Feb 222012
 

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Today we have Melissa Douthit, young adult fantasy author of The Legend of the Raie’Chaelia. I don’t have many authors here that write young adult fantasy and I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the trilogy so far since I don’t normally read this type of genre. I usually get frustrated that I can’t connect well with the young characters but with Douthit’s, I could easily connect. Be sure to read through the interview as we’re also hosting an international giveaway in the end for copy.
Now on to the interview…
The Book Faery Reviews: Welcome Melissa to The Book Faery Reviews! How would you describe the series up through Firelight of Maalda to someone who’s not familiar with it? Perhaps you could even tell us the short pitch you gave to your publisher’s attention in the beginning?

Melissa Douthit:Thank you, Farrah.  Hmm, good question.  The Raie’Chaelia, book one, is a coming-of-age story about a young girl who is thrown into a world that is strange to her after a young life of being sheltered and hidden.  Along her journey, she discovers information not just about the world in which she lives but also about herself, and she meets some interesting characters along the way.  She also comes across a true love (Jeremiah) that she has forgotten she had.The first book lightly touches upon themes regarding environmental, racial and gender issues.  It also introduces a few mysteries that aren’t solved until the second book, The Firelight of Maalda.

The Firelight of Maalda is a continuation of the story where The Raie’Chaelia left off.  In it, the characters learn more about their world and themselves.  They actually do a lot of growing up.  Chalice learns more about herself and her abilities and Jeremiah discovers the reality of the resentment between the two races – the Terravail and the Naeon.  The book introduces new characters, as well, who discover that Chalice is not the princess they think she is or that they want her to be.  Personalities clash and tempers flare when they find just who she is and what she has to do.

Where the first book lightly touches upon deeper themes, the second book really brings these themes out in full view and the reader begins to see how they are tied into the plot.  In this process, some of the mysteries of the first book are revealed but there are also new ones that arise as well – mysteries that will be solved in book three.  I loved writing book two, especially the explosive ending that is both triumphant and heartbreaking at the same time.

I also forgot to mention The Vanishing and The Journey Begins, which are two novella prequels to The Raie’Chaelia.  One is Jeremiah’s story before the beginning of the novel and the other is Chalice’ story.  These two prequels add insight into the characters and provide information as to their motivations and actions in the first book.

TBFR: I liked how I felt like I was Chalice or at least a close friend with her in the story. At times it almost felt like I was playing an RPG game (yes I’m a nerd…haha) wandering around on a quest through village, forest, and mountains. I loved her curiosity, bravery, and strength, and I felt like I was learning things as she was along the way. What was the inspiration behind the world you created and the story line?

MD: I have always been an avid reader of fantasy, starting with LOTR, so the world created in this story is very Tolkien-esque on the surface – just on the surface.  As the story progresses, the reader begins to see that this world is very different, that there is a modern undercurrent to it, in the language of the characters and in the technologies that they encounter.  In the second book, this becomes very clear.  This aspect of their world was inspired by my professional experience working at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (a nuclear weapons lab) and at the Naval Postgraduate School where I worked in a vaulted basement with secret data.  Back when I was writing the outline for the story, I sat back and could clearly see the parallels between the story and my own experience.

The storyline itself of a young girl who doesn’t know who she is and is sent on a quest to save her world is very cookie-cutter as far as fantasies go, IMHO, but I believe what makes the storyline unique is the personalities of the characters, personalities that were inspired by people that I know.  Most of all, I believe the love story between Chalice and Jeremiah is unique, or at least, that was what I was going for.

In so many other YA stories I’ve read, a meet-cute is usually between two strangers who fall in love, but I wanted this one to be different.  The Vanishing is particularly romantic because Jeremiah feels something deep down, something missing from his life that he describes as a hole in his chest, and then finally learns what it is when he sees her again.  That is, his heart remembers.

After asking so many people their opinions on romantic relationships in YA stories, I decided I wanted Chalice and Jeremiah’s relationship to progress and mature in the second book.  I wanted it to be real.  I wanted the reader to see how close they are, not just emotionally but also physically, while at the same time maintaining the sweetness of their relationship, keeping it very mild and tasteful.  I’ve read so many YA series where the two main protagonists seem to be stuck in this kiss-and-talk-only mode.  For me, this seems a bit unrealistic for an 18-year-old and 21-year-old who want to be married.  But there is also another reason for the maturation of their relationship and it has to do with something that happens at the very end of the trilogy.  That’s all I can say on that because I don’t want to spoil it, but I believe readers will love it and find it very sweet … at least I hope they will.  I know I do.

TBFR: The characters you worked into the series were very enjoyable no matter if they were good or bad; lots of personality. Of all thecharacters in the books, who was your favorite character and scene you wrote?

MD: Thank you!  I have to say that my favorite character – just like so many others who have read the story – is Bunejab.  I love him for so many reasons but I think the biggest reason is his dedication to his mission and his loyalty to his friends.  My favorite scene is when he returns with the Naezzi toward the end of book two to help his friends.  For me, that is a very powerful scene.

TBFR: I openly admit that I can’t help but judge a book by it’s cover. I liked your covers. They aren’t the typical fantasy covers yet I felt that they were simple but worked well. Your first 3 covers (2 prequels and book 1) are sunny and bright while book 2 is pretty dark (there are actually 2 different covers but both are still dark). The last book, The Return (releases this summer), is even lighter almost portraying something more pure to me. Did you have in mind the covers you wanted for each book and if so, what were you trying to portray with each one?

MD: That is a very insightful question!  Up until now, no one has asked about that.  There’s a story behind it (isn’t there a story behind everything though? =o)  There was so much debate about the covers.  I knew exactly how I wanted them from the very beginning.  Charles Nemitz was the artist who did the first three and I loved how he did them.  Brielle Porter did the cover for book two and I loved it so much because it fit the story perfectly, but my publishers said that it didn’t match Charlie’s covers.  They said that covers should match so that people know that it is a series.  So I had Charlie make a second cover for book two.  The problem was that I couldn’t decide which cover to use, so I took a poll on my blog and readers opinions were split down the middle on it.  So, I decided to use both, one for Amazon and one for B&N.  Book three will also have two different covers as well.

I did plan the light-dark-light pattern for the covers of the trilogy because it follows the storyline.  The first book is about Chalice’ journey and her discoveries along the way (enlightenment).  The second book brings about some dark issues and problems that she must face and I wanted the cover to reflect the dark and brooding mood of the book.  The cover for book three is a reflection as well but I don’t want to say too much on it so as not to spoil anything.

TBFR: Within the book process (and I’m sure to have missed a step): outlining, story writing, editing, and marketing for sales, what wasthe hardest part and do you have any advice to give another aspiring author that you wish you knew ahead of time?

MD: These are all really good questions!

Everybody writes differently.  Some write with outlines and others can’t use an outline to save their lives.  Some write scenes as they pop in their head and some write in chronological order.  I have to say I do all of these to a certain degree.  My advice is just to write the way you feel most comfortable.  Also, write what you love.  Don’t try to write to the market, or in other words, to write what is most popular.  If you write what you love, it will show in your writing.

As for editing – once you are done with the first draft, set it aside and wait a couple weeks before you go back to edit.  Then, once you feel satisfied, have at least three other people read through it (editors or beta-readers) because there will undoubtedly be something you missed – a typo here, a missing word there.  The more beta-readers you have, the better.  Get feedback.  I know that writing and reading are subjective, but if there are readers who say the same thing about your book over and over, then there must be some truth to what they are saying.  Listen to them.  It will help you become a better writer.

Marketing – whew!  The biggie.  If you go with a traditional publisher, they will help you with marketing because having your books in a physical bookstore is marketing to a certain degree.  But … they will still require you to have a website where you feature your books online, as well as have accounts on all the social networking sites – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Shelfari, Goodreads, etc., etc., etc.  They do this because the book industry is making a shift into digital and at some point, there may be no more brick-and-mortar bookstores left.  With the demise of Borders, and B&N reducing its shelf space, this seems more and more likely.

If you are an indie author, you will do the publishing and social networking yourself, or hire someone to do it.  What I have learned as an indie is that all the social networking, while it helped with spreading the word and getting reviews, it didn’t really help with my sales at all (except for my blog tours).  What really jump-started my sales was when Amazon set book one, The Raie’Chaelia, to free.  I engineered this purposefully.  I placed book one on Smashwords, which channels the book out into the other online bookstores such as Kobo, Apple, etc.  Then, I set the book to free on Smashwords.  Amazon has a little internet bot that goes around and looks for lower prices on other sites.  When it finds one, it adjusts its price to the same or lower, so that it can beat out the competition.  Now that book one is free, it has been downloaded thousands of times, thus increasing the sales of the prequels and book two.  I know Amazon has a program called KDP Select that does some promotion like this but the problem with it is that you can’t have your books in the KDP Select program listed on any other site, like B&N or Smashwords.  Some authors don’t care about this.  Others do.  It’s a personal decision.

TBFR: And last question…Once this trilogy is over, do you have anything new in store for your readers that you can share with us?

MD: I have several novels that I have written notes for but my ideas are still fresh and not really formed into anything concrete at this point.  What is funny, though, is that the next novel I plan to work on after this trilogy, I already know the title for.  It will be called The Dark Girl and is a book that touches upon teen suicide.  So, it’s not a fantasy but more of a paranormal romance with a serious theme running through it.  I came upon the idea while studying online about teen suicide and how it is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year old kids in our country.  Bullying that goes on in schools and online has a lot to do with it.  It’s very sad.

TBFR: Thanks for taking your time with us. We look forward to reading how things end for Chalice and the others.
MD: Thank you!!!  Hope to see you for the next tour!

For those who’ve not seen the review of the trilogy so far, you can read it here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR…Melissa Douthit grew up in North County of San Diego, California. After graduating with a Computer Science degree in Southern California, and working for a summer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico, she moved to the Bay Area to work at NASA Ames Research Center for a year and then at Lawrence Livermore National Lab for another four years.

From there, she moved to Monterey, California, to work at the Naval Postgraduate School on a government project for two years. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, working with the Army Corps of Engineers on another government project. Since high school, she has been a voracious reader of books of all genres, with an emphasis in fantasy and science fiction. Her literary work is strongly influenced by her professional experience and includes many elements of her scientific background.

You can find out more about Melissa on her website: http://melissadouthit.com

TheFirelightofMaalda

The Firelight of Maalda…Chalice and her group leave Barenthren to travel to Portalis.  There she and her friends discover the beautiful city, its people, its history, and its secret that has been kept hidden for thousands of years.  During their stay, they learn that Dar’Maalda has thefirestone and that he plans to use it.

What is the firestone and what does Dar’Maalda plan to do with it?  What are the Naezzi?  What does the title, The Firelight ofMaalda, really mean?  And … what is the secret of Portalis, the secret that has been guarded so jealously for so long – so jealously, that many have given their lives to protect it?

In The Firelight of Maalda, the second novel of the trilogy, The Legend of the Raie’Chaelia, you find out.  It is a tale of intrigue and wonder where two opposite worlds collide in an explosive journey that leads Chalice and her friends to the dark islands lurking just beyond the horizon of Ielieria, where the Firelight of Maalda sits … and waits.

GET THE BOOK… Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Be sure to grab the two novella prequels, The Vanishing and The Journey Begins, which are currently free on Smashwords for you to download, whichever format you need.

Thanks to the author and Virtual Author Book Tours, we’re giving away an e-book to a lucky commentor. This giveaway will run now through the end of February ending at 11:59pm Feb 29, 2012 and is open internationally.

To enter, answer this question…

What’s the first thing to come to mind when you think of
a fantasy adventure story from your youth?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beth-Book-Review/100000409844728 Beth Book Review

    Actually, gremlins!  But after that Hobbits!  :)
     

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT
    gmail DOT com
     

    • http://farrah.tbfreviews.net/ Farrah

      Congrats! You’ve been the selected the winner!

  • Pingback: Melissa Douthit, Author of The Firelight of Maalda is on Tour in February | Premier Virtual Author Book Tours

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  • Dolly

    The Black Cauldron was probably my first!

  • Chris Bails

    It would for sure be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I loved this book.  I loved the movie with Gene Wilder.  I still love to re-read this book.  I did  not care for the Johnny Depp version.  I love the original.

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