Paranormal/ fantasy author Melaine Card joins us for today’s AAD Author Spotlight. Her debut novel Ward Against Death came out in July 2011 and the adventures of characters Ward and Celia are just beginning. Please help me welcome Melanie to the blog.
Jen: Please tell new readers about Ward Against Death.
Melanie: Thanks Jen for inviting me on your blog today. Ward Against Death is about a reluctant necromancer tricked into helping an undead assassin solver her murder. Here’s the blurb:
Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.
But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.
However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…
Jen: After reading the blurb, I was surprised to find out this book is considered YA. Both your lead characters are 20. What do you think makes this fall more in the YA camp than adult reading?
Melanie: Ward Against Death is kind of a funny book when it comes to categories. It falls in the spaces between so many of them and one of those categories is age range. You’re right, my lead characters are a little too old for YA and they’re considered too young for adult and yet readers from both sides enjoy the story. I like to think of the book as Upper YA or New Adult (but it’s easiest when talking to people to say it’s YA for an older teen.) Also, from a story perspective, the personal growth my hero needs to take is more in line with a YA story. Ward needs to discover who he really is and to develop confidence in himself and his abilities. This theme of self-discovery is very often found in YA stories.
Jen: Did you set out to write for the YA audience? Are there lines in the story you would not cross because it’s categorized this way?
Melanie: When I wrote the book, I didn’t set out to write for a YA audience. But I’ve realized that theme of self-discovery resonates with me as a writer and a reader, so it’s natural that people would put my book in the YA genre. As for lines I wouldn’t cross? I’m not sure. The YA market (particularly the market for older teens) is pretty open. I think anything is possible if handled in the right way.
Jen: I’ve read that your inspiration for Ward’s character was Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Could you expand on that –and did you have a similar inspiration for Celia?
Melanie: I was toying with a handful of ideas at the time Ward showed up, one of which was, in what situation would a necromancer be good? Necromancers are often perceived as evil because they have magical powers over the dead. And let’s face it, that’s kind of scary and yucky. But I couldn’t stop wondering about the juxtaposition of having someone who’s role we traditional see as evil placed in a position of good, or of even being the hero in a story. Then, late one night, close to Halloween, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow was on and there was Johnny Depp portraying weird, awkward, and completely sincere Ichabod Crane. I love Ichabod Crane and it always bothered me that he went through that terrible experience with the headless horseman and didn’t get the girl at the end of the story (except in Burton’s version where he does get the girl).
Out of that Ward was born, a necromancer who doesn’t really want to be a necromancer but has no choice and must embrace the family business. He’s shy and awkward and completely sincere. He will do anything to keep his word no matter how difficult the situation…
Which brought me to his situation. It had to be difficult and that’s where Celia came in. My process for creating Celia was to look at Ward and ask how can I make his life more challenging? Who would be the worse person for him to be with but who would, with her very interactions, force him to grow and develop as a person? The answer was Celia Carlyle, a cold-hearted assassin who will do anything to figure out who murdered her. Much to my surprise, once Celia was developed, I realized she needed Ward as much as he needed her. She needed to warm her heart, needed to be less cynical and learn to have faith in people. Ward was the perfect man for that.
Jen: Ward is a character with so much potential! How many books do you have planned in the series and can you give us any hints as to the direction of the next story?
Melanie: There are four books in the Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer. In book two Ward and Celia will face more undead creatures and evil necromancers and their relationship will continue to grow.
Jen: Do you have any idea when book two will be published?
Melanie: Book two, Ward Against Darkness, is scheduled to come out in the Summer of 2012.
Jen: This is your debut novel, right? Can you tell us a little about your path to becoming published?
Melanie: I think my path to publication is a pretty normal one with maybe the one exception as to how I actually sold my first book. I sent off my first query letter (not for Ward Against Death) back in 2004 and was rejected. I queried more agents and editors and wrote more books and was rejected and rejected and rejected. I graduated with a Masters of Writing Popular Fiction and was even more determined to have my books published. To help me continue growing as a writer, I joined critique groups and yahoo loops and learned a lot from a lot of wonderful people, and I kept querying and writing books. I wrote Ward back in 2006 and while publishing professionals either loved it or hated it no one wanted it. Then last year Liz at Entangled emailed me. We’d been in a critique group together years ago where she’d read a few chapters of Ward. She remembered the story and wanted me to query her editor, Heather Howland. (I think at this point I had over 200 rejections). Heather fell in love with Ward and I was thrilled to work with an editor and publisher who loved my quirky hero as much as I did.
Jen: I’ve seen some very positive reviews on your book. Do you ever read reviews or do you avoid them?
Melanie: Ah reviews. I have a love/hate relationship with reviews. I read them, but some days I wish I didn’t. I love when people say nice things about my work (who wouldn’t) and I feel down when people don’t. I want everyone to love my baby as much as I do, but I know that reading is subjective. There are books I love that other people hate, and books other people love that I just can’t get in to. That’s why there are so many different things published. I really appreciate when people take the time to review my book, whether it’s positive or negative, and I’m glad that reviewers help to carry on a conversation about books (because I’m a reader too and love to talk about books with other people as well.)
Jen: Which authors do you enjoy reading?
Melanie: There are so many different authors I love for different reasons. For fantasy I’m hooked on Michelle Sagara and Mercedes Lackey and for beautiful language and imagery I love Patricia McKillip and Guy Gavriel Kay. For adult urban fantasy, I’ve been really enjoying the Alex Craft novels by Kaylana Price.
Jen: What are you looking forward to most from AAD in New Orleans?
Melanie: I’m looking forward to meeting new people and talking about books. Not mention enjoying the fabulous city and trying some great food!
Melanie is giving away one copy of Ward Against Death. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. You can get to know Melanie even better by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.