Author Spotlight: Laura Sebastian and Ash Princess
Today I get to feature the amazing Laura Sebastian on the blog! Her debut, Ash Princess, released yesterday from Delacorte (Random House) and Booklist calls it "an emotionally complex, breathtakingly suspenseful series starter."
Fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes, should be on the lookout! You definitely don't want to miss the first book in this new YA fantasy trilogy!
And now, here's my chat with Laura!
Hi, Laura! Welcome and congrats on the release of Ash Princess. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks for having me! I’ve always loved reading fantasy and one thing I love about YA fantasy in particular is the abundance of amazing bad ass female characters. I love reading about them…but I always knew that if I were thrust into their worlds, I wouldn’t survive the prologue. So I wanted to write about a girl who isn’t strong in the traditional way, someone for whom bravery doesn’t come easily, someone who doesn’t know how to wield a sword or throw a punch or fire a bow and arrow. I wanted to write about a girl who shouldn’t survive the prologue, but does and keeps surviving using her cunning and wits.
Ash Princess has been called tense and imaginative, we well as a searing page-turner. For writers, what are your tips for keeping tension first and foremost in a novel?
Every scene should propel the story forward. If it doesn’t, I cut it. This was a tough lesson for me to learn because I have a weakness for meandering conversations with subtle personal growth and relationship shifts, but those aren’t terribly interesting to read. It took a lot of practice, but I figured out how to work those slow-paced scenes I loved into something that also drove the plot.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Ash Princess teach you?
Writing Ash Princess taught me a lot, but most of all it taught me not to shy away from a character’s dark side. I think every character has one, no matter how much of a cinnamon roll they might be, but when you gloss over it you miss out on so many great opportunities to dig deeper into the story. Without spoiling anything, there’s a character in Ash Princess who turns in a way that surprised a lot of readers. It surprised me too! In earlier drafts, that turn never happened and it was a weaker story because of it. It wasn’t until I looked at that character from all facets, including some of the uglier ones I didn’t want to explore, that I realized that they weren’t making choices that were true to themselves. Once I accepted that, the whole story changed.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
I’ve realized that I am definitely a ‘grass is always greener’ writer. When I’m just starting out in a draft, I wish I was further in and comfortable. When I’m well into a draft and comfortable with where it’s going, I start wishing I was editing and making it better. When I’m editing, I always yearn for that blank document and the mystery of figuring out how to begin to tell a new story. No matter what I’m doing, I always wish I were doing something else, but it’s just about focusing on the present.
I love that Theodosia’s sharpest weapon is her mind. What is your favorite thing about her as a main character?
Theo has a keen understanding of other people. She’s been an observer for most of her life and so she can read people very well and understands what they want. She also knows how different people see her and how to use that to her advantage. In a single scene, she shifts from one persona to another depending on what will get her what she needs in that moment.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Right now I’m reading Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling which is coming out in the US in September. It’s a historical fantasy about Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots and the witch who finds herself caught up in the brewing war between them. I’m a huge history nerd and I have a fascination with both of those queens and that time period so I’m loving it.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
So many things, but the most important lesson is don’t be a jerk. It’s such a small industry and people have long memories. I’ve heard from people who have been booksellers or bloggers or librarians or in publishing for years, but they still remember the authors who were kind to them when they were first starting out and they remember the authors who were rude. You never want to be one of the rude ones.
Many thanks go out to Laura for taking the time to tell us more about Ash Princess, as well as the reminder to dig into your character's dark side-----it may just be the thing to open up your story! Be sure to add Laura's page-turner of a fantasy to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore.
And, as always,