Hello readers and welcome to an exciting first on my blog- an interview with a fellow writer! I had the great pleasure of picking the one and only Tamara Shoemaker’s brain about her newest release, Kindle the Flame. For those of you who are not familiar with the Shenandoah Valley’s own Shoemaker and her work (you poor, unfortunate souls!) here’s a little background. She authored the best-selling Shadows in the Nursery (comprised of Ashes, Ashes, Pretty Little Maids, and Broken Crowns) Christian mystery series, as well as her latest Christian mystery Soul Survivor. But perhaps even more exciting for fantasy buffs like me, she just released her very first (but definitely not last, stay tuned for more about that later on) Young Adult fantasy book, Kindle the Flame. Here’s a little taste from the back cover:
A girl who never fit in, a young man forced into an outcast’s life, a boy raised without a community, and a ruler who holds the key to their destinies…
Kinna has a Pixie she can’t train and a head full of doubts. Her worst fears come true when she fails the Tournament entrance test. She flees her Clan in disgrace, inexplicably drawn to a Mirage, a rare Dragon she has no business training.
Ayden is cursed—anyone he touches turns to ash before his eyes. He hides amongst the Dragon Clan with the only creatures he cannot hurt. When Kinna frees his favorite Dragon, his world turns upside down.
Cedric grows up in isolation, fostered by an outcast Centaur. When tragedy strikes, he ventures into a strange new world of Dragons, political intrigue, and magic.
Sebastian’s country hovers on the brink of war. Chased from his rightful throne, he schemes to retake his kingdom by any means possible, even if it threatens an ancient agreement that underpins the foundation of his realm.
Only by examining their pasts will these four find their futures. But will they survive the fires of discovery?
So if that somehow doesn’t hook you, here’s hoping this will. Without further ado, let’s get to know the marvelous, talented, and down-to-earth Tamara Shoemaker a little better.
TNK: Let’s start at the beginning- can you trace Kindle the Flame back to a single idea, thought, or even a dream?
TS: Kindle the Flame began with my son. I had just finished up writing my first fantasy trilogy (the first of which will be published in November!), and I was feeling at loose ends. I needed to come up with another story idea, so I’d been tossing around story thoughts through my head all day. That night, after I finished brushing my son’s teeth (he was four at the time), he looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, where do I go when I sleep?”
I didn’t understand him at first, but after further conversation, I figured out that he thought he actually went somewhere (like, off his bed into his dreams) when he slept. That idea stuck in my head, and I started putting together a story about a boy who would travel to another world every night in his dreams. This world eventually took on a life of its own, Pixies and Dragons, Sirens and Ogres, Direwolves and Rockmonsters.
In the end, the dream travel didn’t make it in the final cut of Kindle the Flame. That’s sad, because it’s a brilliant idea, but I plan to use it for a future book. I just need to hone my ideas a bit more.
TNK: In my own fantasy writing, I have noticed a tendency for my world (and even characters) to evolve over time. How did Kindle the Flame change from its inception to the final form, in terms of plot and characters?
TS: Well, you just read about how my hero was going to be a boy who dream-traveled. After a few nights of scribbling on my notebook, the boy eventually gained an older sister who was going to discover his dream travel, and eventually go with him. There was going to be an evil king who tried to trap the boy in the world, and then as plans flowed from the end of my pen, the boy disappeared, but his sister’s character had built such a strong connection with me, that I left her in, and she became Kinna. The king, of course, was Sebastian. Any book I write will always have an element of romance, and voila, Ayden appeared. I hated so badly to erase the boy from my plans, so I brought him back as Cedric (I hope this isn’t giving away too many spoilers). 🙂
The dream-travel was the last thing to go in the recycle bin. I clung tenaciously to that story line, but it didn’t work for the story I wanted to write. So, once again, I shelved it, and I plan to use it for another set of books I want to write. (Interviewer’s note- Ooh another series in the works! Can’t wait.)
TNK: I’ve read some of your Christian fiction (though I definitely need to read them all!) You are an adept writer in any genre it seems, but personally I think you really hit your stride with your YA Fantasy work. Did you always know you had an inner JK Rowling, or did you discover your taste for this genre over time?
TS: Well, first, I’m extremely flattered to be compared to Rowling; I have the highest regard for her wizard world and the world-building she so expertly wielded in those books, so any comparison with her is kind of a dream come true for me. 🙂
No, I don’t know that I knew I had an inner fantasy writer hiding inside me, although I probably should have. Many, many of my childhood scribbles delved into a fantastic world with magic and creatures and kingdoms, etc. Those were the stories I enjoyed writing the most, though I did try all sorts of different ones as I grew up: romance, mystery, literary fic, even poetry. Fantasy remains my favorite of them all.
TNK: a running joke amongst us writers familiar with your work that you seem to have a new book written every other week. As someone who has taken years to write a measly two manuscripts, I have to ask: Any tips or advice on how to be as prolific as you are?
TS: Lol! I wish I could write a new book every other week. I have enough stories zooming around in my head to accommodate such a schedule, just not enough time to sit and pound them all out on the keyboard.
I guess the key to my, um, prolific-ness (prolificosity?), is consistency. I rarely let a day go by without sitting down and making myself write. If I’ve had an awful day, the kids just aren’t behaving, the dishes are stacked up, the laundry is undone, I still write. I may not feel like it, and it may be the worst piece of horse-hockey ever to crop up on my laptop, but it’s out and done, and available for editing.
I also set goals for myself. If I’m in the first draft of a novel, I have a goal of a minimum of a thousand words each day. If I’m editing a novel, I have a minimum of a chapter per day edited. Either way, slow step by slow step, I’m approaching the end of a project, and there’s no high quite like the high that comes with the completion of something into which you’ve thrown yourself so thoroughly. (Interviewer’s note- solid advice, hope I can follow it…)
TNK: Back to Kindle the Flame (because honestly I can’t get enough of it!). Writing from four different perspectives must have been quite the challenge. What kind of factors did you consider when creating four unique characters, each strong enough to carry the story in their own right?
TS: Well, it took a lot more mapping of characters. In my previous thrillers, the characters were born and sort of grew over the pages of the manuscripts. I didn’t spend loads of time with their histories and their families and their struggles and their habits beforehand.
With Kindle the Flame, the characters had been well-developed and polished before I ever let them see the page. And then, they grew some more. I’m quite proud of those guys; they have depth that none of my other characters in my other books have seen yet, and they have enough depth to pull them through two more books, as well, I believe.
The advantage of writing from four perspectives is the expanse of area I can cover. When I write from only one perspective, I can only see what that one person sees, and barring major info dumps, the world has a tendency to stay small. Multiply that times four, though, and the world grows exponentially larger. Fantasy is all about world-building, so viewing that world from four different perspectives is a major bonus.
TNK: Any teasers you can give us for the next book in the Heart of a Dragon series? How about for your upcoming Guardian of the Vale trilogy?
TS: Book two in my Heart of the Dragon series will move off of West Ashwynd’s soil and into enemy territory and the neighboring country of Lismaria. The same four characters will be back, but with new struggles and continuing struggles, and new creatures will be introduced as well (which I’m super excited about)! There will be more power struggles, more drama, another love triangle (yippee, scream the YA readers, sarcastically or not), a new Dragon, and a cool twist, which I’m still hammering out in my notebook. (Editor’s note- Umm you can’t write this fast enough!)
And yes! The first book of the Guardian of the Vale trilogy, Mark of Four, will hit the market on Cyber Monday in November. It’s an urban fantasy set in post-apocalyptic earth, and the new source of power is the elements: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. Elementals can wield one of those four, depending on their bloodlines, but…
Alayne Worth can wield all four. No one knows why. But all the powers in CommonEarth, both good and evil, want her gift. How will she survive the earth-shattering struggle for the power she possesses?
Oh, the excitement! I hope you check it out.
And there you have it folks! If you have been searching for new reading material, Shoemaker certainly has something for everyone. From high-flying dragon adventure, to elemental epics, to heart-stopping, faith-affirming thrillers. I hope you will do yourself a favor and check out her work today. You can start by taking a look at her website, following her on twitter, liking her on facebook, and of course checking her out on Goodreads and Amazon.
Thanks for reading!