Sword & Silk Books is excited to welcome Amelia Loken!
Her novel, Unravel, is a young adult fantasy comparable to Cinder and Song for a Whale.
When her uncle usurps her kingdom, deaf princess, Marguerite, challenges him with only the truth, her homemade invisibility cloak, and Tys, the one boy she never should have trusted.
Sixteen-year-old Marguerite knows her uncle doesn’t like her. True, she’s in line for the throne before him and he contends she’s too deaf to rule, but she’s known since he broke her hand to keep her from using sign language. Now, as the kingdom’s Bishop-Princep, Uncle Reichard has declared war on magic and Marguerite must hide the fact that she’s a witch.
While witnessing her first witch trial, Marguerite rescues a child from death with the help of a handsome, itinerant acrobat, Tys. Marguerite flees, hiding in the neighboring empire where magical gifts can flourish. Before her training is complete, war threatens. She returns home, only to witness her uncle seizing the throne. He isolates and imprisons her. Marguerite’s love for her people drives her to continue defying him. But to challenge him means she’ll have to rely on her homemade invisibility cloak, questionable allies, and Tys, the one boy she never should have trusted.
Amelia Loken writes Young Adult Fantasy and Contemporary fiction, exploring the courage of women who forge bridges from the shards of old obstacles. Professionally, she’s worked in the Deaf community as an ASL/English interpreter and currently in the field of assistive technology. Not only has she studied sign language, but also swordplay, embroidery, theology, disability rights, and the history of pirates; bits of this flotsam turn up in her manuscripts without invitation. She's a member of SCBWI and a superb critique group. Much of her life was spent moving from one town to another, but today she lives in Arkansas on the edge of a wood with her husband, five sons, and no other animals.
An Introductory Interview with Amelia
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi Everyone!!! I am a little fluffy ball of optimism that has learned to cloak myself with responsibility. (I’m an ENFP and a Type 7 Enthusiast if you follow any of those personality test things.) I moved around a lot when I was growing up, living in 5 states by the time I was a freshman in high school. As an adult, I’ve also lived in 5 states (one is a repeat). This year, it will be ten years since we moved to Arkansas which is the longest I’ve lived ANYWHERE! My husband and I have five boys who are young adults and teens. Yes, our grocery bill is astronomical.
I started writing when my youngest was 6 months old. Around the same time I started attending ASL classes at my church. Honestly, ASL and writing SAVED ME from post-partum depression. When my youngest went to Pre-K, I returned to college to earn my bachelors in ASL/English Interpreting. I worked as an interpreter for nearly five years until my own hearing loss (surprise, plot twist) became an obstacle to doing my job well. Now I work in state government working with disability and assistive technology. I still interpret at church, which brings me a lot of joy.
Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
I have always loved fantasy. Anything with magic and princesses, curses, and the hope of a happily-ever-after is my kryptonite. And swords. I love swords. In middle school, I imprinted on the Princess Bride. Add in favorite books written by Juliet Marillier, Shannon Hale, Sherwood Smith and Marissa Meyer and you have a recipe for what I love.
I’ve done a fair bit of embroidery over the years and love the versatility and beauty of the art form. But, in stories, it’s often portrayed as feminine and passive. So, I tried to find a way to make it powerful.
Lastly, my heroine is deaf. She is not culturally Deaf (with a capital D) because she wasn’t raised to have pride in her disability, and her language was taken away from her. Instead, she was put in a position to try to fit in with the hearing world, to think of herself as hard-of-hearing, even though without her magical combs (that work like hearing aids) she cannot hear anything. There is some learning and healing along her journey. 😊
What is your writing process? Plotter or Panster? Are you a morning or evening writer? What is your tried and true method for getting words on the page?
I have been a pantser, but over the last few years have learned the advantage of plotting. So, I usually start with my spark of an idea and get a bunch of it down. Then when that steam runs out, I go to my plotting tools, looking at the character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts along the way. I can do some reverse engineering, brainstorming, plot diagramming, etc. and get a clearer map of where I’m going with this. 😊
When my kids were little, before I went back to college and started working full time, I brainstormed during the day, and wrote after the kids went to sleep. Now, I find chunks of time (20 mins to a couple hours) before work, after dinner, on Saturdays. Sometimes if it’s slow at work, I’ll jot down ideas, or sketch out a scene so its easier to get it down when I’m sitting at a keyboard.
One of the best ways of getting in the right headspace for my story is having a Spotify playlist. Different music for different manuscripts to get my brain where it needs to be for writing or revising that scene. I have three different manuscripts I’m working on right now: Edits for UNRAVEL (girl power songs), revisions for a completed YA Contemporary (betrayal/break-up songs), and playing with a fun D&D-esque SFF (strangely, a lot of sea shanties).
Authors often impart pieces of themselves into their stories. Which character best reflects you? Do you share any personality traits with your protagonist?
Oh, yes. There’s a lot of me within my main character, Marguerite. I want to be strong and brave, but oftentimes I find myself minimizing myself or only standing up when it’s others who are in danger. I just want everybody to be happy, okay? Having been raised with a parent who struggled with mental health issues, there’s some habits that were learned in order to survive emotionally. Writing this story has been healing in a lot of ways, to confront unhealthy tendencies, relearning healthy boundaries, and giving myself permission to step into my power.
I also love all the female friendships throughout the book. I have found grace and generosity in my personal friendships. Though I’ve moved around so often in my life, I remember the girls and women who recognized my worth and nurtured my sense of humor, caring, self-love, and bravery. Isabeau, Tanja, Feroulka, and Renata each have a bit of me, but they mostly are mosaics of my dearest friends from throughout my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
What drew you to the YA genre as an author?
I’ve read more YA than any other genre or age group. It’s smart, funny, heart wrenching, truth-telling. It’s where I feel most at home as a reader, and so it’s natural for me to write in the YA realm.
If you could give your teenage self one piece of advice what would it be?
It’s scary to say, “No,” but go ahead and say it. Draw up boundaries that feel safe and stick to it. You will rarely regret it. Generosity is good, but self-care is wise.
Also, even when you fail second semester of Algebra II and Dad freaks out, it’s okay. You still get into college. You didn’t need to know about sine/cosine anyway.