Nightmares aren’t supposed to come true.
The Vale of Astyria is under siege — it just doesn’t know it yet. And the one person who does, is safely trapped in a cage of her own making. Elle, ex-Grace and exile, is out of reach of the dangerous Fire Mage, Jago, and his merry band of murderers. But safety isn’t everything, and as Jago worms his way deeper into the heart of power in the Vale, Elle will need to sacrifice her own safety for that of her people. With the Mistwall closed, Jago is cut off from his reinforcements, but there’s nothing more dangerous than a cornered fox. Luckily, Elle has a secret weapon…
This is the blurb for Hailey Griffith’s Starspell (the follow-up to her debut novel, Starheart), which came out this month. She agreed to answer some questions for the blog!
Can you remember the moment you realised you wanted to be an author?
I’d always loved books, so much so that I often pretended to be sick just so that my mom would let me stay home and read. I think the idea of being an author was always there, but in a sort of abstract way, because I didn’t bealieve that “normal” people could be authors. For most of my childhood I thought all authors were American, and that only Americans could be authors. Wild.
My Grade 10 English class was when everything changed. I had an amazing English teacher (a theme for a lot of writers, I’m sure!) and I remember writing a short piece of fiction for her class about a girl who went to party, and headed to the basement and found…
The piece ended just before the discovery (it was really short!) but I remember the reaction of my classmates. They really wanted to find out what happened next and that was the moment that I realised being an author wasn’t just a nebulous dream, but something that I could actually do. Even though I’m not American.
What are some of the themes you love exploring in your writing?
I’m drawn toward writing about women. Whenever I get an idea, it usually comes packaged with a protagonist — and it’s always a woman!
I’m really fascinated by friendships and family, perhaps because I’ve had a bit of a rocky history with both. I am so interested by the ways we connect to people, and by the stories we tell each other and ourselves. I love a good romance, but for me there is always so much depth and power in friendships and close family, that I can’t seem to resist building these other relationships these out.
Self-discovery, and the process of creating both your own path in the world, as well finding out who you and who you want to be are some others, which is also probably why I write YA.
Oh, and I have read so many manly, violent style fantasies that I purposefully try to make my books as girly as possible, because I think different perspectives and different lenses, even within fantasy or SciFi worlds are really, really important
(And glitter is the best thing, except for the environment, I know, but I can’t help but love everything glitter. I might be a magpie.)
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Shitty First Drafts.
Anne Lamott changed my writing life, and I’ve read and re-read Bird by Bird so many times that I can practically quote it. Her down-to-earth advice and humour is so comforting, and it gave me the permission to just be bad.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I think my writing ritual is trying to have a writing ritual!
In the rare times I get it right, my writing ritual looks a little like this:
1. Make coffee
2. Turn off the WiFi
3. Sob miserably about being up at 6am
4. Open up Scrivener and write for 2 hours
5. Look at the clock and discover it’s only actually been about 5 minutes
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until I hit the flow state
7. Flow state is interrupted by the cat demanding breakfast
Do you have a Pinterest board, playlist or faceclaims (celeb casting) for this novel/series?
I have a Pinterest! The board is entitled “The Dance”, because my magic system for this series was originally based on dancing. It turned out I wasn’t yet a good enough writer to pull this off, but I’m still hoping to do a dance-based magic system in the future. You can see the board here.
What is your favourite part of being an author?
Also, that part when you’re writing a scene, and the words come more quickly than you can type and it almost feels like you’re there with your characters, hearing the dialogue, seeing what seeing, and feeling what they’re feeling.
Where do you find your inspiration?
But mostly from reading, or watching movies. Lately I’ve started following more artists on Instagram, and a couple of gorgeous art pieces have sparked that same“Oooh” and “What if”. Before I know it I’ve got a whole world plotted out, and I’ll add some kind of title to my to-be-written list
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Laini Taylor, SJM, Leigh Bardugo, Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson and Juliet Marillier. And I adore Naomi Novik’s fairytales.
What’s next for you?
I’m taking a small break from The Vale of Stars, because I’ve been writing in that world for about seven years. I have some exciting plans for book 3 and 4, but I need to splash around in a new book for a while. So I’m trying my hand at a paranormal/fantasy book which focuses on the complicated, broken-down friendship of two witches, set against the backdrop of an epic vampire/werewolf conflict. It’s an idea that was actually inspired by story cubes!
Please provide your favourite extract from your new release
One of my favourite scenes is actually the opening scene. There’s quite a lot of banter in this book, and we get to see this right from the beginning.
“It’s a good butt,” mused Jesna.
Elle’s best friend stabbed her shovel into the ground, leaned casually on the handle, and flicked her long blonde braid over her shoulder. Elle followed her gaze across the dappled clearing to where Kaiserian was grooming his enormous midnight horse.
He’d finished brushing it and was now making his way around the creature, lifting each wicked hoof and peering intently at it.
Elle’s cheeks flamed as she noticed what Jesna had noticed, that the foreign lord wore rather tight pants. And that they fitted him very well.
She bit the inside of her cheek, trying to hide her smile, and hit Jesna’s shovel with her own. It only made her friend cackle louder.
Kaiserian turned to look at them, and Jesna immediately stopped laughing to scowl at him until he went back to the hooves.
“I mean, he’s a power-mad, fire-breathing foreigner who’s invaded our home, but he has a good butt.”
“Jesna!” hissed Elle.
“You didn’t notice?”
Elle rolled her eyes, but her cheeks were still burning. It had been so long since she’d noticed any man. Shaking her hair back, she said, “Of course I noticed. He’s been living in my hearthome for a week.”
Jesna waggled her eyebrows at her, and she giggled.
“Stop! And he’s not power-mad. At least, he doesn’t seem to be.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. You wanted to talk about how you’re stuck inside a magical wall of roses while an evil fire wizard tries to take over your city?”
“I definitely do not want to talk about that.”