Alone In A Strange World

Amanda Maynard-Schubert
Amanda Maynard-Schubert Author Interview

The Bards Of Birchtree Hall follows a young woman who moves to Ireland and discovers a family secret that reveals a whole new world and changes her life forever. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I have always loved Ireland and have been fascinated by the lore of the druids and pagan peoples. As a lover of fantasy stories, I knew that Ireland was always going to inspire my story, so I researched all I could about the Tuatha Dè Denann and the Celtic gods and goddesses. Having spent much of my childhood reading books about the Greek and Roman deities, it was wonderful to explore another system of immortals.

A lot of my inspiration also came from nature and music. Music, in particular, has been a constant presence in my life – indeed, I cannot go a day without listening to some form of music! It is a language that transcends time and space, and I loved the idea that we are all connected by this mystical force. The same goes for nature – we cannot survive without it, and it certainly carries its own magic! For my Bards, I wanted to highlight that their sensitivity to the elements and the vibrations that unite every living thing is what enables them to do what they do. Their power is inherently built into their blood, but, like ordinary humans, the way they use their gifts is unique to them. Having been lucky enough to visit Ireland in 2019, and to experience what it is like to be completely surrounded by nature without the influence of human activity, it really inspired me to express this magical feeling in a story, and to explore the myths and legends that make their history so fascinating.

Neala is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?

When I was a young teen, I remember reading the books by author Tamora Pierce, which follow strong, independent girls as they grow and mature into who they want to be, often overcoming adversity and opposition, while always staying true to themselves. As a shy, quiet teen, these girls became role models to me – they inspired me and I drew a lot of strength from them. As an author now myself, I wanted to be able to give other young girls a protagonist who was utterly and completely relatable, someone they could see themselves in. Neala is not flawless or perfect. She has moments of doubt, she has days where she struggles and things become overwhelming, and she doesn’t always have the answers. For me, I needed Neala to be a true sixteen-year-old girl; someone who is still working out who she is, who can be socially awkward at times, yet still grounded. I wanted her to be the hero I needed when I was that age – a girl who could absolutely be my best friend in real life.

When Neala starts discovering her power, the magical world she is part of, and that she is particularly unique in what she can do, it was important to me that she approached all this in a very natural way, because the reader is discovering all of these things as Neala does. Having her doubting what she is seeing, of trying to rationalise what is happening as anything but magic, and navigating each new revelation as best she can, it makes her a relatable character and helps the world unfold around the reader in a very real, tangible way. Neala is, in many ways, an ordinary girl. My driving ideal behind her creation was bringing to life a girl who readers could connect with, relate to, and, ultimately, grow with throughout the story.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

For much of my life, I have wondered who I truly am, and what my purpose is. This quest for self-discovery, I believe, is one that many people experience. Particularly young people. One of the reasons I love writing for YA is these teens are just beginning to find themselves, and to explore the wider world around them and how they fit into it. It is a time for experimenting, for trying new things, and for finding people who make them feel like they belong. This is the core theme of my book, and will be for the trilogy as a whole. In a world that seems to be changing and evolving at a much faster rate than it has before, it can be so easy to lose ourselves in the flurry of life. For Neala, this is expressed in her struggle to cope with the sudden loss of her father and the subsequent relocation to the other side of the world. Everything she knew about herself and her world has literally just been swept out from under her, and she finds herself having to learn and adapt to a very new version of who she is.

This theme, this longing we all have to feel connected, not only to others like us, but to ourselves in general, is one that plenty of people can relate to; certainly not just teenagers. Part of what appeals about Neala is she gives us a way to vicariously go through our own journey of self-discovery, of learning about what we are truly capable of, and, sometimes, our hesitation to take that leap into the unknown, particularly when it all gets too overwhelming. Friendship becomes vitally important to Neala; by connecting with others like her, to people who understand what she is going through and who can share in her experiences, Neala begins to feel more comfortable and confident in herself and her power. The theme of family, community, and friendship is also one that was important for me to explore, because the people we surround ourselves with can truly impact our growth, for better or worse. Not just for Young Adults, but everyone who has felt lost and alone in a strange world!

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am very excited to be releasing the sequel to ‘The Bards of Birchtree Hall’ very soon! Pre-orders will be opening in September for a November release. The book is titled ‘The Vengeance of The Morrígan’, and it follows Neala and her friends as they come to grips with the choice they made at the end of book one, and the consequences that follow. The world they find themselves in is nothing like the one they imagined; the scars of betrayal run deep through the land, and the Guardians are not welcome here. Navigating a world where mistrust and suspicion hangs like a shroud over the land, and war is imminent, Neala and her friends learn the truth about why the Gate was created and what they must do to restore balance to the worlds. Because the Morrígan, the Goddess of War, is coming for vengeance on those who have wronged her. And no one is safe.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Neala Moran knew that moving to Ireland would change her life…but she never imagined this.
From the moment she arrives, strange things start to happen – things she cannot explain.
Why did her unusual birthmark – the pale one in the shape of a leaf – start hurting the moment she touched that tree? How is a gigantic horse with glowing yellow eyes materialising from the ocean? And who is the mysterious visitor who speaks to her in her dreams calling her ‘Neala Stormbringer?’ Neala also discovers a long held family secret – she is a Bard. Part-human, part-Faerie – ancient magic flows in her blood and she now must learn to control her elemental powers to discover the meaning behind her affinity with thunderstorms.
Because danger is coming…a threat that no one is prepared for. The Otherworld – home of the Fae and other magical creatures – has been sealed off for centuries by a magical barrier known as ‘The Gate.’ But it will not hold forever…
The Guardians are being summoned. Their purpose is to protect.
Will Neala risk everything to save the ones she loves? Or will she turn her back on her destiny?

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on August 19, 2021, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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