Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shadowgirl by Kate Ristau

I write because…

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in grade school. I would read books and wonder who the authors were. How did they come up with such amazing stories? Then one day, I realized that I could write stories too — that I had my own stories to tell. The moment I realized that, my life suddenly made so much more sense. I started to see the world, the past, the future, as a series of stories to tell.
2. If I were your favorite cookie, what would I be?
If you were my favorite cookie, you would be eaten. You would have been snickerdoodle, or, if I was really lucky, you would have been a chai cookie made by my friend Jenna.
3. Plotter or pantster?
I tend to be a pantser in my first drafts. I have an idea of where the story will go, but the story inevitably takes me somewhere else entirely. Then, when I finish the draft, I immediately write a reverse outline, thinking about the story and what happened. I consider what I wrote, what makes sense, and what was just a distraction. Then, I start revising.
4. What is your favorite type of character to write about and why?
My favorite type of character has depth and drive and a fair amount of magic. I love fantasy stories and the idea that we are more than we think we are: that there is magic and joy and possibility in our world (or in another).
I try to write stories in the “real” world, with “real” characters. Then, I slip up, give them magic, or superpowers, and make them awesome. I do not feel sad about this.
5. Hamburgers or sushi?
Cookies. Is that still a choice? Because forget about dinner: I’m just in it for the cookies.
6. Name three things on your desk.
Plant. Statue. Peacock lamp.
The plant is a beautiful succulent that refuses to stay contained. The statue came from the middle of a king cake. The lamp was a gift from my husband that appeared on my desk one night.
7. What books have influenced your writing style?
I could go on and on. But I’ll limit it to two particular books that I love. The first is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It is a gorgeously beautiful, yet deceptively simple fantasy novel about a unicorn’s quest to discover what happened to the rest of her kind. Beagle tells this story in such a straightforward manner, and I fell in love with the unicorn’s perspective and language. I also love how Robin Hobb approaches animals in the Assassin’s Apprentice. Hobb’s books draw me in and make me think of the possibilities of a good fantasy book. Both of these authors take their time and build their worlds with beautiful scenes and complex characters. Each time I go back to their books, I find something new and unexpected that challenges me in my own worldbuilding. 
8. Tell us a little about your book. 
Shadowgirl is a young adult novel, but it is not a fairy tale. Áine lives in the light, but she is haunted by darkness, and when her fey powers blaze out of control, she escapes into the Shadowlands. But she cannot outrun her past. Fire fey and a rising darkness threaten the light, burning a path across the veil. Her fiery dreams come to life, and with the help of Hennessy, an uninhibited Irish girl, Áine dives into the flames to discover who she truly is. Her mother burned to keep her secret safe, and now Áine wields the deadly Eta. She must learn to fight in the shadows — or die in the flames.
9. What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?
I used to be a writing instructor, and my students heard this phrase over and over again: Just write. Write when it’s easy; write when it’s hard. Write when you hate your pen; write when you can’t imagine doing anything else. Writing is a joy and a delight, but it is also hard work. Get in that chair, and get to work. Just write.
10. What is next on your writerly horizon?
I have quite a few books up my sleeve and on my laptop. The one I am currently working on is the follow-up to Shadowgirl. No plot spoilers, but…it is awesome. 
Top 5 favorite (pick one) desserts, movies, things to eat, ice cream flavors, books.
Five good books I read so far this year: 
1. The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, Neil Gaiman
2. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
3. The Ice Dragon, George R.R. Martin
4. Red Rising, Pierce Brown
5. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss


Kate Ristau is an author and folklorist. She writes young adult and middle grade fiction, along with grammar primers that won’t make you cringe. In her ideal world, magic and myth combine to create memorable stories with unforgettable characters. Until she finds that world, she'll live in Portland, Oregon with her husband, her son, and her dog. If you can’t find her there, you can find her at kateristau.com.

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Áine lives in the light, but she is haunted by darkness, and when her fey powers blaze out of control, she escapes into the Shadowlands. But she cannot outrun her past. Fire fey and a rising darkness threaten the light, burning a path across the veil. Her fiery dreams come to life, and with the help of Hennessy, an uninhibited Irish girl, Áine dives into the flames to discover who she truly is. Her mother burned to keep her secret safe, and now Áine wields the deadly Eta. She must learn to fight in the shadows — or die in the flames. This is not a fairy tale.


Áine dug her feet into the ground, gathered her strength, and then burst through the undergrowth. She tore through the tree line and dashed toward the back door of the building. A light suddenly flashed in front of her, and before she could stop her- self, she crashed into a short girl holding the flame. They fell to the ground, and Áine wrestled the fire out of her hands, afraid they were both going to get burned. She rolled off the girl, then grabbed the edge of her cloak and beat down the flames. 
“You idiot!” the girl yelled. “What are you doing to my phone?” 
The girl reached over and tapped the blazing light, mumbling anxiously, and the color of the fire shifted under her fingers. 
Aunt Eri had warned Áine about this strange magic. Eri said that the Shadows had harnessed the power of the sun. No one re- ally knew for sure, as few fey had made the Crossing since then. But now Áine saw this girl—her own age—holding cold fire in her hands, and her heart raced, afraid of what other magic the girl might know, and of what she could do. 
“What’s wrong with you, freak show?” the girl asked. “Why are you attacking my phone?” 
Áine could barely understand what the girl was saying. Her accent was thick and blended, mixed with phrases Áine had never heard before. 
“Hello?” she shouted, waving her hands in front of Áine’s face. “Earth to weird girl. Seriously, what’s wrong with you?” 
“Nothing,” Áine said. “I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to attack your...phone. I have never seen—” 
“You’ve never seen a phone before? Oh my God, where are you even from? Mars or something? Seriously, you run out of the woods like David Beckham and clobber me and then you’re all like you’ve never even seen a phone before?” 
When the girl stopped for a breath, Áine said, “I didn’t mean I’ve never seen one before. I just meant I have never seen one like that before—” 
“An iPhone? God, you must be from Mars. Or maybe Cork or something.” The girl suddenly lightened up and smiled. “My name’s Hennessy, by the way. Yes, like the cognac; my da thought it was sooo funny. What’s your name?” 
“No, Áine.”
“On-ya. Good. That’s so much better than Tonya. How awful 
would it be to be stuck with that name? I like Hennessy myself, and Áine’s good too.” Hennessy smiled, grabbed a tie out of her back pocket, and pulled her jet-black hair back into a ponytail. She wore a tight, short black shirt that said “The Eolian” on it. She wasn’t wearing a cloak, and she wore strange pantaloons with lots of pockets. “Where the hell is Tom?” she said. “He was sup- posed to meet me here after my shift. I’ve already been outside for like twenty minutes. He probably forgot. He always does this. You going in?” 
“Yes, inside, dimwit. Into the pub. You don’t have to. You can stay out here with me. If you want to. I’m kind of starting to like you. Can’t imagine why. Maybe it’s the cloak. So vintage. But the scarf—or whatever that is—has got to go. You’re cute, though. Quiet, but nice. Except for when you tackled me.” She laughed hard, and Áine couldn’t help but smile. The girl’s energy rubbed off on her. 
After a moment, Hennessy quieted down and stared into the blazing light of her phone again. Áine glanced back toward the edge of the forest, looking for any sign of the Guardian. The forest was dark and quiet. 
“Do you know how to get to the ferry?” Áine asked. 
“Those are the most words you’ve ever said to me.” Hennessy laughed and put her phone in her pocket. “And talk about ran- dom. You mean the Aran Islands?” 
“I’m going to Inis Thiar.” 
“You mean Inisheer. It’s one of the Aran Islands. Only old people call it Inis Thiar. And you’re not old. The ferry’s over in Rossaveel by my house.” She pulled out her phone again, tapped it, then suddenly shoved it back in her pocket. “Screw Tom. I can take you there if you want. It’s only about ten minutes away, but it would take you a couple of hours to walk it. I’ll give you a ride.” 
Áine remembered what Ciaran had said: Shadows can’t be trusted. They’re liars. Thieves. Murderers. She shook her head no. “Oh, shut up. It’s not that big of a deal. And Tom’s pissing me off. Come on. I don’t wanna go back in there, and I really don’t want him to think I’ve got nothing better to do than sit around the 
pub and wait on him all night.”
Áine heard a tree branch snap, and her head whipped back 
toward the forest. Branches rustled, and she caught the gleam of an eye. Two eyes. Had Ciaran followed her? She told him not to— wait—four eyes. Six. No—eight. 
“What is that?” Áine whispered.
“Nothing. I really have to go. Thank you for the help.” “What? You’re leaving now? Like, right now?”
A loud crash sounded through the forest, and then a scream, 
like the very trees were being torn apart. A crow burst out of the darkness, and then another. Áine had only ever seen crows in her schoolbooks, with their long black feathers and sharp pointed beaks, but she knew what they were. Traitors. Come back from the Hetherlands. 
“We need to go!” Áine yelled as she grabbed Hennessy’s hand and pulled her toward the side of the building. “Now!” 
“What’s going on?” Hennessy asked as she stumbled after Áine. “What’s with those birds?” 
Áine turned back and saw a dark swarm crashing through the forest. The light from the tavern gleamed on their sleek feathers; they barreled toward her with unnatural speed. Áine yanked on Hennessy, trying to get her to run faster. “Come on! We have to get out of here!” 
Áine’s words jolted Hennessy back to life, and she let go of Áine’s hand and broke into a full sprint. “Come on—I’ll take you!” Hennessy yelled over her shoulder. 
The crow’s wings beat against her back as she ran after Hen- nessy. It clawed at her sleeve, tearing her shirt, and a wave of pain rolled through her as she whacked it into a tree. She glanced down at her arm and her stomach churned. The crow had scratched its way down her arm in a fury of pain and red. 
Red. Blood. Everywhere. 
Her foot stuck something hard. She stumbled, but caught her- self before she hit the ground. Blood. Blood. Dripping down her fingers. She shook her head and jumped back to her feet, running toward the front of the tavern, trying to not even think about— 
She ground to a halt, her breath catching in her throat. Beasts. Everywhere.
“Why are you stopping?” Hennessy grabbed Áine’s arm and 
pulled her toward a bright white beast. Its eyes flashed red, and then it cheeped loudly. 
Áine recoiled, but Hennessy wasn’t afraid: she shoved Áine toward the beast and yelled, “Get in the car!” 
“No!” Áine yelled. She turned to run from the beast just as several crows swooped down, ripping at Hennessy’s hair with their long black claws. Áine swung her heavysack at the incom- ing birds, knocking several to the ground. Hennessy flailed wildly at the crows, pushing them out of the way as she ran around the beast. She jerked on the beast’s arm and, without stopping, she jumped inside it. 
“Stop!” Áine screamed. “Let her go!” She pounded on the beast with her fists, but it was hard as iron, and she left smears of blood with every punch. The beast roared in response, but that didn’t stop her. She had to get Hennessy back. She slammed her body into the beast and a beam of light suddenly lit up the night. Áine turned to see a man, dressed in a long black cloak with a hood, standing by the tavern door. The ground turned to ash around his feet and smoke poured from his fingertips. She could almost taste his repulsive sulfur smell. His piercing red eyes glowed from beneath the shadow of his hood and the moment she caught sight of them, she was transfixed. 
Fire. Flames. His pale white hands wrapping around her throat, his long nails scraping away at her skin—