It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Tamara Shoemaker’s writing. She’s a talented writer, perceptive editor, and a fantastic friend. Which is why I could not wait to read her latest book, Unleash the Inferno. The final installment in her Heart of a Dragon trilogy, Unleash the Inferno is (in my opinion) the best one yet. Read on for an interview with the author, and if you’re curious as to whether you should give this series a shot, head over to my facebook page to view my “Five Reasons You Should Read the Heart of a Dragon series” vlog!
TNK: The Heart of a Dragon trilogy is your second completed YA fantasy series. Does finishing this saga feel different than finishing your Guardian of the Vale trilogy? Are you happy to be done, or do you wish you could still dive back into this world?
TS: When I finished my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, I had that heady sense of success that came with completing an actual trilogy. I didn’t really care what the books were about (well, I did—I love those books); I was just overwhelmed with the fact that I’d managed to do such a thing in the first place. Completing the Heart of a Dragon trilogy gave me some of the same thrill, but it wasn’t based around the idea of completion (’cause ya know, what’s another trilogy give or take one?) as it was thrill over taking what had been utter and complete drivel on paper during the outline phase into something that was truly a work of art. I’m so proud of those books, I could bust—particularly book three, Unleash the Inferno.
My editor’s note when she sent me back her developmental edits on my Unleash the Inferno manuscript said, in effect: “This is the rockiest writing I’ve seen from you yet.” It was true; I’d dashed out the manuscript in a mad rush during the month of November for NaNoWriMo, and it was awful when I passed it on to her. But the satisfaction I get now from the book is such a one-eighty. Because I knew it was a disaster, I worked even harder to make this into a masterpiece, and I truly believe I’ve succeeded. I wanted to create some incredibly detailed nuance in the characters, and based on reviews and feedback, I feel that I managed to do that and do it well. I’m super happy to be done with the trilogy, and I’m happy to set aside the world for now.
But there’s nothing that says I can’t come back with some companion novels set in the same world. 🙂
TNK: Without giving anything away, let’s just say you really develop King Sebastian’s character in this book. He’s still very much a villain, but it’s clear that he is far more complex than that. How did you go about creating such a conflicted character, and how did you walk the line between explaining Sebastian’s behaviors and justifying them?
TS: Wow! You don’t believe in asking easy questions, do you? 😉 It’s always driven me a little crazy when I read characters that are evil without some sort of understanding how they became that way. It doesn’t make sense to me: a child who is treated lovingly on all fronts will generally (unless there’s a mental issue) turn into a relatively well-adjusted adult. So tracing Sebastian’s roots back to his beginnings, the people who had shaped and influenced his early life, it was interesting to see what kind of actions of those close to him had motivated him to turn into who he was.
I’ve got to say, my favorite, favorite scene in Unleash the Inferno is in Sebastian’s final chapter in the book. It just—wrapped up everything so completely, and the scene that happened was poignant and heartfelt and actually made me cry. I cried over a bad guy, my own bad guy, even.
It doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂
TNK: One of my favorite arcs in the series has to do with Kinna coming to terms with her own previous complicity in a corrupt system. To me, she had to learn that thinking something was wrong wasn’t enough, but rather actions–even when they scared you–were what most mattered. Did you set out with this path for her in mind, or was that a lesson that grew organically along the way?
TS: I think Kinna’s character was fairly organic overall. When I began Kindle the Flame (book one), I had no idea it would go where it did. Well, I take that back. I had an end game in mind, and she eventually reached that end game, but my ideas for Kinna’s character were not nearly as nuanced in my original outline. As her character faced challenges, I found that I connected better with her when she struggled with them. Kinna was not perfect. She was even, as you said, complicit in a corrupt system, however unintentionally, but it was through that struggle, that realization that she wasn’t perfect and was taking part in the subjugation of a race of creatures that she found her strength. She could be a leader, because she knew what it was to be a follower, and I loved the fact that I could connect with her over that.
Heroes or heroines who have it all figured out make me want to pound my head against a wall. I want to know where this Fountain of Wisdom is that they’ve found, and why is it so easy for them to just… be cool? I love it when I find characters who are just a bit nerdy like me, who struggle a bit like me, and who overcome those struggles and find ways to be the hero or heroine in all their geeky glory.
TNK: Now that you’re a lean, not-at-all-mean, world-building machine, do you have any advice for wannabe fantasy writers?
TS: Advice: it’s the same every time. Don’t give up. I know the fantasy market is flooded right now. It’s just really hard to sell anything on such an overwhelmed market. But that’s no reason why anyone should be laying down their pen (or closing their laptop, in my case). Don’t worry about what agents are looking for or what audiences seem to like. Want to write about dragons? Write about dragons. Want to write about medieval warfare or elemental magic or kingdoms on the bottom of the sea? Do it. The story that’s in you can’t be told by anyone else, and publishing is just a side-concern anyway. Be a story-teller. If it’s inside you, let it out.
TNK: Do you think you will ever return to the realms of Lismaria, West Ashwynd, and/or Ongalia in a future book or series? I’m, uh, asking for a friend…
TS: Hahaha! Is your friend named… uh… Taryn, by any chance? 😉 You know, I’d love to write companion novels to the books I’ve already got out, so I’d say that it is a definite possibility that these worlds, creatures, and characters will make reappearances sometime in the next few years. I have a couple of books that have been burning holes in my brain that I think I need to get out first, but I do think it would be so fun to come back to some of these familiar worlds.
TNK: What’s next for Tamara Shoemaker, author and editor extraordinaire? Any hints to upcoming projects you’d like to share?
TS: If you love historical fiction, romance, and fantasy, keep an eye out for a couple of co-writes I’ve done with fellow fantasy-writer and friend, Emily June Street. River Running was our first work together: a book based on elemental magic, set in a parallel world to our Civil War era, taking place on a deep south plantation. The aromas and colors in this book! It’s just beautiful. We also finished up The Eighth Octave as well: a book based on musical magic and set in a parallel world to our 17th-century. It’s a European-style setting with steampunk touches where we feature music boxes and masques and court intrigue among composers and dukes.
And as I stated, I have another YA novel sizzling its signature into my brain, so I’d like to get that written this summer and released in the fall, hopefully. I’m also finishing up some freelance editing contracts I had taken on this spring.
I don’t think I’ll be bored anytime soon. 🙂
Unleash the Inferno is now available on Amazon
After the Battle at ClarenVale, Kinna Andrachen unites those who spurn King Sebastian’s tyrannical reign, mustering a rag-tag army of soldiers and creatures to face Sebastian’s far larger Lismarian army. Victory is elusive and allies are scarce, but Kinna’s tenacious spirit cannot succumb to injustice. Her fiery heart must learn to lead.
At last mastering control of the four Touches of the powerful Amulet, Ayden finds himself at the center of an epic struggle to destroy the corruption that has tainted the throne of Lismaria for centuries. As time runs out, his options for survival fade, surrendering him to a dark destiny.
Tied to a fate he does not want, Cedric Andrachen resists his inheritance, fleeing the lust for power it sparks in him. As war looms, Cedric faces his choices: will he turn his back on his throne and his kingdom? Or will he enter the struggle against tyranny, bringing the freedom his people have so long sought?
Sebastian sits, at last, on the Lismarian throne, stolen from him twenty years prior. But now the Rebellion, led against him by his niece and nephew, threatens his security from across the Channel, and the Amulet’s promise of power tempts him into even darker shadows. Ghosts of the past brutalize Sebastian’s present until the lines of reality blur with nightmare.
Flames of war ignite between nations. Peril threatens the Andrachen line.
Who will survive the inferno?
More about Tamara:
Tamara Shoemaker authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, Embrace the Fire, and Unleash the Inferno, as well her Guardian of the Vale trilogy: Mark of Four, Shadows of Uprising, and Guardian of the Vale. In her spare time, she freelances as an editor for other works of fiction, chases three children hither and yon, and tries hard to ignore the brownie mixes that inevitably show up in her cabinets.
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