Today we celebrate the book release of the slightly creepy and very intriguing mystery-fantasy Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache) illustrated by Rovina Cai. I read an advanced copy last month and the story captivated me. Here’s a one minute video to give you an introduction to this unique tale.
Darcie is quite a creative and accomplished person. She has a PhD in Oceanography, an award winning cosplay Magic Ivy, and will soon be writing a Dani Moonstar One-shot. We’re fortunate to have Darcie on the website today to share about her debut novel and her writing.
Crystal Brunelle: You’ve written comics, short stories, nonfiction and at least one dissertation. What got you to jump into the young adult realm?
Darcie Little Badger: Thanks to my habit of throwing random thoughts on Twitter, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that Elatsoe had to be a YA book. December 30, 2016, I Tweeted, “Uuuuuuhhhhh whyyyyy. Realized that the main character in this book of mine needs to be in high school, so I’m rewriting the whole thing.”
Yep. Elatsoe started as an adult book. But after about 10,000 words, I hit a wall. The story wasn’t working. At a deep, almost instinctual level, I knew that Ellie—her voice, her fight, and her triumph—had to be a young adult. So, er, I guess it’s less that I jumped into the YA realm and more that the YA realm summoned me.
Crystal: As a young adult, what kind of things were you reading and enjoying? Did you see yourself represented in what you found?
Darcie: During Middle and High School, I read almost anything in the fantasy/sci-fi section of the local libraries. Hundreds of books. Gosh, I was a voracious reader. The thing is, people are complex, and human identity contains multiple components. So I’d see parts of myself represented. I’d read about girls. I’d read about eccentric nerds. But in those hundreds of books, I never—seriously never—encountered a Lipan Apache character. Heck, there are very few Native American characters in sci-fi/fantasy. So the answer to the question “did you see yourself represented in what you found” is “only partially.” Which, considering the importance of the missing piece, was discouraging.
Crystal: Has publishing a novel changed your life in any interesting ways?
Darcie: Honestly, this is a difficult question to answer, since it’s been a very painful year for me and my family. We’ve experienced profound loss – it’s still recent and very difficult to talk about. Plus, I’ve been sheltering in place since late February. So everything has changed. And I don’t know what my life has become. Or even what I have become. But I can say that the support Elatsoe has received—the kindness of readers and other writers during this rough debut year—is a ray of light in dark times.
Crystal: I just finished reading your upcoming book and really enjoyed seeing the relationship between Elatsoe and her dog Kirby. Have you had strong connections with any dogs in particular that you may have been holding in your heart or mind as you wrote?
Darcie: Kirby is directly inspired by my first dog, an English springer spaniel. My family adopted him from an animal shelter in Vermont. I still remember meeting Kirby for the first time. His tail wagging, he pranced to the wall of the kennel and stuck his nose between the metal bars, as if asking for a pat. We took him on a “getting to know you” walk and then immediately took him home. The original Kirby was gentle and smart, and I’ll always love him. In fact, my life—past, present, and future—is enriched by all the dogs I’ve loved.
Crystal: Elatsoe encounters quite a few monsters and she knows about many others from family stories. Who or what would you consider monsters in the here and now and are any of them represented in your writing?
Darcie: Without spoiling any Elatsoe secrets, Dr. Allerton, one of the primary antagonists in the book, definitely represents an insidious variety of real-world monster.
Crystal: Not many young adult novels have illustrations. What led to that decision?
Darcie: Haha! This is a good question for my editor, Nick. I believe it was his idea for Rovina Cai to provide an illustration for every chapter heading. So I wrote a script for a visual story within a story, one that connects to the main plot in surprising ways and answers a key mystery of the book (namely, what happened to Ellie’s legendary six-great grandmother?) And from that script, Rovina created beautiful, ghostly illustrations. It was such an honor to collaborate with her.
Crystal: Are you working on anything else for young adults that you’re allowed to talk about yet?
Darcie: I can vaguely discuss my next YA book. It’s a fantasy with elements of science fiction (I’m clearly into genre fusion, considering that Elatsoe is a mystery/fantasy). Specifically, Untitled New Book is an epic two-world adventure involving near-future Earth and a land of spirits and monsters. I’m trying to finish that before the year ends. There are other projects in the work, but they’re secrets (for now muahahaha).
Crystal: How would someone be able to figure out that you are a book nerd?
Darcie: If the piles of books in my room aren’t a dead giveaway, I can always wear one of my many “Book Nerd” t-shirts! Seems like every time I visit my favorite indie bookshop, I pick up a
new t-shirt. And books. So many books. I guess I’m still a voracious reader.
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Darcie Little Badger and her writing, you may visit her website or find her on Twitter. Today, August 25th, there is also an online conversation between Darcie and Traci Sorell hosted by McNally Jackson in New York City via Zoom at 6pm EST.