Starflower author Anne Elisabeth Stengl and enter the Starflower Giveaway below!
First off, Anne Elisabeth, I'd like to thank you for taking time to share a little behind the book information about this delightful series you've created.
1) Tales from Goldstone Woods has such a depth to it. Where did the inspiration for this series come from?
The initial inspiration for this series was simply my love of all things Fairy Tale. I wanted to write a series of inter-connected novels that used classic and familiar fairy tale themes and took them in unexpected directions. My hope then (and now) was to create a series that could be read just one book at a time, but that the more books you read, the bigger the picture created. This is a whole world, after all! A whole world is made up of so many people with so many stories. I couldn't possibly cover everything with one small cast of characters.
But ultimately, my inspiration was and is very simple: I love fairy tales.
2) Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower--each of these books can stand alone, and yet when read together, one can see that they are interwoven. How difficult is it to do this? (For instance in Heartless, when Una gives Leo her ring, and in Veiled Rose, when Leo gives the ring away, and in Heartless, when Una meets Rosie and how the scene is continued in Moonblood and the consequences of this meeting for Rosie and Leo.) These scenes could easily have been in one book and yet you have them run throughout the series.
It is very difficult to do . . . but not as difficult as you might expect! This is simply the way my brain seems to work and process storytelling. I can usually see each scene from multiple characters' points of view. So for me, even if I am telling a particular scene from one point of view, I am very aware of its effect on and importance to the other characters as well.
We are all the heroes of our own stories, after all. Doesn't matter if we're a sidekick, a villain, or a heroine. In our own minds, we're the star. So it is always interesting for me to explore a scene written from one character's point of view and switch to another.
This is also why I like to write using the omniscient narrative. It allows me within each given scene to explore a little bit into everyone's point of view . . . or even no one's, if I so choose!
3) Far World, Near World , and the Between there is a simplicity in these names and yet such depth when one reads these books. What is the story behind these names?
Again, the point here was fairy-tale simplicity. When I read a fairy tale, I am usually struck by how simple the story seems on the surface, and yet how many layers of meaning are waiting to be explored. That's what I wanted to do with the worlds of Goldstone Wood. On the surface, everything is very simple, and very clear. But you only have to scratch the surface before you become aware of so much more going on!
To create this effect, however, I started with very simple names. Nothing too flashy, no made-up words, nothing difficult to pronounce. These worlds need to be immediately accessible to my readers. They have to be able to step through the door in order to explore the complexities beyond!
4) Prince Aethelbald seems to be the most misunderstood character throughout. Why do the very people who most need him seem to be leery of him?
I think it's because people don't want to need help. They don't want to consider themselves broken, and they certainly don't want to believe that they cannot save themselves! And the more broken a person is, the more he will reject the need to be fixed.
So it is that those who need the Prince of Farthestshore--known as the Lumil Eliasul in Starflower--the most are those who most adamantly resist him. This will become a still more important theme as the series progresses!
5) Do you have a favorite character? If so why this character?
Eanrin, the poet-cat. Easily. I really just adore him! I've been writing about him since I was in high school . . . in fact, he predates even the Prince of Farthestshore as a character featured in my story worlds. He's just so cheeky, and he always has something snarky or witty to say. And yet, he can surprise you at any moment with a heart-felt remark or a truly insightful moment.
In Starflower, it was fun to explore him at the very, very beginning of his service to Farthestshore. By the time of Moonblood, which is set a good 1600 years later, he has experienced so much and grown and changed . . . and yet, he is still a cheeky cat at heart, with at least a veneer of self-importance and arrogance. He is also a deeply wounded character with some difficult, ongoing struggles in his life that will be explored still more as the series progresses.
Eanrin is always exciting to write about. Any scene featuring him is going to be fun. I barely have to work with him anymore. I just sit back and watch him steal the show!
6) Are any of the places in your books based on someplace you have been?
Some. For instance, the Old Bridge in Heartless was loosely based off of a little bridge and nature trail at the university I attended the year before writing Heartless. I used to escape down to that trail and sit on that bridge for hours, just to get away from all the school-related stress and drama of life.
In Veiled Rose, Leo and Rose Red enjoy a childhood summer in the mountains. While I've never spent a summer in the mountains myself, their games and adventures were loosely based on my own childhood in England, playing out on the village common with my brothers. Everything was very epic at that age!
The country of Southlands itself has developed into a more interesting and exciting location with each subsequent book. It is a very exotic land, and in Starflower we get a wonderful sense of its danger. It's also a jungle-type realm, with mango groves and panthers stalking in the shadows. Not at all based on anything I've experienced! But my husband grew up in Sri Lanka, and after I married him, I began tailoring Southlands to be more Sri Lankan in influence. It definitely brings a fresh and exciting flavor to that realm!
Some of the settings you will see later on in book 5, Dragonwitch, are based on childhood memories of living in England and exploring the old castles there.
So, that's a long answer given just to say, yes! I am inspired by my own experiences. But I always try to take them to a new, imaginative extreme.
7) The idea that those the Dragon King desires must first give him their heart is intriguing. Why this a requirement to become a dragon and what does he do with these hearts?
I think that when the individuals hand their hearts over to the Dragon King, they are displaying vulnerability. But there is more that must happen before they can be truly his. For instance, Una did not give the Dragon her heart . . . it was given to him by someone else, making Una his target. It was only when Una, feeling that her lost heart already belonged to the Dragon, gave in to his kiss that she became a dragon herself.
I think the Dragon probably collects the hearts. Una's heart was represented as a lovely opal ring, a treasure. How many of the treasures collected in the Dragon's Hoard might also be hearts? We don't actually know. We saw the chest full of rubies which, as they were picked up and dropped, screamed. Maybe those were the hearts of other lost souls? But it's never clearly stated in any of the books (yet!), so we're left to fill in those imaginative blanks for ourselves.
8) Dreams seem to be an important part of your stories. Is it because in sleep one is more vulnerable that this is how the enemy chooses to lay the foundations of his attack?
Well, I like that reasoning! That sounds very dramatic and symbolic.
But, really, the reason dreams have become such an important part of this series is because, in dreams, everyone experiences the fantastic. Even the most prosaic and unimaginative person has probably dreamed of flying. Or of a dark, stalking presence. Or has relived events of his/her day but with unusual and even sinister twists.
Dreams are fantastic! They are pieces of our own reality that are not quite explainable and never predictable. They take us on dreadful, convoluted, wonderful journeys, all within our own heads!
So dreams have become important in this series. Also, the idea of "dreams" as "desires" has become important, as represented by the Dragon and his alternate name, the Death-of-Dreams. And, of course, his enigmatic sister, the Lady of Dreams Realized.
In a later book, I hope to really delve into the Dream World, and to explore more thoroughly the roles of dreams in these stories. For the moment, we are left mostly with hints . . .
-- Thank you for a particularly fun and challenging interview! These were great questions, and I had to sit down and really think through several of the answers. Very fun!
And I hope all of you readers will find an opportunity to pick up the Tales of Goldstone Wood and enter the magical realms of the Far World and the Near.
Thank you again for taking time for this interview and I look forward to Dragonwitch in the coming year.
A Special thank-you to author Anne Elisabeth Stengl for offering this special giveaway to the Blooming with Books readers
Signed copy of Starflower giveaway. Open to US residents only.
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Never Get Involved in the Affairs of Mortals
When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps lovely Lady Gleamdren, Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission . . . and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.
But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin finds his path entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her poet rescuer?
Released: November 1st, 2012 Available online at Starflower (Tales of Goldstone Wood) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and CBD.
Author Bio: Anne Elisabeth is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a series of fantasy adventure novels told in the classic Fairy Tale style. The series so far includes Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood and Starflower, with Dragonwitch due to release summer of 2013.
Anne Elisabeth is married to the handsome man she met at fencing class and lives with him, a gaggle of cats, and one long-suffering dog in NC. Her first novel, Heartless, won the 2011 Christy Award for Debut Novel and was an INSPY Award finalist. Her second novel, Veiled Rose, won the 2012 Christy Award for Visionary Novel and was a Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year finalist.
Excerpt from Starflower:
The girl did not stir when Eanrin lifted her into his arms; her sleep was profound indeed. Her head lolled over his arm, and he was obliged to part her thick hair to uncover her face. It was an uncommonly beautiful face for a mortal.
However, this girl’s beauty was different from any he had ever before seen. For one thing, her skin was rich dark brown, and her hair glossy black. For another, she was imperfect. Her teeth, visible between gently parted lips, were a little crooked. Mud stained her skin, making it darker still, and her brow, even in sleep, was puckered with anxiety or fear. Her dreams must be wicked indeed.
Eanrin grimaced at the sight and almost put her down again. After all, a princess with dreams like those probably had a tale of woe to match. She would certainly wake with expectations of a handsome hero to aid her. As far as Eanrin was concerned, a dash of heroism was one thing, but commitment to a cause? Never. Rushing off to the rescue of Lady Gleamdren was different, for he had determined that she must be his wife and the sole inspiration to his life’s work. Besides, he loved her.
This creature meant nothing to him.
But blood oozed from the abrasions on her wrists. And her body, mortal and vulnerable, lay in his arms. Eanrin rolled his eyes heavenward as though to seek some holy aid. Then he braced himself and wiped the mud off her lips with the edge of his cloak. She frowned in her sleep and stirred, but did not wake.
“Nothing for it,” he muttered. Closing his eyes and trying not to smell her any more than he must, he leaned in and kissed her . . .
But you'll have to pick up Starflower to see what happens from there!
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