Monday, March 12, 2018

Leslye Walton Author Interview

Photo Content from Leslye Walton

​Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps because of this, Leslye has developed a strange kinship with the daffodil--she too can only achieve beauty after a long, cold sulk in the rain. She was named a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist for the publication of her novel The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. The book received several accolades, including the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Pacific Northwest Book Award, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award, and was short-listed for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. The book was also number one on the Spring 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Boston Globe, Bustle, Hudson Booksellers, Amazon, and more. 

​Leslye is a full-time writer currently living in Seattle, Washington with her chihuahuas, Mr. Darcy and Doc Holliday. Her next novel, The Price Guide to the Occult, comes out March 2018.


Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

My younger self would be absolutely mortified by this admittance, but I was a HUGE liar as a kid. I can’t speak for all children—or for liars, for that matter—but for me, it wasn’t that I didn’t know the difference between a lie and the truth. And I knew it was wrong to lie; I always felt immensely guilty afterward. But I knew the value of good storytelling, and I knew that at eight years old (the pinnacle of my lying days) my stories weren’t that interesting. It was a conscious choice to lie—and most of the time, not for any other reason than just a desire to entertain. So, in some ways, I always wanted to be a writer because I always wanted to be a good storyteller.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling makes the isolated feel less alone, and the silent feel heard. My grandfather passed away when I was very young, and the evening before his funeral, the whole family gathered in my grandparent’s home. To be honest, I don’t remember the particular stories that were shared that night, but I remember the feeling of belonging and togetherness. I think it was the first time I really recognized that storytelling can do more than just entertain—it can provide comfort and guidance and camaraderie. Simply put, storytelling connects us.

What do you hope for people to be thinking after they read your novel?
I hope THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT will help people redefine what it means to be brave, what it means to be strong. The main character, Nor Blackburn, is not your typical heroine—she is a powerful witch, but she also struggles to manage her own very real inner demons. I think many times people who struggle with depression and anxiety are seen as weak and fragile, most especially to themselves. I hope Nor and her story in THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT will change that.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why?
I have many favorite books for many different reasons, but the book that comes to mind is ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Marquez’s use of language, not to mention the unforgettable characters make this book an absolute must for any fan of magical realism.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Most authors will give you the same advice, which is to try not to let bad reviews (or good reviews) go to your head. It’s good advice, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to follow.

In your book; THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT tells the story of Nor Blackburn, the last of a long line of once powerful witches. Cursed by their family matriarch after a love affair gone tragically wrong, the powers of the Blackburn daughters are now limited. Nor is quite happy with this arrangement—she has no desire to be anything other than ordinary, which is why she’s kept her own growing powers a secret. But with the arrival of a strange book, The Price Guide to the Occult, it becomes clear that the author—Nor’s very own mother—is using black magic, and Nor might be the only witch powerful enough to stop her.

For those who are unfamiliar with Rona, how would you introduce her?
The matriarch of the Blackburn family, Rona Blackburn, is extremely misunderstood. She came to this isolated island in the PNW looking for some peace and solitude and instead she, a very powerful witch, is rejected and humiliated by some ordinary guy. She’s expected to stand by and take it, and instead, she stands up for herself. It had its own consequences, but Rona’s want for revenge doesn’t make her a monster; it makes her very human.

Tell us your latest news.
My second novel, THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT, comes out on March 13, 2018! It’s been four long years since the publication of my first novel, THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER—sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. I’m equal parts excited and terrified J

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love to introduce Savvy Dawson from THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT to Zuzana Nováková in Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy. Once they got past the language barrier, I think they would get along famously as both are fiercely loyal to their friends, just a tad bit stubborn, and neither are easily daunted by much of anything—monsters and witches included.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Try to identify what you appreciate and admire when it comes to other people’s writing, and then try to identify what makes your voice and style distinctly yours. It’s not about whether one is right or wrong, it’s about being familiar with your voice and your style—and most importantly, why yours is exactly perfect for the story you’re attempting to tell.

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington where one of my responsibilities included standing beside the seahorse exhibit and stopping people from tapping on the glass. I learned a lot that summer—for example, did you know, sea dragons, pipefish and trumpet fish are close relatives to the seahorse? I don’t think I’ll ever forget this little bit of trivia; it’s been over ten years since I held that job, and I can still recite lines from the animated video that ran every time someone walked by: “We may not look the same, but we’re all related.”

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Honestly, some of my happiest childhood memories include curling up with a library book and a box of cereal in my parent’s living room and reading for hours. I’ve always been an introvert, and though it’s difficult being an introverted adult, being an introverted kid is especially hard. I was lucky my parents understood I needed to be left on my own sometimes to recharge and gave me the space to do so.

What did you do for your last birthday?
My birthdays usually involve some kind of adventure and eating chocolate cake.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
I should drink more water (Really, we should ALL drink more water).

What were you doing at midnight last night?
I’m a night owl, so either I was writing or I was binge watching something on Netflix (Strange fact: I’m weirdly obsessed with foreign television shows, particularly gritty French and Scandinavian dramas. I just finished “Les Revenants” and it was delightfully dark and bizarre. I loved it.)

Where can readers find you?
You can find me on instagram (@leslyewalton) or twitter (@leslyewalton). I’m also on Facebook and you can always visit my website or shoot me an email!


1. “They have been called many things.”
2. “The word Anathema refers to something dedicated to the gods. Coincidentally, it can also indicate someone accursed, someone damned, someone doomed.”
3. “Nor Blackburn wasn’t afraid of blood.”
4. “It took a force of nature to drive pain away…(Nor) reminded herself that, while she may not have been such a force, her grandmother most definitely was.”
5. “The scars on (Nor’s) wrists and ankles began to hum, and she tried not to think about the pair of scissors in the drawer underneath the counter…Nor was quite certain her mother could cause snakes to fall from the sky if she wanted.”
6. “(Nor) could feel her magic still pulsing under her skin like a heartbeat.”
7. “This was what it felt like to be around him—constantly pulled in two directions, wanting to be seen and unseen, and not knowing which one she preferred.”
8. “Though Savvy couldn’t actually solve the bulk of Nor’s problems, Nor felt better having been reminded that she had someone who gave enough of a shit to try.”
9. “Wasn’t her skin covered with scars from every battle she’d fought and lost?”
10. “I am the thing the darkness fears.”

The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight "original" settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns' supernatural powers. That's perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she'll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her.

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide's malevolent author—Nor's own mother—looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.


Walton follows The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender with a lyrical and robust multigenerational story set on the fictional Anathema Island in the Pacific Northwest...In succinct, evocative sentences, Walton paints vivid scenes while maintaining a gripping plot. Addressing abandonment, self-harm, first love, and other topics, Walton weaves a rewardingly complex tale that brims with suspense and romance. —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Walton conjures a rich sense of place in her sophomore novel, and the backstory of the Blackburn women is undeniably fascinating. Additionally, she does an excellent job handling the topic of Nor’s self-harm: Nor’s already sought treatment by the time her story begins, and though her compulsive thoughts and anxiety are still there, she’s learned how to manage those thoughts in a healthy way...the eerie atmosphere, lyrical language, and romance subplot will still entrance many. —Booklist

As in her 2014 debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Walton’s writing is atmospheric and ethereal. Anathema Island, with its foggy shores, rich diversity of flora and fauna, and quirky tourist shops, comes to vivid life...Nor’s wicked and violent sociopath mother is memorable and her scenes are truly chilling...Walton’s sophomore effort is haunting and, especially in the last act, thrilling. —School Library Journal

Like in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton's story is lyrical and atmospheric, and you'll find yourself getting lost on Anathema Island. —Bustle (blog)

An atmospheric, blood-drenched dark fantasy for a cold and stormy night. —Kirkus Reviews

You can purchase The Price Guide to the Occult at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LESLYE WALTON AND CANDLEWICK for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a swell book with magic and curses!