Leah Cypress is a biologist/lawyer/journalist/falconer who sold her first story to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine while in high school. Her novel Mistwood tells the story of an ancient shapeshifter bound by magic to protect the kings of a certain dynasty. There's only one problem: The Shifter is more confused girl than supernatural bodyguard. She can't remember her past, nor even how to use her powers. And she's not even sure where her loyalties lie.
Thanks for joining us, Leah!
With Mistwood, you've broken one of the Cardinal Rules quoted to beginning writers: Never give your main character amnesia. How did you get away with that?
By never having heard of that rule.
I wish I had something better for you; but the truth is, I am a big fan of the amnesia plot - so I'm kind of glad that rule was never quoted to me. Two of my previous (much-rejected) manuscripts had main characters with some form of amnesia. And I have a feeling I'll be hitting that trope again.
Which well-known book would you say Mistwood is most similar to? Would fans of that book like Mistwood?
I'm finding this a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Mistwood is most often recommended for fans of Graceling, which is probably fair; I don't think they're all that similar - it's just that YA high fantasy is a pretty thin field at the moment - but they both use the "supernatural female bodyguard" trope, albeit in different ways.
I don't have the hubris to say it's *similar to*, but I will say that a lot of the thematic inspiration for Mistwood came from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. (All subconscious inspiration - I didn't realize it myself until I was on the third round of revisions - but I guess since I've watched the film of The Last Unicorn yearly since I was about seven years old, it's not terribly surprising.)
I'm sure I'm not the first one to mention this, but the girl on the cover looks an awful lot like, well... you. Do you think it's coincidence?
Actually, the first one to mention it was my daughter, who at the age of 3 insisted that it was a picture of me. We couldn't talk her out of it. I honestly don't see the resemblance myself. (Probably because in real life, I bear no resemblance to someone who could appear on a YA book cover. In my author photo, which was the best of approximately 300 pictures taken in good light after I had put on makeup, the resemblance may be a bit stronger.) In any case, it must have been a coincidence... I'm not sure what factors the art director had in mind when looking for stock images for the cover, but I'm pretty sure "looks like the author" was not on his list. Especially since I hadn't met him yet.
Your next novel, Nightspell, is coming out this May. Care to give us a sneak preview of what it's about?
It's about a country where an ancient spell allows murder victims to return as ghosts to seek vengeance on their killers... and if they don't manage that, they remain ghosts forever. After a couple of hundreds of years of this, the kingdom - Ghostland - has evolved into a place where the living and the dead co-exist, albeit uneasily. My main character, Darri, is a foreigner to Ghostland; she is a barbarian princess who abhors the idea of ghosts and is only there to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent as a hostage four years ago. But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own. In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will ultimately face a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned - and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the balance of power between the living and the dead.
Thank you, Leah! For readers, Mistwood can be purchased at Indiebound, Powell's, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. You can also read the first three chapters at HarperCollins.com.
Coming up tomorrow, my final blog tour interview (for now): Bradley P. Beaulieu presents The Winds of Khalakovo.