Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Interview with Intisar Khanani for Thorn


by Intisar Khanani
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: March 24th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Romance, Fairy Tales
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A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Can you briefly describe THORN and its characters?

THORN is a retelling of the Grimm’s tale, “The Goose Girl.” It’s both dark and whimsical, packed with sorrow and hope. It’s a tale of betrayal, and injustice, and sorcery, and learning to be strong in who you are and fight for what you understand to be right. 

At the heart of the story is Princess Alyrra. She’s grown up a victim of abuse, her power and rank protecting her from very little. So, when she is sent off to marry a prince whose family dies with alarming frequency, she has little hope for a better future. Along the way, she’s betrayed by her companion, Valka, who steals her skin and takes her place… leaving Alyrra free to make her own decisions for the first time in her life. And she decides she would much rather live a different life than her own. She has an unexpected ally in a talking horse who witnessed the switch (that’s straight from the fairy tale!), and a much more dangerous enemy in the fae sorceress who has sworn to destroy Prince Kestrin and his family. 

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

I love Alyrra deeply, and she is by far the character I have wept with and laughed with the most. (I mean, she’s also the point of view character!). But my favorite character is actually a rather ornery, ill-mannered horse named Moonflower who only shows up in the second half of the book or so. Moonflower has her own history, and I love how her response is to bite at people, and glower, and only slowly trust them. I love that she is passionately protective as a horse even if she won’t quite admit it to your face. As ridiculous as this might sound, I intend to keep writing companion novels until I manage to give Moonflower a happy fate. ;)

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

As I mentioned above, THORN is based on “The Goose Girl.” But much of the characters’ struggles with concepts of justice and compassion come from my own experiences growing up and watching nations lash out at each other over perceived wrongs… when a sense of history shows that both sides have been hurting each other for a very long time. How do you break out of that cycle? How do you achieve justice when everyone is wrong? Is it even possible? I still don’t know the answers to these questions, but I explore them and leave them open to the reader in THORN. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Terrible confession: I don’t listen to a lot of music. I can’t while writing, and somehow the rest of my day is busy and filling and I … mostly end up hearing kid-appropriate songs, from albums like Blue Moo by Sandra Boynton. This question therefore takes me back to songs I heard a long time ago, or that have just snuck in an caught me despite my general obliviousness. In this case, I’m going to mention “Beautiful” by Carole King. The music itself isn’t quite where it’s at for me, it’s the lyrics, and they are so much Alyrra. 

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

*cough cough* Look, I read books, okay? LOL. I do watch movies, but I’m actually really bad with faces. So, while I know I’ve loved most of what I’ve watched in the last year or so (Hidden Figures, Crazy Rich Asians, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, etc.) I’ve got nothing when it comes to actual actors…

I find visuals and sensory detail really challenging, so even when I write my first drafts, I rarely know what my characters look like. That’s something I build in afterward, mostly because my beta readers point out they have no idea what anyone looks like. Go figure. :P

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

A cup of mint tea out on a deck or in a meadow or park sounds like just the thing to me!

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish THORN?

Although very different in tone, I love W.R. Gingell’s Two Monarchies sequence, that begins with Masque (hookline: Beauty met the Beast and there was . . . Bloody murder?) and Kate Stradling’s The Legendary Inge, which takes a seemingly throw-away moment from Beowulf, genderswaps the main character (yay girl power!), and builds a fabulous story from there. Definitely an original fairy tale, and one of the few reads I’ve enjoyed so much I flipped back to start over again the moment I finished.

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Letting it go. Seriously. I find most parts of writing a book really challenging – from drafting to revision to line edits. But allowing myself to step back and decide I’ve done everything I can for that story? That’s so hard. I want to keep tinkering, I always know there’s more I can do, and I want to do it. I want to make it the best story that I can. Accepting that I’ve done the best I can in this moment, and that the story is as ready as it will be? That’s hard.

As a reader, what is the “one thing” that a mind-blowing story must have, in your opinion?

All the things. LOL! For me, if there isn’t strong character development, I tend to lose interest even with a fantastic plot. But I really think this is a matter of preference. 

What’s next for you?

I just turned in final edits (ouch! Letting gooooo!) on the first book in a companion duology to Thorn. If you pick up Thorn, you’ll notice a short story at the back of it titled The Bone Knife. It introduces my new heroine, Rae, who takes on a few of the strands left dangling from Thorn. Her book is titled The Theft of Sunlight and is slated to release sometime next year. Now I’ll be toggling back and forth between edits on the third book in my indie series, The Sunbolt Chronicles, and Rae’s second book. Never a dull moment!

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. 

Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s debut novel, Thorn, was picked up by HarperTeen and will be re-released in Winter 2020. In the meantime, she’s hard at work on the remaining books of The Sunbolt Chronicles.

On March 24th Thorn will be releasing from Hot Key (UK) and HarperTeen (US/CA)! To celebrate, the author is offering some amazing Thorn goodies to everyone who …
  • pre-orders/orders a copy of Thorn before March 31st at 23.59.
  • OR requests it from their library (library hold / suggested purchase) before March 31st at 23.59.
Here’s what’s up for grabs:

Physical goodies (US/UK):

  • A Thorn Bookmark
  • A set of Chibi Stickers featuring Thorn characters
  • A Signed Bookplate

PLUS Digital goodies (worldwide):

  • A PDF of Brambles – a Thorn prequel short story so you can jump into Alyrra’s world now!
  • A PDF of The (Annotated) Goose Girl – the original fairytale with annotations from yours truly in the margin
  • A coloring page of three Thorn-themed bookmarks
All you need to do to enter is send a proof of purchase (or screenshot of your library hold), your name and address to khananipreorder@gmail.com. T&Cs apply!

UK entrants: Hot Key Books rocks and can mail you physical goodies as well as the digital. Check it out here: http://hotkeybooks.com/thorn-pre-order/.

For more information, go to Intisar's website: http://booksbyintisar.com/thorn-pre-order/.

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  1. I've been curious about Thorn for a while now, definitely on my TBR :):):) thank you so much for this opportunity :)

  2. This book is on my TBR and sounds amazing!

  3. Thank you so much for the interview, and for all your support! <3