As you all may remember, a few weeks ago I was super excited to participate in my very first blog tour for Immer, by Denise McFarland. So I’m sure you can imagine my further excitement when the response from everyone was so positive and I was chosen to participate in a second tour! So thank you again to Jen at Happylilbooknook for the opportunity and here we go:
Title: The Monster of Selkirk, Book I: The Duality of Nature
Author: C.E. Clayton
Amazon.com synopsis: Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a monster when they see one. After three hundred years of monstrous, feral elves plaguing the island nation of Selkirk, everyone believes they know what a monster is. Humans have learned to live with their savage neighbors, enacting a Clearing every four years to push the elves back from their borders. The system has worked for centuries, until after one such purge, a babe was found in the forest.
As Tallis grows, she discovers she isn’t like everyone else. There is something a little different that makes people leery in her presence, and she only ever makes a handful of friends.
But when the elves gather their forces and emerge from the forests literally hissing Tallis’s name like a battle mantra, making friends is the least of her troubles. Tallis and her companions find themselves on an unwilling journey to not only clear her name, but to stop the elves from ravaging her homeland.
About the Author
C. E. Clayton was born and raised in Southern California where she worked in the advertising industry for several years on accounts that ranged from fast food, to cars, and video games (her personal favorite). This was before she packed up her life, husband, two displeased cats, and one very confused dog and moved to New Orleans. Now, she is a full time writer (mainly in the fantasy genre), her cats are no longer as displeased, and her dog no longer confused. More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, and poetry, can be found on her website: http://www.ceclayton.com.
Interview with the Author
I was lucky to be able to speak a little with the author this time! It was such a cool experience getting to hear from Chelscey herself. And I am super grateful that she was willing to answer a few questions so that I could share them with you. I tried to mix it up, asking some serious and some more fun questions. Enjoy!
If you could be an mystical or fantastic animal, what would you be and why?
As strange as it sounds, I’ve never really thought about it! I know what mystical creature I’d be (a fairy, I even have one tattooed on my arm) but I’ve never thought about the animals. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with a Griffin, and oddly not because of Harry Potter, but because of their “story” in my favorite video game, Dragon Age Origins. I really like the idea of a Griffin and what they symbolize: regal courage. I’d like to be viewed in such a way, plus, they are amazing and gorgeous animals!
How did you pick the names of your characters?
For all my characters, I name them based on the land or country I use as inspiration. I will look up old, traditional names from that area, and make a list of names to use for different people throughout the book. Selkirk, for example, is based off medieval Scotland, so all the names of all the characters are ones you’d expect to hear in a place like that. The one exception is my main character, Tallis. I named her off my usual name I use for my video game characters. HOW I originally came up with it, I couldn’t even begin to tell you, I don’t remember now it’s been so long. But I still love the name!
Where there any scenes or types of scenes that stick out as the easiest, or hardest, to write?
It may make me sound like a terrible person, but the easiest scenes for me to write are the ones when I really put my characters through the ringer. I love hurting them, physically and mentally, and find it easier because, frankly, I’ve gone through a lot of the emotions they go through even if I can’t wield daggers and swords. So the emotionally charged scenes are the easiest because I can write it in a prose style that I feel encompasses their pain and what not. Whereas the hardest scenes for me to write tend to be more romantic or sweet scenes. I always worry people will find them sappy or cheesy, and not in a cute or good way!
What is the weirdest thing you do while writing to that helps if you are stuck?
I don’t know if it counts as weird, I don’t eat pickles slathered in peanut butter and walk around my house quoting Shakespeare or anything, though I haven’t tried it, so maybe that would work, too. Mostly, when I’m stuck or frustrated, I call my sister (which is why I’ve dedicated the books to her). I call my big sis, tell her where I am in the story, and where I need to get to, and how I can’t get there. Usually, she says something pretty simple that makes me feel like an idiot, and I refuse to believe it could be so simple for about a day. During which time, I work on the Spotify playlists I’ve made for Selkirk and walk my dog (he loves it when I get writers block) until I realize my sister really is a genius.
Full Tour Schedule
“This book is exactly the type that I love, with great high fantasy elements and a fantastic group of friends at the center. This one definitely leans towards young adult, but there are certain parts of it that are handled much more maturely and I appreciated and enjoyed that quite a bit. Plus, the general pacing, plot development, and character growth and interactions were written, for the most part, in a non-typical format for this genre that must be respected for it’s level of reality.
Tallis has grown up particularly poor and on the sidelines in a small that that is itself poor and on the sidelines. But with an air of “different” about her, a mysterious past that she is just coming to know about herself, the disdain and dismissal of her father, a tragedy involving her mother, the slow accumulation of a few close friends, Tallis’ life is not destined to take a normal path. When the feral elves, called tremps, that live in the woods surrounding her town attack, hissing Tallis’ name, she and her friends decide it’s time to find some answers.
As I mentioned there are some things about the development and structure of this book that are atypical, but the book is better for it. For example, I thought the beginnings and growth of the friendships between Tallis and Donovan, Rosslyn and Tomas were done super well. Each have their own special characteristics and quirks that are introduced over time at a pace that makes you really believe in them. And the cross relationships, like Donovan and Rosslyn or Tomas and Donovan are clearly and individually developed with a similarly impressive assurance. I love that the amounts of time Tallis has known each of them are clear in the way they interact and make decisions for/about each other, both with her and each other, giving the 4 of them a very believable depth. In fact, the only issue I have with any of them is Tallis’ reactions to Tomas – her clear ignorance and/or misunderstanding regarding him (and her own feelings towards him) borders on the unbelievable, considering her age. I recognize and tip my hat to Clayton for wanting to wait on officially starting that main relationship, truly. Having it postponed until later books will help avoid many of the overdone pitfalls of YA/new adult relationships that appear over trilogies/series when any of the main characters get together early. Also, delayed gratification will make ti that much better when it finally (hopefully) happens. Plus, trust me, getting to read something without those tropes was refreshing and part of the atypical-ness of this book that I most liked. I just feel like it could have been handled in a way a little more appropriate to Tallis’ age.
As far as the plot, the building of the world and it’s history was handled in a super interesting way. I mean we learn everything we need to know about the way the world is now, but the rest is as much a mystery to the characters themselves as it is to us. No one knows how the elves ended up feral, knows what stories of their god (Wodan) are real or not, or has any knowledge of the places/countries beyond their own shores. Plus, of course, Tallis’ past and her emerging ability to communicate with trees is just as much of a puzzle to us as it is to her and her friends. So we are all in the dark and questing to find that information together – very cool set up. Relatedly, although I hated that we are left on such a cliffhanger (Book 2, I’m ready for you now, thank you very much!) I was impressed with the type of cliffhanger. Many times I find that a first book ends with a much clearer denouement, wherein we definitely know there is more to come and want to read it, but our characters have managed to complete a part of their journey or have answered at least one part of a bigger question or something like that. That was definitely not the case here. The “quest” to find out more about Tallis and her connection to the elves and the forest trees is still the main plot line – there are still more questions than answers for our 4 journeyers and we are, essentially, given no satisfaction of discovery or closing in on the prize when this books ends. And I say that in a very positive way. It’s such a different kind of waiting point to be stuck on and, though it took a second to realize it really was the end and to soak in where we were left, I think the author nailed it for the type of story and pacing she had written so far.
The only thing that rubbed me a little the wrong way as I read, other than Tallis’ understanding regarding Tomas, was some of the wording. There were a number of times where I felt that the phrasing used was awkward or overdone. I’m sure there were an absurd number of editing rounds, so I feel a bit bad saying this, but I would have loved if one of those rounds involved someone trying to read parts out loud. I believe many of the issues with the [lack of] flow or naturalness in the writing could have been cleared out with that type of edit. Oddly enough, and opposite of most times I say this, I’m referring primarily to descriptions of events/interactions or inner thoughts with this criticism, instead of dialogue. In fact, I thought the the dialogue, which tends to, more often than not, be the spot where otherwise great books fall through, was handled here with skill and, overall, not stilted at all.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed this read and appreciate what the author tried, and was able to, achieve in making this book stand out from others in the genre. As I mentioned above, I am looking forward to reading the next one!”