Q & A with Amalie Howard – author of Bloodspell

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Today, I have an awesome interview to share with you.  This interview is between an interviewer and Amalie Howard (author of Bloodspell) and was provided by Marissa (Amalie’s publicist).  Thanks Marissa.  🙂

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Tell us about your debut novel, Bloodspell, and what readers can expect.

Answer: Readers can expect a multi-layered urban fantasy story, one that will transport them to different cities, and introduce them to a completely different world. When you’re working in this type of genre, you have to have very interesting characters—ones that will stand out from the hundreds of other books of this ilk in the market today.

In Bloodspell, I think there’s something for everyone in any of my characters. There’s vulnerability, there’s charm, there’s arrogance, there’s smarts, there’s anger, there’s humor.

My characters face a bunch of conflicts, similar to ones teens face today, like fitting in and being true to who you are, like love, like loss, and like fighting for what you believe in. This novel has a lot of very relevant messages for today’s teenagers, and ones that aren’t “in-your-face” messages. Readers will identify with most of the themes, and of course, they’re all disguised within an engaging story. I think even a paranormal novel has to have some depth, and has to offer something for readers to chew on, leave them with something meaningful. I’d hope that Bloodspell does that.

You have traveled and lived all across the world, and you based a lot of the surroundings in your book on your college town in Maine. What made Waterville the perfect backdrop for the book?

Answer: Maine is a very beautiful state, with so much open space, green forests and beautiful lakes. I love the fact that it’s also so remote. From a supernatural perspective, it’s cool because you can have any number of things happening right in your own backyard, and no one would be the wiser. Obviously I chose Waterville because it’s where I spent four years of college, so I know the layout, and I wanted that kind of small town feel for the setting of Windsor Academy. I also didn’t want a town that was too small, where if you were a vampire, most likely all your neighbors were definitely doing to know about it. 😉

The college I went to is on some very beautiful property, and a lot of those red-brick buildings and open green quads have stuck with me over the years. The locations  (Maine, New York, France) in Bloodspell all seemed to fit together really well. And you know what they say, “write what you know.” So I did.

You’re a sucker for witches and vampires. Who do you think would win in a battle?

Answer: Honestly as much as I love vampires with their super strength and speed (and hotness), I think a witch would win hands down … especially if they’re Victoria. I mean, she’s got the power of the magical world at her fingertips. As Victoria said so eloquently in the book, “I already fear for my life just because of who I am, you think adding a little inconsequential vampire to the equation will change any of that?” Yeah, she’s feisty! A single word from her—and a vampire would be dust. Still, let’s be realistic and talk about “normal” witches or warlocks. With any spell, it has to be directed at something/someone, so theoretically if a vampire can move quickly—like Christian—then he can certainly out-maneuver a magical opponent and turn the odds in his favor (i.e., the fight between Christian and Gabriel). So I guess my answer would be – Victoria, hands down. Any other witch/warlock against a vampire, you’ve got pretty even odds (give or take vampire age, etc.)

Your protaganist, Victoria Warrick, is strong, smart and undoubtedly different from her peers. How did you shape her character?

Answer: Victoria doesn’t come across immediately as strong or smart. She’s fragile, like most any teenage girls (especially with peer pressure and being different), but it takes a lot of strength to hide that fragility. It’s like a bravado, a shell to keep from letting anyone in or getting hurt. Still, she’s not easily cowed even though you can guess that she’s endured years of pure high-school hell. Already different, she becomes even more so when she discovers what she is. She finds her true inner strength when she starts to come into her own. Not only does she have to deal with normal social pressures, she’s also a witch whose blood can consume her in one second of doubt, one iota of weakness. So she has to deal with that, while trying to make friends and have a life. Let’s not even consider the fact that the boy she likes is a vampire who has his own set of issues. So normal for her is like a pipe dream, but she still wants it, just like every other teen out there.

In Victoria’s type of scenario, there are two ways you can go—give up and say, “I can’t handle being this different,” or embrace who you are and rock it. Victoria is NOT giving up … she’s not losing the life she’s built for herself or her friends and family. I think that’s a great message for anyone, teens especially. She takes the bull by the horns and doesn’t let go. Is she scared? Of course. But facing her fear is part of finding that strength and courage that makes her take hold of who she is and say, “This is who I am, for better or for worse.”

I’m a pretty avid reader of books, young adult books especially, and I wanted her character to be strong but relatable, because her growth in the novel has to be believable. As a reader, you have to connect with her and be willing to be a part of her journey. It has to be something that any reader/teen can accomplish themselves, even if they’re not the most powerful witch in the world.

Victoria is every-girl and no-girl at the same time. She’s likeable, she’s funny, she’s smart, she has a lot of empathy, but she also makes mistakes and does stupid things sometimes. She’s a normal person who evolves into someone extraordinary.

You suffered for years from anorexia and bulimia after losing your best friend and today talk to teens and parents about image issues. How did you overcome it? Did writing have anything to do with that?

Answer: I’ve talked to many teens and parents over the years in informal settings about eating disorders and image problems, especially after having come through it myself. In my case, I had already been suffering with image issues because I started attending a predominantly white college in a completely different country. It was a big culture shock; I wasn’t blond or blue-eyed, I wasn’t tall, and I certainly wasn’t thin. I felt unattractive and helpless that I didn’t fit in. And then I gained the requisite “freshman fifteen” my freshman year, and felt even less attractive. I began to diet, something I had never done.

When my friend died in a car accident one day before I left to spend my junior year in France, it felt like I had no control over anything in my life (like this very tiny person lost in a huge stormy ocean), so I clamped down on the one thing I could – food. Losing weight became cathartic for me. The skinnier I became, the stronger I felt. It was so consuming that I even became a vegan (no meat, no dairy). Obviously, it was unhealthy, but I felt like I was winning. I did write a lot of poetry during that time—a lot of angry and raw poetry that my French professor there advised me to burn—but writing wasn’t the answer. Getting help, was. My turning point came when a doctor in France told me that I would have to be hospitalized. It was a wake-up call. When I returned to the States, I checked myself in for voluntary counseling. I was scared to go, scared to reveal my secrets and to unsheathe the horror that my life had become. But I went. My psychologist was amazing. She helped me to find answers on dealing with loss, and separated those from weight/image.

During that time, I really found myself. I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I celebrated the things that made me different, and I used that fledgling confidence to build the foundation of the person I am today. This experience has given me a lot to talk—and write—about. My protagonist, Victoria, is faced with a huge “disorder,” one that can consume her just as mine almost did, but she decides her own fate. She doesn’t just sit back and let things take over—she fights for the person she must be, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

How was writing a novel different than, and similar to, writing for newspapers?

Answer: Holy cow, it’s way different. I wrote a story once, and my newspaper editor said, “OK, now we need to take the tone from you writing-for-readers-who-know-you to more of a journalistic voice.” She’s a great editor, and the piece was perfect in the end. Writing a journalistic piece is a bit like homework. You take notes about something and you write an article. Writing a novel is much larger in scope and depth. You not only have to have a story with a plot, progression, and character development, but it also has to be something that your audience is going to want to read, and love. Plus a newspaper article is like around 500 hundred words, and a novel is 200 times that length!

Writing my novel got kick started when I went to the bookstore one day looking for a book. When I couldn’t find something that I hadn’t already read, I decided to write my own. I wasn’t daunted because I’d written enough short stories (especially about Christian in some form or another) to know that I had a book somewhere inside me.

So I got out my laptop and I just started writing until everything was out on the page, completely raw. I didn’t have an outline. I just had this image of a girl with this amazing power who is thrust into this scary supernatural world, and I ran with it. And here we are.

Out of the 18 countries you have visited – and eaten in – which has the best food, in your opinion?

Answer: I’ve visited 141 cities in 18 countries, so it’s hard to just pick one. If I had to choose, I’ll probably get crushed for it because it’s a little predictable, but I’d have to say France. I love, love, love French food. Some of it can be rich, but it’s so perfectly proportioned with so many different complex tastes. Sweet or savory, it’s heavenly. And I’m talking about something as simple as a baguette with jam to chicken in a savory white wine sauce. And let’s not even get into desserts! A close second is Italy. I literally ate my way through Tuscany. Anyone who says pasta is a simple food really has no idea until they go there. Now you’re getting me started, because I have to give a shout out to my Caribbean roots; the food is like an explosion of color and texture in your mouth, pretty much like the range of people who migrated from other parts of the world to live there. Eating Caribbean food is an experience in itself, because a lot of it isn’t about the food, it’s about the revelry that surrounds food. On a side note, I just came back from a month-long trip to Australia, and enjoyed a piece of steak at a restaurant that literally melted in my mouth. I was in taste-bud heaven. I know, I’m easy. I just love good food. It’s like art appreciation – creative, beautifully presented, and consumed with gusto.

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Wasn’t that an awesome interview.

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More information about Amalie Howard and Bloodspell:

website/blog ~ bloodspell website ~ goodreads ~ facebook ~ twitter

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