I have a very special guest today on Why Words Work! With a story that has been over ten years in the making, this author has worked so hard to bring her book out into the world. As soon as I saw her over on my Twitter, I knew that I had to interview her and find out just how she did it.
Today I am interviewing Alicia Gaile!
A Creative Writing graduate, a creative thinker, and a YA fanatic. Alicia is a writer who loves everything fantasy. Writing YA short stories and novel, Trial by Song is her first completed novel, which debuted earlier this year.
So, without further ado, let’s see what she has to say!
Faeries and Magic, Harps and Huntsmen: What makes your novel stand out from the crowd in the fantasy genre?
Nestled inside all of the fairy tales, magic, monsters, and mayhem is the story of a boy determined to follow his dreams no matter how the odds are stacked against him. Jack will do whatever it takes to protect his family, defend his loved ones, and reveal his incredible musical gift to the world.
Your protagonist, Jack, sounds like an underdog in his family. What compelled you to make him the protagonist, rather than one of the other brothers?
Jack’s story is based off of Jack and the Beanstalk, and that Jack often gets portrayed as an idiot whose mother has to spell out what she wants him to do, which he still manages to mess up when he trades their cow for beans.
In Trial by Song, Jack has six brothers and it made sense that they would naturally underestimate him simply for being the youngest. He’s not stupid in my version, he gets in over his head and wants to prove he can take care of himself to his brothers.
I never considered having a different brother as the main character, but there was a point in which the story was told from Eira’s point of view. She’s a girl from town who’s attracted the attention of some dangerous characters due to her uncannily fae features.
Ultimately I made the change because Eira could only respond to what was happening since she was discovering the world of faeries for the first time. Jack, on the other hand, drives his own story with fully informed mistakes and decisions.
He’s grown up knowing the dangers he’ll face if the fae learn about his family’s powers, and it’s much more interesting to watch him choose to expose his gift to the world in spite of those risks.
This book was a long time in the making. What pushed you to finally bite the bullet and get this book out into the world?
Trial by Song has been a work in progress for over a decade in one form or another. I reached a point where I realized if I wasn’t going to do anything with it then I was never going to find the nerve to see any of my writing goals through.
So I took the plunge and I’m so glad I did!
How was the publishing process for you? With fantasy and YA being such huge genres right now, how easy was it to get your voice out there?
The act of self-publishing is incredibly easy. There are plenty of tutorials, video walk throughs, and paid services available to take all the guesswork out if you don’t know what you’re doing.
However, it comes with a very steep learning curve which I have found extremely exciting. I’ve connected with great people through the various social media groups I’ve joined and made some great friends. There’s still plenty to lean, but I’m enjoying the journey.
Why, as an author, are you drawn to fairy-tales, magic, and folklore, over other things?
Folk and fairy tales are usually some of the earliest stories we’re exposed to as children. They’re simple stories with black and white morality that’s meant to teach us how we’re supposed to think and behave.
When you retell a story it gives you and the reader a chance to explore the wilderness beyond the path the original warned you to stay away from.
In Trial by Song there are consequences for stealing the magic harp–consequences for Jack, his family, and everyone who lives in his town. Eira’s life gets turned upside down because she happens to look like a faery, and it was fun to explore her irritation at having to take that threat seriously.
It’s also interesting to see how themes and ideas evolve. Marrying strangers and falling in love after one meeting isn’t the patch all happy ending it used to be. Personal growth can be a happy ending that’s just as satisfying (if not more) than a big, royal wedding.
Do you think any classic fairy-tale stories have seeped into the pages of your novel? If so, which ones.
There are definitely a few other fairy tales that have snuck into Trial by Song.
I love when readers write me to tell me they found some of the others. I already mentioned that Eira’s appearance has put her in enough danger that it takes Jack and his six brothers to keep her safe, but she has some family history involving her mother, great-grandmother, and a wolf attack that draws its inspiration from Little Red Riding Hood.
There are a few others sprinkled in, but they’re a little more subtle and I’ll leave them a surprise for readers to discover for themselves.
Now, time for the tough question: Which two authors have inspired you and why?
One of the first stories I read that involved the darker side of faeries was Tithe by Holly Black. It was exciting to see her world of Faerie bleed into the world of Ironside. It was fun and exciting to see magic overlaid on mundane things, and I tried to emulate that when I could.
Then there’s Juliet Marillier. Daughter of the Forest is probably my favorite retelling because it takes the original plot and breathes life into the standard characters. It shows the struggle Sorcha faces trying to complete a task that should be impossible while she’s surrounded by people she can’t afford to trust and who don’t trust her.
Since Trial by Song also features a protagonist with six siblings I inevitably explore some of those same themes of family, duty, and expectations in my own way.
Do you have any future projects planned that you can share at this time?
I’ve already finished the first draft of the sequel to Trial by Song, though I don’t have an official name for it yet. And I’m writing the story of Eira’s mother, Gwen, as a novella that will hopefully be ready in time for Halloween.
And finally, to all the fantasy fanatics dreaming of their first novel, what is the one piece of advice you want to give them?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. There are writing communities scattered all across social media. Many, if not most of them, are filled with wonderful supportive people who can give you the feedback and advice you need to help get you to the next step in your journey. I know it can be hard to hear constructive criticism that doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, but don’t let the fear of negative feedback hold you back from sharing your work.
Another huge thank you to Alicia for her wonderful answers! Don’t forget to check out her website, Twitter, Facebook and her book’s amazon page! And hey, if you like fantasy and fairies, why not check out this other author interview?