BOOK TOUR INTERVIEW: Thorn by Intisar Khanani
As part of the Enchanted Book Promotions tour for Thorn, I am hosting an interview today with the author, Intisar Khanani.
Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation; betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.
Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.
My Interview with Intisar
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and have grown up a nomad. I’ve lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. I first remember seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and have a vague recollection of eating breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when I was five. My husband, young daughter and I now live in Cincinnati, Ohio where I work with the Cincinnati Health Department on projects to improve community health, which is as close as I can get to saving the world. We’ve lived in Cincinnati longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere in one go—over five years. My approach to writing fantasy reflects a lifelong passion for stories from different cultures.
2. What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve always loved writing. I wrote my first book at the age of three; it was a fully illustrated and well-stapled story about a good little fish that went to school. I’ve since learned not to illustrate my own work, and to develop somewhat more complex plots. I’ve continued to write on and off my whole life, and have drafted seven other novels in addition to “Thorn.” But it’s only in the last year that I began to think seriously about writing as a career. It’s been an exciting change for me!
3. Who or what gives you inspiration?
That’s a hard one. My ideas come from everywhere, and they’re often such a mix of influences and incidents that I can’t really peg how the idea developed or at what point the story really took off for me. “Thorn” is unusual for me because it’s based on a Grimms’ fairytale that I loved (“The Goose Girl”), so the base elements of the plot came from that. I can’t really say where some of the supportive characters came from—the thief lord, the Lady / sorceress—or how Alyrra got to be the kind of heroine she is. Then again, I went through 13 revisions of “Thorn” so it’s been a long time since they first introduced themselves, and they’ve changed a lot along the way.
I’m now working on a trilogy set in the same world that starts up soon after “Thorn” ends, but follows a new character, Rae. I have no idea how I came up with Rae, but I remember clearly when the plot came into focus for me. I was flying British Airways, and came across an envelope to collect spare change for a non-profit working to end child slavery. Suddenly, everything clicked: in Thorn, I had mentioned children disappearing off the streets and never being seen again. Until then, that had been a minor plot element; but looking at the envelope, I knew there was nothing minor about it. This would be the heart of Rae’s story. It would be up to her to find out what happened to the children and do something about it.
4. Tell us about Thorn.
As I mentioned above, “Thorn” is loosely based on the fairy tale “The Goose Girl.” Princess Alyrra has grown up with her mother’s contempt and her brother’s casual cruelty. She despises politics, and is more frightened than anything when her betrothal is arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom. So, when she is betrayed along her journey to meet the prince, and a sorceress switches her identity with her lady-in-waiting, she’s only outraged for a little while. Then she realizes she’s free. What more could she want? Only when she arrives at her new home does she discover that the sorceress is after the prince himself. Now Alyrra has to decide what she’s willing to fight for, and what choices she can make to decide her own fate when so many of her choices have already been made by others.
5. What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Writing. Definitely the writing. It’s also the best part, the easiest part, and the most exhausting. The thing about writing is you have to do it whether you feel like it or not. Even those days when inspiration is out looking for a tan in Jamaica while you sit at your computer under gray skies nursing a cold—even those days, if you make yourself write, you’ll get something useful out of it. And if you want to be a writer, then you’d better write. The second hardest part is revising. 🙂
6. What do you need around you to write (special drink, lucky items, etc)?
I really just need peace and quiet. That might sound easy, but I have a toddler and another little baby on the way. Nap times and post-bed time work really well right now, but I have the feeling that the new baby is going to rearrange my life for a little while at least when it comes to writing.
7. What are some of your favorite books?
I tend to have favorite authors rather than books. I always come back to both Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice by Austen. I also enjoy books by Hilari Bell, Julia Golding, and Lisa Mantchev. I’m always looking for another great read, or an author to follow.
8. Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Nope. Definitely not.
9. What, if anything, are you working on right now?
I am currently working on a trilogy that follows after “Thorn.” Don’t be fooled: Thorn is a stand-alone novel. This trilogy starts up a few weeks after “Thorn” ends with a completely different heroine; Rae is smart, witty, and a born horsewoman, raised on a ranch in southern Menaiya. She and her two younger sisters have been inseparable, until now. Rae gets an invitation from a cousin at court to stay with them for the upcoming royal wedding. She doesn’t have many expectations beyond enjoying the wedding; born with a deformed foot, she knows the court’s obsession with beauty leaves no space for cripples.
Her expectations are turned on their head when she is asked to serve as a royal attendant to the foreign princess, Alyrra. Alyrra is not what Rae expects, nor is the task Alyrra sets her. Rae must find out about the snatched, the children and young women across Menaiya who disappear off the streets and from their beds. Rumor has it that it’s the work of slavers, but then there’s the Darkness, the strange malady that affects those children who escape, destroying their minds unless their memories can be erased. While the people live in fear of the Snatchers, the court dismisses the stories as ignorant superstition. It’s up to Rae to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.
10. Why do you love writing?
Why do you love air? Maybe you don’t even realize you love air, but just try living with out. It’s not possible.
About the Author
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She now resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and young daughter. Intisar writes grants and develops projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which is as close as she can get to saving the world. Her approach to writing fantasy reflects her lifelong passion for stories from different cultures. She is currently writing a trilogy set in the same world as Thorn. This is her first novel.