Interview with S. Jae-Jones

The tail end of winter is just about as perfect as any time to welcome the new YA fantasy Wintersong, available now! Today, we welcome author S. Jae-Jones  (@sjaejones) to Rich in Color to talk about her debut book and more. Check out the interview below, and enter her giveaway for a copy of Wintersong!

The moment I read Wintersong’s synopsis, I was all about it: Sisters being there for each other, everything at stake, and otherworldy romance. What made you decide to write this specific story?  
We like to mythologize origin stories—we like to think that there’s a flash of inspiration, or an entire story that comes to us in a dream. The honest truth is, Wintersong is an amalgamation of things that interest me: music, Mozart, Germanic fairy tales, the Erl-king myth, underworld stories, the movie Labyrinth, the poetry of Christina Rossetti, etc. At the same time, in many ways, the book came to me fully formed: Liesl just…showed up with two siblings, a mother, father, and irascible grandmother in tow. Writing the first draft of Wintersong was almost a journey of discovery—I was racing to finish in order to figure out what happens to Liesl, pulling all my influences in along the way.

Do you see anything of yourself in the heroine of Wintersong, Liesl, or any of the other characters? What were your main influences for the characters and story?
I’ve disclosed in my newsletter that there is a little bit of me in every character I write, but what I gave to Liesl were two things: my creative process, and my bipolar disorder. I think personality-wise, I’m the most like Käthe, Liesl’s sister. Like her, I’m shallow, frivolous, and vain, but also loyal. The character I love best is Thistle, a prickly goblin girl, who indulges in all the petty impulses I cannot.

According to your blog, Wintersong was your Nanowrimo project. Did you find it easy or hard to write Wintersong? Do you still do Nanowrimo?
I found it easy to write Wintersong, so easy that I find it incredibly suspicious. While I can write a decent number of words per day, I’m not a particularly fast writer, and the speed at which I wrote a first draft of Wintersong still astounds me. I wrote the first draft (100,000 words) in 59 days. Yet despite this, Wintersong was also hard to write in the same way all my other books are hard to write: I’m a pantser, which means I’m unable to see the big picture until I finish a draft. And because I’m a pantser, I’m never sure if I’m going to be able to finish a draft at all because I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. I still do NaNoWriMo, but I am embarrassed to admit that the year I “won” for Wintersong remains the only year I’ve ever won.

If you had to name a theme song for Wintersong, what would it be?
Oh man, I have so many songs on several different playlists, but I suppose Coming Down by Halsey. It’s a little on the nose, perhaps, but appropriate.

Are you working on any new projects (new books, poetry, short stories)?
I am currently working on the sequel to Wintersong, which will be out in 2018. I am always writing something, but whether or not they’ll see the light of day remains to be seen.

Exciting! Finally, read any good books lately? And are there any upcoming new books that you’re excited about?
I read a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang over the holidays, which were amazing. His story “The Story of Your Life” was made into the film Arrival (which I also loved), and it’s thoughtful, beautiful, and heartbreaking. I’m not actually much for short stories at all, but I loved, loved, loved them all.

There are so many books I’m looking forward in 2017, it would be impossible to name them all! I’m super excited for Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Lemon and A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, both of which I’ve read and think y’all will love.

Enter the giveaway below for a copy of Wintersong! The giveaway ends February 21st, and is open to USA mailing addresses. See terms and conditions for further details.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

New Releases

Two new debuts this week, both look like interesting sci-fi/fantasy reads which is something we all need for escape right now. Also, check back tomorrow as we interview S. Jae Jones about her new book.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Thomas Dunne

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

 

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Razorbill

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Review: Mirror: The Mountain

mirror-the-mountainTitle: Mirror: The Mountain
Author: Emma Ríos, Hwei Lim (Illustrator)
Genres: Graphic Novel, fantasy, science fiction
Pages: 184
Publisher: Image Comics
Availability: September 20th, 2016

Summary:  A mysterious asteroid hosts a collection of strange creatures – man-animal hybrids, mythological creatures made flesh, guardian spirits, cursed shadows – and the humans who brought them to life. But this strange society exists in an uneasy truce, in the aftermath of uprisings seeking freedom and acceptance, that have only ended in tragedy. As the ambitious, the desperate and the hopeful inhabitants of the asteroid struggle to decide their shared fate, a force greater than either animal or human seems to be silently watching the conflict, waiting for either side to finally answer the question: what is worthy of being human? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I came upon Mirror: The Mountain by happy (very, very happy) accident at the library. The moment I flipped it open, I recognized the art style as that of an artist I follow on Tumblr (lalage) and knew I had to get it. The whole time I was checking out the book, I gushed excitedly about it — I had no idea this artist had a comic book out. Look at how gorgeous it is! And so on.

But seriously, the art is truly beautiful. Each panel is worthy of framing on your wall by itself. The story itself perfectly matches the fluid, painted look of the illustrations. The whole thing is told in flashbacks and moments that all weave together into one narrative. At times, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on, but you get the hang of it eventually.

In Mirror: The Mountain, people live at odds with animal-human hybrids, guardian animals, and more. The story comes together in bits and pieces, illustrating the history of the people on the asteroid, and the rebellions and battles of years gone by — all centering specifically on Ivan, a powerful human mage, and Sena, a dog-human hero who wants to free the animals of the asteroid.

The volume is worth picking up for the art alone, but the sci-fi/fantasy story takes the graphic novel to the next level. It’s an amazing combination of the mythological and the environmental, and I am absolutely looking forward to the next installment. If this sounds like your kind of thing, definitely get it! And if you’re unsure, check out the incredible art of Hwei Lim here.

Recommendation: Get it soon!

Muslim Voices

At the beginning of the year, Sajidah K. Ali started the hashtag #MuslimShelfSpace. This had me searching my personal shelves. It’s interesting how something can open your eyes to a gap in a collection. I have quite a few  books by and/or about Muslim people in my school library, but not many at home. The hashtag was a fabulous way to find out about great titles I can start adding. It was wonderful to see so many people sharing and interacting through the hashtag. And then January got a lot more complicated. This past week has been difficult for many Muslim people between the discriminatory executive order in the U.S. and the horrifying attack at a mosque in Canada. Today, more than ever, we need more books with Muslim content especially those by Muslim authors.

The events of the past week have me even more determined to read and share books written by Muslim authors. There are many titles shared through the hashtag and there were also links to lists and resources:

List of fiction about Muslims by Muslims

Nine Muslim Canadian Writers You Should Read

Here’s What Muslim Women Authors Have To Say About Finding Their Voice

If you know of other helpful resources, please share them.

Interview with Fonda Lee

Everyone, please welcome Fonda Lee to Rich in Color! Fonda’s new sci-fi book, EXO, is out today, and we’re thrilled to be part of her book tour. (You can find all the other stops on the tour–including other interviews, reviews, excerpts, and a guest post–by checking out the tour schedule at the end of the post.) There’s also a U.S. only giveaway for the book, which you can enter through the widget at the end of the interview.

If you love science fiction, you should consider adding EXO to your reading list! Here’s the summary:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksGoodreads

Now on to the interview!


Tell us more about the aliens you created for EXO and your world-building process for a conquered Earth.

The aliens in Exo are called the zhree. I wanted them to be very different from humans in appearance yet enough like humans in character that it was eminently plausible that the two species could work together. So I decided they needed to be land dwelling, highly social creatures with vocal language and dexterous appendages. Everything else was left up to my imagination. The zhree (or “shrooms” as some humans call them) have dome-shaped torsos, six limbs, six eyes, fins, and super strong flexible armor over their bodies.

In creating the world of Exo, I thought a lot about how Earth might have changed in the aftermath of alien arrival and global war. In movies, aliens often arrive over New York or another big city, but why would new explorers set down somewhere already densely infested with natives? I set the alien cities in sparsely populated places: Mongolia, Patagonia, the Australian outback, and here in North America, smack on the prairie on the border of Wyoming and Nebraska. And then I imagined how, over the course of a hundred years, war refugees and those privileged enough to work with the new governors would all flock to those sites and the world would be drastically reshaped by alien presence.

What can you tell us about the main character (Donovan) and his exocel?

Donovan is a young man with a tough job, who genuinely wants to do the right thing—he just isn’t always sure what that is. And navigating the moral dilemmas of the world he lives in just gets harder and harder for him. Donovan’s been raised to have a strong sense of duty and responsibility, but he’s also aware of the fact that he’s part of a privileged class. At a young age, he was Hardened—he went through a dangerous procedure that endowed him with an exocel, an alien biotechnology that gives his body a flexible, invulnerable armor that makes him stronger and much longer-lived. His status as an exo and as the son of a powerful political figure mean that he’s very much invested in the alien-governed world, but he’s also forced to come to grips with the violence, inequity, and problems associated with it.

Donovan has a conflicted identity: the aliens see him as human, but other humans see him as alien. My editor pointed out that his situation is in many ways a metaphor for mixed-race or second generation kids. I had no idea I was doing that, but given my own identity as the child of immigrants, I realized that she was right: my own experience had seeped into my protagonist’s character.

Your bio says that you have black belts in karate and kung fu. There were several great fight scenes in your previous book, Zeroboxer–can we expect intense fight scenes in EXO, too?

I promise Exo is just as action-packed, but in a different way. Zeroboxer is full of hand-to-hand combat, so in writing it, I relied heavily on my own martial arts background and watched an awful lot of UFC. Exo has a much more military sensibility, with firearms and dangerous missions and explosions. I’m neither a soldier nor a firearms expert myself, so I read a lot of military memoir, went to gun demonstrations, and did research. I enjoy all sorts of fight scenes; writing them is always a pleasure for me.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing EXO? What has the most rewarding part been?

The most difficult aspect of writing Exo was setting it up as the first book in a potential series while still delivering a story that was entirely satisfying on its own. My first book, Zeroboxer, was a standalone, so I hadn’t faced this challenge before. At the time, I didn’t know if my publisher would want a sequel to Exo so I needed to lay the foundation and keep that door open without leaving readers hanging at the end. It took quite a bit of revision for me to nail that balance to my and my editor’s satisfaction.

The most rewarding part of writing Exo has been, honestly, confirming that I can do this writing thing as a career. It’s difficult to write and publish a book; it’s more difficult to sit down and do it again. And again. And again. If you can still love writing and be motivated after the debut process, I think that says something. The second book is hard; writing Exo gave me confidence I have lots more books in me.

Both EXO and Zeroboxer are science fiction. What draws you to tell science fiction stories? Are there other genres you’d like to explore soon?

I’ve loved science fiction ever since I was a kid. I can blame my dad—he told me that he used to hold me in his lap as a baby while watching Star Trek original series reruns. Science fiction can be a very fun, entertaining genre full of cool futuristic gadgets and rollicking adventure, but it’s also, I would argue, the absolute best genre for exploring ideas about our world and society. The potential to both thrill readers and make them think is what draws me so strongly to the genre over and over again.

That said, I’m a fantasy writer as well so you’ll see me cross between science fiction and fantasy, YA and adult. I have no desire to write in any other genre; I have too many sci-fi and fantasy ideas already!

Why is diversity in young adult fiction important to you?

It’s more realistic. I know that sounds like a particularly blunt and unsentimental reason, but it’s true. Our society is diverse and growing more so. Fiction reflects truth; fiction should reflect diversity. As a science fiction writer, it’s my job to look at the world as it is and make plausible extrapolations into the future. Imaginary worlds are mirrors into our own. So, to me, it’s especially important to champion diversity in genre fiction because all people need to be able to see themselves as protagonists.

What books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to this year?

I’ve got my eyes on Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien, Want by Cindy Pon, Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh, and Warcross by Marie Lu.

What’s ahead for you? Are you able to share anything you’re currently writing/revising?

I’m hard at work on Exo 2, which will be out in the summer of 2018!

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of EXO, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Zeroboxer was an Andre Norton Award finalist, Jr. Library Guild Selection, ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Oregon Book Award finalist, and Oregon Spirit Book Award winner. Her second novel, Exo, releases from Scholastic in February 2017.

Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.

Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Facebook | Goodreads

Tour Schedule:

Week One:
1/23/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader Interview
1/24/2017- Bibliobibuli YA– Review
1/25/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Excerpt\
1/26/2017- The Forest of Words and Pages– Review
1/27/2017- Novel Novice– Excerpt

Week Two:
1/30/2017- Omg Books and More Books– Review
1/31/2017- Rich in Color– Interview
2/1/2017- Nerdophiles– Review
2/2/2017-Fantasy Book Critic– Guest Post
2/3/2017- Such a Novel Idea– Review

One sci-fi book this week!

We have one science-fiction book on our radar this week–and make sure to come back tomorrow, when we’ll be posting an interview with the author!

exoExo by Fonda Lee
Scholastic

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .