1. What inspired you to write The Black Mage Series?
So the original idea came in middle school for me –I was obsessed with the idea of where a prince and princess from opposing countries go to school learning monarchy during a time of peace only to become rival kingdoms when they grow up… Then I forgot all about that idea for years. Then in 2007 I heard a song that was super epic, you could just tell it was dramatic and sad and I immediately saw those two in the #1 scene I’ve been waiting to write this whole series… which happens to be the BIG MOMENT of Last Stand. Let’s just say it’s I realized the boy & girl were fighters, and that they needed awesome magic. So I knew how I wanted the series to end, I just needed to work up to that moment. I immediately decided to start where it all began, when they met. Oh, and I realized I didn’t want Ryiah to be a princess, I wanted her to be a commoner and make everything difficult because I really admire characters that aren’t automatically good at anything (BIG pet peeve of mine). That’s the whole point… Ryiah literally spends the entire series building to this epic point and I know a lot of people were pissed that she didn’t win the Candidacy but let’s just say that duel wasn’t the final one….
2. When writing a character like Darren, how were you able to bring him to life? Was there anyone from your life that inspired him as a character?
No one in real life. Gosh, I would punch him out if he ever treated me how Darren treated Ryiah in that first book. I always pick the nice boy (aka Ian) in real life because I don’t like drama and douche bags… That said Darren was initially derived from the character Julian in The Forbidden Game series by LJ Smith. If you read that series you will be like “what the hell, Darren is nothing like Julian” and you are right. But I wrote fanfiction about TFG’s Julian for YEARS all through middle and high school with my best friend. He was the reason I WANTED to write because his character was so compelling. Pretty early on, though, I realized that while I was calling that character “Julian” he was morphing into someone else. A lot of Darren’s dialogue and general attitude was like that guy, although when I wrote the first draft of First Year it was a huge change –he ended up being a lot darker/meaner than I initially imagined. I remember reading the first draft and thinking “god, Darren is such a douche (but great tension!)” because compared to my fanfic for TFG he was really mean, but my heart knew Darren had a terrible backstory (which we find out in Candidate and I expand on it from his POV in the novella Non-Heir I’m working on), and I just had to pray readers would give him a chance to grow. You get the real Darren in glimpses and then finally see him in Candidate when his dad dies and then taking care of Ryiah when her brother is murdered. That’s the true Darren. But we all know he has a dark side, this series is all about shades of gray, and I think everyone’s big question for Last Stand is what is going to happen if he finds out what Ryiah is doing….
3. Why did you want to become an author?
I have wanted to be one since seventh grade when I started writing fanfic, but I never thought I could be one because I have this issue called NEVER FINISH A BOOK SYNDROME. Seriously, every time I would start a book I could never finish it. It was like a disease. I used to cave into every shiny new story idea that popped into my head. So it depressed me because I had all these ideas (1000’s) and no finished book. Finally post-college I got a great paying corporate job that I absolutely hated. We are talking serious depression because I wanted to do something with my life and now that I was finally done with school I thought it would all be over. But money isn’t everything, and so I started writing as a way to cope with that depression (I hadn’t written at all in college because I was too busy between classes and a job). I got about halfway through the first-draft of First Year and finally made a decision to follow my dream. I quit, sold my car, walked to a part-time job by my house and wrote the rest of the week. It was tough, it was the scariest thing I have ever done, I used up all my savings and made a lot of sacrifices, but guess what? This May it will be 3 years since I made the biggest decision of my life and I’m now a full-time writer (yup, that happened!) and I wake up every day with a smile on my face and have the best readers in the world.
4. If you could pick your top 10 book boyfriends/crush. Who would they be and what book are they from?
Warner from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi and Julian from The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith (top two ULTIMATE). Noah from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkins. George from The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. Professor Snape from Harry Potter by JK Rowling (hells to the yes, SO HOT). Lord Wyldon and/or Neal from Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce (apparently I have a thing for mean teachers???). Paddy from Titanic: The Long Night by (forgot author name). Michael from The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Ash from Night World by LJ Smith. Gabriel from Dark Visions by LJ Smith.
5. Last Stand is the final book in the series. What has it been like writing the conclusion to a story that had touched your readers and leaves them wanting more? Will this be the best book in the series? (Do I need to have a tissue box handy?)
Sooooo you are catching me before I have technically finished (I’m about 75-80% done) but I can say it’s been the biggest honor of my life. I wasn’t sure anybody would ever buy my books, let alone read them. I have an incredible fan base of readers and reviewers who have made being an author a dream come true. I love hearing what everyone thinks and I am so READY to see what people think of this book. I can’t say what the outcome will be (I know everyone is scared, hehe, I love the fact no one trusts me to write a happy ending or a sad one, no one knowwwwwwsssssss). Seriously, though, this conclusion (I wrote a rough draft of it) has brought tears to my eyes (not saying which kind). It’s the ultimate ending for me and I think everyone will understand when they read it. This whole series has been emotional but this final book is dark & emotional & real & everything. This book to me is EVERYTHING. This book is the story I have been waiting to tell the whole series. To me it is the best, no doubt. But I can’t say what readers will think. But you will need a tissue box. Book four is nothing but a constant string of emotions and I want to leave my readers battered and bruised the way any good book does where you FEEL SO MUCH that you can’t bare to open a book the next day. If you do, I have failed. Doesn’t matter if the feeling is good or bad, I just want you to FEEL.
6. I know we have talked previously and you talked about a song that inspired your books. How did a song help inspire your story? What was the song?
So the song is Red’s “Lost” >> it’s a religious band, I guess, I didn’t realize that initially but I always interpreted the “you” like any love song where they are singing about another person. That song is epic and amazing and I can’t mention what scene I inspired because that’s the big scene of Last Stand.
7. We hear Authors talking about all the characters chattering away in their heads. Which character of yours is the loudest?
Darren. Definitely Darren. Just because I love writing his dialogue so much. I may think like Ryiah but Darren is just so much fun to write.
8. What made you decide to write in the YA genre?
It’s all I ever read; I never grew up!
9. When you are writing, what do you think is the most difficult process?
Writer’s block. Some authors never get it, but I get it all the time. I also have no steady word count. Some days I write nothing staring at computer all day, other days I could write 6k (2 chapters).
10. How do you keep your characters in line, or how do you keep your world straight without losing your story?
I have a million folders on my computer and subfolders and more subfolders all dedicated to world building and character lists and magic and history and maps, etc., etc.. The sad thing? My world isn’t even that complicated. What I want to know is how the greats like JK Rowling did it!