Please welcome YA author Natalie Wright to Reviews and Interviews. Natalie is in the midst of a virtual book tour for her newest fantasy novel, Emily’s Trial, Book 2 of the Akasha Chronicles.
Natalie will be awarding an autographed copy of Emily's House, a handmade Celtic-inspired armlet (similar to one worn by Emily in the books) and book swag to one randomly drawn commenter (US only -- an e-book of Emily's House will be substituted as the prize for an international winner). To be entered for a chance to win, leave an e-mail address with a comment below. And to increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave other comments.
Natalie is the author of The Akasha Chronicles, a young adult fantasy trilogy. When not writing, blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Wattpadding, or eating chocolate, Natalie nurtures her young daughter, feeds her dog too many treats, and can’t resist watching Ancient Aliens, no matter how absurd the show becomes.
Natalie enjoys travel, good wine, and excellent food shared with family and friends. She was raised an Ohio farm girl, now lives in the desert Southwest, and dreams of living in a high rise in a big city.
“Books are my friends, ideas my passion.”
Welcome, Natalie. Please tell us about your current release.
My current release is Emily’s Trial, Book 2 of the Akasha Chronicles. Emily’s Trial picks up with Emily two years after her adventures in Book 1, Emily’s House. She’s now sixteen and finds herself bored with her role as resident circus freak, showing off her magical powers for the entertainment of others. And she is inexorably drawn to Wheaton High’s most sought after senior, Owen Breen. Yes he’s hot, but he’s not really her type. Why, then, can’t she stop thinking about him? And will she use her powers in a forbidden way, just to please him?
What inspired you to write this book?
The first book in this series, Emily’s House, was inspired by a vision I had while in therapeutic hypnosis! I saw a golden arm bracelet hovering over rolling green fields. I couldn’t shake that vision, and it eventually led to the idea for a hero quest with a young teen protagonist who learns of her ancient Celtic heritage – Emily’s House!
Originally, I intended Emily’s House to be just the one book. But when I won a trip to Ireland (yep, WON it!), on the plane ride back three titles popped into my head: Emily’s House, Emily’s Trial, and Emily’s Heart. I wrote down an outline for two more books on that plane ride. I knew that I wanted to test Emily in book 2 – to throw hard stuff at her and see what happens. Poor Emily!
And I’m not sure where this came from, but on that plane ride, I envisioned Emily in a world where nightmares came true. That idea came to me in the fall of 2010, and that core idea never changed. Emily’s Trial is indeed about what happens when Emily and her friends end up in a world where their worst fears become real. It was deliciously fun to write!
The Apocalypse didn’t start with four horsemen, harbingers of the horror to come. It didn’t start with a plague, or pestilence, or even zombies rising from the dead.
It came slowly and without warning. It crept up on people in the shadows, no more than a vague darkness that spread like an unseen cancer.
And it wasn’t set into action by a divine hand. A teenage girl was the catalyst for the End Times.
I should know. I’m the one that started it.
I didn’t plan to. I didn’t want to start the End Times, and I’m not evil.
Madame Wong taught me to tell the truth, and so here it is. I’m the one responsible for the Apocalypse. And this is the story of how I unwittingly unlocked the door to the darkness; of how a Priestess of the Order of Brighid, entrusted with powerful magic that was supposed to be used for the benefit of all humankind, unleashed a force that would destroy it instead.
And it all began with desire.
I sat at our usual lunch table with Jake, Fanny and my ever-present lunchtime entourage of sycophants. I had become Emily, the lunchtime Circus Freak.
The torc was still wrapped around my arm, still welded to my soul by the faerie magic that had created it. The torc still feeding my powers.
But was I out saving old ladies from muggers? Did I use my powers to fight evil, like some teenage superhero? No. I used the torc’s power to levitate objects in the lunchroom and eavesdrop into the minds of others.
I had become notorious. But notoriety is not the same as popularity – or acceptance.
When we got back from Europe, I stopped hiding my abilities, and I told my story to anyone who’d listen. Sure, people were amazed – in awe even. But the more I told the truth of who I was – really was – the farther away I got from acceptance by ‘them’.
Owen Breen was one of ‘them’. On the other side of the lunchroom at the table where he held court. He was in a whole different hemisphere from ‘us’. Owen’s hemisphere consisted of the popular seniors and a few of ‘them’ from the junior class. My hemisphere was filled with ‘us’, the freaks, the geeks and others on the fringe.
It had all started with desire, and Owen Breen was the well of desire from which I wanted to drink.
I’d sneak looks at him every chance I got. I felt pulled in by his dark, chocolate eyes. I wanted to dive into those eyes.
What would happen if our hemispheres meet? What would it be like to kiss his full lips?
Someone was yelling my name.
“Em. Earth to Em!”
It was Fanny.
“You’re hoarding the salt. Pass it over.” She said it extremely slowly, as if she was talking to a small child.
“Oh. Sure.” The clear shaker lifted in the air and floated across the table to Fanny.
“You could use your hands, you know,” Jake said.
“I can, it’s just more fun to do it with my mind.”
He rolled his eyes at me.
“Where were you?” Fanny asked.
If you only knew!
“You weren’t eavesdropping in someone’s head again, were you? ’Cause you agreed that was rude and you’d stop,” Jake said.
“No, I wasn’t reading any minds.” But that’s an excellent idea. What’s in Owen’s mind?
One of the freshmen at our table, a kid called Skip, whined at me. “Emily, we’re so bored. Show us something. Something big.”
Bored. He was bored. He didn’t know anything about boredom. None of them did.
Two years ago, I flew on a plane with Fanny and Jake – no parents – to Ireland, went to another dimension, fought supernatural ninjas, met alien entities, and – oh yeah – saved the world from a runaway black hole! And here I was, playing at being the lunchtime circus show, plodding through the days, waiting for something to happen. Anything.
What did they know about boredom?
“Come on, Emily. Show us something.”
Fine. They want a show. I’ll give them a show.
I looked around the room for something to use as a demonstration. Something to please the gawkers.
And there she was. Perfect.
Greta walked from Owen’s table, with two of her friends beside her. She carried her half-eaten salad on a tray, the leftover greens drenched with dressing.
It’d been a while since I attempted a levitation from so far away. I wondered if I could do it.
I heard Madame Wong’s voice in my head. “Time, distance – no matter. All things are one with Akasha.” I took a deep breath.
Greta’s salad bowl lifted off her tray. She didn’t seem to notice it at first. But whispers started, then kids were pointing to her, and some were laughing.
I saw Greta look around. Her face changed to a grimace when she realized the whispers, laughs and pointing were aimed at her. She stopped in her tracks, looked around and then noticed her salad bowl was missing. She followed the finger pointing and glanced up.
The salad bowl was perched about six inches above her head, waiting for my command to dump the oily contents all over her. If I chose to give the direction.
Greta’s face flushed. She glared at me with utter venom in her eyes.
“Don’t you dare, Freak Girl!” she screamed.
“What are you doin’, Em?” Jake asked.
There was a buzz of noise rising in the cafeteria.
“Having some fun.”
“I don’t think you should do this,” he said.
“Why? Because it’s not befitting a Priestess of Brighid? Because it’s bad manners?”
“Well, yeah, for a start. And maybe because you don’t need to go starting a war with Greta.”
I dismissed Jake with a roll of my eyes. The salad bowl still teetered over Greta as she stormed toward me.
“I’m tired of you telling me how to be a Priestess, Jake. I didn’t see you in the Netherworld, getting rapped with Madame Wong’s staff or sliced by her sword. You’re not the one who saved our collective bacon. Just leave me alone.”
Jake got up from the bench and picked up his tray. “Fine. I’ll leave you alone. Do what you want. You always do anyway.” He huffed off.
Man, he’s snippy at me lately! What’s up his butt?
“Come on, Em. You’ve had your fun. Jake’s right about Greta. You don’t need to start anything with her,” Fanny whispered to me.
“Why? She’s taken plenty of shots at me over the years. Why shouldn’t I get a little payback?”
I could feel Fanny staring at me, waiting for me to turn to her. When I did, her eyes were set and hard, locking with mine.
“Because you’re better than her.”
Blast it, I hate it when Fanny’s right. And she was right. I didn’t need to stoop to Greta’s level. I’d show her that I could be the bigger person.
Greta was almost to our table, the salad still obeying my order to hover over her head. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Owen walking my way too, down the aisle between two sets of tables.
My eyes were magnets drawn to his eyes. His lips were pulled into a half-smirk, half-smile, revealing a small dimple in his right cheek, but not his left. That little asymmetry made it all the more adorable. I wanted to kiss that dimple. And his lips. The soft pout of his lower lip made me want to …
A loud scream pulled me out of my daydream, then laughing and applause erupted. Dang it. I’d lost my concentration on the salad bowl, and it fell, landing first on Greta’s head. It spilled greasy dressing all over her head before dropping to the floor.
I’m not sure what made her angrier. The oily dressing covering her head and shoulders, a bit of it dripping down her forehead, or the applause erupting from the crowd and cheers for me.
Popularity is such a crazy thing. Most of us want to be the popular kid – be a Greta or an Owen. But when a popular is taken down a peg, we cheer. Go figure.
Owen stopped and took in the scene, then continued walking the five feet or so he had left to get to my table, then he stopped.
He stood across from me and stared. His face was framed by his dark, wavy hair. It looked soft and was just long enough to run your fingers through. Owen looked me straight in the eyes with his smoldering, dark ones. He held my gaze, our eyes locked.
My heart began to beat faster, my stomach roiling. Was he going to scold me for humiliating one of his posse? Or was he going to … what?
Then he said, “Take a bow, Miss Magic. That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time,” as he cocked his head toward Greta.
At first, my legs were frozen. I sat numbly, unable to speak. Then I found the ability to do what he said. I got up and bowed first to my left, then my right, the applause growing louder.
When I raised my head, Owen was gone, already pushing his way through the doors out of the lunchroom. But Greta was there, standing right across from me. Her neck, face, and ears were a red flame of anger. Her icy blue eyes, framed by strands of greasy hair, shot daggers at me.
“You’ll regret this, Freak Girl.”
“Whatever,” I said and laughed.
Greta didn’t laugh. She stood there, stinking of garlicky Italian dressing, her hands still gripping her tray.
“You may think you’re all that because you’ve got some stupid powers. But you’re still a freak, and that’s all you’ll ever be.” Then she stormed off, her two lap-dog friends on her heels.
Out loud, I laughed.
Inside, I wondered if what she said was true. Greta knew how to push all my buttons, how to bring out every insecurity I had. Could I ever be more than a side show? And could a guy like Owen ever be interested in a freak like me?
Greta stormed off. The show was over, and the bell would soon ring. The buzz of talking and laughter began to die down as people packed up their stuff and left.
“You shouldn’t have done it,” Fanny said.
“I know. I didn’t plan to. My concentration was … broken.”
“By what? You’ve never dropped anything before. You’ve levitated me for close to an hour. Don’t tell me Greta rattled you enough to drop that bowl.”
“It wasn’t her. She doesn’t rattle me.”
Yes, she does.
I whispered low, so only Fanny would hear. “Owen Breen,” I confided.
“What? Breen? You’ve gotta be kidding,” she shrieked.
“Shh.” I put my finger to my lips. “This is between just you and me, okay? Don’t tell Jake.”
“Oh, I won’t tell Jake. It would crush him.”
“Man, for supposedly being an enlightened person, you sure are dense sometimes.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
The bell rang. Time for chemistry class. Greta was in that class. I hoped she didn’t show that day, covered in grease and stinking of Italian dressing. It made my gut feel sick to think about it.
Fanny didn’t say anything to me as we headed to our lockers to get stuff for the afternoon. What had she meant about Jake being crushed if he found out I had a thing for Owen? And was Owen really out of my league? Even though we lived in two different hemispheres, couldn’t we meet somewhere around the equator?
As I walked to class, I decided to put Owen out of my mind. He’d laughed at my silly parlor trick, but he’d never look my way again.
* * *
Sometimes you’re as wrong as a left turn on red.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I’m working on the third and final installment in the Akasha Chronicles/Emily Adams series. It’s titled Emily’s Heart and should be out mid-2013. I don’t want to say too much and spoil either Emily’s Trial or Emily’s Heart, but in book 3 Emily has her work cut out for her! Book 3 includes a lot of world building, so it has been great fun imagining the changes to our world that come about as a result of the things that happen in book 2 ;-)
And I continue work on a new speculative fiction series titled H.A.L.F. It’s about government conspiracy, alien-human hybrids, and three teens that get caught up in something bigger than themselves, making choices that will change their lives forever. It’s very different from the Akasha Chronicles, and I’m having a blast with it. The female main character is spirited, her love interest is hot, and the antagonist is a complex and feisty woman who can go head to head with my female lead. I can’t wait to get this one out to readers!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was five! Really. When I was a child, I wrote stories, poems, and plays. I always said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
But then I began to grow up! And I became more interested in pursuing the “back up plan” than pursuing my art.
When my daughter was born about ten years ago, I once again found myself pursuing my creativity. At first I just dabbled. I began to write consistently and seriously in 2007.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I still have that “back-up plan” day job! But I’m fortunate to be able to work part-time in my day job so that I can devote time every day to writing and to my writing career. I generally write new material 2-3 hours per day. The rest of my writing day is devoted to revision and editing of my work, and then to social media and my blog.
If I’ve had a really busy day with my day job, kid, household, etc., I’ll write for a while before I go to bed. I have found that often some of my best stuff is written in the hour or so before I go to sleep.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm, writing quirk? I’m not sure if this qualifies as a quirk, but I have found that I can write just about anywhere and anytime, so long as I do two things. First, I have to be listening to music. If I’m at a coffeehouse or café, I wear headphones and crank up my music so I can’t hear anything else. Second, and this one may look a bit weird to people if I do it in public, I must meditate for a while before I write. It’s a way of clearing everything else out and inviting the muse in. So I sit with my eyes closed and breath in and out, in and out. If I’m home, I’ll add some sun salutation yoga stuff to get my blood flowing to my brain, but I don’t subject the public to seeing that!
So if you ever see me out and about and I’m sitting very still with my reading glasses and headphones on, eyes closed, ignoring everything going on around me, you’ll know that I’m preparing to write!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer! And now I’ve become that, isn’t that cool?!
But for a long time, I didn’t live my dream. And I was pretty unhappy in my job. But when the awful tragedy of 9/11 happened, I began to think about my life and what was important to me. That time spent soul-searching resulted in a baby and a writing career!
Life is short, isn’t it? Too short to deprive ourselves of our dreams. So I went after it. Little by little, bit by bit. It’s still unfolding, and I’m loving every minute of it ;-)
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I enjoy chatting with readers, so don’t be shy about reaching out to me. And I don’t bite, unless you’re made of chocolate, then I make no promises.
Thanks, Natalie. Readers, don't forget about Natalie's giveaway! Leave an e-mail address with a comment below if you want to be entered for a chance to win.