Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THE CRIMSON CROWN release day interview with Cinda Chima

From Goodreads:
A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed--Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.
Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa "ana'"Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells' inner turmoil, Raisa's best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she's falling in love.
Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Cinda blogs with me over at the Enchanted Inkpot, and I was completely unfamiliar with her work until this past summer. But one day at Barnes and Noble I recognized the name and decided to purchase the DEMON KING, the first book in the Seven Realms series. That was in late August. Since that day, less than two months ago, I have blazed through all three books in the series (THE EXILED QUEEN, THE GRAY WOLF THRONE). Given my rabid obsession, Cinda kindly took pity on me and sent me a copy of the forthcoming CRIMSON CROWN, the fourth and (final—man I wish it wasn’t) book in the series so I could review it. I devoured it in a day and a half. All 596 pages!
I am not usually an avid reader of high fantasy, though I am a great lover of Tolkein and GRACELING is a personal favorite of mine. But beyond that, I tend to stick to urban fantasy, paranormal thrillers and dystopics. Yet, somehow, improbably, THE DEMON KING hooked me immediately. It may have been the alternating POVs between wily pauper and street thief, Han Alister and the independent-minded mixed blood heir to the Gray Wolf Throne, the impetuous Raisa ‘anna Marianna.

Chima is some kind of grand-master world builder. It’s as though she herself is a weaver of the same magic she describes, constructing the world of the Seven Realms, so thoroughly and solid in its details, you can imagine yourself there. Chima’s Seven Realms is a world of magic, cruelty, clashing cultures and danger. It’s as full of political intrigue as any spy thriller. And it is also, at its heart, a beautifully moving love story—a tale of love denied, and love at last realized. The series can be brutal, filled with the cruel acts of the heartless blue-bloods committed against the hapless peasantry. The scrappy resourcefulness of the irresistible Han Alister, who born to nothing, claws his way up from the filthy streets of Ragmarket to the pinnacle of society, and straight into a princess’s heart, will keep you riveted. In a nutshell—this series is EPIC on a grand scale.
But while it is epic, it is also detailed and full of the minute observations of intensely thorough character building. It is rare to find such a rollicking adventure, filled with so much nuanced human interaction and their complications. Cinda William Chima’s characters are neither all good nor all bad, in my opinion, one of the series’ great strengths. Nothing is black and white. In Chima’s villains there is good, and in her heroes, ruthlessness and a willingness to make hard choices. There are many characters whose true intentions are a mystery, such as Queen Marianna, the dashing young wizard Micah Bayar, Reid Nightwalker, Cat, the street waif, Fiona, Princess Mellony, and the embittered Adam Gryphon. It’s not really clear until the end whom the true villains are. Even the arch nemesis of the book, the ultimate villain of the Realm, the Demon King himself, is not what he seems.
The CRIMSON CROWN is a breathtaking, action-filled and heart-rending conclusion to a thrilling series. And for me, under the adventure, fantasy and world building is the very large and full heart of this writer, who is clearly telling us something about our own world.

I can go on and on, but I think it’s time I give Cinda a chance to speak for herself. Please excuse me if my questions range from the esoteric to the extremely lowbrow. I’m trying to ask questions no one has asked her before!

Cinda, I detect a fair amount of allegory in your series. We have very diverse and intolerant cultures squabbling amongst themselves in the Realms for centuries, until finally an open-minded queen steps forward to try to bring them together. There is Han Alister’s tale, the destitute thief who fights his way into the upper-crust of society, finding it even more treacherous than the dangerous streets of his criminal past. Also, there is the lie—the false myth on which a thousand years of enmity is based—the tale of the Demon King.  I won’t give that secret away, but tell us, Cinda, what are some of the themes you are touching on in your books? What’s on your mind?
I’m a strong believer in the notion that theme comes from story and not the other way around. In other words, story comes from the desires of characters and not the desires of the author. That said, certain themes surface in my novels over and over. For example, how we are often imprisoned by history and so commit the same mistakes over and over. I do believe that unfettered power corrupts, which is why my wizard characters are so often arrogant and corrupt. I’m fascinated by how resilient some people are—in real life and so in story. Han Alister is a character who survives many setbacks and tragedies, and somehow finds a way to move forward.

What cultures influenced the different peoples in the Seven Realms? What geographic terrain inspired the landscape?
In order to be believable, a fantasy world has to be coherent and integrated—all the elements of setting have to work together. So when I developed the mountainous queendom of the Fells, I thought about what kind of people would thrive there, and how they would make a living. They wouldn’t be farmers primarily, because agriculture is difficult in that terrain. And so they’re miners, and metal-workers, and artists.  They have to be traders, because they trade for products they can’t produce themselves. The clans owe a lot to indigenous peoples everywhere, but especially to the First Peoples of the Americas.
Fantasy landscapes are, of course, based on the real world. It’s those sensory details from real life that make the world real to the reader. I have never been to the Seven Realms, but I’ve been to the Canadian Rockies, and to Yellowstone, and to New Zealand. I use photographs, journals, and memories from travel to build new worlds.

Now for the lowbrow gushing fangirl question: What actor would play Han Alister in a movie? How about Raisa? Micah? Amon? (Can you tell how attached I am to them?)
I’m not going to be able to help out much there, though I often get sugestions from readers. I have so little knowledge of popular culture, I’m the family joke. I think it would be cool if the cast were made up of relative unknowns, so that the actors could more easily inhabit the skins of my characters.
Han’s street lingo is one of my favorite aspects of the book. It so clearly defines his character and also tracks his transformation from guttersnipe to the most powerful wizard in the Realm. Someone once asked you on your website where the slang comes from. Can you elaborate for us?
Most of the Ragmarket and Southbridge street slang is drawn from actual 17th and 18th century British thieves’ slang, or cant. There are dictionaries online and in print of thieves’ cant. Here’s a link to one site I’ve used extensively.
The important thing with dialect and slang is to use a light hand—otherwise it gets annoying. One of the challenges with Han’s speech is that it changes over the four books. Gradually he loses some of the structures and slang characteristic of Ragmarket cant, and begins to develop speech that can serve him at court.
I know you have another series, the Warrior Heir Series. Can you tell us about this?
The Heir Chronicles is a contemporary fantasy trilogy set in Ohio, beginning with The Warrior Heir. I began writing this series when my sons were 13 and 16. I wanted to write something they would enjoy reading, and so I wrote a story about a high school student in Ohio who learns he is among the last of a guild of magical warriors being hunted by wizards to play in a deadly tournament known as the Game. I’m currently writing two more novels in that series.
Okay—I just have to ask this. You say on your website that the CRIMSON CROWN is the last book in this series. Does this mean, that perhaps there is another series with the same characters in your future? You mentioned on your website that this book was inspired by an unfinished adult fantasy you’d written. Are you finished with our friend Han Alister, or has his story only just begun?
I have no specific plans to write more Seven Realms books. As soon as I mention more books, people are writing to me asking me when they’ll be released! I guest the best answer is that there are many stories in the Seven Realms, and I would not be surprised if I ended up back there again. But I’m currently working on two more Heir Chronicles novels. 

Thank you for stopping by, Cinda. It was a total pleasure to have you, and I am already engrossed in THE WARRIOR HEIR.
If you'd like to learn more about Cinda and her books, visit her at:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blog Chain Post #2 From book to movie

These days, so many popular YA and MG books become movies. It seems to me sometimes that the YA community is sort of like a movie think-tank, fermenting the best ideas for adaptation. And of course it's every writers' dream to see their movie on the big screen. (After all, it's like the movie is already in our heads, right?)

People's opinions on this vary. Many refuse to see a film based on a movie until they've read it, and just as many read the book after. Movies increase readership, no matter how you slice it. And of course, there are those that say the movie can never measure up to the book.

I personally can't think of too many instances that are more successful than Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I can't even imagine the pressure on the film-makers not to disappoint their loyal fans. And I think the verdict is in--the Harry Potter movies cemented the series place as a classic of the early 21st century. And I haven't met too many people who would complain that the Hunger Games movie was a failure. The casting, in my opinion, was pure genius--and so, another dynasty was born. In fact, my own daughter who at age 16 had never had the faintest interest in the books that I gobbled up so voraciously I had to ration my reading time, went ahead and read all three books nearly as quickly. So did so many of my college age students. In fact, my graphic design tutor, a young man in his early twenties, was so taken with the series, that after seeing the movie, started dressing just a bit like Katniss.

But, in the wrong hands a poorly done movie can be devastating and embarrassing. A good example of that is the Eragon movie. It really could have been done so much better. Another one that I found disappointing was Bridge to Terabithia. I hadn't read the book and found the movie to be totally different from the way it was marketed.

And guess what I'm not going to be talking about. Yep, that's right. Twilight.

Apparently there are a whole slew more on the way. Here is a blog listing of some popular YA books that have been optioned to film, some with release dates, and some seemingly in limbo.

So how about you? What are some of your favorites? Clunkers? What book would you like to see on the big screen? The book I would love to see as a movie is The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater.

So please check out Katrina Lantz, who precedes me on the chain, and Michele McLean who follows me (and will probably be posting like now, since I am late).

Just wanted to give you a heads up. On Tuesday, on the release day of her final book in the Seven Realms series, THE CRIMSON CROWN, I will be posting an exclusive interview with Cinda Williams Chima!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing blog tagfest

 I was asked by my friend Christine Fonseca (aka The Energizer Bunny) to participate in this blog tag event detailing what we are all working on, so here goes.

What is the working title of your book? Exceptional

Where did the idea come from for the book?
From my life

What genre does your book fall under?
young adult magical reality

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
hmmm. no idea!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A ghost in the art closet haunts an insecure artist geek

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have an agent

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I haven't written more than seven chapters!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh, um. My own book--Breaking Glass?

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I always wanted to rewrite my own sorry high school experience from an adult perspective.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Romance? Mystery? Clues in the art closet?

 I'm tagging

Colleen Kosinski
Jennifer Allis Provost
Michelle McLean
Christine Fonseca

Oh, and stay tuned for some other interesting things in the works very soon. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

My adventures in book cover design

I've been a graphic designer for many, many years. As a matter of fact, my day job is teaching graphic design at Bronx Community College where I have my students create their own cover designs. But it's only been recently that I've delved into the world of cover design myself. After getting the the amazing opportunity from my publisher, SPENCER HILL PRESS, to design my own cover, I've gone on to do quite a few more for them. The above cover for the forthcoming book, AWOKEN, is the first of the SHP covers to be revealed. Expect more to come.

Cover design, the way we do it at SHP, is a fascinating process.  At SHP, it's a collaboration between the editor, the author and me. We really listen to what the author wants and try to represent the spirit of the book as authentically as possible. It's an incredibly exciting process. In some cases, I've only been given the blurb, as in the case with AWOKEN. In other cases, I've read the whole manuscript. It really depends on how long it takes me to grasp the fundamentals of the book.

It took a lot of comps for me to get this book right. I really had no idea how to portray this rather complex tale. Below, I've posted the final comp that became the cover you see above. What we do is find low rez images from stock photography houses and play around with them until we capture the right mojo. I've yet to set up a photo shoot, though SHP is open to that possibility. I guess it's my roots as an illustrator that drives me to combine multiple images to get the effect I am looking for. And of course, the final touch is the typography, something all my students at BCC know I am absolutely adamant and exacting about. (I give some of them type nightmares). For the final, the high rez images are purchased, and then the cover has to be rebuilt from scratch to look as similar to the comp as possible, and of course, cleaner, crisper and better.

If you want to see more of my cover designs, and keep up to date with new work as it is released, you can check out my page on here, or visit my Facebook designer page at:

This is the final rough comp made of low rez images.
You can even see the stock houses watermark if you look closely enough.

Friday, October 5, 2012


I used to be of the mind that character names are extremely important. I have always chosen mine very carefully, probably even more carefully than I named my own children. Names do shape personality, so, to that end, I always thought, a character’s name is critical.
For instance, in my very first book, a book I have buried in a very deep dark hole never to be unearthed again (even my agent begged me to let her read it and I wisely refused) I still love my character’s name. The mc was named Will and basically, his name was a pretty concise characterization of his personality. He had a very strong Will! And you know what his love interest’s name was? Faith! Oh, but the book was a hot mess. I couldn’t even tell you what genre it was.
I have two other characters from shelved books whose names I love so much, that one I am bringing one of them back in a different book. That would be mysterious and stormy Xavier. Man, I love that name, and I love that character! The other character whose name I felt fit the sweet gentle soul of a poet was Mateo. And because I love that character and the name to go with it, I do plan to bring him back.
But, my favorite character name is the mc of my forthcoming book, Breaking Glass. That would be the ironic and troubled Jeremy Glass, and I have to say, his name came before anything else. It just seemed to fit.
But do names really matter all that much? 
When I first started reading the Hunger Games, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around those names! Katniss Everdeen?? Peeta? Gale for a guy? They were just so odd, and seemingly random. And now they are household names. In a lesser book, they might have been borderline ridiculous.
I am currently reading a wonderful fantasy series by Cinda Williams Chima *psst--interview coming in a few weeks* called The Seven Realms series. The main characters have complicated, almost clunky names that bothered me at first. The male main character is named Han, and the female is named Raisa. I don’t particularly care for the names as they are not every lyrical or descriptive in my opinion. However, after the third chapter, I ceased caring. Han, simply became Han. Though the name told me very little about this complex mc, eventually, his multi-faceted character defined the name!
And what about Harry Potter? I don’t believe there is a book I can site with better and more appropriate names. Severus Snape? Please, someone do better than that. Delores Umbridge, is perhaps my favorite. The names add color and wit to the tale, and enhance the whimsical world of JK Rowling.
So, the verdict? Write a great character and weave an excellent tale, and the name will come to fit the character rather than the other way around.
 For further reading, here are some links to other articles on character names.

And do be sure to stop by and visit the blog chainers for more reflections on character names
 Visit Katrina Lantz the previous link in this chain!
and be sure to pay a visit to Michelle McLean, the next link in the chain. She posts on Monday!

By all! See you round the blogosphere!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More cool things coming!

This month two of the covers I designed for Spencer Hill Press are going to be revealed. On Monday, look for Awoken, a super cool middle grade fantasy, and Extracted, a steampunk YA. I'm really excited about the covers, and I'm also really excited about the books!