Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Spirit Animals Books 1&2 by Brandon Mull and Maggie Stiefvater + Interview

Wild Born and Hunted
"Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts - a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children - and the world - have been changed forever.

Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you."- summary from Amazon

So I really enjoyed the Infinity Ring series (still have to read Books 6 and 7 though) and was excited to hear about a new interactive series from Scholastic, especially one that involved the awesome Maggie Stiefvater. This new series is an action-adventure fantasy that I really think kids will love. It's told in third person omniscient, so not only does the reader get to know the four main kids very well, but it occasionally glimpses into the enemy's camps as well, which makes for some very compelling reading.

Each book centers around a quest to get a talisman from the other great Spirit Animals to aid in the battle between good and evil, though Mull also had to set up the world and the characters, which takes up a good portion of the first book. I really like the four main kids and I think readers will really relate to them and their hopes and fears. My favorite would probably have to be Rollan just because of how sarcastic he is; that always bonds me to any character.

Overall, a fascinating new multi-platform series from Scholastic and I'm eager for the upcoming books (written by the likes of Sean Williams & Garth Nix, Shannon Hale and Marie Lu!)!

and here's an interview with Maggie Stiefvater, author of Book 2: Hunted:
1) This is your first middle-grade book after having written multiple books for the YA audience. Was it difficult to write for that age group?

I knew before I began that I couldn’t include swearing or kissing or grueling death scenes, so that wasn’t a shock — but I did find out during the writing process that middle grade editors don’t approve of the lopping off of arms. The most challenging bit, actually, was curbing my desire to agonize over prose. Ordinarily I take great pride in the sound of my YA novels — I read them out loud to be sure the words sound agreeable and musical to my ear. But in a fast-paced novel for younger readers like this? It turned out that I read this one out loud too, but for an entirely different reason. I have two kids who are 8 & 9 years old, and we read books out loud nearly every night. I ended up reading most of Hunted out loud in my office to be sure that it sounded like something a parent and child could read out loud at the end of the day.

2) You'll probably be asked this all over the place but I want to ask anyway- what would you want your Spirit Animal to be if you went through that ceremony?

I already went through that ceremony, James, right after I sold Shiver and came of age. My ’73 Camaro appeared and we’ve been bonded for life ever since.

3) What are you currently working on, and can you tell us anything about it? Do you think you'll ever write middle-grade again?

I am working on the third book in the Raven Cycle and also a collaboration with my critique partners, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. I also have another secret project in the works that I can’t say anything about.

I’d definitely write middle grade again. It was incredibly satisfying to write something my kids could read as soon as I was done with it.

4) With this series (as well as others by Scholastic like Infinity Ring and 39 Clues), various authors write a different book in the series. How did that process work? Was it hard to dive in and write this sequel when it wasn't something you had started/created?

I have to admit that I thought it would be a breeze. After all, I ran a short-story blog with Tessa and Brenna for years [www.merryfates.com]. Years! We put up new short fiction three times a week for the first year, then every week for years after, often writing stories to a common prompt. On Monday, we’d decide “we’re all writing a retelling of Snow White.” Friday, I’d write my version. Or we’d decide “the stories must be about puddles.” And we’d all write about puddles. So I thought I had the skillset down pat. And yet, when it came time to write Hunted, I discovered it really didn’t help at all. Because with Spirit Animals, I inherited the characters from book one. It was only the plot I was supposed to contribute.

But-but-but- characters are my super power! You want me to work without my POWERS?

It was quite a learning curve. But I threw my back into it. And sneakily, I managed to invent a few characters as well.

5) What book(s) are you reading, or are looking forward to reading?

Right now, my son is reading books in the I Survived series. Have you seen them? They’re these really short, dire tales that are called things like I SURVIVED THE BOMBINGS ON PEARL HARBOR or I SURVIVED THE SHARK ATTACKS OF 1917. He has me read them out loud. Now those are some middle grades with some lopping.

Personally, I’m reading a lot of research for Raven Boys III. I’m about halfway through A SINGER OF TALES, which is about the process of learning epic poetry. It is not thrilling, but I persist.

FTC: Received e-galleys from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview James! I read the first one of these for the Cybils and it was pretty fun. It's interesting to see a little of what goes into the multi-author setup.