Today I have an interview with Lena Goldfinch, author of Songstone, a YA fantasy romace set in a world of folklore and music.
How is Songstone different from your previous books (Aire and The Language of Souls)?
Thanks for having me here, Erika!
Well, for one, the setting is different. Although I've recently noticed that all three of these books having opening scenes on the ocean (unintentionally), my first two books are set in a Mediterranean-inspired setting, with overtones of ancient Italy and Turkey (and both feature a mountainous region to the north). Songstone is set on a remote Pacific-esque island, fictional but loosely inspired by New Zealand, with an active volcano, precipitous cliffs, and a lake of fire. Basically, it's a setting that's balmy and idyllic, with gorgeous beaches and sunsets, on one hand, and it can also kill you at any moment. ;)
Also, I think the heroine, Kita, has a much edgier quality than either Solena (The Language of Souls) or Annalisia (Aire), who are kindhearted, mission-driven souls. They share an inner need to help others and to use their gifts for good. On the other hand, Kita has a lot of struggles to overcome, both within her world (as the servant girl of an evil sorcerer) and within herself. She starts from a very different place and her journey is one of escape, but also of self-discovery and learning how to connect with other people.
All three heroines have suffered great losses: Solena is a foundling raised by a prophet, Anna lost her father and grandfather at a young age (and her mother and brothers went missing at the same time and are presumed dead). Her grandmother, the queen, is her primary role model and guardian. Kita was found as a baby in the forest and brought into the village to live with a family there. she doesn't know who her real parents are or even who she is. Her relationships with her adoptive family are beyond strained.
Hmmm, I'm sensing a theme?? ;) Why do I write about orphans and foundlings so much? Perhaps because I'm an adoptive mom myself....?
As for difference in the fantasy aspects: Songstone is unique in that the island has no written language. Stories are passed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition, but also by storytellers who have the ability to meld (or magically impress) song into stone (so the songs can later be heard in the hearts of people who touch them. (Sort of like an ancient mp3 player. ;)) Kita has this ability to meld song into stones, which are then called songstones (hence the title). In The Language of Souls the embers of one's soul are a physical thing that are carried with a person all their life in a small molten vessel called a votif. Solena also has a gift of healing. In Aire, legends long dead come to life after a period of great silence: Anna is a seer. She can see brief visions of the past, present, and future (but has little control over the gift; the visions just come to her), and Jovanni is a sentinel, a being who can take the form of a falcon.
There's also something a little special about Pono ( Songstone), but it would be too much of a spoiler to say what.
Often when writing, authors can be inspired by everyday events. Either something that happened to them personally or someone they know. Can you name one or two things from real life that helped you create the world in Songstone?
The inciting incident that inspired Songstone was a family summer vacation. Pretty innocuous, right? We were staying on an island on Lake Winnipesaukee at the time, and being on a boat-access-only island did something wonky to me. I didn't grow up with much experience with boats (despite the fact that my father is a retired Naval commander and I lived much of the time near the ocean), so being somewhere where I couldn't just jump in a car and go to the grocery store threw me way out of my comfort zone. Luckily being "way out of my comfort zone" is fodder for my imagination. ;) I imagined a girl having to cross a dangerous lake with the help of a young journeyman...
Also, I've never been to New Zealand (Bucket List!), but I have been to the Big Island of Hawaii a couple of times, and I drew on my memories of those fabulous beaches, the feeling of sitting way out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by the sea, and those glorious island sunsets (really, I can't imagine any more beautiful sunsets in the world). There was also an active volcano on the other side of the island while we were there. It's a creepy/dangerous/exciting kind of feeling to be so close to something that powerful. (What if it erupted while we were there???) Also, I loved seeing sea turtles in a lagoon in Hawaii, and sea turtles play a role in Songstone.
I'm curious about the relationship between Kita and Pono. Can you share with us a little about their chemistry and maybe tell us about a scene in the book that demonstrates it well?
All her life Kita has been painfully aware that she doesn't look like anyone else in her village. The villagers have warm-toned skin, brown eyes, and dark brown hair. She has red hair, pale skin, and green eyes like the Huwi, a mysterious tribe (inspired by Maori Folklore) who live on the volcano and are said to be able to turn into mist. Stories abound about the Huwi and the villagers are afraid of them. So Kita has been ostracized her whole life.
Then a journeyman arrives from the other side of the island. Pono is a stranger to Kita, but he doesn't even blink at her appearance. He certainly doesn't seem afraid of her. He's also the only one who seems to see through the spells Matiko casts over the village. (Kita is the servant girl of an evil sorcerer who appears to all the village as a good medicine man, when in fact he practices forbidden black magic using drops of her blood.)
Pono's easy acceptance of Kita's appearance both torments and intrigues her. On the one hand she feels the need to push him away, like she does everyone, but on the other she's fascinated by his reaction to her. He accepts and eventually seems to actually like her. Yes, she finds him physically attractive, but he also puzzles her and she feels this tug to figure him out. It's through her growing relationship with Pono and his friendship that she learns to trust first him and then other people.
Here's an excerpt from a scene from Songstone :
“Everyone is surprised sometimes.” I thought of all the horrible surprises Matiko had given me in my life and grimaced. “Haven’t you ever been surprised?”
“I suppose.” (Pono speaking)
He shrugged my question away.
“Just one time?” I said, probing.
He hesitated. Now he hesitated. As if the answer was hard to find. He frowned and looked off into the distance.
“One time?” he asked.
He slowed and just looked at me, his expression thoughtful.
“When you smiled,” he finally said. “Your smile surprised me. And your eyes, at first. I’d never seen eyes like yours. They’re green, like leaves.” His expression was so sincere I couldn’t doubt what he was saying. It did strange things to me, making my heart bump a few unsteady beats.
“I like leaves,” he muttered and picked up his pace.
I couldn’t have spoken then, even if I’d had a hundred more questions. My body felt curiously light, as if I could float into the sky and join the clouds.
Thank you for sharing with us today, Lena! Find out more about Lena and her book Songstone below:
Kita can meld song into stone. In a world with no written word, storytelling—the ability to meld (or magically impress) song into stone—is greatly honored. The village honors her master as their medicine man, but Kita knows he's secretly a sorcerer who practices black magic using drops of her blood. She fears he’ll use her beautiful gift for a killing spell, so she conceals it from him. Each day, his magic tightens around her neck like a rope. His spells blind the villagers, so they can’t see him for what he really is.
Not that anyone would want to help her. She was found in the forest as a baby and would have died if a village girl hadn't brought her home. But the villagers saw Kita's unusual coloring and decided she belonged to the mysterious tribe who lives in the forests of the volcano, a people feared for their mystical powers. So they fear her too. Now seventeen, she can barely admit her deepest longing: to know who she really is and where she belongs.
Then Pono, a young journeyman, arrives from the other side of the island. He's come to fulfill a pact between their villages: to escort a storyteller back to his village--a storyteller who'll be chosen at the great assembly. Finally, in Pono, Kita sees her one slim chance at freedom and she'll risk her life to take it.
A dark, twisty tale of sorcery, tummy-tingling romance, and adventure, inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people.
Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords
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About the author:
Lena lives in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with her husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. She writes fiction for young adults, mostly light fantasy with a healthy dose of "sigh-worthy" romance. You can visit her online at www.lenagoldfinch.blogspot.com.Find her online in the following places:
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We’re doing a sweet summer giveaway in conjunction with the blog tour! The giveaway is open internationally, and one winner (randomly drawn) will receive:
- A signed copy of Songstone (Paperback)
- A sea glass necklace with turtle charm (Pictured below)
- A $10 Dairy Queen gift card (U.S.) or a $10 Amazon.com gift card (international)
a Rafflecopter giveaway