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Author Spotlight: Annie Sullivan talks Tiger Queen

I'm so happy to welcome Annie Sullivan on today's blog! Annie is one of the most upbeat and energetic people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Her debut, A Touch of Gold, released last year (it's amazing---read more on that here!), and when she's not writing, she’s busy teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at the John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, where she has also performed in Editorial and Publicity roles.

TIGER QUEEN, her second novel, is available on September 10th from Blink YA Books. Check out the synopsis below!

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.

And now, here's my chat with Annie!

Hi, Annie! Welcome and congrats on Tiger Queen Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?

Tiger Queen is a retelling of an infamous short story called “The Lady, or the Tiger.” It’s infamous because the original short story has a cliffhanger ending. In the story, a princess’s peasant boyfriend has been thrown into an arena (by the angry king), where the boy has to choose between two doors. Behind one is a tiger that will eat him. Behind the other is a beautiful lady he’ll get to marry. Only, that beautiful lady is the princess’s biggest rival, the one she’d never want her boyfriend to end up with. The princess finds out what waits behind each door, and when her boyfriend looks up at her, she signals he should pick one of the doors. He does. The doors open. And the story ends. The reader never discovers what the princess told him to pick. Did she want him to live? To die quickly? To end up with her enemy? It’s up to the reader to decide. And ever since I read that story in junior high, I have always wanted to give it an ending. And now I’ve given it the ending it always should have had. Only my story has a few new twists.

My version follows a warrior princess named Kateri as she fights suitors in an arena to win her right to rule. Only, when her final opponent is announced and she knows she can’t win, she’s forced to scramble to figure out how she’ll keep her throne. Her choice forces her out into the desert, where she discovers secrets the sands have long tried to hide, and if she’s not careful, she may end up facing suitors in the arena instead of her next opponent.

I find setting to be such an integral part of story. How did Tiger Queen’s desert kingdom influence Kateri’s character development?

The desert plays a huge role in Tiger Queen and in Kateri’s life because it almost feels magical. Not to mention that the people in this society believe the desert picks the kingdom’s rulers. So Kateri has trained her entire life to prove she’s strong enough to be chosen by the desert. But when things in the arena don’t go as planned, Kateri really has to examine her beliefs and what it means to be strong.

(Side note: Even though Tiger Queen is set in a very fictional and fantastical desert, I did work with a sensitivity reader to ensure the desert and the people who live in it did not portray any harmful stereotypes.)

Tiger Queen has some amazing fight scenes! What’s your best tip for crafting them?

I love writing fight scenes, especially when there are hardcore female protagonists involved. I truly let the scene play out like a movie in my head, examining where a fighter can or cannot go in the space they are in and what weapons that have available. My best tip would be to watch fight scenes in movies. How are the actors moving their feet? Where are they looking? How do their arms move? Are they leaping off of things? What weapons do they have? How does that effect how they can move? Really examine what’s going on in the scene and then pick strong verbs to bring that scene to life on your page.

Did music inspire you while writing Tiger Queen? If so, what might we find on the novel’s soundtrack?

I write to music, so music definitely inspires Tiger Queen. There are two songs that stand out for sure:

-Roar by Katy Perry: Just the fact that tigers play a key role in the novel made me listen to this song over and over again. But it also has a message akin to something Kateri needs to hear. You can be stronger. You can survive. You can do this.

-Centuries by Fall Out Boy: This one is so upbeat and could be used for background wither during a training montage or during one of Kateri’s fights in the arena because of its upbeat tempo.

And finally, what’s your go-to piece of advice for writers looking to be traditionally published?

Do not give up. It’s a long road. It’s a hard road. But I truly believe those that get published are the ones who don’t give up. They write three, four, five, six books—however many it takes to find an agent. Also, find a good group of supporters who won’t let you give up. I wanted to quit several times when it felt like I was going nowhere. But I didn’t—and that’s why I got published.

Many thanks go out to Annie for taking the time to tell us more about how TIGER QUEEN came to be, as well as giving us tips on crafting fight scenes, and character. Be to sure to add this lush YA 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 Annie on Twitter, and Instagram, and visit her author website at

And, as always,


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