2017 Fantasy Extravaganza - Heather Fawcett

The very first interview this year is with a first-time author whose debut novel actually comes out TODAY.  It received a star from Booklist, favorable reviews from PW and Kirkus, and not only has a beautiful cover but an original story.  I'm so pleased to present Heather Fawcett, who is here talking about her BRAND NEW novel Even the Darkest Stars!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: EVEN THE DARKEST STARS is said to be loosely inspired by the early climbers of Mt. Everest, can you explain how you took early mountain climbing and transformed it into a fantasy novel? 

Heather Fawcett: I've always been interested in explorers, including those early climbers of Everest. I thought it would be interesting to create a world in which explorers were a venerated class, sort of analogous to the role played by wizards/magicians/sorcerers in many fantasy novels (that said, the world of EVEN THE DARKEST STARS also has a magical class). In this world, "Royal Explorer" is a job title, someone sent by the Emperor to map distant lands and spy on enemies--and, yes, bring glory to the Empire by climbing deadly mountains. All those ideas came together with my own interest in climbing and my love of fantasy.

OUATR: Knowing that there was some real-life inspiration for the story I'm curious what kind of research you did, and how much of it and which parts of it ended up in the book?

HF: I did a fair bit of research into early twentieth-century expeditions to Everest. I also read everything I could find about some of the female mountaineers I admire, such as Junko Tabei and Lhakpa Sherpa. All that said, the book is primarily a product of my imagination, and I generally prioritized storytelling and tension over meticulous accuracy when it came to the actual expedition. Some details are glossed over, because a technically accurate description of an expedition across mountainous terrain culminating in an Everest-like climb would be very long and probably not of interest to many people--and it wouldn't leave much space for romance or magical complications, which are key parts of the book!\

OUATR: You've included a mix of fantasy elements, dragons and magic, with pretty mundane things, yak and still needing ropes to climb.  How did you find that balance between the real and the fantastic so that the elements were there but not too much?

HF: That's a great question, and it's something all fantasy writers have to navigate. In a fantasy world where characters have access to the supernatural, how do you ensure they can still connect with readers on a human level? I think the key is to articulate the limitations of your world's magical system before you start writing. So, in the world of EVEN THE DARKEST STARS, anyone can do magic, but some people are better at it than others, and different forms of magic have different "costs". If magic has no limitations, there's no story, because all problems can be solved with a spell and character development is nullified.

OUATR: What is it that drew you to writing fantasy, and is fantasy all that you write, or do you also write novels in other genres?

HF: I focus on fantasy--that's what I love to read, so that's what I love to write. That said, I'm also a sci-fi fan, so I may try my hand at that in the future.

OUATR: What books would you suggest to people who have finished EVEN THE DARKEST STAR and are waiting for the sequel? 

HF: Some of the fantasy books I've enjoyed recently include THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden; SHIMMER AND BURN by Mary Taranta; THE SKELETON TREE by Kim Ventrella; and JULIA VANISHES by Catherine Egan. It's not out yet, but I also highly recommend AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS by Margaret Rogerson.

The Book;

Title: Even the Darkest Stars
Author: Heather Fawcett
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: Even the Darkest Stars #1
Published: September 5, 2017
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Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.
But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.
The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

 The Author;

Heather was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, where she enjoyed wandering around in the wilderness and only occasionally getting lost. She also spent extended periods of time in Italy, where she learned very little Italian but ate quite a lot of pizza, and Ireland, where she searched half-successfully for puffins and selkies.
Before becoming a writer she worked, among other things, as an archaeologist, a technical writer, and a backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre company (which she could write several novels about). Heather has a Master’s degree in English Literature and briefly considered becoming a professor, before she realized it involved more than reading books, drinking excessive amounts of tea, and wearing colourful elbow patches.

The Giveaway;

While I'm not specifically giving away a copy of Heather's book one of the prizes is a featured book of the winner's choice, of which Heather's is, so enter the giveaway if you're at all interested.  Heather was also kind enough to donate a signed bookplate, that will either go in a swag pack to a winner, or to the winner of the featured book should they choose EVEN THE DARKEST STARS.

US Giveaway 

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International Giveaway

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  1. Emma Mills. I loved her first book.

  2. I'd love to read a post about Marie Lu! <3
    Megan S.

    1. BTW, I think I accidentaly entered the US giveaway, but I'm INT. Can I still enter if the book is shipped from TBD? <3

  3. This book is unlike anything I've ever read before! Next time I see it at Barnes and Noble I'll definitely pick it up.

  4. I'm a big fan of SJM so I'm hoping to see her in person. :)

  5. I'd love to meet Mafi Tahereh or SJA one day *.*

  6. I would love to meet Colleen Hoover.