Monday, August 1, 2022

Julie Abe Interview - Alliana, Girl of Dragons


Photo Content from Julie Abe

Julie Abe is the author of the EVA EVERGREEN, SEMI-MAGICAL WITCH middle grade fantasy series; the middle grade fantasy ALLIANA, GIRL OF DRAGONS; and the young adult novel THE CHARMED LIST. She has lived in Silicon Valley, spent many humid summers in Japan, and currently basks in the sunshine of Southern California with never enough books or tea.
        
  

Can you tell us when you started ALLIANA, GIRL OF DRAGONS, how that came about?
ALLIANA began as a line in Eva Evergreen. It was a bit of a joke of a line (that I can’t share because of spoilers, but you’ll recognize it if you’ve read Eva)... but it made me wonder, what if this does happen? And what is the rest of Alliana’s story? Before I knew it, the answers to those questions became a whole book of its own.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
More than a decade ago (wow, it’s been a while!) I was sitting at work, staring out the window wondering, “Isn’t there more to life than this?” That feeling sparked my inspiration for publication. After that, I began to write in any free time, trying and trying to become a better writer… and that endlessly determined eye on my dreams led to the publication of my first book, Eva Evergreen, and many books after that!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There have been so many rewarding experiences, big and small, but one that comes to mind, book after book, is the joy and excitement of seeing my cover art. When I see that “Cover Art!” email come in from one of my editors, I am so thrilled and excited to see what my book will look like to others.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?

Books are an escape. They harbor our hurt feelings in times of need, and inspire us when we’re looking for our next steps. I owe so much to the books I’ve read on a lonely day, and I consider them good friends (of a papery kind).
Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?

I read Goose Girl by Shannon Hale in a time where I was really struggling, and escaping into those pages gave me such relief from a time of pain. For me, that encapsulates the power of books, and I’m very thankful for everything that other authors have gifted to me, through their books.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from ALLIANA, GIRL OF DRAGONS
One of my favorite lines is Unravel your own tale. Alliana sews, something she learned from her dear Grandmother Mari, and the ‘unravel’ felt like it was the perfect connection to sewing. Then, a dear writer friend, Sarah Suk, mentioned that the ‘tale’ reminded her of Kabo, Alliana’s friend and dragon, and a very spiky tail of his own. This line felt like the perfect fit!

Another favorite section is the first few lines, because it feels like it teems with possibility for Alliana’s future:

There was only one set of crossroads on the dusty outskirts of town. Four paths converged and diverged, sending travelers to utterly different fates…

I’m so excited to hear from readers what their favorite lines are!

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ALLIANA, GIRL OF DRAGONS
  • I got really hungry for mochi while writing, so I wrote it into the story!
  • I was inspired by my friend CW’s chicken, Eggna, so I wrote her into the story.
  • Alliana is a prequel to my Eva Evergreen books, but you can pick up either Eva or Alliana without having read the other book.
  • Alliana is the only character I’ve written who doesn’t have magic—but she’s very much magical in her own way.
  • Kabo, Alliana’s dragon-friend, was an unexpected twist that I hadn’t expected, but much like Ember (Eva’s companion in the Eva Evergreen books), he showed up in the pages and just wouldn’t leave!
  • I had a lot of fun thinking about the core elements of Cinderella tale and adding in my own little twists to it!
  • When I commissioned art for Alliana’s preorder campaign, Kabo jumped straight into the art designs in the same way he jumped into the book—demanding to be included!
  • One of the buildings in Alliana is based on Himeji Castle in Japan, which is known for looking like a white heron about to take flight.
  • The cover art and all of the chapter header art is done by the magical Shan Jiang; his ability to create Alliana, Kabo, and their friends is one of my favorite parts of the book.
  • Baumkuchen, another of my favorite foods and a super-tasty cake, was also written into Alliana because I was hungry while writing!
Meet the Characters
ALLIANA OF RIVELLE

Alliana is a dreamer at heart, but her difficult life as an orphan subject to the whims of her stepmother has made her practical and a hard worker. However, she still dreams of going to the capital city and seeing the queen, her idol…

KABO, THE FEISTY DRAGON
Kabo is one of Alliana’s best friends. Prickly but sweet, and endlessly protective, Kabo helps Alliana find her own path, and was an absolute delight to write. Kabo is looking for his “thunder”—his family, in his dragon-speak, and I loved writing the relationship of Alliana and Kabo being a “thunder”, together.

And, for those who have read Eva Evergreen, there are (quite a few) cameos from characters, both big and small, that show up in the two Eva books!

Your Journey to Publication
I was the stay-up-all-night, reading-under-the-blankets kind of kid (even now!). I thought that becoming a writer and creating books for readers like me would be the coolest job ever. I just never thought that I could do something that had always seemed like an elusive dream.

I dabbled in writing when I was young and was amazed when my middle school teacher assigned us to write a story. I thought, “Is this even homework?” In high school, I wrote a lot, but I didn’t focus on craft or finishing stories. I didn't believe I could write as a career.

After I started working full-time, I needed an escape and started writing again. Then I couldn’t stop. I wanted to become an author.

It took more than twelve manuscripts, a lot of rejections, but I eventually got multiple (!!) offers for representation by agents, and then multiple offers for my debut book from publishing houses(!!). For someone who wasn't really sure if I'd be able to become an author, I realized… all along, I have been one.

Telling my spouse and best friends was the most exciting part. They've cheered me on and picked me up when I was feeling down and out about my chances. And, to finally be able to thank them for their support in my books is an absolute dream come true.

Writing Behind the Scenes
Three fun behind the scenes facts about my writing!
  1. I always write digitally: whether in Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or even in emails to myself.
  2. Water and tea are must haves. Also, snacks. Snacks are the best kind of writing motivation. Right now, my favorite snack is Jagabees (think french fries, but in potato chip form!)
  3. Lists always help me stay focused — which may be why my magical young adult debut is called The Charmed List!
What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Everything I have to do during the day (yikes)!

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I was living in Japan during the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011. It was absolutely devastating for Japan; entire cities were wiped off the map. Because of that day, I remember that each minute of life is precious, and this also spurred me to follow my dreams of writing.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Going back to Japan, where I was born, is one of my absolute favorite places to travel. I love to travel anywhere, really. One very memorable travel experience was Rome, Italy a few years ago — it was so majestic and beautiful. I could duck into the corner cafe and get a tasty espresso and pastry, or around noon grab one of the best pizza slices from the local bakery. An absolute delight of a trip, and I can't wait to go again someday.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
My first thought was that it wasn't a tea day. I NEED coffee. Which means I should probably go get a cup now… thanks for hanging out with me, and I hope you'll pick up Alliana, Girl of Dragons!


Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. Alliana wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away—and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.

Now Alliana’s forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother—with long days of cleaning her stepfamily’s inn as her skin burns raw or staying up until the crack of dawn to embroider her stepsister’s ball gowns. Until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young nightdragon who Alliana discovers she can magically talk to. And the second is Nela, a young witch.

Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?

Inspired by the Japanese Cinderella story and set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen series, this story can be read as a standalone.
You can purchase Alliana, Girl of Dragons at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JULIE ABE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe.

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2 comments:

  1. Julie's new book sounds great. I loved learning more about her, especially her road to publication.

    ReplyDelete