Sunday, September 11, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! For today, I interviewed the author of one of my most anticipated releases for 2016. If you've noticed the books that I review and feature, you would know that I'm a fantasy enthusiast and I adore retellings. And like many people out there, I am so excited for Kingdom of Ash and Briars!


What or who inspired you to write Kingdom of Ash and Briars? Robin McKinley was one of my favorite authors growing up. Several of her fantasies are fairy tale retellings, which made me want to write retellings of my own. But it didn’t really occur to me to write a novel or try to get published until I was in college learning a little more about the industry. Then I studied abroad in France for a semester and the evocative setting led to writing the opening scene of KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS, which featured a young woman in captivity being dragged through a mysterious, snowy wood toward her probable death. I didn’t know where the story was going yet.

But one day I was sitting in French grammar class staring out into space. My parents had sent a care package full of goodies to France, including a pack of Disney princess pencils. I noticed Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella standing together on my pencil and something just clicked! I could combine the stories of the two princesses into an overarching plot of politics, war, and magic, with the girl from the snowy woods at its center.

Could you tell us a bit about your writing style? For novels, I really love writing in the first person. Third person can feel once removed from the story whereas first is so intimate. Even though it’s a challenge to portray every facet of a plot in the first person, I don’t shift to multiple POVs. I definitely feel a sense of loyalty to the first narrator who shows up in a book. That being said, I think some books do multiple POVs well enough that I don’t even really notice! And I’m sure I’ll use third person at some point in the future, but it hasn’t felt right for my more recent projects.

I have a deep appreciation for figurative language and flowery adjectives. I grew up reading dense fantasy and tried to mimic it in my writing, but when you’re 11 years old that translates to being overly-wordy and pretentious! This book, which was the first one I’d ever written, challenged me to tame my wordiness and learn to be concise without expunging the flowering language that makes writing fun.

What kind of research did you do for your debut? I’m not crazy about research, which is part of why I love making up new worlds with new places and rules. My fear when it comes to research-heavy projects is that I’ll miss some important detail of a time period or place or culture and then the whole thing will feel inauthentic or insulting. But even fantasy requires a little bit of research. For me it was about plants, foods and clothing you might find in a western European-esque setting.

Could you tell us about the story world and the process of world building? Of course! This world started with a single setting. The beginning of Bristal’s story just kind of popped out of the mystical, wintry forest. But once I had the idea for the premise, I started building the world to service the plot. I knew I needed multiple kingdoms so that the two fairy tales with their various princes and princesses could have room to play out on their own stages with some political friction existing between. I also wanted to capture the feeling that the realm of Nissera (made up of three kingdoms: Calgoran, Volarre, and Yorth) was on the verge of a sort of medieval modernization in some areas, like in the royal cities - whereas other areas feel isolated, ancient and full of old-world magic. One way this is reflected is in the names of the characters. Those born in or around the royal cities have more common names like Anthony, Charles, Elinor, and Rosamund. The elicromancers and people who live in isolated villages out to the west have older naming traditions, e.g., Bristal, Brack, and Tamarice.

What is your favorite part to write in the story? I loved writing any part where magic plays a powerful role. Whether it’s this mysterious, ancient force or sparkly fairy magic, I enjoy giving it the power to be its own character in the story. But I also love writing romantic scenes where the tension that’s been building up finally breaks in the form of a confession or a kiss.

Thank you for sharing, Hannah!

About the Author:

Hannah West has swooned over fantasy and fairy tales since before she wrote her first story about a runaway princess living on top of a flagpole with two loaves of bread. Kingdom of Ash and Briars is her first novel, which she began as a college junior while studying abroad in Orléans, France. She freelance writes for about renewable energy and sustainable living. She lives in Rockwall, Texas, with her husband, Vince, and Robb, their rambunctious blue heeler.

Find Hannah: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Pinterest

Book Description:

Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: September 15th 2016 by Holiday House, Inc.

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.



What's up for grabs: Final Hardcover of Kingdom of Ash and Briars + signed bookmarks
Scope: US!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!


  1. I don't know, and I kind of like that.
    I would suppose "magic" would be a good answer.:)

  2. I love retellings, so I would hope to see a fresh take on some classic stories and some new ones.