Yes! It’s Writer Wednesday! I love featuring writers on this blog every week – it’s amazing to get to know so many talented people just a little bit better. This week, I’m bringing you someone I am privileged to know well in REAL LIFE (such a thing does exist, I hear): my good friend and writer extraordinaire, Tamara Shoemaker.
Tamara and I have book babies born on the same day: her excellent YA fantasy, Mark of Four, made it into the published world on Monday, the very same day A Matter of Time hit Amazon’s shelves! We’re Book Twins Mommies! Or something…
Anyway, I hope you read all about Tamara and her brilliant new book, Mark of Four, which I call The Last Airbender meets Harry Potter. If you like YA fantasy, you’re gonna love it!
If you could wield any one – but ONLY one – of the four elementals, which would you choose, and why? Secondly, because I’m a romance author, if you could DATE someone wielding one—but only one—of the elements, which would you choose, and why?
There’s a reason why Alayne is a Water-Wielder. Throughout the course of the trilogy, I had a chance to explore, deeply, the psyche of a person who wielded water, or one who manipulated flames, or one who turned air out of its courses, or one who sifted the earth. All of them were fascinating to me, but I love water. The fluidity, the clarity, the ebb and flow of it. It’s like music to me. None of the other elements connect with me as closely as that one does, so of course, I had to give it to the main character.
If I had to date an Elemental (did I say “had?” Of course I meant “get” to), my first impulse would be to look for another Water-Wielder, ’cause obvs., but then I thought, we might be able to cover more ground if I chose a Fire-Breather. I mean, if he lights the dining room table on fire, I can put it out. Or if I accidentally ice over the washing machine, he’s there to thaw it in the nick of time for that emergency load of laundry… 😉 It’s all about teamwork, y’all.
Why this story? Meaning, from whence did the idea / plot / characters come? In other words, was there one moment at which the light bulb went off and you knew immediately the story? Are the characters, ahem, based off anyone in real life (not that you have to fess up whom)?
The plot came to me in pieces. I think the seed of it was born when I got obsessed with the number four. I started thinking about how stories were often woven around four of something, four seasons, four years, four corners of the earth, four perspectives, four… HEY… four ELEMENTS!!! 😉 After that, the story kind of took off. I love school settings, especially where they train in other classes besides Algebra and French and Government/Economics. I had so much fun coming up with class names in this book. Water-Currents? Throw-Casting? Elementary Elementals? I so wish I could go to Clayborne.
The characters are purely creatures of my twisted brain; however, I will say that Jayme Cross bears a remarkable resemblance to Ben Barnes, bless his gorgeous self. Professor Manders shares a bit of a likeness with Robert Downey, Jr. All the rest look like what I’ve described them in the book, but I can’t place them too closely to a celebrity doppelgänger in this world.
Although published after Kindle The Flame, Mark of Four was actually your first foray into young adult fantasy. How hard was the leap? What inspired it? Do you plan to write more mysteries, or is your heart forever after in worlds of your own creation?
Soul Survivor is, at least at present, my last planned mystery. I enjoyed writing mysteries, and it was a great experience and one I’m profoundly thankful for, because I weave a bit of mystery even into my fantasy plots, but I don’t think I’ll write any more of them. That’s not a hard and fast answer, though. I’m a big proponent of writing the story that comes, and if another mystery slides beneath my laptop keys and whispers (creepily, as mysteries do), “Write me,” you know I’ll have to obey.
The leap from mystery to fantasy didn’t seem hard at first. I loved the freedom I found in fantasy; the only rule was that my story had to make sense within itself. I had no strictures that said I needed to do such-and-such a thing in such-and-such a way. I could throw my imagination to the wind and let it carry me where it would.
However, as time went on and edits and revisions sucked the ink from me, I started to realize that fantasy wasn’t as easy as simply splashing down my imagination onto a page. There were rules to follow, big ones, like world-building plot gaps (and I had many), and romantic entanglements that burned too hot, and then too cold with edits, and then too hot again, and then got scrapped because I was sick of messing with it, and then re-added… anyway, you get the idea.
I will never be able to say enough about the importance of using the services of a good editor. I found an amazing one who found flaws I couldn’t see in my story, and turned it around into a book I can be proud of. She encouraged me to create better work than I’ve ever before done, as well as inspired me to open my own freelance editing business. Mega shout-out to Emily June Street (who is herself an incredible fantasy author; check out her books on Amazon)!
You love to throw love triangles/quadrangles/big ol’ messes at us, in Kindle the Flame AND in Mark of Four. So fess up: which potential love interest in Mark of Four would you a) most want to date, and b) actually be best suited for, temperament-wise?
Haha, you caught me! 🙂 I confess that I love the emotional angst that goes into love triangles. Not that I would ever want to be in one myself, but I do love to watch the give and take of what attracts people to others. Still, you did ask me to place myself in this situation, so… I have to admit that while I am drawn to more than one of the dear boys in the book, I do love Jayme’s easy grin and teasing personality. Coupled together with my mental picture of Ben Barnes, he would be really hard for me to resist. 😉
Both Kindle the Flame and Mark of Four feature kick-tushy, feisty heroines. Are these fun to write? How do you make these women realistic for a young adult audience? (Too perfect, and they’re annoyingly unbelievable; too flawed, and they’re just annoying.)
Um… that’s a great question, and I’m not sure I have an answer. I love protagonists who show loads of character development, and I want to see a journey from page one to page three-hundred and whatever. I enjoy writing female heroines who kick tushy, mostly because I know I would never be able to do the same, and I figure if I can’t in real life, I can at least in my imaginary world. However, the characters are flat and stale if all they do is wield elements and fly dragons. There has to be a mountain to climb somewhere in the story, so I spend lots and lots of time on character development as I go.
[ML says: I italicized that sentence because I love its honesty – and it’s exactly how I feel!]
Would you ever consider writing a male lead? Why or why not?
I did dabble in the male head a little in Kindle the Flame, as I wrote three out of every four chapters from the perspectives of three different males. It was quite an experience. I had to cut waaaay back on the drama and use a more common sense, minimalist approach. Basically, I sat and took notes on my husband before I tried to write those chapters. Not to say that my male points of view were subliminal efforts at inserting my husband into the story; I’d never hear the end of that… 😉
If you had to choose one of your fantasy worlds to live in, which would it be? That of KTF, or MOF?
Which fantasy world would I prefer between epic dragons and element-wielding people? It’s a tough call. But Kindle the Flame didn’t have such conveniences as indoor plumbing and heated homes; plus, how awesome would it be to not have to wear a coat in the winter anymore when you could pull the heat from the atmosphere to warm you? Sure, it’s hard to beat the idea of riding dragons through the open skies, but I gotta say, twisting the elements has gotta be cooler.
Mark of Four
Seventeen-year-old Alayne Worth is an Elemental Water-Wielder. All she wants is to master her talent and live a normal life, but the sudden escape of a feared criminal leaves her family reeling and threatens to keep her from achieving her dreams, especially when the criminal’s reach pushes too close to home.
Secret pasts, strange powers, and tense relationships weave a tangled net around her. As she leaves home to cultivate her skills at an Elemental training center, she clashes with a disturbing reality: both good and evil forces covet Alayne’s unusual gifts, and each side is willing to do almost anything to obtain them.
As Alayne confronts the battle for the power she possesses, she must discover the truth of who she is.
MARK OF FOUR
Tamara Shoemaker lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-ending carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, as well as the upcoming Guardian of the Vale trilogy.
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Thanks so much, Tamara! It’s always a joy to get to share your talents with the world. And, reading audience, if you yourself are a fan of YA fantasy, or know others who are, I highly recommend picking up your copy of Mark of Four today!