Today, I’m pleased to be participating in the Buy the Book book tour for SIGN OF THE THRONE by Melissa Eskue Ousley. I was immediately attracted by the blurb and have already purchased a copy for my kindle. I invite you to learn more about this intriguing YA story and its author as I interview Melissa, then be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom!
- Genre: Young Adult
- Publication Date: September 14, 2013
- Published by Castle Garden Publications
Welcome, Melissa. I’m delight to have you here today! Let’s start with a plotter vs. panster question. I think even plotters veer from their outline to a degree during the writing process. When you finish a novel, how closely would you say the end product resembles your original concept — 100%? 50%? Something else entirely?
I’m more of a pantser. I start with a basic concept (often a “what if” question), and I adapt the story as I learn more about my characters. It’s much more important to me to be true to what the story wants than to adhere to a plot. If the ending is different from what I thought it would be, I’m okay with that. I rework things that start to feel contrived. I’m a suspense writer, so I’m delighted by the surprises I uncover in a story. Sometimes characters I initially thought were important get killed off, and minor characters have a greater role than I thought they would have. That’s okay as long as the story works. I can’t give you a percentage, but I can say that Sign of the Throne developed into a book that is vastly different from the initial ideas that inspired the story (and different from how the manuscript looked in the first draft).
I write much the way myself and, like you, love the surprises that often pop up during the process. What would you say attracts you the most to your genre?
I love the young adult genre because there is often heroic optimism—although the characters face perilous situations, they have a zeal for life. It’s like that line in David Bowie’s song, Heroes: “the guns shot above our heads, and we kissed as though nothing could fall.” Even faced with death, the characters press on because at least the person or cause they are fighting for will live on. I suppose some people might see this as a theme that is overused, but I don’t necessarily think a cliché is a bad thing. Look at Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. A “chosen one” faces overwhelming odds to defeat evil and injustice. Sure we’ve seen these stories before, but brilliant writers like J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins work magic in generating something new, and I love getting lost in the worlds they’ve created. I also love fantasy because anything can happen. I read a book to escape reality. I want to be transported.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the “chosen one” trope. It started for me with Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings. That was also the same time I fell in love with the fantasy genre.
My favorite part of starting a new novel is coming up with character names. What is yours and how do you go about it?
This is fun for me as well. I have a baby name book with interesting and unusual names from all over the world that I use sometimes to get ideas for character names. I also use it to check the meanings of names—it’s fun to discover a name with a symbolic meaning that fits a character well. I also double check to make sure the name doesn’t have a meaning that sends a different message than I intend. This is not to say all my characters have names with a hidden meaning, but some of them definitely do. Tynan Tierney, for example, means dark lord.
Which do you find easier to write and why – description or dialogue?
Dialogue. I’ll find myself thinking about the characters, and the conversations just start to flow. I jot down the dialogue and build the story around it. Description takes more focus for me—I have to concentrate, trying to capture what the characters see, hear, smell, feel, and taste.
How did you choose your setting?
I’ve traveled to a number of places—Europe, Puerto Rico, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and throughout the United States—and some of my experiences inspired places in Cai Terenmare. When I was in Puerto Rico, for example, I had the opportunity to kayak through a mangrove forest into a blue lagoon with bioluminescent algae that sparkled when the water rippled. That inspired the second portal in Caislucis. I live in Oregon and I’m surrounded by old growth forests. These were the inspiration for the forests of Cai Terenmare. I used to live near the Arizona Inn in Tucson, so the Newcastle Beach Inn and its surrounding community are partly inspired by my old neighborhood, and by the Spanish Colonial architecture of the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara, California. Near my apartment in Tucson was a large house, hidden by a tall fence and lots of trees. It was very mysterious and off limits, and became the inspiration for the abandoned mansion in the book.
I love how well travelled you are, and how you’ve used those experiences for inspiration in your novel. Please share the first three sentences of your book.
The woman in the hooded cloak fled down the cavernous passage, a small bundle clutched in her arms. The shouts and armored footsteps of the soldiers reverberated with deafening echoes off the stone walls; there was precious little time left. Looking behind her, she could see menacing shadows growing larger by the second, and then the harsh glare of torches and the glint of cold, deadly weapons.
A beginning that definitely drops your reader in the action! Now share one sentence – – yes, only one! – – of dialogue or description you love.
It was going to climb the hood slowly, toying with them before crushing in the windshield and eating them all alive.
Oh, wow. I can’t wait to see what that’s about!
Pets and writers seem to go together like peas in a pod. If you have pets, tell us about them and whether or not they shadow your writing time and space.
I do have a little writing partner. Gryphon is a two-year-old Kelpie. A kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic mythology believed to haunt the lochs and rivers of Scotland and Ireland. Kelpies are also Australian sheep dogs known for their intelligence and herding abilities. They sometimes walk on the backs of sheep. My Kelpie is very good at following commands, eating toilet paper, stealing socks, and herding my ten-year-old twin boys. She would probably walk on their backs if we’d let her. She’s a great beach and hiking dog, and she loves catching balls and Frisbees. She’s very protective of her family, unless it’s dark and it’s time to go out to do her business before bedtime. Then she refuses to go outside without me, and once we’re outside, she stares into the dark forest behind our house like there is something out there. The staring thing is rather disconcerting, because I’m fairly certain she knows something I don’t. I keep waiting for the night I see Sasquatch step out of the shadows.
The staring would rattle me too. Although it sounds like Gryphon, as protective as she is, would take on Sasquatch without any qualms. 🙂 Now for a short lightning round:
Dream vacation gifted to you by a fairy godmother:
Cage diving with Great White sharks.
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite musical group or singer: The Wallflowers. Always.
Casual or dressy: Both—I love pairing a dress with something edgy like a moto jacket or boots.
Mountains or beach: Beach
Um…I like all of your answers except for the first, LOL. You can most definitely keep the cage diving *shudder*
It was great to have you here today, Melissa, and I wish you much success with SIGN OF THE THRONE. I’m looking forward to reading it!
Melissa Eskue Ousley lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States with her family and their Kelpie, Gryphon. When she’s not writing, Melissa can be found hiking, swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, or walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.
Before she became a writer, she had a number of educational jobs, ranging from a summer spent scraping road kill off a molten desert highway, to years spent conducting research with an amazing team of educators at the University of Arizona. Her interests in psychology, culture, and mythology have influenced her writing of The Solas Beir Trilogy.
Dreams do come true…and so do nightmares.
Abby is an ordinary girl haunted by dreams of an ivory castle, blood-thirsty monsters, and a striking stranger. Working as a babysitter for a family of mythology lovers in wealthy Newcastle Beach, California, she struggles to define herself among the elite class while trying to make sense of her strange visions. Upon meeting David, the doppelgänger of the mysterious young man in her dreams, Abby’s life is changed forever.
Encountering the queen of Cai Terenmare, a magical kingdom in a parallel world, Abby learns of an evil lord hell-bent on usurping the throne, the murder of Cai Terenmare’s king, the Solas Beir, and the kidnapping of the Solas Beir’s infant son.
As the kingdom struggles to endure, the queen shows Abby the full extent of her destiny. She must convince her mysterious crush, David, that he is the lost heir. While braving attacks from the dark lord’s sadistic minions, David must realize his true identity and return to Cai Terenmare to claim his throne before time runs out, lest the evil that was temporarily locked away be unleashed, threatening to destroy both the kingdom and all of humanity.
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