I am happy to welcome Ms. Howard to Carabosse's Library today as part of the Flight of Blue blog tour. I asked her about her inspiration for this fantasy-filled novel and this is what she had to say:
Traffic Lights and Possum Sorcerers: the Inspiration behind Flight of Blue
I was driving home one day, about to cross an intersection with a new traffic light close to my house. Fortunately, I wasn't in a hurry, and I didn't start up right away when the light turned green because just as I took my foot off the brake, a car blew through the light like it wasn't even there.
Shaken, I continued home, passing a possum on the side of the road that had been hit by a car. Angered by the carelessness of drivers, especially as I'd had my then infant son in the car with me, I got out to see if I could help the poor creature. He was beyond help, but with his dying breath, he told me of an Opossum sorcerer, a cursed traffic light, and a rip in the fabric of the world. Of course, after that I had to investigate and record the story I discovered.
And most of that is true. ;-)
I live in a semi-rural spot outside Nashville, and possums are most often the kind of animal I see lying on the sides of the road, and between the possum and the light, the story was born as I drove home thinking of all that I had seen.
I'm what some writers call a pantser, at least at this point in my writing career, so I started the story with Kai and Ellie, Sebastian and Reginald, and the idea that Kai and Ellie find an Opossum sorcerer and take him him home, discovering along the way that he cursed a light and they need to help him reverse the curse. (I'm also the queen of long sentences... half my editing is spent going back and breaking things up).
It was only as I followed the kids and Reginald through the woods on that last normal Friday, eavesdropping on their conversations, that I realized Reginald's desire for revenge had opened up something much darker than any of them ever dreamed possible. I found myself wandering through the three Realms, eyes wide, taking in a far bigger world than I realized had existed in the beginning. It was also around the same time that a small bird with brilliant blue wings, or perhaps it was just a bright blue finch, flew out of the grass, landing on a clothesline as a I drove by, and Serina landed in the story, bringing the title of the book with her.
Soon after that, I discovered what had happened to Kai's parents, but of course, I couldn't tell Kai and Ellie in the middle of all they were doing, so I had to keep it to myself. But after investigating their disappearance as Kai and Ellie tried to get Reginald home safely, I discovered there was much more to the story, and the second and third books of the Keeper of the Keys Chronicles began to form in my mind.
Before that fateful day at the traffic light ever occurred, I already had an imagination steeped in fantasy tales from some of the best minds of the past century or so. I’ve been asked a number of times recently about who has influenced my writing, and I have to say, there have been a number. I like to credit Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan as all being amazing writers of children’s and young adult’s fantasy that I have read and re-read many times.
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This was a fantastic middle grade book that captured my attention and held it until the very end. There was something so magical about it, doing what good books tend to do: putting the real world to the side.
There’s so much good stuff here. The characters are believable, which sometimes in middle grade fiction can be a challenge, since so many writers seem to forget exactly how pre-teens speak. But Ms. Howard does a wonderful job of creating engaging and fully developed characters. One of my favorites was the Opossum. And this is not only because I love opossums, but because he was such a fascinating, hilarious character. He steals every scene he’s in.
The pacing is well done as well. I can easily see a middle grade reader enjoying this without feeling bored at any point. The bit of world building that the author shares is a good amount, never overwhelming the reader with too many details.
If you love fantasy, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s a fresh, new series that will engage you and keep you highly entertained.