawhead say (in fiction and nonfiction) I’ve had these wonderful “me too!” moments, those times when, like in the C.S. Lewis quote above, you form a friendship from a shared thought or feeling. We share the same truth. I feel like they’re kindred souls, and suspect that’s one of the reasons I love their fiction so much. (It’s interesting: when I love an author’s fiction work enough to try out their nonfiction, that’s when I discover my favorite works of nonfiction, essays, etc. It’s happened so many times with these and a couple other authors.)

And I learned things from these favorite, core books. Yes, shocking as it may sound to some, these fiction books, these works of *gasp* fantasy, have taught me so many things that, as I think about it, my mind boggles and I can’t even begin to explain all the things I’ve learned from these wonderful works of literature and art. (I did do a post about a few of those things, awhile back, but that was only scratching the surface.)

Because fantasy is true. These things may not have happened in our world, but they have Truth, and I learn things far better when they’re woven into a tale (a parable, perhaps?) than I can reading some boring textbook. I can see the things unfolding and understand things about the characters and wonder about things and want to learn about them. Fantasy may not always teach “facts” like how big the sun is or how many threes make a dozen (though they might teach that too), but they teach me real things about life and about love and about how people work and how to surmount obstacles and to try to be a better person like my heroes (and heroines).

I don’t know if these fantasy authors try to put these things in their works (I know I certainly don’t, but sometimes things creep in somehow), or if they simply are trying to tell a good story and their worldviews are shining through the particular leaf of the Tree of Tales that they are telling and coming out as good wholesome lessons from the Writer of all Lives, but regardless, I’ve found so much Truth in these and other works of fantasy.

And all of that as a bonus to reading simply amazing fantastical stories about fabulous characters in imaginative worlds. What is not to love? Who would have thought it, but Fantasy is fantastic in all meanings of that word, and that is why I love it as I do.

Plus, I mean, Fantasy has dragons. And there’s the icing on the cake.

*passes around the last of the LOTR birthday celebration cake and breaks out Gandalf’s fireworks to celebrate Middle-earth and Fantasy with a literal bang*

(P.S.: If you have a Fantasy/LOTR themed post this week, feel free to share the link in the linky over on Jenelle’s post!)


Of Writing and …Stags? #TheWritersTag

I saw this tag on Mirriam Neal’s blog and decided to steal it.

Ahem. Borrow.

*scours entire internet to find gif of Captain Jack Sparrow saying “Borrowed. Borrowed without permission” and discovers that one does not apparently exist and is now sad*

Except there was permission, because Mirri left it open for people to consider themselves tagged. So I am doing so.

What’s with the stag, then, you ask?

Well, for one thing, they’re awesome and we should always have stags. *nods seriously*

What do they have to do with this post? Ohhhh, that’s what you meant…

Well, as I remarked over on Mirri’s blog: I first read “TheWritersTag” as “TheWriterStag” and now have images of an antlered author somewhere in a green wood living incognito as the White Stag and granting wishes to writers who are seeking release from the curse of Writer’s Block.

The Writer Stag is now a thing. We should all go questing for it together.

Aaaanyhoo… I’m doing this tag thing, so enjoy.


1. What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Genres: Let’s just call it Speculative Fiction; for the most part Fantasy. Mostly epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, or fairytale retellings. I occaaasionally dabble in steampunk, sci-fi, etc. All bets are off on my short stories, which are all different and weird. XD

Styles? I have no idea. But I hope they’re kind of funny? I try to adapt the styles for the “feel” of each book.

Topics… yeesh. I don’t put topics in on purpose, I just write the story that wants telling. If it wants to have specific topics, I won’t complain, but it probably wasn’t on purpose.

2. How long have you been writing?

It’s been 10 years since I decided to officially finish a book and be a writer (though I had been writing for a few years before that, even). Basically, it’s been awhile.

I started out with the first few pages of my (now) epic fantasy series (in a pink notebook); and a rather-obvious re-imagining of Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three (with magical chickens instead of a magical pig); and continuing from The Magician’s Nephew, the story of the first king and queen of Narnia (I got about a page of this done, which consisted almost entirely of a long list of what they were planting in their gardens. Yeah.).

Not actually sure which of those were first, second, or third, and I remember some other scribbles as well, but I barely remember a time when I wasn’t writing something.

3. Why do you write?

I’m going to commandeer Mirri’s answer to this one:

“Because I need to. Next question.”

(Because yes. Yes exactly.)

4. When is the best time to write?

Definitely the nighttime, when I’ve finished with the day and it’s dark and quiet and I have no distractions or things I need to do, and will not be interrupted.

Unfortunately, this makes for a very night-owl-ish writer.

I wish I wan’t a night owl because I know I should actually, you know, get up early and be on a good schedule, but night seems to be when my creativity awakes, so a night owl writer I be.

5. Parts of writing you love vs. parts you hate?

Um. It really depends. Sometimes I love the actual writing, other times I… don’t. But that’s usually a lack of writing, and hating having to start?

So, I’d say I love most the actual writing, when it’s flowing well. I also love the feeling of finishing a story. The best thing ever. ❤

I have occasional quarrels with editing, and dislike having to start, usually, because it’s hard, guys. Starting is the absolute worst part. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.

6. How do you overcome writers block?

I will… get back to you on that.

7. Are you working on something at the moment?

Sort of? It depends how recent/active qualifies as “at the moment.” XD

I also occasionally work on The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (because Tare and the Chess Club are always doing something in my head), and The Other Half of Everything (because my absentminded author character Teague loves to banter with his opinionated housekeeper Meridian).

I have a couple of short stories I’ve been writing and/or hoping to write this month for Camp NaNo, although there’s only a week left, so I suspect I won’t get anything else done.

But since I already wrote 11K this month and my goal was 5K, that’s probably all right…

8. Writing goals this year?

These are vague, nebulous and ever-changing, but at the moment:

  • Write a couple of short stories (I have a list…)
  • Finish the first chapter of The Other Half of Everything (I WILL do this someday, I WILL)
  • Write Part 2 of The Secret of Kedran’s Wood a.k.a. all of it that I have plotted at the moment (lofty goals, y’all. o.o)
  • Mayyybe finish The Library in the Stars (Camp NaNo round 2, do I hear you calling meeeee?)
  • Write something for NaNoWriMo. Current candidates to choose from: The Quest of Kedran’s Wood, Once Upon a November, or The Siren and the Skyship, or some rebel mix of several WIPs. No idea which of the four (or something else) it might be. But that’s very far out, so don’t quote me on this.

Likelihood of these things all happening this year?

I’ve been very timidly creeping back into the world of writing after a long year+ of burn-out.

So I have no delusions about getting all these goals done this year.

Oh wait. I do.

How foolish of me. >.>

So there you have #TheWritersTag or #TheWriterStag or whatever.

Feel free to consider yourself tagged if you want to do it!

What do you think? Was this a post about writing? Or about stags?

Or just an excuse to throw lots of Captain Jack Sparrow and Han Solo gifs at you?


If you need me, I’ll be on a quest in search of the Writer Stag to help me with my lofty writerly goals.

Gifs via, Stag images via

Paper Crowns Blogtour: Mirriam Neal Interview


I’m SUPER excited to be part of the Paper Crowns blog-tour (going all month long!) with an interview with Mirriam Neal herself! *cue excited squealing*

I kid you not when I say that when I learned Paper Crowns was published, I spent the next day+ dancing ecstatically around the house making high keening happy noises and randomly shrieking “Paper Crowns is published!!” (You think I’m joking? Ha. Just ask my poor family who had to put up with my fangirling…)

I had the pleasure of beta-reading the story when it was first written, and I remember flailing with happiness whenever I found a new chapter in my inbox. THIS BOOK IS EXCELLENT, PEOPLE.

I recently got the published version (THAT was a happy day, aaahhh!!) and read it again and it was just as good — or, well, BETTER BECAUSE IT’S PUBLISHED! (Aside from some typos. Which I have it on good authority are being fixed, so.) I plan to read it again very soon. Maybe tomorrow… And again soon after that. (What, I’m totally normal, honest.)


(My cat, Callette, was not thrilled about a photo-shoot… BUT CATS. Unfortunately she is not blue, but I love her anyway…)

I AM NOT EXAGGERATING WHEN I SAY THAT THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. It’s just… perfect. Mirriam Neal is a genius writer, and while I’ll read anything she writes, this just takes the cake as the best ever because of its unexpectedly light fantasy faerie-tale feeling. The CHARACTERS are the best of ever (Halcyon! Azrael! Astryn! Ginger! Salazar! Asterope! I love them alllll!) and the humor and bickering and plot and setting are all just perfection.

It has everything: a sarcastic fey blue cat, a fire elemental, a grouchy wysling, a gingery heroine, friends and traitors, villains and lovable heroes, lots and lots of snow, muffins, forests, and a good deal of folded paper. It makes you laugh and wrenches at your heart and makes you fall in love and long to go on an adventure. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

I’m so very excited it’s published now so that I can insist everyone reads it.

And I do, you know. Insist you read it, that is. You will NOT regret it.


Here’s a bit about the book and author and then on to the interview!


Paper Crowns

Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Publisher

Author Bio

tumblr_o4995pxJel1tkzty6o1_500Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

You can connect with Mirriam online here:

Blog | Email

Interview with Mirriam Neal

Deborah: Could you tell us a little about your usual writing process (planning/pantsing), and how the process of writing Paper Crowns was similar or different?

Mirriam: Paper Crowns is different because it was spur-of-the-moment. I more or less woke up one day and thought, ‘I want to write this story,’ and so I did. Usually there’s a lot more work involved – I wait until I have at least half the cast created, until I have a vague idea of the ending, until I know some major plot points. Usually I have a framework, but with Paper Crowns I knew the ‘feeling’ of the book I wanted to write, and that was enough. I wish this happened more often, honestly.


Which character from the Paper books would you say you are the most like?

I actually had to ask my friend Lauren about this. We settled on Rooney (the heroine of Paper Hearts) almost simultaneously. I’d say Rooney is more extraverted than I am, but we share many of the same characteristics.

Part of Paper Crowns takes place in our world . . . Is it any particular place—America, England… (double-decker bus?)—or did you deliberately leave the setting open to the imagination?

I deliberately left the setting open – when I began it, I wasn’t even sure it was set in our world! But I quickly realized it was, and decided it was more fun to leave it open for interpretation. Personally, I see it set in England, but that’s just me.

On that note: Accents. I hear Hal’s accent as British and Asterope’s as some sort of Irish. Is this more-or-less accurate (I hope)?

You’re correct on Asterope’s accent (points to you!) but during the rewrite, I realized Hal’s accent wasn’t so much London as a bit of Korean (Busan-dialect, specifically) with a splash of Scottish.

(I’ll probably still hear Hal as British, but oh well. XD) Will we get to learn which wysling was involved in the intriguing Hal/Astryn/kingfisher backstory and/or might we ever get this tale in book (or even short story) form? Because that would frankly be awesome. 😀

I’ve lowkey considered writing a novella dedicated to this particular slice of backstory, because it would be fantastic fun and I’m as curious about it as anyone!

(Yay!) Is Asterope still going to get his own book?

His book is waiting in the wings; very much alive, but not in the immediate future. Ras Algethi Chow gets his own novel first.

Do the verily muffins have an inspiration?

I was hungry and I wanted muffins. Hunger is good inspiration when writing food.

The main character of Paper Crowns does a lot of origami. Is that an art form you’ve dipped into yourself?

It’s inspired by two things. One: Yes, I’ve always loved origami, although I’ve never been ‘into it.’ I’ve never devoted the time – except for paper airplanes, and paper boxes. I’ve folded those my whole life, and the stories surrounding paper cranes have always fascinated me. Two: Owl City’s ‘Sky Sailing’ album featured a music video starring a paper airplane. That album heavily inspired the novel.

Your answers to a couple of questions from other interviews got me wondering about your outlook on wanting readers to take away a certain message (or not) from many of your books. I’m curious: Do you see there being a difference between tackling a “big question” in a book versus trying to preach a “message” to readers?

It’s a tricky line on which to balance, I’ll give it that, and I used to be ‘preachy’ (although even then, I was trying not to.) I think honesty and a genuine heart are very important when you really want to make your readers think and question. Readers are intelligent. They’ll know if you’re an arrogant know-it-all, forcing an opinion down their throat. Rather than forcing my opinion, I present it. I think that’s the difference.

Your books seem to have simultaneously a freshness of originality and a touch of richness of story that’s already out there. How do you view this in your own writing and what advice do you have for writers about coming up with “new” things but using echoes of other tales and, without “copying,” putting a new spin on them to deepen the story tapestry?

I’ve never been asked this question, honestly, and it’s fascinating. (Also, thank you for the compliment!) I think stories ‘echo’, as you so wonderfully put it, when there’s truth and honesty to them. People will tell you that every story has already been written. If you break a story down into a basic three-step formula, then sure, every story has been written; but I disagree with the statement. A story is so much more than a formula. Each story is different due to hundreds of tiny factors, circumstances, and personal influences from the author. I also find that you can create a world that’s been created a million times before, but if you fill that world with a cast of funky, original, diverse characters, nobody will care about the world. (At least, they won’t care about the world nearly as much as its inhabitants.) Also, I think it’s horrifyingly easy to be caught up in trying too hard. When you try too hard to be original, it shows more care about what people think than the story itself. Novels know what the author cares about, and novels know also know what the author should care about. It’s why readers, I think, can tell the difference between a real novel and a hollow one.


Your vivid characters are a classic feature of your work, and always one of my favorite things. Any tips for writers about writing characters, especially involving interactions, snark, and humorous banter? (Of which you are the queen.) Share your secrets if you have any…

Have a sense of humor. I know that’s not very helpful, but it’s true – you can’t write humor without a sense of it in the first place. I don’t know how to teach a sense of humor, but you can definitely learn it. What makes you laugh? Dissect that. Also, there are many kinds of humor. Subtle, circumstantial, slapstick, sarcastic, trickster. As for the non-humorous part of the question, I think it’s a tendency authors have to think they must know their character perfectly before they start writing them. I used to fill out three or four bio sheets for every character before I wrote them, but in doing so, I essentially murdered their personality before it hit the page. You want them to be alive and breathing when they first open their eyes. You DON’T want them reduced to a set of answered questions. That’s a surefire way to kill them before they’re ever really alive.

Could you tell us a little about what’s next on your writing plate? (When the next Paper book might be out, what other book(s) we might see from you next…?)

Revising Paper Hearts (the sequel to Paper Crowns) is very high on my list, as is editing Dark is the Night (a redemptive vampire novel) and finishing The Dying of the Light (a futuristic samurai retelling of Robin Hood).

Thanks very much for stopping by my blog and putting up with my pestering! 🙂 It’s an honor to have you. ❤

Thank you so much for having me! I had a fantastic time. You have mad interview skills.


So what do you think, blog readers of mine? Was this fun or what? (Answer: yes.) Are you going to read Paper Crowns? (The correct answer is OF COURSE. Ahem.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH IT’S AWESOME. ❤ Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour and enter the GIVEAWAY for a signed copy of Paper Crowns that Mirriam is holding on her blog! 🙂

(…And now I need to go reread Paper Crowns again.)

Best Blogging Buddies Award

Tag Catch-Up Post #6

Right before last NaNo arrived with all its madness, I was tagged by the awesome Sarah of Light and Shadows for the Best Blogging Buddies Award! Thank you so much, Sarah!! ^_^ (Everyone. Go read her blog. Now. It is delightful and fantasy-esque and one of my favorites of ever! <3)

Due to the nature of the time I received the B-B-B Award, I didn’t get to doing it then… but that’s what this week of posting is for, right? 😉 (One left for tomorrow!)

And I’m afraid I’m going to be very lazy and pay no attention to the rules and only answer the questions… Because I am out of it and my brain literally cannot come up with fifteen questions right now, and I have a dilemma because what with all these tags all week I’m running out of people to tag! (And I have so many fabulous blogging buddies and don’t want to leave anyone out!! o.o)

However, I’m going to answer the questions because they are awesome ones (Thanks, Sarah!) and if anyone wants to steal this award or questions or whatever, steal away!

Also due to said out-of-it-ness, my brain is too tired to go look for pictures for this post so… you’ll have to use your imagination. 😉 (I know, I know, it’s cruel of me, especially on a Saturday, to put you to all that work…! Ahem.)

1. What’s your favorite pizza topping combination?

Cheese and hamburger. I have kind of boring taste…

2. If you could go back and change one thing in history, what would you change?

Meh. Everything? XD Probably something in Celtic history or perhaps the outcome of the Civil War.

3. What’s the last book that made you cry/scream/however you express book-related emotional anguish?

That’s kind of hard because there have been a few books lately I’ve been super annoyed at, but I wouldn’t say they were actual emotional anguish! o.o Maybe Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams, which I LOVED; there was also a certain character who I got so attached to but not and… gaahh, it was very emotional-anguish-y! Of the best kind, of course! 😉 So yeah, probably that (unless unpublished books count, in which case… *points accusingly at Mirriam Neal* Creating book-related emotional anguish is basically her job description…).

4. Is there a popular (but more or less appropriate) song that you avoid like the plague? If so, what is it?

I can’t think of one in particular because I don’t listen to a lot of music that I don’t pick… In general though, if it’s rap or jazz, I’ll avoid it plague-ishly…

5. Do you want to learn another language? If so, which language(s)?

I would love to learn Gaelic/Irish/Welsh/Elvish… but I lack the fortitude and patience to do so. 😛 It would be awesome, though!

6. If you were given the opportunity to change places with a book character so you could try to do a better job than they did, would you? If so, which character?

No. I would definitely not have the nerve… There are plenty that I feel were idiots and that I know better then them, but… I just wouldn’t dare. 😛

7. Also, if you said yes in question 6, do you think you’d succeed? (Be honest!) How would your presence change the story?

I didn’t say yes, but even if I did, I don’t think I’d succeed. My presence in any story would probably only change it in a negative (i.e., this character is too terrified to do ANYTHING and is sitting in a closet reading!) way. XD

8. If you lived in a fantasy/sci-fi world, what job would you want?

Librarian, please! I’d live among the dusty shelves full of tomes and I’d help people find the ones they wanted and all of the awesome planning scenes would happen with me lurking (safely) in the background and in between I’d just read and read.

9. Cookies, kudos, awesomeness points, or something else?

Cookies! Always cookies. Or… Maybe cake. Because cake is good. *nod nod* *hands out cake to everyone*

10. Are you ready for fall?

Since I was tagged with this before NaNo, I’m guessing that’s why this question was here, but honestly YES. We haven’t actually had too much hot weather yet, but the summer is not my favorite time of year, temperature-wise. So even though summer’s kind of only barely here, YES I’m ready for fall! (Except that with fall comes NaNo and I’m SO not ready for that… O_O)

11. If you were going to dress up as a character from a book/movie/TV show/etc. (like for a costume party or convention), who would you dress up as?

Probably Eowyn. I’d wear a gorgeous but simple dress with flowing sleeves, and carry a sword around. It would be awesome.

12. Do you like romance in stories? Why or why not?

Yes, I do! Not as the main focus, usually, but I do like an occasional sweet romance. I think it adds a lot to the story and can be fun to watch the characters being clueless in love, heehee. …Okay, so I’m kind of a hopeless romantic at times. If I like the girl and love the guy involved, I just enjoy reading about them.

13. What are you really excited for right now?

Independence Day! I’m looking forward to spending the Fourth eating watermelon and ice cream sandwiches and watching fireworks.

14. What book/movie/TV villain would you most want to show up on your doorstep? (Or, to phrase it another way, which would you be least opposed to showing up on your doorstep?)

It depends if I had adequate protection. XD But as long as I knew they wouldn’t hurt me or anyone near me or burn my house down… Maybe Guy of Gisborne or Bucky or… someone like that.

15. If you were going to give yourself a personal title thing (e.g. the Taleweaver, the Pathfinder, etc.), what would it be?

Um… the… Penner of… Tales? I really have no idea. I’m not really good at naming myself. XD

16. What are you going to do now?

Go finish my tea and read, hopefully… There’s some books I’m supposed to review, and you can’t review something you haven’t finished, am I right?? So I will press onward with heroic valor, read the books, and prevail at the last! *fanfare of trumpets*

Happy Saturday, y’all!

Beautiful People – Author Edition

Today I’m linking up with Sky @Further Up and Further In, and Cait @ Paper Fury (formerly Notebook Sisters) to participate in their lovely interview thingy, Beautiful People!

I did a post for Beautiful Books back in November, but I’ve yet to do an actual Beautiful People post for interviewing characters.

…And it would seem I still won’t have done that, since this month is an Author Edition!

Which means it’s interviewing me instead of my characters.

I know. What a disappointment.

Still… on with the show, shall we?

Beautiful People: Author Edition

1. How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a ‘writer’?

I’ve been writing stories for 12-ish years (yes, I was young!) but I officially decided to be a writer nearly 8 years ago. I did a post about that beginning — I decided I was going to finish my first book and go on to be a writer… And here I am.

2. How/why did you start writing?

I’ve always been, really. Nearly as long as I can remember. There was no specific how/why. It’s a thing that happened once I could use a pencil. And then a computer. It’s just… me. I assume it’s because I read so much (and started reading so early) and was homeschooled and always had stories going on in my head.

3. What’s your favorite part of writing?

I DON’T EVEN KNOW. Maybe when I’m deep in the midst of writing a first draft and am totally in the zone and don’t notice anything else (rare). Or, more likely, the “discovery” moments of my plotting, when I find out how something fits together or suddenly “see” something new for the story. I don’t understand writers who talk about “creating” or “making up” their stories. I discover mine. It’s like they’re already there, on the Tree of Tales (as Tolkien would say), and I just happen to catch glimpses of the leaves and then write down the story that was already there. (Naturally, there’s SOME element of creativity and tweaking and putting everything together. But it feels like discovering, not making up.)

4. What’s your biggest writing struggle?

Finishing things. It’s so hard to actually FINISH a book. (Well, that and sitting down to write, sometimes…) I have a million ideas, and I’ve started copious stories, and gotten fairly far into several of those, but… they just don’t finish. I usually get distracted by another shiny idea, or just… lose focus.

5. Do you write best at night or day?

At night. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a night owl… despite my attempts to get on a better schedule. My writerly brain just seems to get working more at night, and some of my best scenes are brainstormed and/or written at 2 a.m.

6. What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!)

I posted a picture of my writing area/desk once in this post… (It still looks like that, just not as tidy…) But actually, although I do work at my desk a lot, I might do my actual writing more often while sitting in my big comfy chair where I read.


a cozy place to read or type

7. How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft?

There’s not really a typically… 18 months. 28 days. Just shy of a year. Those are the stats so far. (Yes, the 28 days was a NaNo; the 18 months was my first; the year-long, I was working on other stuff too.) Of course, that’s novels. I tend to write short stories in a day. *innocent grin*

8. How many projects do you work on at once?

Haaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaha. *falls on floor laughing* …Ahem. Well. I have so many stories flying around in my brain… I guess I’m usually actively working on at least a couple, but I can’t be too active on more than four-ish… Usually there’s one or two that are most prominently being written, but there’s always plotting and snippets from several others going on.

9. Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between?

HAPPY. HAPPY. Do not give me tragedy; and only bittersweet under verrry special cases, people. I like my happily ever afters! And hope. And good things like that. Reading sad endings often makes me want to throw things. Like the book. At the author. Ahem.

10. List a few authors who’ve influenced your writing journey.

Lloyd Alexander–probably the most. George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis. (They were the three who started me writing fantasy.) J.R.R. Tolkien, naturally. And Eleanor Cameron. And probably Mirriam Neal.

11. Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not?

Um …yessss? Sometimes. My sister always gets to see my latest writing, because she loves my stories and/or because I languish away without feedback. But I’m often nervous about sharing my writing with people besides her. WHAT WILL THESE PEOPLE DO WITH THE WORDS OF MY SOUL? *cowers behind a tapestry* But, on the other hand, I do sort of love it a ton when people read my things. Because when they like them and actually remember to reply/send feedback, there’s no feeling like it in the world. ^_^

12. What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream?

Getting all my story ideas written the way I want them to be. (Yeah. Probably not going to happen…) Being published in some dream-mix of all the benefits of Traditional-, Self- and Small Press-publishing would not go amiss either. And I naturally wouldn’t object to becoming fabulously rich. (No fame, though, please. I’m an introvert.)

But to be honest, I’ll settle for actually finishing the stories I’m writing right now, and getting to some of my special projects, sometime in the next few years, WITHOUT going crazy.

13. If you didn’t write, what would you want to do?

My goodness. What a question. WHAT ELSE IS THERE? Um. Probably draw beautifully. Or be verrrrry musically talented! …Or both. (I’d still like to!)

14. Do you have a book you’d like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it yet?

Yes. Six specific ones, in fact.


  • The climax of my epic fantasy series.
  • A novella that I can’t even describe in words, so I don’t have the skill to convey yet.
  • My time-travel story because it needs a lot of research and is deepish.
  • Both my sci-fi novels–they need experience, and again, deep things.
  • And another book that has a lot of deep/dark stuff going that I’m not ready for.

Basically the ones with deep themes or difficult content. These are the stories that I not only have to be a better writer for, but need to be older. I don’t want to attempt them till I’m ready because I don’t want to mess them up. (And goodness knows I have enough to keep me writing for years in the meantime.)

For all you young authors who tackle big stuff in your books right away — good for you. But I’m not going to try doing certain things till I know it’s the right time for me to try.

15. Which story has your heart and won’t let go?

KW2coverPWell, all of them in their way, naturally.

But lately, my contemporary-fantasy Kedran’s Wood series — that was recent, sudden, and I was not expecting it to get my heart like that!

But it used to be (and is still in the background, waiting…) my epic fantasy series, the Starrellian Saga. They were my original stories, and they’ll always be nearest and dearest my heart in their way. Because while the characters of Kedran’s Wood may have become some of my very best friends… Starrellia is my HOME. My original, old home that I discovered first in my writing. I’m letting that series simmer quietly on the back burner while I finish some other things. But I look forward to the time when I can return to it, and give it my full attention again . . .

. . . and return home.