I really love talking with authors! I love hearing their stories, process and just getting to know them a little better. I’m an author fangirl! And today I’ve got a great interview with Jessica Minyard, author of Stones and Finger Bones. This book is an epic fantasy novel that is rich in magical stories. If you love YA Fantasy, you need to pick up this book. Here’s a quick synopsis of the story from Jessica’s website:
Synopsis: Aurelia Barone, Jewel of Starry Stone, harbors no illusions about the purpose of her life as heir to the throne. But after two failed betrothals, she starts to feel like nothing more than a pawn being moved aimlessly about a game board.
Until the night she loses everything.
Kidnapped by a wise-cracking mercenary with more than one identity, Aurelia embarks on a mission across land and sea to avenge her father’s death.
But an evil is rising from the ashes of memory. Insidious magic is stirring. The dregs of a once-powerful nation are thirsty for blood and revenge.
They seek to harness Aurelia. To tempt her. To manipulate her.
And if necessary, to destroy her.
Yep, it’s got it all – adventure, magic, bad guys, mysterious good guys…
So let’s meet Jessica, learn more about how this story came to be and how she started on the path to becoming an author.
Thanks so much for taking some time to talk with us today. I want to jump right in and ask about how you got started as a writer. I saw on your About Page that you wrote and illustrated a story called The Dragon of Grindley Grun as a kid. I’d love to hear more about that story!
Thanks for having me, Nalana!
I guess you could say I’ve always been a writer, although I didn’t start taking it seriously until college. The story you mentioned, The Dragon of Grindley Grun, was written when I was about nine and my mom has the only illustrated copy hidden away somewhere. Let me tell you, it’s a good thing I stopped illustrating my stories!
I don’t remember much about the overall plot, but I do recall that the dragon was actually a prince in disguise. He had been cursed by an evil wizard and the princess had to save him. Then they lived happily ever after.
You also have your degree in Creative Writing. Not all writers take this path to becoming authors. How do you think your degree prepared you for writing Stones and Finger Bones?
Since writing was something I was passionate about, it made sense – to me – to major in Creative Writing in college. Stones and Finger Bones was already in progress when I started my degree, but being able to study a variety different works through the lens of a writer definitely helped me refine my technical skills and identify when pieces of the story weren’t working. The final product of Stones is vastly different from than the story I originally started.
I also found the workshop process invaluable. I was presenting my work to other people to read and offer critique, which can be a daunting experience for new writers. Being receptive to feedback is important for all authors, especially if the feedback isn’t always positive! You’ve gotta have a thick skin in this business.
Let’s talk a little bit about Stones and Finger Bones. The story is told from a few different perspectives and points in time. How did this story get started for you? Was there a story line or point of view that presented itself to you first?
Aurelia came first, and the first draft was basically a compilation of every element I loved about fantasy, so lots of cuts had to be made to make the story more cohesive. I’ve been reading fantasy for a long time, I was accustomed to reading multiple viewpoints, and so having multiple characters tell the story just arose organically while I was writing.
Tyr and Kostadin’s story actually came last. Yes, the prologue was the last chapter I wrote. I wanted to use Kostadin’s story as a frame for the book and give readers a little more insight into him. He quickly became one of my favorite characters, despite his nefarious intentions.
And from an organizational perspective, how did you keep all of the story lines straight? (she asks in amazement!)
Haha, notes! Lots and lots of notes!
It also helped that not every story line crossed immediately, even though they’re all related. Take Tyr’s story, for example. He’s not even inhabiting the same year as the other characters and I have to be in a totally different headspace to write from his point-of-view, so it’s almost like I’m writing a completely different book. That may not sound particularly helpful, but it let me mentally keep each story separate.
Your book is rich in magical stories. How did you develop this aspect of the story? Were there any specific inspirations?
Honestly, Catholicism and vampire myths. I worked very hard to make sure the book’s belief system supported the magic system and I drew a lot of inspiration from the structure of Catholicism. The epigraph of the story at the beginning of the book, starring Salil and Salin, is a direct homage to the story of Cain and Abel.
I can’t really explain the vampire thing without giving away spoilers! But, trust me, if you look close enough, you’ll see the parallels.
Stones and Finger Bones is the first in your Black Tower series. Without too many spoilers, can you tell us what’s next?
I do have more books planned in the Black Towers series but I’m not sure how many at this moment, and Aurelia may not always be the main character. I am working on the direct sequel – I promise! There’s a planned prequel as well, starring the spice merchant himself, because I figured I probably owe him that, at least.
The sequel is a bit darker so far, and Aurelia definitely has a lot of challenges to overcome on her way to the throne. We meet some interesting new characters, notably the Warlord of Endova, who I think everyone is going to enjoy.
We always love to hear what other books author’s love. Can you share with us some of your favorite Fantasy novels?
Ooooh, this is a tough one! I’ve been reading fantasy since forever – at one point it was the only genre I would even touch. The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury is one of my favorites from this year and The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski was also pretty great. I recently read a short story anthology, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories that was wonderful.
Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us today!
Thank you! It was fun answering these questions!
And don’t forget to check out the Book Scents candle inspired by Stones and Finger Bones – The Spice Merchant!