Author Spotlight: Breeana Shields talks The Bone Charmer
Breeana Shields is on today's blog! Breeana is an author of fantasy novels for teens including The Bone Charmer, Poison’s Kiss, and Poison’s Cage. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in English, and when she’s not writing, Breeana loves reading, traveling, and playing board games with her extremely competitive family. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, her three children, and two adorable, but spoiled dogs.
Breeana's latest YA novel, The Bone Charmer, is available today from Page Street Publishing. Check out the synopsis below!
"An engaging exploration of fate versus free will. High-fantasy fans will delight at the unique magic and intricate plot that demands close attention and promises an equally suspenseful sequel." ― Booklist
On the day of Saskia’s kenning―a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds―her worst fear comes true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, a seer, like her mother.
Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose the one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones, with the devastating result of splitting Saskia’s future.
Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously: one where she’s forced to confront her magic, and one where she tries to run from it. But when both paths become entangled in the plot of a rogue Charmer, Saskia learns that no future is safe, and some choices have unimaginable consequences. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.
And now, here's my chat with Breeana!
Hi, Breeana! Welcome and congrats on The Bone Charmer. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks so much for having me! The Bone Charmer is a fantasy reminiscent of Sliding Doors, where the reader sees two alternate paths for the main character, Saskia. In her world, bones are the source of all magic. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. But when a powerful bone is accidentally fractured, it brings the devastating result of splitting Saskia’s future as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously—one where she confronts her magic and one where she runs from it. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both. As for what inspired it…that’s an almost impossible question to answer. Bits and pieces of this story have been rattling around my mind for years—so long that I’ve forgotten where each element came from. But eventually, they all combined in a way that finally made sense to me, and I finally felt ready to tell Saskia’s story.
Saskia’s journey is very much one of fate vs. free will. What’s your advice to writers who may be struggling to integrate a theme throughout their novel?
In my experience, the best themes emerge naturally—either from the story’s world itself or from the author’s approach to the world. The idea of one small decision affecting the future in unimaginable ways is a bit of an obsession of mine. It’s something I think about a lot as I’m making choices. You know how sometimes you meet someone by chance that ends up spinning your life off in a totally different direction? Or you move somewhere new and the place changes you? I wonder a lot about how different paths I’ve taken have shaped me, and how I’d be different if I’d lived different places or met different people. On the other hand, I also think about which people/things would have come into my life regardless my decisions. All of that was in my mind as I wrote The Bone Charmer even though I wasn’t going for a particular theme at the time. So, I think the best themes—at least for me— come from a place of pondering ideas deeply rather than intentionally trying to force a theme onto a story. My best advice, especially while writing a first draft, is to tell a good story in the most compelling way possible. I think you’ll find that certain ideas and themes naturally emerge, and then they can be massaged during edits for greater impact.
How did you approach your magic system for The Bone Charmer ?
Because the magic system is based on bones, I really tried to consider what affect that would have on the society as a whole. What would they value? What things would be good or bad luck? How would the fact that bones are a limited resource influence class structure and how magic was perceived? These questions helped the world and magic system slowly take shape.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Whichever part I’m working on at the time is the hardest! When I’m drafting, I dream of having a completed manuscript that I can edit, but when I’m editing, I long for the unstructured play of drafting. Writing, while often filled with joy, is also a lot of work. I tackle the challenges by committing to show up each day and push through the hard parts.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing The Bone Charmer teach you?
Oh, this is such a great question! I feel like every book makes me a stronger writer, but The Bone Charmer in particular pushed me to more deeply consider world building, and how to build a cohesive magic system. (Though I’m sure I still have a lot to learn about both of these things!)
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I’m reading Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell. It’s a loose retelling of Les Misérables set in space.
Without giving away any spoilers, is there anything you can tell us about Book 2?
My lips are sealed! What I can say, is that if you enjoyed the first book, then you’re getting MORE in book 2. More high stakes, more impossible choices, more tension.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned (so far) in your publishing career?
I’ve learned (and I’m still learning!) to let go of the stress and the worry as much as possible, and just enjoy the writing. I love writing, but everything else in publishing can sometimes make you forget the magic of losing yourself in a story. I’m happiest when I remember why I started this journey and what’s really important.
Many thanks go out to Breeana for taking the time to tell us more about The Bone Charmer! Be to sure to add this unique high fantasy to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
For more information, follow Breeana on Twitter, and visit her author website at breeanashields.com.
And, as always,