Today, as part of The Vyne blog tour, I have author Daniel Walls with an interview! I'm excited to share this with you and hope you enjoy it!
About The Vyne:
For as long as he can remember, Asher has possessed unexplainable abilities, which his widowed father has forced him to keep hidden. But when an elusive girl named Scar enters his village, Asher's life is forever transformed.
Bound by despair, the teens plot to run away. However, when a mystical medallion finds its way into Asher's hands, they soon learn that running is not an option, it's imperative. Asher is thrust into the pursuit of a legendary treasure, believed to possess the power to save the world from the prophesied apocalypse. And the key to unlocking this power lies within the secret of his curse.
While hunted by dark forces, Asher realizes that Scar has secrets of her own; she is not the girl he thought she was. Time is running out as he struggles to find the strength to let go of his feelings and summon the courage to embrace his destiny.
A chilling, heart-wrenching tale of colliding worlds and forbidden love, The Vyne reinvents steampunk-fantasy for a whole new generation.
Jeremy: What is your single favorite element of the world you created?
Daniel: Trees. Growing up in rural, northern Minnesota I spent a lot of time in the woods. It’s a strange place, the forest—full of beauty and mystery all at the same time. As much as I can’ t get enough of just being in a forest, I have come to respect it, no different than the way I learned to respect the boundaries of open water. If you’ ve ever been lost, truly lost in the woods, you know what I mean. There isn’t a labyrinth in existence more ominous, more bewildering than the expanse of a great forest. What a perfect setting for a story riddled with as much mystery.
The other magical thing about trees is their assortment. There are so many different types of trees. For every different tree is a different type of forest and ecological system. And for each different type of forest is a totally different type of aura that mysteriously seems to emit from the trees themselves. I used pine-covered northern forests and swamps (the very type I grew up in) as the setting for the beginning of Asher’s journey. To me it represented “ fear” in a literal sense—the uncertainty of the darkness of a low-lying swamp and never being sure of your footing. Coming off the heels of the first act of the book (“ Fear” ), I felt this to be the most appropriate. I then used the tropical jungles for the more adventurous part of Asher’s journey. Again, I felt this particular setting to represent Asher’ s newfound “ courage” just perfectly. And lastly, I liked the idea of the story’ s climax to take place on a barren, treeless island (Bald Rock). To me this represented the perfect irony in Asher’ s journey. Even though he’ s made it through the forest, so to speak, he now finds himself completely exposed (naked, if you will). In fact, the lack of trees now serves as a terrifying reminder that there is nowhere to hide.
But the short answer is simply “trees”.
J: Did you find it more difficult to put your vision for this story into words or to design a cover that would be the visual representation of your world?
D: Both were incredibly difficult and time consuming. But certainly putting my vision into words was the most difficult (perhaps because this is my first novel). Writing a first novel is like being a kid again—when you have SO MUCH to say, but rarely given the allotted time or appropriate audience in which to say it to. You want to say EVERYTHING, every single idea you’ ve ever had, simply because you’ ve convinced yourself that your own ideas are THAT GOOD. Thankfully I came to my senses and was able to put myself in the reader’s mindset and ask myself if I would even care about this book if I weren't “ me” . No doubt, The Vyne remains full of plenty of subplots and underlying themes. But in the end, I not only want to entertain. I want to engage. If the reader can see something or experience something in their personal life that they somehow relate to something in the book, then I feel I’ ve made a connection. Easier said than done.
J: Would you say it was harder to pick a font for the cover design or to choose a name for your characters?
D: Again, both were hard, but hands down naming characters is what kept me awake many, many nights. I’m a sucker for names that are a bit representative of the character. But there’ s a fine line between a name that feels right and one that feels trite (or simply too expected). That’ s the nice thing about science fiction/fantasy. It can be forgiving. Of all names, Asher is my personal favorite. It’ s an ancient name, but seldom used. I love how it simply shortens to “ Ash” , which evokes a certain earthy, colorless feel (the prefect representation of Asher’s world).
J: Is there one character in particular you found to be the most difficult to write, or one that underwent the most revisions to get to their published form?
D: Asher Meadows. That boy nearly killed me. He has been everything from a nine-year-old to a thirty-year-old. He was even a SHE at one time. I tried him out as everything from a slick cool rebel to a swashbuckling maverick. But in the end no character trait was nearly as believable as the simple, unimpressive, fear-ridden sixteen-year-old boy I ended up writing. As many authors do, I ended up inadvertently writing about myself (more or less).
J: If you could choose one fictional world in which to live, would it be the one you created in The Vyne or a different one? Why?
D: Before Cobbleton fell to corruption, it was a beautiful little city that harkened the likes of many European cities. The quaint, narrow, winding street, littered with small cafes and shops, all nested on the edge of the sea... I could never get tired of that.
J: Is there one piece of literature or one famous character you wish you could have written?
The Hobbit. At its core, this book is such an intelligent yet digestible piece of literature, it sort of defies conventional writing. To me, it is really the first major YA book that made as much of an impression on adults as it did young readers. And when you can blend wit and fright into not only the same book but the same scene, you know what you’ re doing. Tolkien truly set the tone here. That’s a bar I’ll likely never reach. But I will certainly spend my life trying.
J: There are a lot of separate but linked plot threads running through The Vyne, did you rely on detailed outlines or post-it notes to keep them straight, or did you know them all by heart?
D: What a great question. Actually I used every trick mentioned (and more). Since this was my first novel, I spent a lot of time flushing out ideas that never came to fruition. In fact, I remember cleaning my office one day and piling up a stack of notebooks on the floor—a stack that came nearly to my knees. That was when I decided to go from notebooks and post-its to index cards. That way I could shuffle them around as I like and keep them contained in a single box. But as for how everyone/everything tied together, I would actually draw giant maps. There were times when my little office looked more like a World War 2 war room than it did the humble den of an aspiring author. I remember feeling like I might be slowly transitioning into an absolute lunatic after sitting back and looking at my insane scribbling. Though I cannot confirm that I didn't go a little crazy writing The Vyne, I believe I was able to successfully tie it all together (especially considering how Book Two is going to play out).
J: If you were gifted with Asher’s abilities, would you fully embrace them and be grateful or would you shy away and be more hesitant to use them as Asher is?
D: Since Asher was truly created from my own youth experiences, I would have to say that my initial reaction to these supernatural abilities would probably mirror Asher’s much more than I would like to admit. Though he is fearful of the world beyond and the darkness that haunts his nightmares, his greatest fear is actually himself. Knowing that I had a book inside of me that had to come out was not an easy thing to come to terns with. It was a daunting thought. It was scary. And now, putting it out there for the world to see is the most frightening part of it all. Even though it’ s fantastical fiction, it’s still very revealing. But nothing is achieved without a little risk, right?
J: If The Vyne were turned into a movie, what would the tagline on the movie poster say?
D: Imagine if you discovered, in the palm of your hand, the power to escape an ancient prophecy—the end of the world? If you’ve seen The Vyne’s trailer, you will definitely get a sense of the spirit I have envisioned for this book from its inception. Even though The Vyne is set in another world, I wanted to make sure all of its themes, big and small, were things that people could relate to in their everyday lives. The end of the world is a concept that is foreign to no one.
J: Can you give us any behind the scenes information or a sneak peak of the sequel?
D: All I can say is that Mystery of the Hidden Ember is just the beginning. Though much happened in Book One, it was merely the introduction to the core cast and overall conflict in which they are thrust into. Book Two is really the book I wanted to write. The pace certainly picks up, making for a much more intense read. Here are a couple of hints as to what you might expect:
Book Two takes place two years after the end of Book One, with a much more complex Asher. It will be much more of a cliffhanger and much darker. People and situations that were merely mentioned in Book One are now fully flushed out, taking the story in a very exciting yet chilling direction. And lastly, I think readers will appreciate the fact that even though I’ m writing it to be a book that can stand on its own, if you read Book One, you’ ll quickly see that much of the stage for the sequel was subtly set up in the first one, right underneath your nose.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!