Samantha Francine, YA Fantasy, Oppressed & Oppressor

As I write this, I wonder how I–a YA fantasy reader and writer who is white–can possibly have anything worth saying at a time when my country’s streets are filled with Black Lives Matter protesters being fired upon with teargas and flash bombs, thrown down, choked, clubbed. Well, you’ve seen the news. You know.

But today I will share three things with you: two of my favorite YA fantasy books and an image from the Black Lives Matter movement that I can’t get out of my head.

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and Marie Lu’s Legend are (in my humble opinion) perfect YA fantasy books with noble characters and tight, compelling plots. Like so many YA fantasy books, protagonists fight against a powerful oppressor. Both books also feature main characters from opposing forces: one is from the oppressed class, the other from the oppressor.

Laia from An Ember in the Ashes works with the Resistance and will do anything to save her brother, even work as a slave for an evil commander. Elias is a member of the elite. As a “Mask” for the Martial Empire, Elias is an assassin trained at the highest level. Despite Laia’s misgivings, she and Elias form a relationship, and we learn that Elias never wanted to be a Mask. He is a good person who uses his privileged status to help Laia—though even he must be careful to avoid severe punishment.

In Marie Lu’s Legend, June is the brilliant, logical military cadet from an elite family. While seeking her brother’s murderer–whom she is told is a member of the oppressed class–June encounters Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal. Cocky and compassionate Day is about as different from June as can be. The two characters begin the story at cross purposes but, like Elias in Ember, June has compassion. She is not inherently a bad person, just indoctrinated by the oppressor.

As the pairs of opposing characters in each novel build a personal connection, characters from the privileged class (Elias and June) open their eyes to who the oppressed really are as people. June learns that Day is not the person the Republic portrayed him to be. Elias learns that his training as a Mask can make him a great help to the Resistance.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”Maya Angelou

This brings us to the powerful image I mentioned earlier. During this time of Black Lives Matter protests there are many moving and disturbing images, but today I will write about this one.

On the right is Samantha Francine, an African American woman faced with an angry white man in Whitefish, Montana. Samantha Francine stood with her sign near town hall with sixty other protesters when this burly white man, well over six feet tall, stormed the group, yelling epithets and knocking signs from protesters’ hands. He got into the protesters’ faces, one after another, clearly looking for a fight. When he got to Samantha Francine, she planted her feet, pulled her glasses up, and looked the man square in the eye.

Samantha Francine said she was not afraid. Her single white dad had taught her and her siblings that life would be different for them because of the color of their skin. She said he constantly reminded them that “No matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.”

Samantha Francine remembered.

Judging by the man’s threatening posture and actions, he was full of anger and hate. When he looked into Samantha Francine’s wide open eyes, did he really see her? Might there come a day when the man feels remorse for evoking such fear in peaceful people?

In fictional worlds, members of the oppressive class are able to find redemption to the point where they decide to work to end oppression.

I pray this is possible in the real world too.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”James Baldwin

XOXO

eve messenger

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Giveaway & Author Q&A: Kathryn Purdie – Burning Glass @KathrynPurdie #amreading

Hello, book lovers! As a special salute to this month’s Q&As with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS, this final February interview includes a special GIVEAWAY of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s debut novel, Burning Glass. For a chance to win, all you have to do is “like” this post before Saturday 2/27/16. The winner must also be willing to provide a mailing address so I can, you know, send you the swag. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read YA Debut Author Is . . .

Kathryn Purdie who, in addition to her obvious talent for writing, is a classically trained actress. Kathryn was inspired to write the Burning Glass debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.

Kathryn Purdie

Why Burning Glass is a Must-Read:

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An immersive page-turner with luscious writing and a complex heroine. Because of Sonya’s unique ability to physically and emotionally feel what those around her feel, she is forced into the employ of the emperor where she must protect him by sensing the intentions of would-be assassins.

The Interview

Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?

K.P.: How surprising and flawed Sonya is as a character. She constantly shocked me and delighted me as I wrote her. Her unpredictability is my favorite thing.

Eve: When is your book’s official release date?

K.P.: My book releases March 1st. I haven’t seen the finished copy yet. I’m on pins and needles!

Eve: Many writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

K.P.: I LOVE music, but I can’t listen to vocal music while I write, or I just want to sing along! So I write to soundtracks. I wrote almost all of BURNING GLASS to the film score of BELLE by Rachel Portman. The best vocal song that embodies the mood of BURNING GLASS is “Can’t Pretend,” by Tom Odell. I allow myself to listen to it while I revise, because revisions take less brainpower than drafting for me (so the vocal music isn’t so distracting).

Eve: Speaking of music.. . included in your book swag is a novel-inspired song you wrote and performed called “Song for Anton.” Clearly you are a musician. If you were in an all-authors band (like YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft’s “Tiger Beat”), what instrument would you play?

K.P.: I would play the guitar—and I do play the guitar! My dad taught me when I was sixteen. I spent the rest of high school torturing all my friends with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” One funny thing about my guitar playing is I am the world’s worst strummerMy dad taught me folk songs and how to finger pluck, and that’s still the way I play.

Tiger Beat all-authors band Nicole Brinkley-YA Interrobang

Tiger Beat all-authors band – YA Interrobang/Nicole Brinkley

Eve: The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you loved?

K.P.: THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry (Pure magic and a sweeping feeling of nostalgia, intellect, and true love.)

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro (Awesome twist on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a modern girl in this version.)

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (Amazing world, execution, and the concept of Masks fascinates me.)

Purdie three recent favorite reads

Eve: Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

K.P.: I don’t balance it! I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve recently downloaded the “Freedom” app to force me to stay offline while I write and revise. Wish me luck!

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

K.P.: I’m always shy about sharing what I’ve written. I’ve learned that I like to stay very alone with my concept and draft until I’ve made it the best it can be. Of course, I can’t do this anymore since I’m having a trilogy published. I have to discuss my future books often with my editor. But I don’t mind. She loves these books and is as equally invested in them as I am.

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

K.P.: I met my critique group at the first writing conference I attended a few years ago. We hard core critiqued each other’s manuscripts the first years we were together. Now our schedules don’t allow for us to have time to critique everything (some of us are published and have tight deadlines), so we’re more of a support group now. But these ladies are very special to me and have gotten me through some intense times!

Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?

My editor, together with the sales and marketing team at my publisher, came up with the name, BURNING GLASS. They wanted something moody, atmospheric, and symbolic. It’s not an obvious title. When you read the book, you have to think hard about why that’s the title. That’s why I love it! My original title for the book was AURASEER, which is the type of empath Sonya is in the story. That term remains in the book, but it didn’t stick as the title. 🙂

Eve: Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

K.P.: I didn’t experience this for BURNING GLASS (a rare exception to my norm), but I have for the next book in the trilogy, which I’m still working on. To get through all that, I lean on my support group of author friends and my amazing husband, I get practical advice on things I’m struggling with (like turning off my inner editor), and I cling to a strong vision that somehow I’ll succeed. Writing a book is hard, and it truly takes a village.

Eve: Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

K.P.: From the moment I had the idea to write BURNING GLASS, I knew this book would be special and different. I had another book planned and outlined, and I set it all aside when this story popped into my head. It flowed out of me with little difficulty, compared to previous novels. In all ways, it really felt “meant to be,” and I had high hopes for it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

Website: kathrynpurdie.com
Twitter: @kathrynpurdie
Instagram: kathrynpurdie
Tumblr: kathrynpurdie