Set in an imagined past, this dark fantasy-adventure is for fans of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Features Jemma, a fiery-headed heroine held captive in Agromond Castle, yet destined to save mist-shrouded Anglavia.
Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma's past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.
Why did you decide to write high fantasy?
I never actually made a conscious decision to write fantasy, or anything remotely epic. I was scrawling down a few quick synopses to shake out some ideas, and the third one reached out from the page and pulled me into it, a story that was demanding to be told. The essence of it was, “Girl trapped in castle…abducted…dreams of escape”--the bare bones of THE FLAME IN THE MIST. As I began to flesh it out with the Mist, the creepy Agromond family…well, it became clear that it was clearly not quite of our world!
Having a central symbolic element around which there’s a high-stakes destiny for the main character is another thing that to me, marks high fantasy. In THE LORD OF THE RINGS it’s the Ring; in HARRY POTTER it’s horcruxes; in HIS DARK MATERIALS it’s Dust. In THE FLAME IN THE MIST it’s the Mist, a symbol of suppression (not just Jemma's, but the whole country's), and Light, representing Jemma's true self, her Power. However I didn’t sit down and think “How can I add this kind of symbolism?” so again, these elements weren't a conscious decision; they just evolved naturally once the larger background of how and why Jemma got to Agromond castle began to emerge.
What are some of your own favorite high fantasy books/authors?
The first two that spring to mind are HARRY POTTER, and Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy. I love that both are rooted in familiarity, with parallel worlds that exists alongside, or within, the real one. The Muggle world is literally our own, and Book 1 of Pullman’s trilogy—THE GOLDEN COMPASS (NORTHERN LIGHTS in the UK)—opens in a steampunkish version of Oxford which is still recognizably Oxford.
C. S. Lewis also comes to mind, not just for the children’s books most of us at least know of, but also for his adult sci-fi SPACE TRILOGY. I read them at college, and the last in particular stayed with me, with its brooding sense of big, dark doom.
Fast forward to current series-in-progress, and I have to add Leigh Bardugo’s fabulous GRISHA TRILOGY. I loved SHADOW AND BONE (and Alina and Jemma have Light in common!) and can’t wait for SIEGE AND STORM.
What is the most challenging part of writing high fantasy?
Any fantasy world has to have its rules, which have to be consistent: If a character suddenly steps out of line with them, the reader will be jarred out of the story. So one tricky part is establishing that world's logic and making it feel as natural as if it were part of our known reality.
Another mark of high fantasy being an epic quality, which demands high stakes, the tension has to be kept up throughout. Even in passages of relative calm, you can’t afford to let the main issue disappear from the page for too long. It has to constantly be there, lurking around a corner or under a rug, ready to pounce on your hero or heroine. That can also be tremendously challenging.
If you could have any fantasy power, what would you choose?
Being able to fly! I dream about that quite a lot, and it feels fabulous.
Can you tell us anything about what you are writing next - is The Flame in the Mist the start of a series?
Well, there might be a sequel, which might be about three quarters written, and might have to involve a spoiler alert if I say much about it! I’ve also had two other ideas brewing for a while. One, already started, is a dystopian fantasy told from three points of view. It has similar paranormal elements to THE FLAME IN THE MIST, though in a very different setting. The other, told from two points of view, flips between a dystopian current world and Tudor England. At the moment that one is pulling at me more.
When you aren't writing, how do you enjoy spending your time?
I love reading. Walking. Cycling. Hanging out with friends. Cozying up with my husband to watch a movie. Any of those things might win, depending on my mood and how energetic I feel—or not. Widening the lens, spending time with my gorgeous niece and nephew in England, when I can get over there, is high on the list. So is traveling and exploring new places, which I’d love to do more. It's a great way to stir up new ideas!
You can find out more about KIt Grindstaff and The Flame in the Mist at her website.
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