“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.
Today we have fantasy author Beth Bernobich over to talk about her new young adult book, Fox & Phoenix. The first full length book in the Lóng City series following the events in the previously published short story “Pig, Crane, Fox”, Fox & Phoenix tells the tale of a group of three friends as they unite once again to save a kingdom in peril.
Please give it up for Beth!
One of the great things about writing is how it constantly surprises you. Ideas come shooting at you from behind the living room sofa. Or they bubble up from nowhere while you’re dozing in the shower. They seep and soak into your subconscious, from things you’ve read or overheard, sometimes lying in wait for decades before they gather enough substance to cast the shadow of a story. And just when you think, “Oh, I write this one kind of story, not that other,” your muse hands you something completely unexpected.
Sometimes, it’s a combination of all the above.
Let me explain. No, there is too much to explain. Let me sum up.
After I’d been writing a few years, my muse (named Fred, by the way) handed me the image of a small crowded city, built on a mountainside, with a multitude of levels connected by passageways, tunnels, lifts, and stairs. There was the scent of fresh-cut ginger, I remember. The sizzle of garlic in hot oil. Narrow streets and a jumble of old and new technology. Oh, and an abacus. That was it.
I set the idea on a backburner where it could (hopefully) acquire an actual plot to go along with the images and scents, but I’d nearly forgotten the whole thing when an editor invited me to submit a short story for his YA fantasy anthology. The theme was fairy tales, the email said.
I’ve never written YA, I thought.
Right then, Fred (remember him?) dumped the entire plot for a short story on my head. It had all the elements the editor wanted: fantasy, teenagers, a classic fairy tale plot with three impossible wishes and a contest for the princess’s hand in marriage. It also had the crowded city from that almost-forgotten set of images. (But not the abacus.)
So I wrote back to the editor and said I’d give it a shot.
Here is where a lot of bubbling and simmering and soaking came into play. In no particular order, the simmering included a college course in Chinese history, language books, a short story about ghost and dragons in China, all kinds of fairy tales, and years of me reading YA and middle-grade books to my son when he was small. Books by Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Lemony Snicket, J. K. Rowling, Jane Yolen…
Oh wait, I promised to summarize, didn’t I?
Okay, in short, I wrote a story about a street kid who enters a contest where he must perform three impossible tasks. He’s got an impossibly strict mother, a best friend named Yún, a street gang, and one obnoxious pig-spirit as his companion. Along the way, he meets a princess with her own agenda, and the king of the ghost dragons.
The editor bought the story, and the anthology received a few nice reviews.
But I knew I wasn’t done with Kai and his friends. After all, fairy tales are fun, but what happens next? What if you win the contest and gain your heart’s desire, but things don’t work out exactly as you expected? What if you accidentally bring a miniature dead stuffed griffin back to life? What about that cursed abacus?
I wanted to find out the answers to those questions. I wanted to tell the aftermath of the fairy tale. And I wanted to explore how winning the impossible changes your life. Most of all, I wanted to write about kids poised on the edge of growing up, finding their balance anew, and shooting forward into the future.
About the Author:
BETH BERNOBICH comes from a family of story tellers, artists, and engineers. She juggles her time between working with computer software, writing, family, and karate. Her short stories have appeared publications such as Asimov’s, Interzone, Postscripts, Strange Horizons, and Sex in the System. She lives with her husband and son in Bethany, Connecticut.
Thank you, Beth! Make sure to stick around later today to catch a review of Fox & Phoenix!