Yes! Prince of Malorn is the third book in my Annals of Alasia series, but like the others, it can stand on its own. Each book deals with events surrounding the same major political incident: the invasion of the kingdom of Alasia by the neighboring kingdom of Malorn. Prince of Alasia begins on the night of the Invasion and describes what happens to twelve-year-old Prince Jaymin after he is forced to flee for his life. In the Enemy’s Service features a girl as the protagonist and tells the story of those who were not able to escape from the Alasian palace when the enemy invaded. I wrote Prince of Malorn to show readers the Malornian perspective of the events leading up to the Invasion. This book begins several months earlier than the others and focuses on Prince Korram, the heir to the Malornian throne. It deals with the struggles he goes through to try to protect himself, his kingdom, and Alasia from Regent Rampus and his traitorous ambitions. In each of the books, main characters from the others make brief appearances and interact with each other at the point where the timeframes and settings overlap, but the storylines aren’t redundant at all.
Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
That’s like asking a parent which of her children is her favorite! They’re all special to me in different ways. But I’ll tell you about one of the characters I feel I’ve gotten to know better as I wrote this book. His name is Dannel, and he’s actually a villain. I wouldn’t want to meet him in real life, but he’s so much fun to write about! He’s clever, conniving, has a sense of humor, loves the thrill of danger, and does whatever it takes to make as much money as he can from whomever he can. Oh, and he has no moral standards to speak of. I’ve also had a lot of fun working with Dannel’s character in the next book in the series, which isn’t published yet.
Where do you live and has your location shaped your writing at all?
My husband and I moved to the island of Taiwan, just off the east coast of China, almost seven years ago. I teach fifth grade in an international school in the city of Taichung and love it (both the job and the location). The hardest part about living here is that, even after all this time, I speak very little Chinese; and most people in Taiwan don’t speak much English. Linguistic difficulties have been the cause of countless awkward or embarrassing moments for me! But other than that, life here is great. I enjoy the culture and have found people to be very welcoming and tolerant of my stumbling attempts to communicate. The food here is great, too – “Chinese” food in America just can’t compare!
Taiwan hasn’t shaped my writing, as such. But I’ve visited a total of eighteen countries and actually lived in four of them, and those experiences have definitely played a role in my writing. I love getting to know different cultures and the differences between them, which Prince Korram has to deal with when he travels into the Impassables to seek the help of the Mountain Folk. In the kingdom of Malorn, Mountain Folk and Lowlanders tend to distrust each other and avoid contact whenever possible, and both sides claim that the other mistreats them. I wanted to show that often it just takes better understanding to lead to acceptance and appreciation of another culture. That, and the willingness to learn new ways of doing things and respect others’ customs even when they’re different.
What started you on your writing journey?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall. When I was seven years old, I had a sudden inspiration for what I thought was an amazing story and decided then and there that I was going to write a book and be the world's youngest author. I ran to my room in great excitement, found an old notebook and a pencil, and started in. Well, that first novel was never actually finished, let alone published, but it got me started. After that, I can't remember a time that I wasn't working on at least one book. Prince of Alasia, which I started in college, was the first one I finished that I thought was worth trying to get published. I looked into traditional publishing and spent a long time trying to get an agent, but to no avail. Finally I learned about Kindle publishing and did it myself the indie way, eleven years after I first started writing the book. A few months later I added the paperback edition. It was quite a thrill to me to finally fulfill my childhood dream!
Did you learn anything along the way as you wrote Prince of Malorn?
I learned a lot! Part of the story involves the main character, Prince Korram, making a solitary trek through the mountains, and I spent hours researching details about wilderness survival to make sure everything was accurate. I learned about making wooden spears without steel tools, for example, as well as the symptoms of frostbite, how to start a fire with rocks, what kinds of edible plants you could expect to find, and what beetle larva tastes like!
What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
English writing on T-shirts in Taiwan! It’s totally ridiculous, enough to drive a writer crazy! It wouldn’t be so bad if it made sense, but a lot of times it just doesn’t. You often see sentences with words left out or misspelled, word order jumbled, or just phrases that don’t work with other phrases (or at all). But after nearly seven years in Taiwan, it’s gotten to the point where I consider it humorous, not annoying, and take pictures when I can. Here are a few examples of T-shirt writing I’ve seen and recorded recently, with all errors left in:
“Homework never hurt anyone, but why take a chanch?”
“System of a 520cc when some body annys you but it only takes8 muscles”
“The balloooon goes up! That’s not my business.”
“Know that will climb mind cause the night is getting cold”
“I am feeling a great pressure of work today. Oops!”
“Youngster stays forever adult Sunday school ministry”
What is your favorite season of the year?
Here in Taiwan, I prefer spring and autumn, though they’re both extremely short. Depending on the year, they’re sometimes over in a couple of weeks! Winter is too cold for me, though that’s partly because the humidity makes it feel colder than it is. Summer, which lasts about two thirds of the year, is incredibly hot and humid! (But I still love living in Taiwan!)
What is your favorite place to write?
Sometimes it’s hard for me to focus on my writing at home where there are always so many distractions. In the last couple of years, I’ve started taking my laptop to a local teashop (there’s at least one on every corner here in Taichung) and writing at one of their little outdoor tables. There are plenty of distractions there, too, of course – noisy traffic, customers coming and going, cute little swallow chicks poking their heads up from the nest attached to the wall nearby, and of course all the activity at the fire station right across the street. But in spite of everything (and thanks especially to the fact that I have no internet access there), it’s one of the places I’ve been able to be the most productive. I usually go there for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and sometimes on weekdays as well, if I have time and mental energy left after the school day’s done.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I’m nearly done with the fourth book in the series, tentatively titled King of Malorn. It takes place five years later and brings together the main characters from all three of the other books. I hope to have it ready for publication this fall. In addition, I’m working on an unrelated story that will probably be the first in a completely different series. It’s called The Collar and the Cavvarach, and is set in a world very much like our own except that slavery is legal. Though still a young adult novel, it’s geared toward a slightly older audience than my Annals of Alasia and deals with darker issues. Writing it has been both an exciting and disturbing experience for me. Recently I’ve begun outlining ideas for its sequel.
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