An Interview with AFE Smith

6/25/2015 11:00:00 AM Lexie Dunne 1 Comments

Hello, gentle readers!

So as you all know SUPERVILLAINS ANONYMOUS hits e-shelves on Tuesday (if you didn’t know that, here are some buy links), but two days later, an even more exciting premiere hits shelves: AFE Smith’s DARKHAVEN! Reasons why her book is cooler than mine: there is a horse on the cover. She has THREE first initials as opposed to the two that most lame authors have (this is a guaranteed way to make sure JK Rowling never returns my phone calls). And as you’ll find out, her book fights the patriarchy, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Some Deets about DARKHAVEN

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Read on for the interview! Plus, stick around for a couple of surprises at the end of this post!

I have to share this with you: a large part of why I’m looking forward to your book (in addition to the fact that it looks amazing and I love flying horses and am more than a little jealous of your fantastic cover) is because my very, very first Nanowrimo novel when I was but a tiny college freshman, also starred a character named Ayla. My Ayla was, to put it bluntly, a giant Mary Sue that could have used some characterization and probably needed a backbone. You should tell us all about your Ayla to clear the mental palate that image left behind. She’ll be on our Kindles in less than a month, so what do we have to look forward to?

Here’s a secret: my Ayla was originally called Arla, until someone pointed out that’s the name of a dairy company. True story.

What’s she like? Stubborn. Outspoken. Judgemental. Impulsive. But she’s also determined, fiercely loyal (at least to the few people she decides are deserving of her loyalty) and tries to do the right thing, even if it costs her. She can also turn into a winged unicorn, which would make a cool party trick if she ever went to parties.

So at the center of Darkhaven, we have a sibling relationship, Myrren and Ayla. It seems like your book plays with fascinating themes: instead of being the one to inherit, Myrren is left off of the throne because of his sister. You don’t see that in a lot of fantasy. What was your inspiration behind that? (And if it was “ehhh, I think I’ll bite my thumb at the patriarchy today,” you might be my hero)

Well, actually the patriarchy is represented by Myrren and Ayla’s father, Florentyn Nightshade, and he’s dead by the end of the first chapter. TAKE THAT, PATRIARCHY!!!

Just kidding.

It was more that I wanted to flip the trope in which a younger sibling schemes to dispose of the older one so that he or she can inherit. Sibling relationships can be so strong and awesome, yet in fantasy you find siblings stabbing each other in the back more often than not – particularly when it comes to little things like thrones. So rather than have Ayla happy to take Myrren’s place, I made her outraged on his behalf.

Of course, Myrren is being removed from succession because he hasn’t inherited the shapeshifting gift of his bloodline – unlike Ayla. And I set it up that way because a character who is powerless in a family full of powerful people makes for an interesting dynamic. Like a superhero, I guess, but in the opposite direction. The person who’s different from the rest is always fascinating to read about.

I’m always impressed with the worldbuilding that you lovely fantasy authors go through. What is your favorite part of the world you’ve created? Or, alternatively, what was the most fun to create for you?

Darkhaven is set in a city called Arkannen that consists of seven concentric rings, with the actual tower of Darkhaven at the centre. Each ring is accessed by a single gate that’s named after a different element. So I had fun drawing the Arkannen map and designing the gates.

Also, I’m the kind of person who likes to know where everything is located before I write a scene, so if I didn’t have a map I’d get all discombobulated by not knowing whether the tramway was north or south of the canal. Maps are fun and necessary, children!

One of the cool things is how you got your start in publishing. I’ve talked a bit about my experience with the open submission on this blog, but I want to hear your side of the story. How’d that happen for you? Any amusing stories of your time?

The funny thing for me was that I got the email – the one from a Voyager editor – the day before my birthday. And it just said she loved the book and wanted to talk to me about it. So obviously I emailed right back and arranged a phone call for the next day. But then I began to worry that the phone call would be like a job interview and if I didn’t sound writerly enough I wouldn’t get the job. So I slept terribly that night and spent the entire morning of my birthday in a state of yawny panic – which, let me tell you, is the worst kind of panic.

Still, I was offered a publishing contract on my birthday, which is pretty neat.

Every week, you send an author into exile with only a few books as company. Tell me, did your sadism start early or was this a later manifestation in your life? Also, where did you come up with this and why do you keep sending away our best authors?

Hey, I don’t consider it to be sadistic. I’d kill to be completely alone with my favourite books. And besides, I sent myself into exile before anyone else, so it’s not as if I’m making my guests do anything I haven’t done myself.

The idea is borrowed from a British radio programme called Desert Island Discs, although that requires guests to pick music rather than books. I wanted an interview format that would be a bit different from the usual, and since I always like getting new book recommendations, forcing people to give them to me before packing them off into exile seemed a good way to go.

And yeah, I send all the best authors into exile so that people stop buying their books and buy mine instead. Muahahah– wait. I’m in exile too, aren’t I. Dammit.

Lightning Round:

Most useful superpower?

Never needing to sleep again.

Most useless?

X-ray vision. I have never looked at something and thought, “I need to X-ray that.”

Dream vacation?

I hear being exiled to a remote island with your five favourite books is nice.

Who wins in a fight, JRR Tolkien or GRR Martin?

Oh, Martin, definitely. His kill count is so high that he must be virtually indestructible by now.

Favorite silly movie?

Zoolander. It’s become part of my household vocabulary. Favourite phrases include “What is this? A school for ants?” and, of course, “Do you think I’m too stupid to know what a eugoogly is?”

Smarties or Mars Bars?

Depends if you mean British Smarties (which are chocolate in a sugar shell) or American Smarties (which I think are just sugar candy?). British Smarties > Mars Bars > American Smarties.

I think about chocolate a lot.

Lexie’s note: of course I meant the British Smarties. American Smarties are chalk flavored disappointment.

Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show or Tim Curry in Clue?

I have to admit, I’ve never seen Clue, so RHPS.

3 fantasy novels you think everybody should read?

Well, as it happens, my contract with Voyager is for three books … no? OK then.
I’ll go for Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.

And finally, the most important question of all: your preferred weapon for when you inevitably get stuck in a fantasy novel?

Magic. I’d be useless at wielding anything with a pointy end, but magic is the perfect weapon for a person whose idea of exercise is wiggling her feet while she’s sitting at her computer.

Sounds awesome, right? Buy the book!

HarperCollins | Amazon (global link) | Barnes & Noble | Google play | iBooks | Kobo

Scavenger Hunt Clue:

Aaaaaaaaaaand a GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To see more of AFE Smith, follow her on social media and make sure to check out the rest of the tour!

1 comment:

  1. The link for your new book isn't working! Where can I get it?


Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.