tamaetfcoverIs it hot in here? Or is that just the dragonfire? That’s right, Tamara Shoemaker is back folks! This time to discuss her latest offering, Embrace the Fire. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy, element-bending, dragon-riding schedule to talk to us about love triangles, cliffhangers, and writing tips!

TNK: ETF is your fourth YA fantasy to hit the market. What was your biggest challenge in crafting this tale? Compared to those that came before, do you think it was easier or harder to pull together?

TS: I’ll let you in on a little secret. This book was like driving nails through my fingers. I don’t think I knew where I wanted to take the story until I had already drafted it and sent it to my editor. When she came back with a bajillion pages of developmental notes, I started to get a feel for the great story that was hiding inside three hundred plus pages of mess.

Note to self: always, always know where you want your book to start and end before beginning your draft. It’s immensely helpful in crafting a manuscript.

TNK:Those that read the first book know you left us in a rather precarious state of cliff-hanging at the end of KTF. Will readers finally get the answers they crave? And are you going to throw us right back over that cliff at the end of this one?

TS: Haha! I guess I’ve built up a bit of a cliff-hanging reputation, haven’t I? Mark of Four, Kindle the Flame, and now possibly Embrace the Fire. I do like to leave a good hook to bring the readers back into the trilogy again. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean I need to throw someone off the proverbial cliff… but sometimes I just can’t help it. 😉

To answer your question with maddening obscurity, some questions will be answered in this one, but some will remain shrouded in mystery, and you’ll have to read the third book to answer all the questions.


TNK: You’ve included a number of nonhuman characters (or “creatures”) in this series. From pixies to dryads, griffons to valkyries (and of course, dragons!). How did you go about crafting these characters? The dragons in particular seem to have a fascinating life history and social structure all their own.

TS: I’ve had loads of fun constructing the creature groups and their habits and habitats as I’ve written these books. Dragons are, of course, the best developed, because a.) I have a dragon fetish, and b.) how can you not look past the dragon itself and think about its mating habits and nesting locations and how it fights and how it communicates and about dragon dominance—who has the biggest male-scale?

The creatures were a part of the story from the very start. On the first page of my storyboard notebook, the first day I sat down to start brain-storming, I wrote down every fantasy creature I could come up with, using Google and Facebook to help me come up with ideas. After I had made a comprehensive list, I drew a map of a made-up country and plugged the creature groups into various parts of the land mass. As the story and the map morphed, the history and personalities and character traits of the creature groups expanded as well. It was loads of fun. 🙂

TNK: Those familiar with your work know that you are a master of love triangles. Any hints on what will become of the Kinna/Ayden/Julian situation?

TS: Haha! I’ll throw a hint in free of charge: It will become clear in this book who I have intended to eventually “get the girl.”

Further than that, my lips are sealed. 😉

(TNK:Well guys, you can’t say I didn’t try to get her to reveal something!)

TNK: As I work on writing my own fantasy trilogy, I’ve found that writing the second installment seems to bring its own particular set of difficulties. How many of the secrets/revelations need to come out here, what needs to wait for the third book? How can I develop my characters based on what happened in the first, while still leaving room for growth in the third? Did you experience similar quandaries, or a whole different set of challenges? How did you solve them?

TS: Yes, the second installment is really difficult to plow through and still make it tight, effective, and riveting for your readers. I don’t know if I have any formula that works every time, but one thing I do is to always have my overarching story divided into three places that make good book endings. For my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, I closed the books with the end of a school year at Clayborne, because that was a natural ending point, but I kept a hook in the final few pages to keep readers interested. For Heart of a Dragon, I closed off the main thrust of action at the end of the first two books—following Sebastian’s Tournament in Kindle the Flame, and tailing a major battle at the end of Embrace the Fire, respectively. And of course, I still kept some hooks in there as well.

TNK: As a fantasy writer, I know from my own experiences that the inside of your brain is probably a hectic place with whole worlds bursting to be unleashed. Any advice for those who may have a head full of ideas, but aren’t sure how to begin the process of translating them to the page?

TS: Something that has worked for me when the story is so big and overwhelming in my head is to create character sketches. I’ll take a character that has cropped up in my head and I’ll put them into a random made-up situation. I’ll pull out my notebook and write a couple of pages based on that. As I do, the character blossoms even over a few lines. So when the character comes to the actual manuscript, it’s like I’m introducing an old friend. And then the book begins.

Also, I think for nearly every book I’ve written, I start out writing where I think the story starts, but in the editing stage, I almost always end up writing a first chapter that precedes the original beginning chapter. The truth is, I never really know how to start a book, so I just… start. When I come back later, often the story begins before I ever thought it had, and I have to rework it a little bit.

TNK: Let’s talk heroines for a second. In a lot of traditional fantasy it seems that female characters are either omitted, relegated to damsel, or cast as an unrealistic “fighter chick” parody. Yet in both of your stories your heroines Kinna and Alayne (of Guardian of the Vale fame) seem to walk that tightrope between a relatable girl with vulnerabilities and a fearsome warrior whose bad side is best avoided with grace. How did you go about developing their characters in this way, and why did you choose to do so?

TS: I think that’s because both Kinna and Alayne are reflections of who I truly am and who I really wish to be. So I include opposing characteristics in those two girls, and then they come out a zany mixture of self-confidence and temerity, courage and fear, rationality and thoughtlessness, justice and forbearance. I like to think that every person who reads my books will identify with one side of the character, and perhaps be challenged by the other side.

Thanks so much for stopping by Tamara! Now here’s a little sneak peek of the just released Embrace the Fire!

Wanted by King Sebastian, Kinna, the long-hidden daughter of the assassinated King Liam, flees for her life, determined to seek out her twin brother and free him from Sebastian’s dungeons. Meanwhile, the King holds Kinna’s adopted father as collateral to ensure she keeps her betrothal to a man she does not love.

Once cursed by King Sebastian to turn everything he touched to ash, Ayden suffers from new, searing pain that heats his flesh in a different way. Searching for answers, he digs into the histories of West Ashwynd’s Clans, and his discoveries lead him to the Amulet he’d thought had rid him of his curse. When he finds a rare Mirage Dragon, hope for vengeance upon Sebastian fills him again.

Captured and stripped of his power as Dragon-Master, Cedric resists using his Dragon-speak to advance Sebastian’s political aims. When he escapes the King’s clutches, he resolves to find his twin sister, Kinna. But the enemy has a long reach, and Cedric’s chains are unrelenting.

Ice and agony torment Sebastian, King of West Ashwynd. His fury rages unabated as he prepares for war. When treachery leeches into his ranks, he turns against everyone he trusts. Sebastian believes he cannot be outwitted, but…

Kingdoms rise and fall; wars transform nations—but who can survive the fires of Dragons?

Thanks for reading! Pick up your copy today!

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