Good Morning everyone! Thank you for joining us today for Verity Buchanan’s interview! I’m very excited to host this young lady on my blog today, and hope you will enjoy hearing about her debut novel, The Journey, coming soon from Ambassador International!
Welcome Verity! First, tell us a little bit about your new release. What makes your novel unique for readers?
The Journey is a young adult fantasy, coming out in a few months with Ambassador International. It’s the story of three siblings’ search for safety, and deals with themes of courage, responsibility, and growing up. Inner journeys parallel outer journeys as the Thorne family makes its way across nearly two thousand miles of dangerous terrain and hostile territories.
The Journey’s uniqueness comes in its joint focus on siblinghood and ordinary people who are just trying to live their lives. They may not get a lot of fanfare, but their story deserves to be told.
Do you try to be more original or to give readers what they want?
When I wrote The Journey, I was writing for myself. The only audience I had was my sister and co-creator of Legea (Legea being the world), who faithfully read every word I wrote. I’ve always had a big passion for being original and not pandering to the demands of the market — write what you want, what will give you joy, and there will always be someone who loves it the way you do. However, shortly after finishing The Journey, I discovered an online writer’s community and began sharing my stories there, and I believe that my style transitioned slightly in the period following. While it was partly fine-tuning my abilities as a writer, it was also having a growing audience of readers and acquiring a keener eye for what “clicked” and what didn’t.
But all in all, I’ve never been one for writing “for the market”. My subject matter isn’t your usual YA fantasy, and I don’t foresee it becoming so unless the trends themselves change.
How many unpublished and half-written books do you have?
The rest of the Ceristen Series, of which The Journey is #1, is completed and under editing right now. While I love The Journey, it’s these three remaining books that are the real work of my heart. The Village introduces my all-time favorite character; The Claw is the best book I’ve ever written; and The War carries the most beautiful message I can ever hope to write.
I have several other shorter stories finished, but don’t have plans to publish any of them in the foreseeable future. I’m actively working on two more books, a middle-grade fantasy and a four-volume epic, and have started two more but have to shelve them for the time being. Someone find the overachiever badge…
What is your favorite childhood book? Why?
This is almost as hard as a favorite book! I’m going to narrow it down to two: Johnny Tremain (by Esther Forbes) and Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Eloise Jarvis McGraw).
Johnny Tremain is simply a classic. The character growth is subtle and phenomenal, the historical setting is masterfully executed, and the people are unforgettable. I loved it as a kid of seven or eight, and I’ve loved it more with every subsequent reading. It’s a book that doesn’t get old.
When I was twelve, I was wholly obsessed with Ancient Egypt, and Mara, Daughter of the Nile, along with several other excellent reads, was the reason why. If there’s one romance I ever recommend to anyone, this is it. But it’s not just romance. It’s romance, political drama, and on-the-edge-of-your-seat intrigue. And the character development is glorious. You will not be able to put it down.
If anyone who knows me wonders why I didn’t list Lord of the Rings… well, that one’s a given.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Fighting through my perfectionistic streak. I’ll get stuck on one sentence for an entire hour when it doesn’t come out to my satisfaction, or spend another hour combing the thesaurus for the precise word that’s niggling on the fringes of my brain. I can’t focus if I leave the problem unfixed, and I can’t get anything done while I sit stymied on that one sentence. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Because of this, I’m typically a slow writer, except on rare days of super creative flow. I’ve learned not to wait on inspiration when it comes.
Have you ever based any of your characters on the people in your life?
When I was younger, I usually based dads off my own father, who seemed like the epitome of everything a dad should be — teasing, affectionate, lots of rough tickles. In The Journey, a minor character was inspired by the way a friend of mine laughs. It’s such a unique, contagious sound, I had to capture it in writing. Finally, one of the sibling groups in my books was originally a self insert of myself and my siblings, although they’ve grown away from that now.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Well, aside from my third-grade math book… (long division was painful!) it was probably Johnny Tremain, or possibly Walk the World’s Rim, which our family read that same year for school. I didn’t tear up easily over books as a child; compare that to now!
What other authors are you friends with and how have they inspired you?
M. L. Little, whose first book releases this August, is one of my dearest friends. Her unapologetic, innovative writing style has motivated me to be bolder with my own, and her will to keep trying is truly inspiring.
Daphne Self, my editor and a fellow author with Ambassador International, inspires me to keep going through hard times.
I also know many authors who are young and not yet published, yet they are some of the most talented and dedicated people I know. Vanna, Elizabeth, Cheyenne, Bri, Sarah… all these young ladies have enriched my writing life in innumerable ways, and I’m blessed to call them friends.
How old were you when you began writing and what prompted you to start?
1: I’m not sure anymore. I remember being six, but the visual memory is one that would have to be when I was seven.
2: Either way, my mother gave me a notebook — it was a wee little thing, one of those mini Composition notebooks about the size of your hand. Notebooks were for writing stories in, I figured. I never looked back.
Finally, tell us about the world/setting you’ve created for your novel!
When I write, I want Legea to feel like a real world — one that we could visualize ourselves in, one that feels like what we know, while still maintaining its idiosyncrasies. I strive for realism, real people, and real-people problems. From the very beginning of my fantasy career, I hoped to create an environment that people could come away from and say, “It feels like it’s always been there.”
Because of the angle it takes on real-world struggles, magic systems have never been a part of Legea. There are fictitious creatures, some of whom have supernatural endowments, but spells and staffs are an aspect that can’t weave satisfactorily into the atmosphere I’ve created. (I have the highest respect for writers who can create a realistic, character-driven environment and a full-blown magic system! Legea simply has a subtly different emphasis.)
Of the typical fantasy settings, Legea is closest to the medieval Europe trope. There’s nothing vital about this choice; still, I enjoy exploring an older world, experimenting with older speech and lifestyles while staying real and comprehensible. Following from my love of historical fiction, I seek to give readers a similar immersive experience, letting them belong for a little while to a different world.
One of the things I loved about writing The Journey was getting to explore so many of the locations that I’ve developed over the past eight years. As we flit from one stop to the next, you get snapshots of the deep and varied cultures embedded within each one. And my favorite way to show that is through languages/names.
As a dedicated Tolkien reader, I picked up on the idea of creating languages straight off. The book Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey introduced me to the concept of evoking a mood/culture with the sounds of different languages, and a few years of Latin in high school educated me on the logistics of creating grammar and phonetics. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started throwing arbitrary letter combinations around, but currently Legea has about twenty official languages, three of which are highly developed, and the remainder slowly accumulating a base of vocabulary and individual quirks.
I honestly had no idea where I would go with this question at first. I have so much, it’s hard to narrow it down! But I hope I’ve given you all a fair idea of the groundwork of my world. Realism, cultural immersion, and languages. Lots of languages.
Fred Thorne must shoulder full protection of his sisters after a fire leaves them penniless, friendless, and homeless. He sets out to follow the last advice his great-aunt gave him: Take the girls to the refuge home in Menevace. But what if, in droughtstricken Menevace, there is no refuge home for them to stay… The Journey follows the three Thornes through rejection, captivity, and an increasing downward spiral of guilt as Fred fails time and time again to protect his family from the terrors of the world. Will they ever find a place of rest and safety again? Throw in a lot of missing siblings, a sister jealous for attention, and a strange, beautiful creature called a thindran – The Journey is an adventure you won’t want to miss!
Coming Soon from Ambassador International!
About the Author:
Verity Buchanan is the daughter of an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor and the oldest of eight children. Born in South Carolina, she moved to rural northern Michigan at age eight and has lived there since. She has been a voracious reader since she was four years old; from there, it was a bare step to writing her own stories down. She has completed an entirety of four novels and two novellas set in Legea, of which “The Journey” is her first published work.
Excerpt from The Journey:
Fred slept, a heavy and dreamless sleep, and woke in the hour before dawn. His thoughts of last night returned to trouble him as he sat, watching the sky lighten with pale gold and muted rose and violet; and the longer he sat, the more he was troubled and the greater his responsibility weighed upon him.
Finally, he acknowledged the truth: if he would know how unsafe the roads were, as well as what he could do about it, he must ask. The innkeeper surely was awake by this time. With a glance at his sisters’ silent forms, he left the room and headed down the hall.
The innkeeper was not in the tiny entry space; Fred peered into the adjoining common-room, but that, too, was empty. No; not quite empty. One lone man was sitting toward the back, the dawn light coming in harsh through the north window to settle on his lanky form. His feet were on the table, his chair tilted back, and he sat there quite still, save for his hands, which were fiddling casually with a knife. Again and again he flicked it into the air, either to catch it by the handle or allow it to land quivering in the wood of the table. Then suddenly his half-closed eyes snapped open in a keen, accusing stare at Fred.
His boots swung down, and his chair legs met the floor, and lazily the knife flicked out in an arrogant, imperious summons.
Fred drew back, not one thought in him to obey that summons. But as he turned to the doorway a mocking voice issued from behind him:
“Look at him run! Even a babe knows better than to turn his back on an enemy. I could pin you between the shoulder blades where you stand, little puppy.”
Fred whirled back, half-turned again, took a step, hesitated, and stood bewildered.
“Now he is muddled in his head, for all his instincts would have him go but he does not want a knife in his back, and perhaps he is afraid to trip if he departs facing his fearsome foe! What were you up to, pray, poking your nose in where it does not belong?”
“Is — is this not the common-room?” he stammered.
“It is, and hardly the place for the likes of you. Say on! What business had you here?”
“I only wished to find the innkeeper to ask his advice on a matter.”
Though they were some four yards apart, Fred thought the man’s eyes gleamed of a sudden. “Advice you want! Ask it of me, then. There are many who find my counsel good.” He smiled wolfishly. “It will be better than a fat innkeeper’s.”
Tell this man? What did he dare say that would satisfy him? But if he refused, would he even leave this room alive?