Where the Magic Lies follows a girl who’s forced to marry a prince under threat of death and learns that her decisions will affect more than just her. How did the idea for this novel begin and change as you wrote?
I’m sure nobody will believe this, but this novel was adapted from one of my experiences! Last year in July, my mom carried an abandoned hollowed log home to put in her garden as a decoration. Luckily, no fairies from Portia confronted us, took me away, or made me marry anyone. But the incident kindled an inspiration in me. I wondered whether the old log might have belonged to some mysterious creature, whether it would be regarded as a treasure to them. So, I recorded the idea down and fleshed it into a novel a year later. I knew I had to add some complications to the plot, and that a log theft wouldn’t be enough to hook many readers, hence the innumerable plot twists that dominate the latter chapters.
What scene in the book was the most emotionally impactful for you to write?
Ha, I am not an emotional author at all! Rather, I’m cold-blooded and detached when it comes to writing. (I never cry when writing, and instead, I think torturing my characters is great fun.) I see myself as a director, a fly on the wall, so I don’t find any scene particularly emotional or impactful. However, I hope the gigantic plot twist at the ending that results in a funeral is the most emotionally impactful scene. Although I cannot reveal what it is in fear of spoiling the plot, the scene is meant to show readers how much Amethyst has matured and grown.
What is your writing process like? Where do you write most often, and what do you use for inspiration?
My writing process is very messy! If I am very confident in a novel idea, I outline it first and tackle the chapters I like the most. (Among my thirteen finished novels, eleven were written in an irregular order.) In Where the Magic Lies’ case, I finished Chapter 4 first, then 5, 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 3, 10, and finally, 9. (It’s also worth mentioning that I finished this book in 14 days, setting a new record for myself.)
95% of Where the Magic Lies was written at my grandma’s house. That’s my favorite writing place! I also love writing at various Starbucks. The atmosphere there is always magical. I use anything for inspiration; as I mentioned before, a single log can spark an entire story. Random phrases come to my mind from time to time, and if I like them enough, I will make them possible future titles. Story ideas also visit me randomly. One morning at my grandma’s I KNEW I had to write a story about a lost siren. I didn’t know why, but I knew I just had to write that story. (The premise of the story was inspired by a chapter in Where the Magic Lies.) And so I did. This is something I can’t quite explain, but I am grateful for my endless fountain of story ideas.
This is book one in the Perils of Portia Saga. What can readers expect in book two?
I don’t know the answer any more than my readers do! I’ll have to have a meeting with myself to structure the outline for book two. Right now I’m working on A Gathering of Tales, a novel about a mashup of four fairy tales. What will happen if Rapunzel escapes her tower, saves Little Red Riding Hood, meets Cinderella, and wakes Sleeping Beauty? My book answers that question. I’m not sure when I’ll return to Amethyst and Angus and the Perils of Portia Saga. Well, someday! I’ve still got quite a bit of time and enthusiasm left!
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Maiden Voyage is the final part in the Comfrey, Wyoming saga. It gives readers a look into the lives of twins Amadeus and Marcela who are on the cusp of adulthood, much to the chagrin of their guardian Heidi Crow. Set amongst the backdrop of beautiful and rural Wyoming, we see the twins grow and try to find their place in the world. They are accompanied on this journey by old friends, and new ones they make along the way. With their help, Amadeus and Marcela might just be able to face their past and reach a bright future.
Author Daphne Birkmyer does an amazing job setting the scene with her uniquely observant writing and colorful descriptions. It all comes together beautifully to make the reader feel like they are in Wyoming. Against this exquisite backdrop the author has created a story that captures the difficulty that every family (no matter how typical or different they might be) face in life. Life isn’t a bed of roses for twins Amadeus, Marcela, and Heidi. They have a lot of struggles to overcome, which Birkmyer doesn’t shy away from. I really enjoyed the authenticity in their characters and how grounded their approach is to their problems. This is a story that is infused with emotions and uses its particular voice to tell a compelling story.
The LGBTQIA+ themes and the message of connecting with one’s culture is strong in this final part of the trilogy. Birkmyer thoughtfully tackles the contemporary issues that transgender teens face and perfectly captures how scary it can be for a trans person to enter a romantic relationship.
Maiden Voyage’s is an epic family saga with a large cast of characters. The story is constantly switching points of view. It can become overwhelming and confusing at times if you’re a quick reader, but this serves to give you a holistic view of the story. Comfrey, Wyoming Book Three: Maiden Voyage by Daphne Birkmyer is a fascinating story with compelling characters that explores trans youth, family relationships, and the variety of issues we face growing up.
Pages: 368 | ASIN: B0BC2L5JTT
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and writing talent of these brilliant authors.
Gold Award Recipients
Captive Attraction by Patricia Crumpler
Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information.
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Where the Magic Lies is the beginning of an imaginative fairytale series following Amethyst Quartz, who collects logs with her mother in the forest. When they discover one of the logs is an important artifact that belongs to a king from another world, their lives change forever. In this world of fairies, Amethyst’s acquiring this special artifact is forbidden and punishable by death, and her mother, as the adult responsible for retrieving the item, faces this fatal end unless there is a way to save her.
To save her mother from certain death, Amethyst agrees to follow the fairies in Portia, the name of their kingdom, and marry their prince, who is eagerly searching for a bride. Facing the frightening challenges of this new life, homesickness, brutal assassinations, and a new romance, Amethyst must decide how to navigate this strange world and find herself.
The author brings a refreshing vibrance to the classic fairytale narrative, with solid character development, intriguing magic, and the abrupt changes that a person must face in life without warning. Amethyst must think and act quickly if she wants to escape, as her position of isolation and scrutiny is a form of imprisonment. She learns who she cannot trust and how every decision she makes has a ripple effect on her life and the outcome of the situation.
I enjoyed the visual writing in this book and the author’s talent for detailed storytelling that painted a vivid image of the world and its inhabitants. I recommend Where the Magic Lies for its overall great story development, the heroine’s triumphant nature, and her commitment to survival and fighting for love. It’s an artistic fantasy novel with a meaningful storyline that combines elements of traditional fantasy themes and nostalgia with realistic characters.
Pages: 245 | ASIN: B0B9M7HNBY
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The Last War follows five heroes as they embark on dangerous quest to rediscover the secret of the Elder Song. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Strange as it may seem, I found out about the Elder Song a bare moment before Loremaster Aneirin did. I knew from the start that the five were going to summon the power of the Dragonkin using the Shrines, but how they were going to achieve that – i.e. the setup – was a mystery to me until a heartbeat before Aneirin heard of the Elder Song. However, while the setup came organically in that sense, the Cynnahu Saga itself is directly inspired by the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle; in short, her Archipelago inspired me to create my own.
I remember first reading The Earthsea Cycle in elementary school, hearing the mage Ogion of Re Albi say “To hear, one must be silent.” And I still remembered those words when I took the series up for a second and third time, years later. While the rest of my generation went to Hogwarts with Harry, I traveled by ship to the School of Roke with Ged.
Isn’t that interesting? I openly and sincerely adored Middle-earth and idolized the wizard Gandalf, but it was Ogion the Silent who I related to: “He spoke seldom, ate little, slept less. His eyes and ears were very keen, and often there was a listening look on his face.” I also remember being struck with the fact that Earthsea was an Archipelago, the first I had ever encountered in a Fantasy, with no true main continent to journey across; rather the journeying was done by ship, in the soul, and on different Isles each of which had a special distinction – its own personality, if you will. I was so struck that even at so young an age I decided that if I were ever to write a Fantasy book then it would take place upon an Archipelago. I knew I wanted a mages’ school, a ruling Archmage, and ships. Interesting is it not? I idolize The Lord of the Rings, yet never felt the need to create my own Middle-earth.
Your characters are all unique and detailed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Most simply came to me, cliche as that sounds. However, I tried to have them represent something I felt needed a voice. Archmage Hoth is my idea of an ideal leader. Myrriden is a single father who is not afraid to show how much he loves his son and surrogate daughter. He represents rank, power and skill coupled with humility. Emrys is not unlike myself at his age, nervous and following the rules fervently, yet possessing an inner flame and smarts. He is not the stereotypical brash “boys will be boys” hothead and is instead deeply thoughtful. Sakura is a girl who had everything she loved taken from her in an instant, and now seethes with a need for vengeance. She represents trauma that takes time to heal but is smart and would fight to the death to defend her still living friends. Volcan is the mysterious and unwillingly funny figure you can utterly trust and who keeps surprising you, because every good Fantasy needs such a character.
Stormlady Mica leads the blue warriors because I have noticed that, in Fantasy, women tend to use their wits and magic while the men lead the actual glorious cavalry charge; women have the special powers while the men use swords. This is hardly an ironclad rule and, even if it were, there is nothing wrong with it – indeed I love countless books that employ this storyline tactic. But I wanted to flip the coin. I wanted a woman wearing armor and leading the land’s most elite warriors into white-hot battle while the men wrestled with matters of magery.
Loremaster Aneirin in the scholar in me, for I love historical research and adore archeology. Yet just as much he – and the grey nobles in general – portray my firm belief that the best societies are deeply aware of their own history and learn from their past. Instead of trying to gloss over or justify the genocide of the Dragonkin, most modern Cynnahu folk – thanks to the Loremasters – are appalled by their ancestors’ deeds. Furthermore, I prefer wars won in ways beyond mere military tactics and/or magic as otherwise it is boring. Which is why Aneirin uses his scholar’s training to unravel ancient mysteries, his work being crucial to the war effort and the quest for the Elder Song despite never fighting.
Did you plan the story before writing or did it develop organically while writing?
A bit of both. I had what I like to call beacons – major events I wanted to happen because they were turning points in the story – but getting there was up to me. I was like a ship captain sailing unknown waters towards the distant lighthouse then, upon reaching it, setting out for the next. So I planned the story insofar as the beacons went, but everything in between developed organically while writing.
This is book one of The Cynnahu Saga. What can readers expect in book two?
Book two, Dragon Guardians, will hopefully be out by this time next year. Hopefully. I am making no promises as life has a horrid habit of getting in the way, but the book is fully written – meaning all that remains to be done is editing. Indeed, even the rough draft of book three, Mages’ Legacy is complete.
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Life is Inevitable follows two teens who commit suicide and accidentally switch bodies on their way back and are forced to fix their mistake. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The inspiration of this story spawned from the Death of a good friend of mine. She died by her own hand before my high school graduation and I always asked myself, “What if I could have her back?” That first question is what gave this story its idea of being given a second chance, and the body switch aspect came to mind when I kept wondering what life was like from her perspective.
Brennan and Olivia are interesting and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
For most of my characters I want to make sure that they represent a certain idea or philosophy. In fact, even the names Brennan and Olivia have their own meaning in different cultures. For example the name “Brennan” is a name of Gaelic decent meaning “sorrow”. I wanted him to be the embodiment of the quote “A child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” He shows the idea that hurt children will grow to hurt others. On the other Olivia is a very different person and her name means “Peace”. This name is a perfect representation of her personality because even though she is hurt by the world, she shows compassion to everyone. I got the idea by giving her traits I wish I had, as well as traits I see many religious figures show.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
The theme of nature versus nurture was one of the important things I wanted to explore in this book. While it’s not the only theme, it’s definitely one that fuels the other topics of suicide, death, and despair.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book I’m working on will complete the series Life is Inevitable and will be available at the beginning of 2023 at the earliest, or during the middle of 2023 at the latest.
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About a Girl follows one young man’s journey of self-discovery while growing up in California in the 90’s as he navigates love, friendship and betrayal. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The inspiration for About a Girl was based on my own experience in high school.
Will is a compelling character. What were some driving ideals behind his character’s development?
I wanted Will to represent the average teenager in the 1990’s. I also wanted the reader to see Will’s motivation with numerous flashbacks.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Trust, loyalty, friendship, and forgiveness.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m currently writing Hannah, (working title) a hybrid prequel/sequel to About a Girl told from Hannah’s point of view. It will be available in the summer of 2023.
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Sixteen year old Jude is just trying to get through life while using photography as an outlet. He faces many hardships that a teenager shouldn’t have to face, from his mother leaving to a father who doesn’t understand him. Along with his only friends CeCe and Abel, they are just trying to make it and find their way through life. Jude struggles with telling CeCe how he really feels about her while CeCe tries to help Abel and Jude keep it together. On top of it all Abel has to deal with school bullies because he is gay and considered not normal. How will the three friends overcome the obstacles that life has given them?
Demon’s Land by Sarah Ferguson is an emotionally-charged coming-of-age story that utilizes sharp writing to elevate a contemporary literature story into something that is sentimental but powerful. Jude’s character is dark and brooding. He just wants someone to love him. I found his character to be well-crafted, relatable and endearing. His character gives hope to those who are going through hard times as he channels the same worries that we all have, but the author conveys those emotions in a way that feels sophisticated. I appreciated that CeCe’s character is the voice of reason and she genuinely cared for Abel and Jude. I enjoyed Abel’s character because he is not ashamed of being gay and Jude accepts him for who he is. This makes the novel a fantastically uplifting LGBT novel that feels authentic.
Fergusons is a fantastic storyteller with impactful writing. Her way with writing tells so much in such a short read that I didn’t have questions even though the ending leaves the reader hanging. There are serious topics that are explored throughout the story, but the author handles it beautifully. I felt the isolation and hopelessness that the characters felt and I was rooting for them the entire time.
Demon’s Land is a heart-felt and inspiring coming-of-age novel. I recommend this book to readers who are looking for a profound young adult story that deals with trauma in a way that feels grounded and poetic.
Pages: 120 | ASIN: 0645355992
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