Before the interview, why don't we get to know a little about Heather and her book?
I began a blog about life and homeschooling back in 2008 (though I’d been writing for my own enjoyment for many years), and landed a spot as part of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine: Homeschool Review Crew. I reviewed curriculum and books on my blog (www.heathersthoughtspot.blogspot.com) and through this venue landed some freelance work as well. During this time the idea for The Tethered World took root and I’ve mostly been working on writing and editing and editing (redundancy intended). There’s not a lot of recent material on that blog but you’re welcome to visit.
“Normal” means different things to different people. Such is the case for sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen. Having five siblings: normal. Navigating a silent brother with autism: normal. Homeschooling: normal. A cosmetologist father: normal. A Bigfoot expert for a mother: normal.
Waking up to the police knocking on the door and missing parents: definitely not normal!
When life turns inside out for Sadie, she fights for as much “normal” as possible. It becomes a losing battle when she uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage.
Sadie learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, dwarves, and other lore extends beyond mere fascination. Her family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World: home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden. Sadie and siblings must venture to this land to rescue their parents; a journey Sadie fears and resents.
Stepping out of reality as she knows it and into a world she never knew existed, Sadie risks all to save her family.
She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.
Hi, Heather! Thank you ever so much for joining us here on To Find a Castle. From what I know of your book, it is absolutely incredible, and definitely something we would all love to know more about! I mean, with a title like The Tethered World, what’s not to love?
Thank you, Clara, for inviting me on board and entrusting your readers to a newbie like me. It’s great to get to connect with others that love fantasy.
Glad you like the title of my book, by the way. At first it was a temporary name for the other world, until I figured out something else, but it grew on me. Now it is all over my website and fan page, and yet I know the publisher will have the final say . . . I’m thinking I’m pretty committed to it at this point, though. Hopefully the publisher will agree :)
CD: Well, Heather, before we get caught up in the complexities of your world, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself? Your favorite book, how you became a writer, a random quirk of yours…anything!
I’ve been married 24 fabulous years and have four kiddos. Three girls and a boy. I’ve mostly homeschooled my children which meant many snuggly days on the couch with a good book. Though I’ve always loved to write, and in the back of my mind wanted to write a book (mostly a bucket-list sort of idea), it was the hours spent lost in adventures with my kids that really awakened my desire to explore stories of my own. We particularly enjoyed the Narnia series and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.
My son is autistic and can listen to me read for as long as I can hold out. He now has a Kindle, and loves audiobooks. But I still try to read with him on occasion. We just finished the third book in The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. My son is 21 now, and has a job, so we don’t have as much time to devote to reading.
I also teach ballet at a fine art school for homeschoolers where we have nearly 900 students. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this unique program. Whenever it’s time to choreograph dances for my classes, I’ve realized I’m the teacher always telling a story with the dance, and usually use songs with a story-theme or very moving classical pieces that evoke the feel of a story.
Well, I’ll stop there. That’s probably more than you wanted to know . . . ha ha!
CD: Tell us about the Tethered world. Are we talking about a two-dimensional universe? Or do the creatures of lore and literature live with your characters in secret?
The Tethered World is not in another dimension. No, it’s in pockets deep within the earth. The creatures that live there once lived in the Garden of Eden. Before the flood of Noah, God moved them below ground. Though some monoliths contain passageways between our world and theirs, earthquakes and other phenomenon have opened up other connections over time.
CD: I’ve seen Topside mentioned quite a bit on your website. What exactly does it mean?
Topside is simply those of us here, on top of the ground. You and I are topsiders.
CD: Naturally, this is a fantasy. And a fantasy novel comes with fantasy creatures. What fantastical beings will we be seeing in your story?
Since there are passageways for those that live below, they’ve obviously wandered topside occasionally. Dwarves, gnomes, leprechauns, and trolls (which people mistakenly call ‘Bigfoot’) have all been seen and rumored about over the years and in many cultures. My story offers an explanation for such lore.
There are also Nephilum from the Bible, hippogriffs, dragons, and ogres. Book 2 includes gargoyles (thus far). The only creatures I’ve thoroughly made up are nicknamed “toboggans” and they are pretty creepy looking, though they are actually good guys. The gnomes get to ride around on them because they’re too small for horseback. Toboggans can also see a leprechaun when it becomes invisible.
As a side note, the fissures and passageways between topside and below have allowed topsiders and other things to be brought to the Tethered World. Hence the horses and other animals, like chickens.
CD: What author do you think you most take after in terms of writing style?
Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I tend to sort of morph depending on who I’m reading. This isn’t good. It means I need to keep away from some books while I write. I was reading the Hunger Games and started writing in first person present tense (instead of past tense). I had to go back and correct several pages once I noticed what I was doing.
Having read a lot of C.S. Lewis, I love to write very descriptively. I’ve had to learn that that isn’t very publishable these days (though I believe there is still an audience for this sort of writing) and become less superfluous. I don’t necessarily agree with having to do this, but I have also liked the challenge of writing more to the point.
I’m afraid there’s not a good answer. I’m not as well read as I would like to be to give you a comparison. The Tethered World is rather quirky and sarcastic, written from a 16 year old girl’s point of view. It’s definitely not ‘high’ fantasy. Probably because it is partially set in present-day America.
CD: Tell us about your characters and their likes, dislikes, and flaws. Who is your favorite to write?
My main character is Sadie Larcen. She’s the oldest of 6 and is serious, sarcastic, and responsible. She would much rather read about adventures than have her own, therefore she’s quite reluctant about being dragged off into the family business she learns has been thrust upon her.
Without giving you a family run-down, I’ll tell you that Sadie has an autistic brother and a younger sister, Sophie, that is fearless and gets under Sadie’s skin.
I’ve enjoyed the interaction with Sophie and have to be careful she doesn’t upstage Sadie.
There’s also a mysterious Great-aunt Julie, who is a petite Irish woman with a big heart. She is based on one of my best friends, though the character is much older in the book (and has an accent). I think readers will find themselves endeared to “Aunt Jules” as she is affectionately called.
CD: What is the age group you’re aiming for?
Young adult. However, I hope it’s a book families would enjoy reading aloud.
CD: I know that your tales are centered around the Garden of Eden and the question “what if” some of the creatures still exist from the Garden. Will we see any other allegorical themes in The Tethered World?
Not particularly. At least, not in an intentional way. Without being preachy, I want some of my characters to be wrestling with God. To me the spiritual side should be part of the fiber of the book, more than a means to an end. There’s an overarching theme in the trilogy of God’s sovereignty and how He orchestrates creation and allows us to share in His activity and plans.
CD: Would you be willing to share a small snippet from your story?
Of course! Since there’s a link on my website and blog to receive the first chapter for free, I hope your readers will take the time to do that. I won’t be redundant and offer that here. However, as a bonus for taking the time to get to know me, I’d also like to offer chapter 2 to your readers (that is, if they enjoy chapter one!). If they will personally email me at email@example.com I will send it to them.
Here’s a snippet of Sadie and some of her siblings, being taken to a nearby monolith, where they hope to travel down to the Tethered World and rescue their parents. It picks up after Sadie rouses from having fainted because she must ride on the back of a dragon named Odyssey.
Someone called my name. I felt myself being yanked by the backpack I wore. Repeatedly. In a rush, the night’s adventure coursed back to my consciousness like a splash of cold water.
I sprang up then recoiled. The wind sliced into my eyes and pressed moisture out of the corners even as it whistled in my ears. I gasped and swallowed lungfuls of air, unable to catch my breath.
“Sadie! Are . . . you . . . okay?”
Sophie sat behind me, screaming into the wind. Her arms encircled my waist. She sounded terrified. I must have scared the spit out of her.
“Yes!” I yelled with whatever strength remained. My energy was sapped. I nodded for emphasis and gave her arms a reassuring pat. Her grip relaxed but she continued to hug my middle.
Get yourself together, Sadie. How can you lead anyone, anywhere, passed out from fear?
The stars would have taken my breath away, even if the wind did not. Far above the lights of the city, we could see more stars than I dreamed existed. It looked like God poured piles of sugar-crystals across a black, velvet blanket.
My gaze drifted lower. I forced myself to recognize—to comprehend—my situation. I am zipping through the air on the back of an Odyssey. And this ain’t no minivan.
Though it disturbed me to touch the creature, I ran my hand up and over the large, leathery scale that rose in front of me. It looked like an overgrown saddle horn. I could feel another one swelled against my back. Twisting around, I saw Sophie, Brock, and Brady behind me, single-file. A long ridge of scales ran across the spine of the dragon and allowed us a secure seat in between.
It amazed me to watch the expanse of wings that stretched with grace from the ancient beast. They virtually danced across the sky, tasting the currents and making adjustments as we traversed the night. Odyssey’s neck was the size of a sturdy tree trunk. It shot straight ahead, purposeful and aerodynamic. His skin shimmered like polished granite. He emanated fortitude and power.
I relaxed—somewhat—and had to grin. Astonishing.
We began to descend towards the misty clouds that hovered below. I must have been unconscious through most of the journey if we were already headed toward Beacon Rock.
Bummer. I’m almost enjoying myself.
We spiraled down. Large circles became tighter and we plunged into the fog. I hoped this dragon had its own instinctive radar that prevented it from crashing into trees or—worse yet—overgrown rocks.
“Close your eyes.” A voice, mellow and deep, resounded. It seemed to speak into my mind.
“Did you say something?” Sophie screamed into my ear. She heard the voice too.
I shook my head and pointed at the dragon.
“Close your eyes.” Like a bow being drawn across a large, bass cello, the voice sang with deep authority.
I closed my eyes.
With swift and precise motion, Odyssey careened into a dive.
In unison, we screamed.
My life flashed before me. Three times. We continued to fall like a rock hurtling through the Grand Canyon. Then, the dragon made a 180 degree turn.
“Duck!” The voice boomed—and I obeyed.
In an instant, the whistle of wind became hollow. It felt like we flew into a giant seashell and could hear the air swirling about making “ocean” sounds. It smelled contained. Damp. Somehow, we were inside Beacon Rock.
“You are safe now.”
The voice offered comfort and assurance, as if he understood we were children.
My heart attempted a normal rhythm.
The others expressed their amazement. I sat speechless and let my eyes adjust to the light.
Wait—there wasn’t any light. The opalescent flecks in Odyssey’s skin glowed. His violet light penetrated the dark cave and caused us to look like life-size fireflies.
It made me smile.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Heather! I know that I will be eagerly watching the bookshelves for The Tethered World!
Oh my, Clara, thank you for allowing me to share my baby with your terrific blog and its readers. I’m so humbled by your kindness!
Before I go, I’d like to give a short explanation of where I am on this book publishing journey . . .
Just last week I turned down a contract from a small publisher who offered me a contract for the entire trilogy. (I still can’t believe it when I hear myself say that last sentence!) However, while I was waiting for the contract to be sent, a much bigger publisher reached out to me and asked for a proposal and the manuscript. The guy (an editor) really liked what he saw. And the crazy thing is . . . they don’t publish fantasy at this point! But he felt like--if they had the right book--he may be able to convince the CEO to try and break into the market.
Because it will take several months to hear anything from this bigger publishing house, I had to let the other publisher know I felt like I should wait and see where this new opportunity might lead. It was not something I went searching for at all and so I want to see what God may be doing with the story.
What an incredible book and author! I don't know abut the rest of you, but doesn't The Tethered World sound rather wonderful? Do leave a comment and ask Heather something about her or her books that you would like to know!
Happy writing, everyone!