Monday, April 18, 2016

The Ruby Prince Blog Tour: Interview with Beth Brower + A Giveaway

A big welcome to Beth Brower! Beth is the author of The Queen's Gambit and The Ruby Prince, the first two books in the Books of Imirillia trilogy. She was gracious enough to answer all our questions about writing, her inspiration, and her awesome new series.

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below for the chance to win The Queen's Gambit and The Ruby Prince!

About Beth Brower:
Like many of my siblings, I would sneak out of bed, slip into the hallway, and pull my favorite books from the book closet. I read my way through the bottom shelf, then the next shelf up, and the shelf above that, until I could climb to the very top shelf, stacked two layers deep and two layers high, and read the titles of the classics. My desire to create stories grew as I was learning to read them.

Subsequently, I spent my time scribbling in notebooks rather than listening to math lectures at school.

I graduated with a degree in literary studies, and have spent several years working on the novels that keep pounding on the doors of my mind, as none of my characters are very patient to wait their turn. I currently live in Orem, Utah, with my wonderful chemist husband, and books in every room of the house. 

Describe your book series in six words or less.

Hmmm. To quote a character, “Your journey still lies ahead.”

Your characters do a lot of traveling in The Queen's Gambit and The Ruby Prince. Can you tell us a little about your journey as the writer?

At sixteen, I wrote down the following title in one of my writing books: The Queen’s Gambit. The phrase intrigued me. I knew at some point I would write a novel based on that name. There was an image of a young queen in my mind. She looked a bit solitary, and good, and determined. And there she stood, in the back of my mind, for many years. 

I worked on other books, other stories, other tales more flushed out, with characters properly filling their spaces. Still, in the back of my mind was always this young queen that I’d had a glimpse of. More than a decade later, while working on another trilogy {pirates, anyone?} I saw the image of this queen in my mind so clearly. As if I was watching it unfold like an old map, I began to see the expanded vision of the story around her. There lay the castle, and there the city of Ainsley. The entire country of Aemogen spread itself out. I wandered the halls of Ainsley Castle until I had wandered into all the loyal and idealistic characters that surrounded the queen.
With the images and color of Aemogen flooding my mind, I began looking for the threat, the reason for needing a gambit. One morning, as I was weeding a map of middle earth, {I was the head gardener of a private estate in the mountains called Rivendell for the last seven years} I saw a young man wander into Aemogen. He was lithe but strong; graceful, but shadowed. I did not know him, nor had ever heard his name. But as I looked further afield to see where he had come from, the entire continent spread out before me. And there lay Imirillia; fierce and wild, with all the alluring lines of a great desert empire.

I threw myself into the story, writing on my lunch break, scribbling at stop lights, pulling my laptop out after long days at work to write whatever I could manage before falling asleep. As I gardened, I watched the characters. I observed the small things they did. More than any book I’ve worked on, these characters knew their story, and were relentless until I got it right.   
I wrote The Queen’s Gambit, The Ruby Prince, and the upcoming Wanderer’s Mark together, finishing my first draft of the entire journey on 11/12/13. The last three years have been spent revising, editing, stepping away, coming back, and going at it until I thought I could not do it again. But I did. 

In The Ruby Prince we journey with the characters to Zardabast, which is vastly different from Aemogen. Was it fun to take your characters to a new setting? What do you love best about creating your own world? What do you find most challenging?

It is a universal experience, first to be a native, and then to be a stranger. I learned things about myself sitting on the windowsill of my upstairs bedroom, window open, leg swinging out—and other things writing early in the morning in an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, watching the flower market open below. It’s a tremendous thing, to unwind the mystery of yourself, or someone you know, both in the familiar and then the strange. And so, I was interested in what happened when you take two characters, place them in their own world and then the world of another. Even more than I wanted to see it, it seemed my characters had already lived it somehow, and the path was unalterable. I just tagged along.

I loved the culture differences between Aemogen and Imirillia—the stories and sayings, the beliefs and expectations. I love weaving cultural idiosyncrasies into the details, or hearing the cadence beneath and old saying of the country. “Irony is the province of every culture,” Wil tells Eleanor. And I love each culture dearly.

What was most challenging? Trusting them, the characters, when they surprised me. When I thought it was going to be this way. And when they so emphatically did that. But then I would realize that was exactly what they would have done—under that strain, or uncertainty, or moment of wonder—and this would not have done at all.  

The Books of Imirillia remind me of some of my favorite classic fantasies. What are some of your favorite fantasy books? (And why do you love them?)

Yes. Probably because some of the classics were very, very, deeply rooted. Here are a few of the fantasy books that took hold of my heart early {and forever}.

I adored The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It instilled in me a love of ships and exploration and an ensemble crew so firmly that I have a ship’s wheel {a real one} and a brass spyglass {a real one} in my living room. And Eustace. I was so moved by the scene when Eustace, as a dragon, has all his layers ripped away by the lion. That moment filled me. It made me shake. It astounded me. I knew that I wanted to write stories where the inner landscape was as complicated and detailed as the outer. Later, I fell in love with The Horse and His Boy, and it’s contrasting culture. I can still feel the day inside me when I read, “For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing.”

Another influence, one of the most significant, was the books of my beloved Lloyd Alexander. Beginning, of course, with the Chronicles of Prydain. Reading them over and over and over. Starting when I was young enough to prefer The Book of Three or The Black Cauldron, to growing into Taran Wanderer so tightly, I claimed it as talisman for my own coming of age. And then, when I found the three Westmark books in my junior high library, I gave myself to them, admiring the perfect balance of the word-smithing, the array of unforgettable characters, and a story that struggled inside the soul as much as out. I have reread those books so many times the spine of my original Kestral disintegrated.

Finally, I'm fascinated by this book closet you write about in your author bio. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? 

I have many siblings, and all the kid’s bedrooms, save one, were upstairs. There was a hallway. Two rooms on the left. Two rooms on the right. A bathroom. A laundry chute {allowing some of the more reckless siblings to repel three floors into the basement.} And in the middle of it all was The Book Closet. It smelled like the back aisle of an old bookshop. The shelves were three feet wide, a foot deep, the highest being taller than any child on tip toes could reach. There was a direct correlation between shelf level and reading level. The bottom shelf held the picture books—Max the Great Detective, Sammy the Seal, Hansel and Gretel. The second shelf up was where you found The Mouse and The Motorcycle, Maniac Magee, The Boxcar Children. And so on. The highest shelf housed all the Dickens, the Steinbeck, the Hawthorn. I remember staring at the stylized paperback covers of Jude the Obscure, and The Ox Bow Incident. Turning them over in my hand. Wondering.

The more experienced shelf explorers learned the secret for longevity when searching among the books. You would climb up so your toes were gripping the first or second shelf, then scoot enough to the side that you could lean your back against the doorframe. There you could comfortably peruse the higher shelves. Sometimes you would be searching among the shelves—all stacked two books high and two books deep—looking for that particular novel. You were in the mood to read Daddy Longlegs or Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. If the book could not be found in the closet—and you had engaged a younger sibling to be the second witness that it was indeed missing—it was up to you to hunt down the offending sister or brother.

It was The Book Closet that taught me the art of the literary gamble. Of holding a book you’d never read, and, without asking anyone, taking it to your windowsill, or into the reading nook you had made in the top of your own closet, and opening to the first page ready to jump off the cliff of another book wondering what voyage the book would take you on and if you would land. It was an idyllic patron saint of discovery and I thank my parents for it. 

Thanks Beth! It was such a pleasure chatting with you. Interested in Beth's books? Find out more about the books below and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About The Books of Imirillia

The Queen's Gambit by Beth Brower

Published January 2016

Genres: Fantasy

Amazon | Goodreads



Eleanor, the young queen of Aemogen, is confronted with the greatest threat her country has ever faced: surrender Aemogen’s sovereignty to the treacherous Imirillion Empire or endure a devastating and impossible war. Now she must decide if she will forfeit her people’s liberty or fight.

When Wil Traveler, the disenchanted Imirillion soldier, wanders into her country, Eleanor takes the gamble of asking him to train her ill-prepared men for war, despite suspecting he may be a spy.

Battling questions of war and conquest, Eleanor fights to protect her people as Wil challenges her way of life, all the while keeping the secrets of his violent past a mystery.


  The Ruby Prince by Beth Brower

Published April 2016

Genres: Fantasy

Amazon | Goodreads 


Queen Eleanor's gambit worked. Aemogen, for now, has been spared from the ruthless Imirillian army. But Eleanor is still a captive, and Prince Basal is taking her into the North. As Eleanor is swept through the deserts of Imirillia to the magnificent city of Zarbadast, she begins to understand the contradictions Basal must negotiate beneath the reign of the sadistic Emperor Shaamil.

Having returned home, Prince Basal again finds himself at war with his own conscience. Under the scrutiny of his father, the pressure of his brothers, and a fierce loyalty to his own people, Basal doubts his ability to fulfill his impossible promise to Aedon: to help Eleanor escape.

In a rich telling of culture, ritual, and choice, The Ruby Prince draws on the complexity of what honor means to both Eleanor and Basal, who find themselves together, yet set against one another, in the enigmatic court of Zarbadast.



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