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I Wanted a Utopia

Sophie WelshLavender is a guarded and reserved young girl who loves to explore. Is there anything about the character that came from yourself or your life experiences?

I think when you’re writing something, a little of yourself goes into everything. With Lavender, however, that’s a little complex. On the surface, we resemble each other little. I live in a city, and grew up in a far bigger one. My comforts are big chairs, warm fires, and books big enough to use as keystones, rather than being out exploring a forest off on my own. But, like Lavender, I think you’d find no shortage of people who might call me exceptionally guarded and reserved – and we share an abiding love for chocolate in all its forms. At the same time, I’ve always joked that I do have a character that represents me in the book – Erkin, because we share our bumbling and our self deprecating humour. But it’s equally true to say that I’ve my fair share of Aria’s snottiness and Kerren’s anxiety. I haven’t divided myself up into those characters, but I’ve certainly drawn on myself, and countless other people, to shape them into who they are. Lavender is no exception.

The Faeries in the book I found to be creative and interesting characters. What was your inspiration for them and how did you create them for the story?

My first real guiding thought for the Faeries was simple. I wanted a utopia in the forest. A lot of fantasy tends towards the gritty, grim, bloody stuff, and don’t get me wrong, a quick look at my bookshelf would tell you I’m definitely a fan! But there’s an almost complete absence of utopias. Where Lundel is a grey, foreboding, oppressive place, I wanted its opposite. Where people are guided by kindness, a desire to work together and share what they have. It’s a simple contrast, but I feel it’s one that had to be made. If the city wasn’t so much better than Lundel, then Lavender wouldn’t be pulled between them! As for the faerie characters, they were the only people who could inhabit such a place. By and large, they’re big hearted, open, outspoken people, and each of them had their own inspirations, based on their place in the book. Because of the way I write (which is to have the kernel of an idea, and just run with it until it’s a year later, I’m out of breath and there’s a story behind me) the basic outlines of many characters I have are very sketch like! I prefer to take those sketches, and drop them into situations. Whatever comes out the other side is the character. Aria, for example, her core inspiration is that she is annoying and very quick. Berry’s inspiration was equally simple. A kind city needs a kind queen. This way, everything we see of Berry, or Aria, or Pel, or even Caeda, tells us who they are. There’s no way around it.

How do you think Lavendar and Erkin would relate to each other if they were ultimately forced to marry. What do you think their compromises would be to make the marriage work?

I think in that situation, it’s a nightmare for both of them. As Lavender sees it, Erkin has leverage over her that he can’t ever be rid of. There’s nothing he can do about that, because the inescapable fact of his position is that at any time, forever, he can go back on his words to her, and she has no recourse. Every time she feels that ring bite down upon her finger, she’ll be reminded of it. That sort of suspicion is poison for a friendship. As far as Erkin goes, he’s pretty self sufficient. He’s been managing apprenticeships, cooking meals for him and his father… he knows that she loves the forest more than she loves anybody but Kerren. Lundel as a village has already made up their mind that Lavender’s unusual, so I don’t think there would be too much pressure on Erkin to try and change her behaviour, and he can already look after himself. Ultimately, I can’t see how they’d be anything other than miserable together. Marriage would only make Lavender even further withdrawn – and both of them would lose each other as their best friend. As sad as it is, such an outcome could never end happily.

I really like the cover art for Lavender. It’s colorful and really gives that wonderland feel. Where did you get the art for the cover and how did you decide what to go with?

It’s wonderful, isn’t it? I commissioned the illustrator Hannah Christenson and she drew me a cover which really knocks it out of the forest. As for what I went with, I’d always had a couple of ideas in mind. For a long while, it was going to be a very realistically depicted cover – a tunic emblazoned with a lavender emblem folded atop a sparse wooden table, and on top of it, the two rings that Lavender wears throughout her story; Her betrothal ring, and the Promise, gifted to her by Berry. Ultimately, I decided I wanted something that emphasised the mysterious nature of the forest (and in particular, the pathway), and the way Lavender is drawn to it, rather than a piece of symbology only people who’d already bought the book might appreciate the significance of. I’m glad I did.

Will there be a book two? If so, when will it be available?

There most certainly will be! Current plans for book 2 (as yet untitled, as titles are my sworn foe) is to finish it within the next few months and have it released roughly halfway through the year. Whilst book 2 is considerably longer than Lavender, I’ve contemplated dividing it up into book 2 and 3; hopefully this wouldn’t impact a release date considerably, as the work then would be more making it so that book 2 isn’t simply the first half of book 3. It is my hope, however, that the story can be told in 2 books, not 3.

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Lavender (Lavender, #1)All her life, Lavender has wandered the forest outside her home, climbing its tall and ancient trees and following its brooks. Yet now her father has betrothed her to a boy in her village: Erkin, son of the village Elder. For Lavender, who hates being stuck indoors, has no knack for cooking, and would far rather be exploring the high branches of the forest, marriage is a fate worse than death. But fate is rarely so simple, and a chance argument reveals a secret at the heart of the forest that could change everything she thought possible.
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Lavender

Lavender (Lavender, #1)4 StarsLavender is a guarded and reserved young girl who loves to explore and doesn’t want to be held back my anything like marriage. Unfortunately, her father Remy, arranges for her to be married to Erkin, the bumbling smith’s apprentice. Lavender is determined to never live a life like her mother where she is nothing more than an apathetic servant. Erkin, in a bid to befriend Lavender, takes her on a forest excursion. Lavender soon finds herself lost in a Faerie world where she is taken on wild adventures that gives her the inspiration and strength to save her mother and herself. As she struggles to fight for the things she cherishes, she is caught in a desperate fight to save her village. But she may not end up being the hero readers expect her to be.

Lavender has a captivating story arc. It has a strong Alice in Wonderland feel to it, although this story has a lot more twists and turns. The plot was the strongest element of the story. Lavender was able to simultaneously balance two worlds, the real world and the Faerie world and combine those worlds in unexpected ways. The plot is developed in such a way that it keeps the reader engaged as they are trying to balance the worlds just as Lavender is.

The characters, particularly Lavender, Erkin, and Kerren, are complex and interesting. The in depth development of the characters combined with the emotional roller coaster Lavender is on makes for an interesting read. Sophie Welsh does a fantastic job of capturing the passion and despair of the characters. There are so many secrets in the story that Lavender is trying to balance that kept me intrigued. She devises a plan to save her mother and also finds that she is more like the Faeries then she thought. Was she going to be able to keep things a secret?

While the duality of the worlds was interesting, the logistics of the Faerie world was hard to understand. The story mentions that Lavender becomes smaller, yet the Faeries themselves call her a giant. The story left a lot of things unanswered and I kept asking myself; how does Lavender interact with the Faeries, how does Lavender enter the Faerie world, how does she get out of it? Why does Lavender “sprout”? Is she a Faerie or was she exposed to something? Is this somehow tied to her mother, whose past we never fully know? The book only suggests that Lavender’s mother Kerren may be somehow tied up with this.

All these points are frustrating only because other things in the novel are clearly explained and I begged to know more. I’m hoping that all the loose ends are cleared up in future works as the world that is created is fascinating. While the novel was enthralling and detailed, the loose ends make the ending bland. Readers will celebrate Lavender’s mother Kerren’s final moment of triumph as she emotionally breaks free, but I feel that it is muted because instead of a resolution, it’s more of a hint, which left me wanting more. Which I suppose is a great tactic because when you have such a fascinating world coupled with unanswered questions, it leaves me asking: Where is the next book?

Pages: 488 | ASIN: B011ZJOA46

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