There is delicious excitingness afoot! We’re having a Q&A with an Aussie author and a giveaway and a review. I mean, HOW MUCH AWESOME IS THIS?!
Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?
CAIT: Can you tell us a bit about how you went from first draft to published book?
CASSANDRA: At around the time I (thought I was) finished editing the Isla’s Inheritance draft, I joined Twitter and discovered the valuable resource and support network that is the writing community there. I threw my hat into the ring in a couple of contests, made some great friends, and received valuable feedback that resulted in me doing even more editing. In March 2013, I entered a Twitter pitch party a small press was running. They requested my first three chapters and, a few days later, the full manuscript. And then I waited. And waited.
About six weeks later, I lost my nerve and sent my query out to two more small presses. One requested the full MS at the query stage (this was my publisher, Turquoise Morning Press), the other just the first pages. Three days after that, I heard back from the original small press. It was an offer of publication.
Once I stopped squealing I emailed the two other small presses, withdrawing my book from consideration. I mean, they’d had it three days—there was no way they’d have made it off the slush pile, right? Wrong. I got an email from the YA editor at TMP almost immediately, asking if I’d signed anything yet. I told her I hadn’t. She then offered me a contract too. Trying to decide between these two small presses was one of the harder decisions I’ve ever made!
CAIT: Ack! The pressure! I do not envy you that decision. What was the process behind coming up with the title of Isla’s Inheritanceand did it go through any changes?
CASSANDRA: The working title for Isla’s Inheritance was actually Melpomene’s Daughter. I decided not to use it as the final title when I realised that having Melpomene’s name in the cover of the book was actually a bit of a spoiler. (Of course I then blew it by using that as the title for the third book. Still, it’s only a tiny spoiler.)
Then I wanted to call it Inheritance, because I like one-word titles, but Christopher Paloni got there first. I’m a big believer in Googling potential book ideas to make sure you aren’t going to get lost in the shadow of a NYT bestseller. Hence, Isla’s Inheritance. I like the poetry of it, the way it rolls off the tongue—and having all three titles in the same style ties them together.
The only thing I regret is that the possessive apostrophe means hashtags are a problem. Because #IslasInheritance breaks my grammarian heart.
CAIT: Since book 3: Melpomene’s Daughter just came out, which book out of the three was hardest to write?
CASSANDRA: The first one, definitely, just because it was the first novel I ever completed. Hell, it was the first one I made it past 10,000 words on! I wasn’t in the habit of writing regularly, and my weekly word goals were as low as 500 a week. One of the things that slowed me down was that I was pretty sure the original beginning was telling the wrong part of the story. I was too close to it at the time to figure out how to fix it, but at the same time my doubt kept me re-reading when I should have been ploughing ahead.
It was the feedback I mentioned earlier that helped me see the manuscript clearly. I ended up cutting around 2000 words from the start of the book, and a whole scene from later on. Probably an entire month’s work at my snail’s pace. (Sob.)
CAIT: One of my favourite things is that you put faeries (!) in Australia (!!) which I hadn’t read before and absolutely love. What sparked this idea? And what kind of faerie research did you do?
CASSANDRA: I’d thought about setting a book overseas, but at the time I’d never been to the UK and I didn’t think I could fake it. Besides, I love Australia and thought there wasn’t enough supernatural fiction set here, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is. When I had the idea of “commoner” faeries who are basically refugees, in Australia to get away from tyrannical aosidhe, or high elves, I knew I was onto something.
As far as research goes, I spent a lot of time reading Wikipedia posts, mostly. Don’t laugh—it’s up there with Pinterest in terms of inspiring resources! A lot of the fae myths are similar throughout Europe, even though the names change, and you can see their influence in many facets of pop culture. (Look up the sluagh some time; I bet you $10 J. K. Rowling based the Dementors on them.)
I made myself a mini-bestiary, a Word document in which I collated snippets of description or myths about different creatures. Some of them I fabricated from scratch, such as the hobs’ physical dependence on the aosidhe. A lot of the details never got used, but it was very reassuring to have it there, just in case.
CAIT: Ooh, a mini-bestiary?! That is epic! What’s your favourite part of the writing process? First drafts, rewriting, edits, chocolate…etc…
CASSANDRA: If I can’t say “the moment where I type THE END”, then it’d have to be editing. Having something there to shape and hone is so much fun, and comes much more easily to me since I edit in my day job. Drafting is sometimes such a word vomit process that by the end of a writing session I’m convinced what I’ve set down is all a bit rubbish. It’s taken me years to learn to just keep drafting, and then to come back and fix it later.
CAIT: Thanks so much for coming to chat with us, Cassandra!! It’s been a blast!
Well this was a delightful little paranormal Australian golden nugget. I had fun. I TRULY DID. The stakes aren’t astronomically high and there were no mind numbing plot twists, but it was fun, interesting, and insanely addictive. Now I know the blurb is uber vague, so I’m just going to throw the unique deliciousness at you: IT’S FAERIES, FOLKS. FAERIES! In Australia! Oh yes please. While it starts with a seance, it’s really more of an urban fantastical family faerie (ooh! alliteration! clever me) story.
THINGS I LIKED AN ASTRONOMICAL AMOUNT:
Because lists rock, and I want to write a list.
- It’s family focused. I love books about families! It focuses on Isla and her dad. And also her cousins! And grandma! And aunt! Let’s just squish the entire family in there, yes.
- It’s Australian. HECK YEAH. Um, sorry. (Am so not sorry.) It’s just I don’t read a lot of paranormal Aussie books. So Australia + Faeries = CAIT IS PLEASED.
- It wasn’t swimming in folk lore. Okay, maybe this is just me, but I tend to get overwhelmed reading faerie books where there are ginormous info-dumps on the different aspects of lore. Don’t get me wrong: fey lore is great. It’s just overwhelming and almost every book does it differently. SO. I was pleasantly happy that ISLA’S INHERITANCE kept the lore to a minimum and wasn’t stuffing Gaelic words down my throat.
- The writing kept me glued to the page. YESSSS. This pleases me greatly, okay?! The pace didn’t rocket along, but it balanced witty dialogue with Isla’s candid voice. Add in a lot of BUT WHY questions and mystery and it just pulls you right along.
STUFF THAT MADE ME A LITTLE TWITCHY:
There’s not a lot, but here goes…
- It was a very easy story. While I appreciated the calmness, I never gripped the page with fear for the characters.
- There was a tendency for too many details. There was pretty much no reason for me to read Isla’s brushing her teeth and getting into bed. We could’ve skipped those little teeny details and fleshed out more of the fight-or-flight scenes.
I quite liked this book! I curled up with it on a wet day and just devoured this faeried Canberra. I’m definitely in love with all the characters and the fact that there’s plenty of food. Like the melting mocha lava cake. Um, YUM.
Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.
Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.
SHE IS NOT DEAD.
Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.
And YAY for a giveaway (thanks to the wonderful and generous author) of an ebook of Isla’s Inheritance…or, if you’ve already read it, one of the sequels! OPEN INTERNATIONALLY.