Evolution Sunday: S.M. Boyce

Hello, lovely readers! It’s been a while since I posted an Evolution Thursday, and today’s is extra special. And not just because it’s Sunday. I’ve tossed out the standard questions. Today’s interview is completely unique and tailored specifically to SM Boyce and her epic fantasy series, The Grimoire Trilogy. 

Treason is the second book of The Grimoire series. When we leave Kara and Braeden in Lichgates, they have found a deserted village. It gives them some time and space away from the rest of Ourea to catch their breath. Treason picks up about a week later, and Braeden and Kara are due at a gala event.

WR: Ms. Boyce. The gala is talked about during the last third of Lichgates, so clearly you knew where you were going with the second book well before finishing Lichgates, but the plot of Treason takes off like a rocket.

What gave you the idea for The Grimoire? Did you have many of the ideas in Treason before you finished the Lichgates? Or did you take the gala piece and build off of it?

SM: I’ve been building The Grimoire Trilogy since 2006…it was one of those ideas that sparked with a single thought and then snowballed into something epic. I’ve been designing the world, which is pretty complex, all this time. In fact, I really only sat down to write Lichgates in January 2011. So that was a long time spent on designing the outlines, character sketches, and world building.

I had all three novels outlined before I sat down to write Lichgates. Now, an outline has to be flexible, and rewrites in Lichgates forced changes in the subsequent books. But I knew the general outline of Treason before I ever released Lichgates. Likewise, even though Treason released October 27, I had the full Heritage outline written long before I finished Treason.

WR: So, we can check “plotter vs pantser” off the list. What was the single thought that became The Grimoire?

SM: The Grimoire Trilogy actually started when I was a kid playing with some clay in my aunt’s basement. I started making these “spellcasters” (tripped-out wands, really). While I made them, I started fabricating these different cultures, each with their own caster. Eventually, I created special coins that gave the casters more power, and that led to other tools that gave the casters even more power. All in the course of an afternoon, mind you.

This got me thinking. What sort of people used these casters? What were they like? Where did they live? Did they have crazy pets?

Those people became the yakona in my Grimoire Trilogy. The casters disappeared as the story evolved, and I’m honestly glad I didn’t keep them. The story is stronger for it. But I still have those casters in my closet after all these years. It’s fun to go look at them now and again and see how the story evolved from some easy-bake clay and a wild imagination.

WR: I want to talk to you a little about your leads. Let’s start with Braeden. Boy, the dude can take a hit. And a kick and an insult too. And that’s just being thick-skinned. He’s a complex guy to start, but in Treason you make him face more of his demons. By the end, he’s either going to be a smear on the wall or a candidate for sainthood. Braeden thinks the former is likely, but still, he fights the good fight. Why? What’s in it for him?

SM: Yeah, Braeden is one tough man. For the longest time, even he doesn’t know why he fights. He’s spent his life running, lying, and trying to redeem himself for it. Yet when we get to Treason, he has to face what he is for the first time and truly fight against the dark nature that has ruled him since he was born. I mean, his instinct is to kill people. He enjoys murder, but hates himself for liking it. It’s a terrible curse, and he fights because he just wants to be a good person.

For ages, Braeden thought being a good person meant breaking his ties to the throne and to the family that gives him this natural propensity for murder—but when he realizes that’s not possible, he almost gives up. I think if he hadn’t met Kara, he probably would have given up. But she brings laughter and fun into his otherwise dark life, and he’s never had that before. He can trust her with anything, and he’s never had that leisure before, either. As the story progresses, he starts to discover more reasons to fight.

In his journey through Treason, Braeden learns what it will take to rule and starts to believe he has what it takes to lead the subjects he’d originally condemned as evil. For the first time in his life, he has real hope that he can overcome and truly be a good man.

WR: I think it helps that Kara’s American college student background helps. Generation Y has been taught to accept other people as they are. Most of them even seem to get it, and Kara certainly does.

Kara literally stumbled into her role as the vagabond and to her credit, she’s embraced it. And being the vagabond has bad sides, namely the ghost of the old vagabond in her head becoming vocal at inopportune moments. My question about Kara actually has to do with Deirdre (a soul-stealer) as well. In Lichgates, Kara’s dad was about to tell her something important before he met a gruesome fate. Kara seems to have forgotten. When will we come back around to the family’s secret and how will it impact the story?

SM: As you all remember from early on in Lichgates, Kara’s father told her to find a small wooden chest that he’d hidden in a photo cabinet near the stairs. She did find it, if you recall, but Deidre interrupted her chance to open it.

I know the chest from Kara’s father is something that seemed left unresolved in Lichgates, but I promise it was entirely intentional. Kara certainly didn’t forget the chest, but she never had an opportunity to go back and get it because Carden’s men kept a close watch on her old rental home. In Treason, though, we finally see what’s in the chest…and discover what it means.

WR: Before we go, I want to talk a little about the Blood heirs. You’ve mentioned Braeden’s growth. He used to hate what he was, but he’s coming to understand that there’s more to him and to the role he plays. Other Blood heirs are changing in ways that would surprise other people. Gavin, the young Blood of Hillside, in particular, but also Aurora, the Kirelm heir, who I feel has been criminally underestimated by everyone. Is this indicating a change in Ourea’s power structure, or is this just what happens when these kids come into their own?

SM: This is an incredibly insightful question, and you’re spot on. War changes lives, especially those who lead during tumultuous times. On top of that, each generation brings with it its own distinct set of beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses. The youth of a nation will bring with them new ideologies and methodologies when they take over. So with all of these factors combined, we see the power shifts that shape Ourea’s future and emerging leaders.

It’s clear that the power structure that has existed to this point hasn’t worked. Not really. Ourea has been at war for thousands of years but it’s always been behind the scenes. This is really the final war. It’s the first all-or-nothing fight that’s included every major player in the kingdoms, and that pressure is changing the way the Bloods think.

WR: I typically ask a list of questions during Evolution Thursday, but today I have just one. After Treason, there will be Heritage, the conclusion of The Grimoire Series. But what’s next? What story idea is sitting in the class right now, raising his hand madly, begging you to call on him?

SM: Oh man, and he is waving his hand like mad.

I actually have a crazy little plan: I’m going to write Heritage and the first in my new series—an urban fantasy/fairytale blend called Wispvine—at the same time. They’ll both release in Fall 2013. After that, I’ll release 2 books a year: one novella from the Grimoire Trilogy, and one more novel in the Wispvine series. It’s a tall order, but I think I can do it!

I only have about three novellas planned for the Grimoire Trilogy bonus journals, but about five prepared for Wispvine. That means once I finish the Grimoire books, I’ll probably switch to a third series I have brewing in the back of my mind: a paranormal horror with ghosts, ghouls, and demons that will keep you up at night. H’oh boy, I can’t wait for that one!

Me: Neither can I. It’s been lovely having you here today. Lovely readers, keep your eyes out for Treason. It’s an awesome ride.


A Surprise visit from S.M. Boyce!

UPDATED (April 19): When you buy a pendant, you’re automatically entered in a contest to make a short guest appearance in Heritage, the epic finale to the Grimoire Trilogy. Click here for more details!

Hey gang! I’m thrilled to be sharing some awesome news with you, and I’m so grateful that Wendy let me kidnap her blog for the day to do it. You may remember me from when I was here a last month on my Hidden World blog tour promoting my novel, The Grimoire: Lichgates. To those of you who participated and won some of the hundreds of dollars in prizes, thanks for making that tour so epic!

So today, I’m here with awesome, Grimoire-related news I think you’ll really like. Because we of the modern era like information to be fast and furious, I made this quick video to tell you what all the fuss is about:

Isn’t that cool? I’m bringing the Grimoire pendant from my novel to life!

There’s a lot of buzz around the pendant, and I’ll fill orders in the order they’re received. That means it’s really best to act as soon as you know which pendant you want. For all the ordering info, head over to the pendant’s page on my blog.

Thanks again for having me today! You’re all amazing and I can’t thank you enough for reading Lichgates. You’re making all my geeky little dreams come true.

Learn More:

Interview with The Grimoire Trilogy’s Braeden Drakonin

Good morning friends. Today, I have a treat for you. Braeden Drakonin is here. Party hats!

Oh, sorry, you might not know who that is. Rest assured, he likes it better that way. Where he comes from, he’s a wanted man. One king needs him taken alive, another king would really like to put a poisoned blade through him, and then there’s Deirdre, the plucky soul thief ready to sell him to whoever offers her more. No wonder he was so anxious to cross over and do this interview.

Braeden: You summed that up really well, actually. So you’re 100% certain that no one can trace this, right? I can’t have anyone from my world reading this.

WSR: I can say with 100% certainty that I’ve never had a page viewed from Ourea, but I am still building my audience.

Braeden: Ah. You’re a sarcastic one.

WSR: Braeden, you mentioned to Kara that you’ve spent a lot of time in the human world. How long have you been coming here? Do you have any favorite places?

Braeden: I’ve been coming here since I was fifteen, so that’s, what…nine years? Yes, nine. As for my favorite places, I love to sit in bars and just watch humans do their thing. You want entertainment? Go to a bar. Plus, there’s whiskey. Magical stuff.

WSR: Your world is called Ourea, which is on Earth, but in a parallel dimension to ours, and you can cross between them using Lichgates. Kara Magari walked through one to find herself in your world. What can you tell us about the lichgates?

Braeden: No one knows who made the first lichgates, or who founded Ourea, but we have figured out how to create new lichgates. My home, Hillside, is protected by several that we created, so no one can even see the city unless they know where these lichgates are and how to open them.

Lichgates are wonderful defenses because they can be anywhere and appear as anything. I even saw one disguised as a mural on the side of a brick wall in the human world, once. In plain view! I couldn’t believe it, but no one else seemed to know what it was.

WSR: Huh. I’ve seen murals that looked like you could walk right through them. I’ve often been tempted to try it.

Braeden: Careful. They aren’t all lichgates.

WSR: Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. Now, magic is commonplace in your world. Your people use for everything from heating bath water to forming weapons out of air. How does your magic work? When do children begin learning?

Braedon: Mastering magic is all about controlling the energy in all things around you. You tap into that power and manipulate it to make even inanimate objects move. Or, if you’re controlling the elements, you pull what you need from the world around you. To make a flame, for instance, you tap into the energy in the wood and the air to ignite a fire in your hand.

Children begin learning as soon as they start to walk, really. Small things here and there, like warming the dish water with a flame technique or chasing away weeds from the garden with a root-breaking spell.

WSR: Magic allows you to change forms. You appear as four separate races of yakona during Kara’s adventure. You spend most of your time as Hillsidian, but…the Kirelm can fly; The Losse can breathe underwater. What’s your favorite?

Braeden: That’s tough. I’ve spent a solid twelve years pretending to be Hillsidian, so I can hold that form without even thinking about it. It’s comfortable. But the Kirelm form is incredible! Enhanced eyesight, excellent sense of smell, tuned hearing…there’s nothing like it. So it’s a toss-up for me.

Oh, but don’t tell Kara that. She and the Kirelms aren’t on the best terms right now and I don’t want her to get mad.

WSR: But, in truth, you are Stelian.

Braeden: *Sighs* Unfortunately.

WSR: When you were 12, your mother and Blood Aislynn of Ayavel smuggled you out of Stele. Your father’s not exactly the merciful sort, so why would either take the risk?

Braeden: Blood Aislynn was half-unconscious from being tortured, so she didn’t have much say in what was happening. Mother, though…I think she realized how my father was training me to be like him. I didn’t want that, and fought it as much as I could, but I wouldn’t have been able to overcome it if I’d stayed. I guess she thought giving me a second chance at life was worth risking death, or worse.

WSR: And until recently, Carden, your father, thought you were dead. What gave your secret away?

Braeden: A king—we call kings “Bloods,” but the term is interchangeable—he draws his power from the royal bloodline, which gives him and a single heir incredible power. When he couldn’t conceive another son with the bloodline, he realized I wasn’t dead like he had previously assumed.

WSR: While we’re still on the subject of Bloods, heirs, and bloodlines, what is the daru?

Braeden: Bloods, Wendy! You ask hard questions.

WSR: You wouldn’t want Kara to think I soft-balled you, would you?

Braeden: Fine, I’ll answer.

The daru is, according to legend, the physical embodiment of a royal’s soul. It’s the manifestation of absolute and unimaginable power, and it can rarely be stopped once the royal calls it forward. It’s a frightening thing to behold. I hate mine.

WSR: Kara Magari. When you were trapped together in a cage and drug back to Stele, what did you think of her?

Braeden: Oh man. Now you have me worried that she’ll read this, too. This is between you and me, but I thought she wouldn’t last long. Pretty thing like that? No way. Especially not if she was going to my father’s kingdom. It wasn’t until I realized that she had the Grimoire that I thought she stood a chance, and even then, it was a small one. She really proved me wrong.

WSR: The Grimoire? What is it?

Braeden: The Grimoire is a thousand-year-old book that can answer any question asked of it. It’s powerful, and its secrets are coveted by everyone who knows that the book exists. It was hidden for the last millennia, and now that it’s back, everyone wants it. Including me.

WSR: Me too! Now, the Vagabond plays a very important role to the story. Who is The Vagabond? What does it mean to be a Vagabond? Why is having one important?

Braeden: The Vagabond is the Grimoire’s master. It’s a title handed down from the first Vagabond, who created the book a thousand years ago. Only the Vagabond can read the Grimoire, so he or she is crucial to interpreting and using the book’s magic.

WSR: One last thing, before we go. Your home is Hillside, but with your “brother” Gavin promising to kill off the Stelian bloodline…which is you…where does that leave you? What’s next for you and Kara?

Braeden: Gavin’s parents adopted me without knowing what I am, or who my real father is. I have no idea what I would do if Gavin figured me out, so I have to lay low, play it safe, and hope for the best. I don’t have the best track record with that sort of thing, though.

WSR: I wish you luck. Thank you for coming and indulging my curiosity. I will be picking up the next book to find out how you do.

Braeden: I appreciate that. Thanks for having me.

Everyone, please check out The Grimoire: Lichgates. And click on the banner below for more contest details! There’s one just for people who visited my blog today!

Book Review: The Grimoire: Lichgates, by S.M. Boyce

The Grimoire turns its own pages and can answer any question asked of it, and Kara Magari is its next target. 

Kara has no idea what she’s getting herself into when she stumbles across the old book while hiking a hidden trail. Once she opens it, she’s thrown into Ourea: a beautiful world full of terrifying things that want the Grimoire’s secrets. Everyone in this new world is trying to find her, and most want to control the new-found power the book bestows upon her. Even if Kara does escape, Ourea will only drag her back.

Braeden Drakonin grew up in Ourea, and all he’s ever known of life is lying. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. He has one question to ask the book—one question that can fix everything in his broken world—and he’s not letting Kara out of his sight until he gets an answer.

There’s no going back now.

This book is an enchanting high fantasy that draws on the essence of both The Neverending Story and Alice in Wonderland, plot devices from Stargate SG-1 and Narnia, and a quest like that of Luke Skywalker’s. One of my first thoughts while reading it was if I were a filmmaker recreating this story, I would treat it in a matter similar to Watership Down…showing the human dimension in live action, and Ourea’s scenes animated (Final Fantasy style at that). Simply, it would be very hard to render a world as beautiful as the one Ms. Boyce has created on Earth. Soaring towered cities…one of them UNDERWATER. Even the elements that are brutal are beautiful.

The author balances the wonder out by injecting a healthy dose of humanity at its worst. None of the people trust each other, as main character Kara discovers early on. In what I consider the strongest scene of the book, a slender queen on an afternoon stroll finds herself face to face her people’s worst enemy…a man easily four-times her size and she battles him with wits and steel. Lorraine is beautiful, wise, capable of unconditional love and forgiveness, but beneath her skin, she is ruthless as her opponent. Every ruler of Ourea is, because every throne requires it.

But, Lichgates is not without its problems. The ratio of narration to dialog (with far more narrative) is unusual in a Young Adult novel. I also found the chapters to be unbalanced. The main character’s struggle with guilt and death is appropriate, and expertly handled by the author, as are the philosophical questions regarding free will and genocide. But as the story requires introducing the reader to settings, races, creatures, magic, all while following the main character on a quest that runs parallel to this, plus rounding out an number of characters, the author was almost required to “tell” much of the story opposed to “show” to get it all in a YA length story. I felt a bit let down by how quickly events and discoveries came. Also, in the prose, there are brilliant passages that ignite all of the senses, followed by sections I refrained from skimming. They didn’t hold my interest, but because the author drops very subtle hints, I was concerned that I’d miss something important. However, this was not frequent.

At the end, I was very happy to have picked up this book and delighted with the story when I finished it. I am looking forward to the next book in The Grimoire Trilogy