Today, Lena Coakley, the author of Witchlanders, a fantastic debut novel you guys should all read, has graciously agreed to answer some of my questions!
Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In High School, Creative Writing was the only course she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Toronto, Canada. Witchlanders is her debut novel.
If you had to describe Witchlanders in one sentence, what would you say?
Oh, I’m not very good at this! In fact, now that reviews are starting to come out for Witchlanders, I’ve noticed that some of their synopses sum up the plot far better than I could. Here goes, though:
The son of a witch and the son of a black magician must uncover the secrets hidden in the catacombs of an ancient coven.
If you had to describe yourself (or your writing) in one sentence, what would you say?
I’m a nerdy book addict who finally finished writing her first novel and is amazed that people seem to like it!
One thing I was struck by was the setting of your fantasy world. Did you have a specific place in mind when you were creating the Witchlands and the Bitterlands or did you just know that was where it had to take place?
There are many aspects of writing a novel that are difficult for me—I work very hard at plotting and pacing, for instance—but I think worldbuilding is something that comes pretty naturally. This is because when I start to imagine a new world I’m in it all the time in my head; I seem to be working out the details even when I don’t realize it. I wish the whole novel worked that way!
There aren't as many YA novels with male protagonists as there with females, and Ryder is one of the most unique and refreshing protagonists I've ever read. Did you ever find writing a male protagonist daunting?
It took me a long time to understand Ryder’s character, but I’m not sure it was because he is male. Falpian is a male character too, but writing him came much more easily. Ryder is just so private and monosyllabic that I think it took me a long time to get to know him, just as it probably would have in real life!
If you had to live with a character from Witchlanders, who would you choose?
I love Ryder but he’d be such a bad roommate! I think I’d live with Falpian. He has his dark side, of course, but I think he’d be much more cheerful and easy to get along with than Ryder. Of course part of the fun of writing the book was putting these two opposites together!
I love all of your characters (and their names)! Were any of them based on people you know?
It’s amazing how much real life seeps into the writing of a fantasy novel. No one character is based on anyone I know, but there is a stubbornness and strength of will in Ryder and his mother that I see in some of my family members, especially my late grandmother, to whom the book is dedicated.
As far as names go, I can’t write a character until I have the perfect name for them. Sometimes I spend a day doing nothing but brainstorming names for one character.
Will there be a sequel to Witchlanders?
As for a sequel, I’d love to write one but I don’t have one contracted. My agent says the since I’m a first time novelist, the publisher will wait to see how this one does before they suggest it. I’m working on something totally different for my second novel.
By something totally different, does that mean your next novel won't be YA fantasy?
Yes, it will be YA fantasy, but it’s a stand-alone historical fantasy, not a high fantasy.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog!
You're welcome. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview! And guys, take a look at this. Lena has created her own book trailer for Witchlanders: