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Interview with Brandon Sanderson

13 Nov 2015

In October, my all-time favourite author Brandon Sanderson visited the UK to promote the release of his latest book Shadows Of Self. During that time not only was I lucky enough to hear him talk at GolanczFest2015 and get several books signed, but I was also offered the opportunity to interview him in person at the beautiful Hachette offices in central London. For anyone who hasn't heard of Brandon Sanderson, he is a bestselling and award winning author of fantasy novels such as The Final Empire and The Way Of Kings and was chosen to complete Robert Jordan's The Wheel Of Time series after his untimely passing. Brandon also teaches some creative writing classes and runs the amazing podcast "Writing Excuses".

So one grey Monday morning I headed off down to the banks of the Thames for an experience I would never have dreamed possible. Armed with my trusty phone (previous experience has shown me to never rely on a Tascam for audio recordings) I managed not to fangirl too much whilst being introduced to Brandon before settling down to chat about his books. And by chat I mean that I mainly sat in awe completely enraptured by what he was saying whilst managing to occasionally squeak out some questions.

The below interview is entirely spoiler free as I wanted it to be something that everyone could enjoy regardless of which books they had read previously. So if you want to learn more about Brandon Sanderson's books, why he does what he does and much more then please read on.

***Note - the below text was transcribed from an in person conversation and has been minimally changed from its pure form***


So, in your books, you always make up your own magic systems, your own creatures rather than sticking to more traditional fantasy element. You don’t just stick to dragons or traditional magicians and other things that already exist. So why do you choose to make everything up yourself rather than making it easier and going with what has already been created, and where do you get all the different ideas from?
I love a big fantasy – epic fantasy. I discovered it when I was a teenager and it changed my life, and I just absolutely love the genre.  I’ve read a tonne in the genre. And I have – I’m also an academic – I have a Master’s degree in English – and I’m very interested in the history of the genre and things like this. As a reader, I noticed I was getting a little bit bored. Particularly during the late nineties, with reading the same thing over and over. And it’s this problem that we come to fantasy as a genre because we want to discover something new; it’s about the sense of wonder and exploration, and the first books for a reader often are just very mind-blowing. They open our perspective up; they let us look at something very different from what we’ve seen before. But then if we read that too much more, we start to get – you know, we lose that sense. And certainly there are cool things about what’s familiar as well. We like returning to characters and things like that, but I think that the genre got potentially just stuck in a little bit of a rut. I think that what Grandpa Tolkien did was so revolutionary that we spent two decades as a collective genre kind of responding to Tolkien, and when my generation came along (you see I’m not the only one doing this, it’s kind of a movement of the whole generation I think) we’re responding to that. We’re saying, ok, we’ve explored this; we’ve explored what Orcs are and what dwarves are, and things like this. Instead of taking Tolkien’s world and doing something else in it, let’s step back and say “What did he actually do in creating all of this, and can we replicate that process, rather than just replicating the result?”. And this was a big motivation for me to start writing. I wanted to do something new. I feel like the fantasy genre should be the most incredible and amazing and different genre out there. It’s the genre where we can do anything. Even, to an extent, science fiction is bounded more than fantasy is, and so why not explore some different directions. Science fiction’s been doing this for years – for decades – taking us to very different locales, and I wanted to bring a little bit more of this to fantasy. Certainly there are other people who are doing this – China Mieville is a great example, and Brent Weeks and NK Jemisin. It’s a whole generation of us that are going in obviously different directions, we’re not doing the same thing but we’re all kind of responding and saying “What can we do that’s new?” And this is what excites me; this is what makes me really love the writing process, is going to these new places.
Where do I get my inspirations?  They’re all over the place – people I meet, articles I read. A lot of my inspiration comes from reading a story or watching a film and saying “Wow – they handled this one part of it really poorly. Can I write a story that takes that idea and goes the right direction?” Conversely, you know I watch something like – one of my favourite movies ever is Sneakers – it’s this old heist film with Robert Redford and it’s delightful – and I think “Can I write a story that’s a heist story in a fantasy world?”, taking something I love and mixing it with something else I love.  You see me doing that a lot as well. I kind of like just taking multiple things I love and sticking them in a brew  and shaking them up and seeing what pops out.
You mentioned before a couple of authors that do similar things, such as Brent Weeks, who's books I adore. Who are your favourite authors and what are your favourite stories that do similar things to what you do?
To what I do? You see that’s kinda hard, because a lot of my favourite stories are doing things that I’m not doing, that were just really revolutionary in helping me see fantasy in a new way. My favourite fantasy novel, favourite standalone novel, is probably “Tigana” by Guy Gavriel Kay, just because it’s one of those books I read where the narrative mixing with the magic mixing with the cultures is done in such a perfect way. But approaching what Guy does is not something many people can do, and I wouldn’t even say – I wouldn’t dare to say – I’m doing the same thing.  Certainly some of the things that he does, I’ve said “Wow! I would like to incorporate that in my writing.”  I would say right now the writers closest to me are Brent Weeks and Brian McClellan. They would be the most similar to what I’m doing – but I read very widely, and I mean I’ve read Naomi Novick’s “Uprooted” this summer and it’s fantastic, if you haven’t read that.
I mentioned earlier Nora Jemisin. I’m a big fan of her work – it’s very literary, very different from what I do. She approaches fantasy from a literary viewpoint – very Ursula Le Guin style, playing with perspective and viewpoint and narrative in really fascinating ways. So I have enormous respect for her and a lot of those people. The people who got me into fantasy were Barbara Hambly, Anne McCaffrey and Melanie Rawn. Those were the writers that really – that I read as a youth – that really pulled me in. And then Robert Jordan started writing “The Wheel of Time” about a year after I’d gotten into fantasy, and I just absolutely fell in love with that series. He started off very Tolkienesque, and then as the series continued he took these enormous leaps in other directions. It kind of led my whole generation kind away if that makes sense, off into different waters, so to speak.
In terms of a story starting off as one thing and then merging into something else, you kind of do that with Mistborn. It starts off as almost a heist rebellion series with fantastical elements, and then by the third book it’s something entirely different. Is that something that you do intentionally and want to do with all of your work?
What you’re noticing there is more me writing a story; I like it when my books have a defined ending. One of my pet peeves as a reader is when I get this awesome book, but it only feels like a slice of a story rather than an entire story, so you know my goal in Mistborn was for each book to feel like, packed into it, an entire trilogy’s worth of writing.
I love how each work as their own story, they all have a different feel, a different story, but then share a big overall arc and an epic adventure.
One of the tricks that I used for myself in writing that was, each one would have kind of a different sub-theme and a different magic they explored, and so you know, Mistborn 1’s a heist novel. It’s a fantasy: big heading; little heading: heist novel. Book 2 is fantasy: big heading, but now it’s political intrigue. It’s the suspense; it’s who is the spy among us, and can we make the politics all work?  And the third one is a war epic, again big heading: fantasy.
And this is just a way, I feel, to keep a series fresh. You’ll notice - actually, something who does this very well, are the Marvel films. The Thor films are all fantasies and the Captain America film, the first one, was a war film, and the second one was an espionage film, and they each kind of had their own feel. And they just did a heist in Ant Man. It’s like they understand you can’t just give the same exact feel with every story as it will feel bland, but if you can mix it up and say, ok, this one has a slightly different feel because of this reason, it gets us some more of that blending of the familiar and the strange together. It’s just – part of why we read is that we want something familiar, but we want something strange, and everyone’s kind of threshold of what they want of those two things is different. But for me, you know, I like a healthy balance.
So, one thing that’s quite a common theme in many of your books is quite a lot of them mention religion in some way, shape or form. So Mistborn has a really heavy element and quite a lot of the others as well – War Breaker very predominantly, Legion too – all of them really, to some extent. So why do you choose to tackle that? Something that can so often, for some people, almost be off-putting and can veer some people away. Why do you choose to do that and how do your own personal views reflect your writing?
So, I find that what I’m fascinated by gets into my fiction. That’s just very natural.  I’m not a writer who likes to seek a specific message in my writing – I like that to be a natural outgrowth of what the characters are interested in or conflicted by. But of course, what I am interested in and conflicted by spawns the characters in the first place. So, I am religious – for those who don’t know, I’m Mormon – and so I’m very fascinated by the ideas of religion, and often times, things like – you mention War Breaker – the idea of a God who didn’t believe in his own religion, was so interesting to me.
That’s just my favourite element of the book.
I had to, like, expand on that. What you find me doing is just trying to explore all different aspects of human experience, and throughout the history of humankind, religion has been one of our most important human experiences. And how we interface with the divine – the stories we tell ourselves, and what they mean to us, and things like this, it’s just– it’s part of human nature. And so you see me exploring this, you see me approaching it. And my goal as a writer is always to kind of try to attack things from as many directions as I can. I think the best discussions and stories and conflicts happen when you have multiple characters who are all very legitimately interesting in their own right on different sides of an idea, and so that’s what I try to do.
I think you succeed there, it’s one of my favourite part of your books is that sort of religious aspect, but they don’t push a message. It’s a lot of querying, all of the characters think, they have a lot of internal debate with themselves, which is always really interesting from a readers perspective.
So, one of my personal mandates is stories are about questions, not answers, and the best stories will make you think but won’t tell you how to think, and that’s just part of being human, exploring these questions.
So, in terms of your writing process, how long does it generally take you to come up with the idea, craft all of the world, start drafting, because I imagine it must take a while due to the depth of your stories. Lots of small hints in the first book which turn out all along to explain exactly where the story is going.
You know, there’s no rule of thumb on this. Some stories brew for decades. I can say that now because the first Stormlight book started brewing when I was 15, and I’m, you know I’m almost 40 now, so it has been brewing for decades. Other ones, you get that flash of an idea. Steelheart was like this. I had a flash of an idea and I knew there was a story there and I started working on it immediately. And there’s everything in between as well. I am a planner. I do like it when my plots all interconnect between the books. I can see things through the novels in interesting ways. That’s very important to me, just for my plotting.  But the thing is, books – the core of books is not the world or the plot – the core of the books is the character. Which is this weird sort of balance because, you know, as I said, we come to fantasy in the first place because we want something – it’s the world building that draws us in, and the plot and hooks are often, you know, the things that will be the most memorable– wow! you surprised me– punched me on the side of the face– I wasn’t expecting it. but the characters are what make us keep reading. And a book with a bad world but great characters is still going to be a great book, but a book with bland characters and a great world is going to be a boring book no matter how interesting some of the concepts are. And so it’s this thing where I can plan the world as much as I want, and the plot as much as I want, but once I start writing, the characters, who they develop to be, will often require rebuilding both of these things to match, and letting the character be in charge. Which is more along the lines of– I’m not one of these people that feels like, you know, it’s all mystical. It’s more like, letting my own subconscious drive these characters in certain directions, and allowing myself the flexibility to rebuild around them is– that’s gotta be the most important thing for telling a story, I feel.
So do you find that your original plan for a book might change as you’re writing the characters?
It will, it will. You know, it’s rare that it changes really drastically. Most of the time – and I’m getting practiced at this now – what happens is that little things change here and there. I rebuild certain plot arcs, certain character arcs, certain themes, based on what’s developing. If the character’s just completely out of alignment with the book, that’s when I step back and say “should I just put a different character in here and save this character for a different story?” And often times I’ll cast, you know, I’ll start the first chapter of a book 3 or 4 times, looking for the right voice of the character who’s going to be the main character of that story (It’s happened with Vin in Mistborn) until I find one that matches the story that I want to tell, and then I’ll go forward with it.
So how many characters did you go through to get the lead for Mistborn?
I had 3 Vins. It was the third one that worked.  I posted one of them on my website so that people could go read that deleted scene.
One final question. Do you have a book and a character which has been your favourite to write?
You know, it’s a great question. I don’t really have one.  It’s like all my characters are my children, and I love them all for certain reasons, and I’m tired of them for certain reasons, and so I don’t pick favourite books or favourite characters. It’s whoever I’m writing at the moment.

Thank you so much to Brandon Sanderson for doing this interview and also to all the people at Gollancz for making it happen, particularly Lucy from The Book Belle.

If you have read some of Brandon's books before then I hope you found this interview as fascinating as I did and if you are new to his books then what are you waiting for! The Mistborn trilogy is my favourite, but if you would prefer a standalone novel then both Elantris and Warbreaker are incredible full-length reads.

I can second many of the books that Brandon talks about in the above interview. In particular Uprooted is really quite fantastic and also has the most beautiful cover - if you live in the UK that is. Brandon's website is an amazing resource as he posts a lot about writing, has lots of deleted scenes, creates annotations to his tales so you can see what he was thinking at every moment, and even has some free reads. Following on from the original Vin deleted scene mentioned above, one of my favourite posts charts the progression of how the first chapter of The Final Empire changed from the first draft and is a fascinating read for numerous reasons.

Meeting my number one favourite author was an amazing experience that perfectly rounded off my unplanned September to October reread of all of his books and I hope he comes back to the UK again in the future.

Bookish Treasures Relaunch - With Giveaway!

25 Oct 2015
Hello! As you have likely noticed (unless you are new here, in which case, welcome!) there have only been a few incredibly infrequent posts on Bookish Treasures for a while now. The past few months (in fact the past year +) have been very busy for me and recently culminated in completing an MA in Publishing, moving to London, and starting my first full time job at a traditional publishing company.

It is incredibly exciting to now be living in the heart of bookish England and, after a few months, I have started to find my feet and get settled enough to feel like I can pick up blogging again. Things will be changing slightly from how they used to be, but expect lots of recommendations, discussion posts, reviews, and posts from both authors and other industry professionals. Coming up soon is an interview with my all time favourite author!

If you want to get involved with Bookish Treasures in some way then please get in touch. Authors, assistants, publicists etc. please do read my authors/publishers page before contacting me about any potential reviews or features as my policies have changed slightly.

In celebration of finally being back and blogging again, I have two giveaways that will be running for the next month, one big one for UK residents and one that is open internationally so that non UK-ers don't have to be left out.

UK Giveaway

One surprise box of books and swag (mainly YA's). Now the contents are a surprise partially because I haven't decided exactly what will be included yet! However I promise that it will be awesome: think multiple books, some of which will be signed, and some fun swag.

Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open to those with a UK postal address only, however I have an international giveaway further down!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

International Giveaway

One book of your choice up to a value of $10 from the book depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners for both giveaways will be selected in late November and prizes will be sent out in early December.

Feature Friday - The Cambridge of House Of Windows

14 Aug 2015
Feature Friday is a feature on Bookish Treasures that spotlights an author through either a guest post or interview so that they can share something special about their books or their path to publication.

Today's feature is a guest post from author Alexia Casale whose most recent novel House Of Windows has just released.


House Of Windows by Alexia Casale


'The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.' Robert Louis Stevenson

Nick hates it when people call him a genius. Sure, he's going to Cambridge University aged 15, but he says that's just because he works hard. And, secretly, he only works hard to get some kind of attention from his workaholic father.

Not that his strategy is working.

When he arrives at Cambridge, he finds the work hard and socialising even harder. Until, that is, he starts to cox for the college rowing crew and all hell breaks loose...

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

The Cambridge in House Of Windows

I’ve spent time in the countryside around Cambridge since my teens. Both my parents travelled a lot so periodically I would decamp to my very kind (and much put upon) aunt and uncle on the border of Essex and Cambridgeshire. I’d largely refused to go to school since I was 13, so swapping houses was less of an issue than it might have been. Off I’d go to my poor beknighted relatives only to promptly disappear on adventures. Where does this path lead? What’s behind those trees. Ooooo, pretty flowers – are there more? What a lovely chimney! And so on. (I also discovered the local sewage works, so it wasn’t all ‘romance of the wild’.)
After school, I was lucky enough to get into Cambridge – the first person from my College ever to do so. It was like stepping into a book. Like living in a stately home. It was a privilege and an honour and so intensely dream-like I still can’t quite believe it happened. Whenever I go back I look up at my old Trinity Hall Front Court window and try to persuade myself that I lived there – me! It doesn’t seem possible. But that is what Cambridge I, at least in part: a leap into the past as well as into your own future. I still dream of how vividly I felt the need to hold on to the time ticking away. How deeply I felt the need to appreciate every last second. How important I knew it was not waste or squander or ignore any part of it.
But life is always more than where you live, however grotty or glorious. The physical world of the University is joy in solid form: in stone and brick and earth and wood and petals and water. But it’s still the external world and no amount of beauty is enough to fill a person’s internal world, however grateful they are for what they have.
That is one of the key things I wanted to capture in Nick, the protagonist of House of Windows. That and the juxtaposition of the wonder of the University buildings and grounds to its human side. Modern Cambridge University is an awkward mix of the cutting edge and the traditional. The result is a lot of out-and-out silliness: an entire language that you have no choice but to learn and use because otherwise you’re marked as an outsider – and excluded as one. It doesn’t matter if you think the whole thing is stonkingly stupid: almost everyone does. You quickly learn there’s a silent agreement that everyone will play along: that you’re in it together, being a bit ridiculous but being part of something. The thing that makes it palatable is that over-time the bigoted parts of Cambridge’s traditions are being worn away and so it’s more like a series of daft but harmless in-jokes. And it’s quite nice to know all the in-jokes at a party. Especially if you’re a lonely nerdy weirdo freak – as most people at Cambridge are. I wanted to show that Nick sees all these strange rules and traditions for what they are – but at the same time, views them with fond disdain. That’s what being a modern Cambridge student is about: donning silly robes and laughing with a bunch of other people wearing the same as you all stand about being daft together in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
One of the ways these things come out is in the particular type of ‘humour’ you find at Cambridge. It’s almost always a bit too clever for its own good. And in the case of some people, it’s out and out offensive. But most of the time it’s just like everything else – a series of silly rather than truly funny in-jokes that become funny because you’re on the inside: for once, you’re party of the club. You get it. And I wanted to capture that because it is so much a part of being a member of the University. Not everyone at Cambridge is an antisocial loner, but almost everyone has had a rough time at school at some point because of their intelligence and/or academic ambition, so Cambridge is full of people who at a social level want to be part of a crowd. We’re also people who spend a lot of time being serious and studious – and often punished for it – so it’s a relief to find somewhere you be as silly as possible.
It’s against this backdrop that Nick tries, and often fails, to enjoy being a student. He’s spent years hoping that at Cambridge he’ll finally find like-minded people, but it doesn’t prove easy, given that he’s still only fifteen. I expect lots of people are like Nick – like me – in looking forward to university as the place everything will fall into place, but like expectations of first love university isn’t an instant pathway to easy friendship or anything else (except alcohol). So Nick continues to find himself lonely in a crowd, an issue not helped by the fact that he has to ‘live out’ because of his age: unlike everyone else who has rooms in College (or Halls of Residence), Nick lives a mile away in a house his father has just bought as the new ‘family home’. Only they’re not much of a family so it’s not much of a home. It’s just another very nice place to spent his time. The beauty of Cambridge lifts his spirits but there’s always a melancholy edge to it not just of time fleeting, but because there’s no one to share it with. Nick’s situation may be unusual, but his feelings of hope and disappointment, joy and loneliness, are very much part of the student experience for almost everyone at some stage or another. As Nick slowly comes to see, maybe his situation as unique as he always thought. And maybe he isn’t quite so strange and different as he feels.
University is a time and place for learning new things and ‘finding yourself’, but also for discovering that other people’s lives may look very different on the surface, but feelings are pretty much universal. After all, growing up is only partly about coming into our own as unique individuals: it’s also about realising we’re not as different on the inside as we often assume.


About the Author

A British-American citizen of Italian heritage, Alexia is an author, editor and writing consultant. She also teaches English Literature and Writing.

After an MA in Social & Political Sciences (Psychology major) then MPhil in Educational Psychology & Technology, both at Cambridge University, she took a break from academia and moved to New York. There she worked on a Tony-award-winning Broadway show before returning to England to complete a PhD and teaching qualification. In between, she worked as a West End script-critic, box-office manager for a music festival and executive editor of a human rights journal.

She’s not sure which side of the family her dyslexia comes from, but is resigned to the fact that madness runs in both. She loves cats, collects glass animals and interesting knives, and has always wanted a dragon.

Alexia is represented by Claire Wilson of Rogers, Coleridge & White.

Her debut novel, The Bone Dragon, is published in English by Faber & Faber, and in German by Carlsen.

Review of Second Position

12 Aug 2015


Four years ago, a car accident ended Zedekiah Harrow’s ballet career and sent Philadelphia Ballet principal dancer Alyona Miller spinning toward the breakdown that suspended her own. What they lost on the side of the road that day can never be replaced, and grief is always harshest under a spotlight...

Now twenty-three, Zed teaches music and theatre at a private school in Washington, D.C. and regularly attends AA meetings to keep the pain at bay. Aly has returned to D.C. to live with her mother while trying to recover from the mental and physical breakdown that forced her to take a leave of absence from the ballet world, and her adoring fans.

When Zed and Aly run into each other in a coffee shop, it’s as if no time has passed at all. But without the buffer and escape of dance - and with so much lust, anger and heartbreak hanging between them - their renewed connection will either allow them to build the together they never had... or destroy the fragile recoveries they've only started to make.

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK


It is hard to find the right words to do justice to just how much I loved this book and how perfect it was. Katherine Locke has personal experience with many of the issues her characters have in the book (though as far as I know she does have two legs) and this really shows in how perfectly they are portrayed and how everything seems to come from the heart.

Lyrical and haunting, Katherine's writing perfectly captures the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters. Aly and Zed were both simply fantastic to read about. They each have struggles and demons that they have to deal with and the conflicts they deal with seemed so real. As a couple they aren't perfect but have a spark that really makes you root for them and want them to get as close to a happily ever after as they can manage.

Second Position follows many traditional romance tropes but also has much to make it unique. I can honestly say that I cannot think of many (if any other than this!) featuring one main character with multiple mental health issues where the second is a former ballet dancer whose career was cut short when he lost his leg in a car accident. This is a second chance romance that contains many of the diverse elements that people seem to be begging for in books right now.

Having danced all my life and for several years wanting to do it professionally, I always love reading books that feature ballet. Second Position is definitely one of my favourites as it seems so realistic showing both the highs and lows that dancers experience on a regular basis.

I have been searching for a diverse New Adult novel that sensitively, and realistically tackles serious issues and Second Position perfectly fits the bill. I highly recommend this one.

Try it for yourself! Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK


Feature Friday - On Writing In Male POV

10 Jul 2015
Feature Friday is a feature on Bookish Treasures that spotlights an author through either a guest post or interview so that they can share something special about their books or their path to publication.

Today's feature is a guest post from author Lilly Avalon whose first New Adult book is releasing later this month and this is also the first time she has written in male POV.

Unexpected by Lilly Avalon


Ever had one of those days? Alina Lyons is having one. Everything keeps falling apart and going wrong. Just when she thinks it couldn't get worse, it does. After a case of mistaken identity and a broken heart, she finds herself questioning the things she thought she knew. She wonders who she can turn to or trust anymore.

An unlikely bond with her former best friend's ex, Ryan Wilcox, sends her life in a new direction. He offers her a place to stay while she gets her life back on track. His friendship is exactly what she's been missing—what she's been needing. Alina's never felt this alive. As time goes by, the dynamic of their relationship becomes more than either of them expected. A few innocent kisses could lead them in a new direction, but are they prepared for what's on the other side?

Only one way to find out.

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

On Writing in Male POV

Last year when I first started writing Unexpected, it was originally going to be in Alina's point of view only. I've written all my stories from female POV since I started. The majority of the books I've read are told from a female protagonist's POV, so it was fresh and clear in my head. There was something missing from the story, though, so I had to set it aside. I didn't pinpoint it until more than half a year later after I finished my fourth published story. The reason why Unexpected wasn't working was because it needed to be told from Ryan's POV, too.

This was a surprising (and exciting) revelation for me. I've read several stories told in dual POV and always wanted to take a stab at it myself. My biggest fear? Making Ryan's voice sound believable. I hadn't dabbled in it before Unexpected, and after writing from the POV of my female characters for so long, I needed to adapt. I was also afraid of bouncing back and forth between Alina and Ryan, and whether I could handle two points of view at once.

I had several scenes already written from before (all of which were in Alina's POV) so I had a lot to sift through and change. When I got to Ryan's first chapter, I tapped into the inner workings of his head. "If I were in Ryan's shoes, how would I be reacting? What would I be thinking? What would be driving my reactions and thoughts?" My female protagonists have all had male love interests, so I'm aware of the body language and the dialogue. His thoughts, however, were a different story.

His whole first chapter was something I had to spend extra time on. As I wrote his inner monologue, I would have to stop and think for a moment: "Is this really what he's thinking about? Why would he be contemplating this?" There were a couple times I felt like Alina's POV was seeping through, so I had to delete words, sentences, and paragraphs because they weren't right. I pressed on, digging deeper into Ryan's psyche. And then he spoke. I felt like I was finally there--Ryan was letting me in and I could visualize him better than before.

I still doubted myself, though. I decided after writing four chapters (two in Alina's POV and two in Ryan's) that I would send them to a trusted writer friend to make sure I was on the right track. It felt like I was, but as a writer it's always good to get a second opinion. The point of view is a major aspect of the story--you need to nail it or the whole thing could fall apart. My friend read the chapters and told me that I was definitely on the right track. I was relieved to hear that.

As I progressed through the story, I could perceive Ryan's personality more and more. When I asked the right questions, he gave me the answers I needed. His motivation was key--discern the motivation and get a clear answer to his actions. He surprised me on more than one occasion, but in a good way. By the time I reached the end, it felt like Ryan was part of me.

When you're writing in a new perspective, especially one you've never written in before, it does take time to develop a knack for it. One thing I attribute the success of Ryan's POV to is reading. Go out of your way to read several books told in either dual POV or male POV. Pay close attention to the male characters. That alone goes a long way when it comes to writing it. And when you are writing it, definitely ask your character as many questions as you can. You'll get the answers, not always immediately, but you will.

Writing in male POV was an experience for me. It felt daunting at first, but my confidence built up the more I kept at it. You learn a lot more about your characters when you have more than one perspective. It was a great change of pace and it expanded my repertoire. It was absolutely worth the effort to give it a try. I ended up enjoying the challenge and I know that this won't be the last male POV I write.

Feature Friday - An Interview With SF Said

3 Jul 2015
Feature Friday is a feature on Bookish Treasures that spotlights an author through either a guest post or interview so that they can share something special about their books or their path to publication.

Today's Feature Friday is very special to me due to the author involved. I have always said that here on Bookish Treasures we will feature books that are YA and up with exceptions made for particularly fantastic MG titles. Now this is one of those special exceptions. Back when I was about 10 years old (12 years ago now wow!) I read a fantastic book that quickly became a firm favourite of mine and to this day I still have it on my bookshelves as it is one of the only childhood books I cannot bear to part with (alongside Harry Potter and The Chronicles Of Narnia, with Watership Down being in my house somewhere). I am very happy today to welcome SF Said to Bookish Treasures to talk about this amazing book, Varjak Paw, and his newest release Phoenix.

Phoenix by SF Said



Lucky thinks he's an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing to him, and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him.

Now he's on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair . . .

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Check out Phoenix's book trailer!

Interview with SF Said

Why did you decide to become an author?
Stories have always been my favourite things, as long as I can remember.  The books I read when I was young shaped the way I saw the world, and they've stayed with me through my life. 
I always knew I wanted to be some kind of writer, and make stories of my own.  But I never found literary fiction very satisfying.  Then, when I was at university, I read and re-read lots of books for young readers, like Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea novels, and the amazing mythic stories written by Alan Garner and Susan Cooper.  
These were exactly the kinds of books I wanted to write: hugely powerful and page-turning stories with brilliant characters, richly-imagined worlds, and above all, big ideas about life and how it should be lived.  Books with a lot of depth and levels, that could be read at different ages in different ways.  So that was what I set out to do.
What made you decide to write for children?
I honestly believe that children's and YA fiction is where the richest, deepest and most imaginative writing happens.  It's where I find the books I most want to read.  And I think the best writing advice is to write the books you want to read yourself. 
Varjak Paw is a story about a cat who dreams of being a great warrior, and learns a secret martial art known only to cats.  That kind of thing just wouldn't be allowed in adult literature!  But in a children's book, it's fine.  And I wanted to read that story, so I had to write it myself.
Phoenix is an epic myth about a human boy who has the power of a star inside him, and an alien girl who's the greatest warrior in the galaxy.  Again, it's hard to imagine something like that on a Booker Prize list.  But I think children's literature can accommodate infinite possibilities; its imaginative space is just bigger.
I also love the idea that children's literature can be read by anyone of any age at any time in their lives.  So I think of myself of writing books for everyone.   It's always great to hear from adults who've read my work; and the nicest thing of all is when an adult tells me they enjoyed my books as a child, kept them, and still enjoy them now.  So thank you for saying that about Varjak Paw – you have no idea how much it means!
What are your favourite books?
Watership Down is probably my all-time favourite.  The Earthsea books still have a special place in my heart, as do all of Le Guin's books.   For classic children's literature, my list includes Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books, E Nesbit's The Story Of The Treasure Seekers and Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's The Little Prince.  Of more recent books for young readers, I think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials sets the bar in terms of what imaginative fiction can do. 
As far as adult literary fiction goes, I'm a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, and the way she puts words and sentences together.  Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse are incredible novels.  But for me, there aren't that many writers working at that level.  Whereas the history of children's literature is just full of incredible authors, and there are more coming through all the time.
Your books are very unique in terms of both the worlds and storylines, where do you get the ideas for them?
Thank you!  Phoenix started with me looking up at the stars.  Stars are amazing, and the more we learn about them, the more amazing they seem.  Everything that exists, including every single atom in our bodies, originated in the heart of a dying star.  I think that's incredible.  Stars are part of an endless cycle of life, death and rebirth, and that's one reason why I called the book Phoenix.  But the book also connects space science with ancient mythology.  It goes back to all the mythic pantheons – Greek gods, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and so on – and tries to see if they have a shared common origin, and what that might be.
By contrast, Varjak Paw started with something very small: me watching my own kitten as he climbed the garden wall and went out into the world on his own for the first time.  I found his adventures fascinating, as he met gangs of street cats, and of course dogs.  I think the lives of cats in cities are full of drama, and even though the scale is small, the drama is huge.
What is next from the brilliant mind of SF Said?
I've been working for the last two and half years on a new book called TYGER.  I can't say too much about it, as my books always change a lot as I work on them, and no-one else has yet seen a word of it…  but let's just say there's a tyger in it – as in William Blake's brilliant poem The Tyger, which is a huge inspiration to me.
What would you say makes your books unique and worth reading?
I put everything I know and everything I love into my books.  I don't think of them in terms of age or genre.  While they may be shelved in MG or YA, and while they may have sci-fi or fantasy or animal story elements, I just think of them as my books.  They're places where I can put anything I find interesting or meaningful or magical.  I know that no writer can please every reader – but I hope that whoever you are, however old you are, and whatever kind of story you think you like, you'll at least find something of interest in there.
Who is your favourite character from either Varjak Paw or Phoenix?
That's really hard for me to say.  In each book, I put a lot of thought into trying to create a diverse range of characters of different genders, ages, backgrounds and so on.  I hope this means that everyone can find someone to identify with, so I love the fact that readers always give me such different answers to this question. 
With the Varjak Paw books, people don't just say their favourite character is Varjak.  Lots of people say it's Holly or Tam, or Cludge, or Razor, or even Sally Bones…  And the same seems to be happening with Phoenix.  Lots of people say they like Lucky, the human boy; but just as many say they like Bixa Quicksilver, the alien warrior girl.  That makes me feel I must be doing something right.
What is your favourite thing about being an author?
I have to be honest, I don't enjoy everything about it.  In fact, it's much harder work than I ever dreamed it would be.  Varjak Paw took 17 drafts.  Those 17 drafts took five years of my life.  Phoenix took even longer: seven years!  As you can imagine, there've been many times when writing has felt very hard, and I've wanted to give up more than once.  But I'm glad I persevered, because when I look at those books now, I don't see anything I want to change.  They're as good as I could possibly make them.  And all that hard work feels worthwhile when I hear from people who've read them and enjoyed them. 
So that's my favourite thing about being an author!  It means so much to hear that something you wrote meant something to someone else, too.
How do you balance writing with other things in your life?
I think every writer works differently, so the best advice I can give anyone interested in writing is to find what works for you, and do that.  It may be different to what works for anyone else.  You can only find it by writing yourself.
Having said that: the thing that works best for me is having a daily routine.  I like to go to my local library first thing in the morning, and write till lunchtime.  I usually get a good amount of work done that way.  Then in the afternoon, I either do another session if I'm free, or I do all the other work-related things I do that are not writing: visiting schools and meeting readers, updating my blog and twitter, doing interviews, and so on.  I try to keep evenings free for relaxing, though my idea of relaxing often involves reading a book, and that always feeds back into the writing!
If you could meet any one author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Ursula Le Guin, because I'd like to thank her for her incredible books, and her inspirational example. I think she's a model of how to be a writer.  Even now in her 80s, she's still producing work of the highest quality.  Every single one of her books is worth reading: full of amazing ideas and characters and worlds. 
What is your favourite food?
Chocolate.  So I was delighted when Varjak Paw won the Smarties Prize for Children's Literature.  I thought a free lifetime supply would surely follow.  I still can't get over the fact that it didn't!
You can find out more about SF Said and his writing over on his website.

Looking Forwards To YALC 2015

29 Jun 2015
Hello Lovelies! Last year was the UK's first ever Young Adult Literature Convention at the London Film and Comic Con and it was so successful that it is going ahead again this year. I am planning on going to YALC this year as the last one was such a fantastic experience.

Last year had a few issues, mainly how crowded the space was, but many changes are being implemented to improve on everything that wasn't perfect. I have seen the venue and it is much larger which should massively reduce the crowding that I know gave a few people anxiety issues. We are also apparently having our own separate area in the venue just for YALC which I think will be a fantastic venue.

The full author list has now been announced and I'm sure you will agree that it is a fantastic line up! I think this is an even better line up than last year. There are several authors I am looking forwards to meeting that I have been fans of for several years such as Malorie Blackman, Moira Young, Judy Blume, LA Weatherly and Teri Terry. I also cant wait to meet relatively new-to-me authors such as Alexia Casale, Samantha Shannon and many more.

The programme is amazing and has a wide range of events from talks about hot trends and important topics in YA, to workshops on how to write, agents giving advice and much more. I currently plan on being at the following (though this may change and is also dependent on what time I am able to arrive on Friday) -

Apocalypse now: new directions in dystopia - I will probably miss this event due to only landing in back in England from 2 days in Barcelona at 2pm but if I can find a functioning time turner I WILL be at this event. Alternatively, I will just sniff out where these authors are located when I arrive as I really want to talk to them all.

Harry Potter party - Because OF COURSE!

YA: the next generation - These young authors are all the future of publishing so I am excited to hear them talk. It is also impossible to keep me away from anything about where YA as a category is heading.

Being a girl: feminism and YA today - Now not only does this topic sound amazing but several of my favourite authors are on this panel so I will be there with bells on.

Carrie Hope Fletcher's YALC book club - So Carrie Hope Fletcher is someone I only discovered existed recently (I must have been hiding under a rock) so I want to see what I have been missing :P

Judy Blume & Patrick Ness in conversation - Judy Blume was by far one of my favourite authors growing up, to the extent where for a drama exam my "free work" was reciting several pages from ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME MARGARET, so I am not missing the chance to see her talk.

Hunger Games quiz - Because why not?

Mental health in YA - This is a topic that is a huge talking point right now in YA and I believe is very important as many teenagers find solace and answers to their questions in fiction so an accurate portrayal of metal health issues is necessary.

Bringing sexy back - Last years "I'm Too Sexy For This Book" panel was my favourite moment of the weekend so I am definitely going to this follow up.

Between fantasy & reality - I love SF&F and this is the only panel specifically on that genre, I am also looking forwards to hearing more about these authors books as many are on my radar but I haven't read yet.

Troubled teens: dark subjects - Dark topics and their inclusion in YA always makes for an interesting discussion. I am personally all for dark issues that teens may face in their lives being included in fiction but where is the line of it being too adult?

Taking your blog to the next level - This clashes with the troubled teens panel so I don't yet know which I will attend, but this workshop on blogging sounds like a great opportunity to meet new bloggers, socialise with people I already know, and pick up some great new tips as a blog overhaul is certainly in the cards for Bookish Treasures.

LGBT in YA - Diversity in books as been a hot topic for well over a year now and I haven't yet had the chance to attend a talk specifically on LGBT diversity so I think this will be really interesting and hopefully put new books on my radar.

Sir Terry & me: being inspired by Terry Pratchett - I LOVED Terry Pratchett's books and I think this panel will be a lovely tribute to his great writing.

Booktubing for beginners - I have been toying with the idea of branching into booktubing for a while so people can have the option of either reading or watching my reviews based on their preferences. If I am going to do that then I want to do it properly so I think this workshop will be a great way to get some more information.

Ok so I know I am not going to be able to go to all of the Sunday talks because I wouldn't have time to eat, get books signed by authors, or even breathe, but I will see what I feel like doing on the day. Tickets are going quickly (Saturday only tickets have already sold out! Though full weekend tickets are already available) so don't miss out on what will surely be a fantastic event. YALC specific tickets have priority but LFCC regular tickets will get you access to the book area also.

I know a few people are planning on getting into the comic con spirit by cosplaying but I wouldn't have the first idea on where to start so you will probably just see me around in regular clothes. If you are coming then please let me know and we can arrange to say hello at some point :D

If you are going to YALC, what events are you most looking forwards to?

Feature Friday - From A Contest To A Publishing Contract

26 Jun 2015


There’s a drawer I never open. It holds a picture I never look at. It reminds me of a day I hate to remember, but I’ll never forget.

I’d give anything to be like the other girls on campus. Going to parties, flirting with boys, planning for a future. But that’s not me. And hasn’t been since the day my parents died. The only thing that got me through was Griffin. Even though I didn’t have my family, I always had him. Only, now I’m not so sure I do.
It’s not just the eleven hundred miles separating us now that I’m at college. And it’s more than his band finally taking off, and all the gigs and girls suddenly demanding his time. It’s like everything is different—the way we talk, the way we text . . . the way he looks at me and the way his looks make me feel.

Griffin has been the only good thing in my life since that horrific day. I can feel our friendship slipping away—and I’m terrified of what will be left in its place…

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

From a Contest to a Publishing Contract: Marie Meyer’s Publication Journey

Hello, Everyone! I’m honored to share my publication journey with the Bookish Treasures readers! Thank you for the invitation, Laura! I’m Marie Meyer. I write new adult romances. My debut NA contemporary romance, ACROSS THE DISTANCE, came out on May 5, 2015! It’s been fantastic getting to know so many awesome readers, bloggers, and reviewers. A huge thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed AtD. I’m humbled by everyone’s love and support! And if you just couldn’t get enough of Griffin in AtD, August 4th is your lucky day! Griffin gets to tell his side of the story in CAN’T GO BACK! I’m so excited to share Griffin with everyone! I love him dearly and I hope you do too!
So, I’m sure you’re all wondering how an elementary school teacher (that’s right, I’m a teacher by day) got her foot through the publication door. Well, let me tell you…
My publishing journey began back in the fall of 2008, when I co-authored my first novel, a YA paranormal romance. After sending out at least 100 query letters to agents over the course of three years, my co-author and I kept getting the same responses: there were too many paranormal romances on agents lists at the time. With the saturation of PNR, we cut our losses and shoved the YA into a drawer.
But, I wasn’t ready to give up on writing just yet. After reading Tamara Weber’s Easy, I was hooked on new adult! This was the genre I wanted to write! I loved the age (18-25), the decisions and situations characters were faced with, all of it!
In January of 2013, I sat down and began my first draft of what would become ACROSS THE DISTANCE. Four months later, I finished AtD and started polishing and revising.
And polishing and revising. And polishing and revising.
And polishing and revising…
You see a pattern, I’m sure! ;)
When I looked up from the computer screen, it was November. ACROSS THE DISTANCE was as shiny as I could make it (but not nearly as shiny as it would become). That’s when I came across a tweet from Brenda Drake, announcing her upcoming Pitch Wars contest. I went back and forth, weighing the pros and cons of entering and not entering. Was it AtD ready? Was I ready? Could I handle more rejection?
The answer to every one of those questions was, YES! If I was serious about becoming an author, then I needed to be brave and put myself out there. The only way AtD was ever going to catch the interest of an agent was either by diving into the query trenches or toss it into a contest. Throwing caution to the wind, I entered AtD into Pitch Wars, not expecting much.
But, come early December, when Pitch Wars mentors announced their teams, to my astonishment, Lady Lioness (mentor extraordinaire) had chosen my entry!
Over the course of the next two months, under Lioness’s kick-butt editorial guidance, I ripped my manuscript to shreds (literally cutting out a major character and piecing my manuscript back together). I hoped and prayed my hard work would result in some agent love during the Pitch Wars agent round.
During the agent round, the agents who participate in Pitch Wars, hop from blog to blog reading the pitches and opening paragraphs of the Pitch Wars contestants’ manuscripts. If an agent likes what he or she reads, they comment on the blog post with instructions to send the manuscript along with a query letter.
At the end of the agent round, I had two agents comment on my entry! Not only was I still blown away that ACROSS THE DISTANCE had been selected by a mentor, but now it was getting some attention from agents! I couldn’t believe it!
I sent both agents the completed AtD manuscript and a query letter, as they’d asked for (always follow an agent’s submission guidelines!!!).
In the subsequent weeks, as I waited to hear back from the Pitch Wars agents, I sent out eleven more queries to other agents. Then, a month later, on Valentine’s Day, I received an email from Louise Fury, at the Bent Agency, wanting to set up a time to speak on the phone! I was ecstatic!! A few days later, I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Fury on the phone, which then lead to an offer of representation!
Once I signed with Louise, she championed AtD, sending it out on submission to publishing houses. Eventually AtD found a home with Grand Central Publishing! Not only did Grand Central love AtD, they also wanted its companion novel, CAN’T GO BACK (August 2015), and THE TURNING POINT, the contemporary new adult romance I’m currently working on (releasing in November). At the end of 2015, I will have published three novels! Unreal!
Writing takes patience. I’m just beginning my publishing journey with the recent release of ACROSS THE DISTANCE. But, I’ve been working toward this goal for six years. Every rejection letter, every rewrite, every revision spurs me on, and makes me want to do better. Writing takes hard work and dedication and in order to get better, a writer must write.
If you have ever dreamed of writing a story you want to share with others, don’t give up! One day, your story will be in the hands of readers! Oh, and participate in contests! If I hadn’t done Pitch Wars, I don’t know where I would be today.
Pitch Wars 2015 is right around the corner! If you would like to know more about Pitch Wars 2015, the link with the contest schedule is below. If you have a finished, polished manuscript, the submission day for Pitch Wars 2015 is August 17th. Give it a try! What do you have to lose? J
Again, thank you, Laura, for giving me the opportunity to share my story with your readers!
Keep writing and enter contests!
<3 Marie

About Marie

Marie Meyer was a language arts teacher for fourteen years. She spends her days in the classroom and her nights writing heartfelt new adult romances that will leave readers clamoring for more. She is a member of RWA and the St. Louis Writers Guild. Marie's short fiction won honorable mentions from the St. Louis Writers Guild in 2010 and 2011. She is a proud mommy and enjoys helping her oldest daughter train for the Special Olympics, making up silly stories with her youngest daughter, and binging on weeks of DVR'd television shows with her husband.

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Review of Material Girls

16 Jun 2015


In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?

Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion.

Are you in or are you out?

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK


When I first read the synopsis of Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos I was really excited as the concept sounded amazing and brought to mind So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld which I loved. Unfortunately, though the idea behind this book truly is excellent, the execution fell flat.

This book seemed like the author was trying too hard to make a social commentary about consumerism, trends, and fame. Whilst it certainly is thought provoking to an extent, it all just seems too forced and the storyline doesn't flow naturally. Much of the storyline doesn't make sense and is unbelievable (this coming from a huge fan of dystopian, paranormal, and fantasy novels) and this takes what could have been an amazing concept and makes it a little bit silly.

What I did like about this book - the idea and the writing. That is about it really. The characters did have a few great moments but overall I didn't feel much of a connection with them. Like many YA novels nowadays, Material Girls has an element of romance and this was probably my least favourite part of the entire book. It simply didn't fit in properly with the story and seemed to have been added in at the last minute as an after thought.

Also, the ending fell flat and made much of what happens in the book completely pointless. Whilst it was refreshingly different to the typical YA dystopia ending, it was not satisfying and made the story feel incomplete even though this is apparently NOT the first in a series.

To top this all off this book is very highly priced - nearly £10 in the UK for a kindle edition which is I think the highest price I have ever seen for a standard length YA novel! Overall I wouldn't recommend this one but if it really sounds like your cup of tea then maybe get a copy from the library.

Try it for yourself! Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Feature Friday - Understanding is Contagious: the Importance of Diversity and Starting a Conversation

12 Jun 2015


Nithya, a vivacious, intelligent and driven college senior has always known what she has wanted: a successful career in medicine and the love of her family. She's even come to terms with the idea of an arranged marriage, a tradition her conservative Indian family has held up for thousands of years.

When a night of partying puts her on a collision course with danger, Nithya's entire life changes.

Enter James St. Clair, the smart, challenging and heartbreakingly handsome American.

As Nithya and James fall in love, she questions the future she and her parents have always planned. Now, Nithya has a choice to make: become a doctor and a good Indian bride, or step away from her family and centuries of culture to forge her own path.

The decision she comes to takes her on a journey that transforms how she sees her future, her relationships with loved ones, and how she learns to put herself back together when even her best-laid plans fall apart.

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Understanding is Contagious: the Importance of Diversity and Starting a Conversation

A writer friend and I had a really honest, enlightening conversation the other day about diversity. She is white. I am Indian-American. I was telling her how one of my biggest fears was that I would get my first book “wrong”…even though the character is just like me. Like I’ve posted about before, putting my positive and negative experiences with my Indianness on paper is like pulling the skin off a burn. Sometimes it forces you to face things about yourself that you didn’t want to admit. Other times, it gives you glimpses of beauty you never appreciated.

Before I wax poetic, let me backtrack. My first novel, The Rearranged Life, released on May 15th. Woohoo! It’s a story that I have lived, both directly and peripherally. An Indian-American college student named Nithya falls for an American and challenges everything her traditional family hopes for: medical school and a semi-arranged marriage. I wrote what I knew—about an identity crisis that many first-generation children of immigrants face when deciding where they are coming from and where they are going. My character treads the line between American and Indian cultures, often setting foot in one or the other as needed. It’s been an incredible experience debuting—all of my insecurities that made it onto the page were quelled by the immense positivity of those who read the story and commented that Nithya was, even in her Indianness, similar to them. Like I said before, being Indian has, on the rare but poignant occasion, been cause for attention, like that time I got called a sand ni--er or the time I was well-meaningly told that I must be smart because I’m Asian (for the record, please don’t ever put my math grades in a public domain).

And while my experience has been refreshing and party-worthy, judging by the reading I’ve been doing lately on Twitter and otherwise, we still have a long way to go with diversity in the book world. I follow a number of authors who are heavily involved in social justice and I am learning new things every single day. It’s very easy to ask myself, “What voice do I have? If I’m still learning, I’m bound to make rookie mistakes, right?” My friend told me she was afraid to start because since she was white, she felt she would offend everyone and her deepest fear was to hurt the very people she wanted to represent accurately. Clearly, despite being a person of colour, my fears and the fears of people who want to support me are the same.

Let me digress for a second. My main character, Nithya, comes from a state called Andhra Pradesh. Being from different states comes with some big differences in Indian culture. Each state speaks a different language. Each region has a different dialect. Last names can tell you where a person is from geographically, what language they speak, what caste they’re from (which can lead to social cues, occupations, and tradition differences) and sometimes the kind of life they live. I had to think about some of these nuances when figuring out my characters.

I know these things about Nithya because I’ve lived a similar life. But how would anyone else, say, who isn’t Indian, know that?

Simply by asking questions.

I’m going to illustrate the point here. I grew up in central Pennsylvania. I’ve discussed in other blog posts that the ratio of farm animals to humans is about ten to one. I also grew up in a college town. That meant there were two populations: one, a highly educated and diverse population and the other, not so diverse but with curiosity and kindness to boot. A friend who had never travelled more than 100 miles away from home once asked me, “Annika, is it true Indians drink cow’s blood?” For the record, I’m a vegetarian. Even most of the non-vegetarian Indians I know avoid beef. But I can unequivocally say I’ve never seen an Indian Bella Swan a cup of cow’s blood at a meal. Rather than bug out, I ended up laughing. I answered her innocent question with the offer to clear up any more that she may have, accompanied by the promise that I wouldn’t be offended. Holy cow (I’m beginning to understand that phrase more and more…), did she ever take me up on it! Question after question, all with the intention to learn, came in the days following. It was amazing. We got to unite over our differences because she took the time to ask about places she’d never been to and customs she had never seen. We found similarities as I broke down certain misconceptions for her. We grew even closer, considering our backgrounds were polar opposites.

What’s that quote Hermione Granger says in Harry Potter? “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” I think the same concept can be applied here. Fear of diversity or getting it wrong only increases the fear further. The only way to combat it is to ask questions. Whether that’s through Twitter followers or utilizing Google, it’s important to get the details right. It will take more time. But it builds a cleaner representation of your character if you don’t treat them all with the same detergent. We are not all the same. You know how I mentioned Nithya comes from Andhra and speaks Telugu? There are 29 states in India and over 150 languages spoken. And that’s just one country on earth. One set of cultures to break down. Imagine how different the rest of the world looks…and that’s just considering ethnicity!

At the end of the day, to foster the discussions necessary to paint the world as it really looks, there are two things required: the people who want to represent diversity must ask every question imaginable, and the people who want to be represented must be willing to answer them. It could prevent another ally from feeling as though they’ll get it wrong and in turn, turning them into a bystander. It could prevent another person with a diverse background from feeling as though no one understands. There are so many grey areas to work with—neurodiversity, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, and more—that it’s important to get the whole picture: that we are all the same and very, very different. Recognizing both sides is vital to appreciating and conveying our differences accurately. It’s important that the people asking the questions remain non-judgmental and truly listen—you are getting the answers from people who have likely been pinpointed as “wrong” for their entire lives. For those receiving the questions, assume the best in the asker and answer honestly. People do want to know and be better.

The Rearranged Life was a cathartic way to represent my life…but there will come a time in the near future where I will write another diverse character, one whose life my own doesn’t mirror. And when the time comes, I hope I have the courage to ask questions of people willing to answer. I’ve already seen the difference it makes in a story, let alone in a life.

And if we ask and answer these questions together, we can finally tell all the stories the world needs to hear.