Today I welcome Felicity Banks to the blog. Felicity is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books.
The Monster Apprentice is the first in a new series you’re writing. What is the story behind this story/ what inspired it?
I think the story behind The Monster Apprentice might be longer than the book itself but here goes! When I was eighteen years old, I lived in Indonesia for six months. One day, while listening to a sermon (obviously not very attentively) I had the idea of inventing my own fantasy world—something that was different to the overwhelming majority of fantasy novels (ie written by white men and set in a place somewhat like Great Britain). I invented Rahana that day: a tropical archipelago like Indonesia, with a wide range of different cultures and traditions (so I could set all kinds of different books there), and with a magical system that made physical strength irrelevant.
I wrote a book set in that world, then turned that book into a trilogy. Years later, after writing the entire young adult trilogy, I went to New Zealand to travel on the Young Endeavour sail training vessel. Who says research isn’t fun?
While staying in Christchurch before the voyage, I ran out of sightseeing money and decided to stay where I was and write a kids’ book set in Rahana. The first draft of The Monster Apprentice was written by hand in ten days. I was staying in a backpacker within sight of the famous Christchurch Cathedral (this was more than ten years ago, before the earthquake), and I’d walk down to the Botanic Gardens and write there. I asked for a discount at the backpacker in exchange for a future book dedication—and they said yes.
The book has changed a lot since then. Captain Sol didn’t even exist until after I’d gone on a tall ship myself.
Naturally, The Monster Apprentice turned into a trilogy too. The Princess and the Pirate will be released in early 2019, and Waking Dead Mountain in 2020.
Is it illustrated? If so, who by?
Yes! My publisher, Odyssey Books, has an imprint specifically for beautiful novelty books for adults, and one of those books is Makeshift Galaxy, which is stunning. When I asked to have Tash Turgoose illustrate my kids’ trilogy, the publisher said, ‘Yes!’ and the rest is history! She does amazing pencil drawings. It actually looks like my magical world has been photographed.
What age group is this series aimed at?
It’s middle grade, meaning it’s written for 10-14 year olds—but having said that, it’s a story that I’d enjoy reading as a 36-year old. I asked the amazing Australian children’s author, Sandy Fussell, to write a cover quote for me, and was stunned when she said yes. I enjoy reading her children’s books for my own pleasure, and I like to think mine are also in that class of being an excellent book for any age.
What drew you to writing for this age? Or was it just that the story you wrote fit that age group?
Ooh, good question! I usually write young adult books, because they tend to be faster-moving and more optimistic than “adult” books. Children’s books share those qualities, and are also gentler on the emotions (usually!) so that appealed. At the time I’d been thinking about writing for Penguin’s “Aussie Chomps” series. That, plus knowing I was due to set sail in ten days, meant a shorter book made sense for me at the time.
Why do you enjoy writing for that age group?
I’m fascinated by coming-of-age stories, and the idea of deciding who you and and/or who you want to be. It’s a classic theme for non-adult books, but I think we’re all constantly figuring out who we are, and that’s a great thing to write about.
How will you be celebrating the release of your book?
With a free pirate ball! Here in Canberra there’s an amazing dance group called the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy that runs a themed ball every month. I contacted them asking for a pirate-themed ball in February, with a free half hour at the beginning. They said yes, and the rest is history!
Three Fun Facts:
Blurb about The Monster Apprentice:
The only weapon Dance has is her name.
When pirates threaten the tiny hidden island of Luar, Dance knows her home has only one hope of survival: the magical monsters that killed her twin sister.
Dance loses her friends one by one as she attempts to prepare her strange apprentices for the showdown between monsters and pirates. Can she do it alone?
The Monster’s Apprentice is a powerful story of looking at the world differently and finding an answer in an unexpected place.
Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books. All her interactive fiction is listed under “Felicity Banks” at Interactive Fiction Data Base (IFDB): Felicity Banks and most of her interactive fiction can be read via an app.
Where to find Felicity Banks:
Facebook: Felicity Banks Books
Book Launch Event Page: Free Mini-ball and book launch
Illustrator: Tash Turgoose
Book Trailer: The Monster Apprentice
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