Friday 13 February 2015

Blog Tour Interview & Giveaway - Circle of Nine by Valerie Biel

Circle of Nine
Author: Valerie Biel
Release Date: September 24th, 2014
Publisher: Lost Lake Press

Synopsis via Goodreads:
“Since I was a little girl I’ve been labeled a freak in my small town. There’s no blending in when your mom practices an ancient pagan religion and everyone believes she’s a witch. On my 15th birthday my secret wish is the same as always – to just be normal. But that’s not what I get. Not even close.”

– Brigit Quinn

Instead, Brigit is shocked to learn she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe - powerful people who serve as guardians of the stone circles of Ireland. A spellbound book of family history reveals the magical powers of her ancestors. Powers that could be hers - if only she wanted them.

And when someone sinister and evil returns to steal her family’s strength, Brigit has to make a decision. Fight to keep her unique heritage or reject it for the normal life she’s always wanted.

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A story can get started a thousand different ways. Circle of Nine started when I visited standing stone circles in Ireland and England. The most famous of these is Stonehenge. Most people don’t know that there are hundreds of stone circles and ancient monuments dotting the countryside in Great Britain and northern France. I began to think about the people who built them, and I wondered what they were really used for. (There’s a lot of debate about this.) Then, I began my internal “what if” questions. What if there were people alive today who were descendants of the circle builders? What if they kept their heritage a secret? What if they could tell us what these circles were all about, but they’re sworn to secrecy? And, what if there was a modern-day girl who really wasn’t sure that she liked this extra-special heritage so much? What then... ? (You can find out if you read the book!)

Author Interview

1. What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always written stories, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I decided that would be the year that I would finally write a novel. Circle of Nine – Beltany was inspired by my trips to Ireland. I became fascinated with the many standing stone circles that dot the countryside. We all know about Stonehenge but many people don’t realize that stone circles were built all over Great Britain. Beltany, my novel’s subtitle, is an actual circle in County Donegal, Ireland.

2. Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m wouldn’t say that I do, but friends and family who have read my novel say that they could tell that I was the writer even if they hadn’t known in advance. I just try to write the best story I can. I try to think like my main character and do my best to bring their story to life for the reader.

Most often this comes out in first person past tense but there are a number of historical chapters in the book that I enjoyed writing in third person past tense. Recently, I’ve begun to dabble with present tense and like the immediacy it brings to the story I’m telling.

One thing I like to do is to make objects an important part of the story—so much so that they take on the role of a supporting character. In Circle of Nine there is a spellbound book of family history that is central to the plot.

3. How did you come up with the title for your book?
Circle of Nine refers to the nine women who serve as guardians of the stone circles. They are members of the Tuatha de Danann—a legendary founding tribe of Ireland. My main character Brigit Quinn learns on her 15th birthday that she will inherit a place in this circle. Beltany, the stone circle I previously mentioned, is an important setting for sections of the novel that take place in Ireland.

4. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The main theme is that sometimes we spend so much time and energy hoping for something that that will make our life perfect—and it often isn’t what we need at all. We should take the time to appreciate and embrace what we have.

5. How much of the book is realistic?
I’ve incorporated Celtic legend, magical powers, and pagan ritual into a contemporary world that is very much like the one we all live in. I haven’t invented any fanciful creatures, but I have given some characters some pretty awesome abilities. (That’s why fiction is so fun to write!)

6. What book are you reading now?
I just finished Kate Walden Directs Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata—a hilarious reminder of the perils of middle school set in a uniquely themed fast-paced novel. Earlier this month I reread Burned by Ellen Hopkins before I read the sequel Smoke. (I adore Ellen Hopkins’ ability to write in verse.) Finally, another recent favorite was Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor & Park. That was one of the best novels I’ve ever read!

7. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Liz Czukas, Angie Stanton, Lori Lee, Kelley Lynn, Jessica Salyer, and Kelly Risser.

8. What are your current projects?
I am ready to begin the sequel to Circle of Nine which will be subtitled Sacred Treasures. I just finished the rough draft for a middle-grade novel about domestic abuse and have another middle grade novel (an eco-adventure set in the Amazon) out on submission.

9. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Patience—lots and lots of patience. Finishing the rough draft is just the beginning of the process. Editing takes a long time (as it should.)

I also learned that writing a novel isn’t this impossible task—it only seems that way at the beginning. Each time I finished a chapter I felt empowered to keep going. At first I was nervous to tell people I was writing a book because I was afraid that I might not finish. It was an awesome feeling to type that final sentence!

10. What were the challenges (research, psychological etc) in bringing your story to life?
Overall, my greatest challenge is time. (Just like all of us!!) I’m a mom with a part-time public relations/publicity business. Some days it’s hard to fit writing time in. I work from home, so I’m often found in my pajamas late in the day. I think the UPS and Fedex drivers are used to it by now.

I love doing research, so while it is a challenge, I find it a fun part of the writing process. I often leave notes in my manuscript as reminders to check on different facts. I love the internet! Where else could I find out the cost of rowan berry jelly in the 1300s in Ireland without making an appointment at the local university to consult a medieval history expert? (Although that WOULD get me out of my pajamas.)

Finally, for me the hardest part of the writing craft is the editing process. When it came time for deep edits, I had a hard time cutting some parts I really liked. It took a long time for me to admit that certain favorite scenes weren’t essential to moving the plot forward!  (I’ve kept all these deleted scenes in a separate file, hoping that I might find a use for them someday.)

About the Author
Valerie Biel's love for travel inspires her books for teens and tweens. Circle of Nine - Beltany is set partially in Ireland where Valerie was inspired by the ancient stone circles which dot the countryside. Beltany, an actual stone circle in County Donegal, Ireland, plays an important part in this novel. "There's something eerie and beautiful about these circles which rise up out of the greenest grass you've ever seen. Who built them? Why did they build them? If that's not enough to start a story, nothing is."

This young adult novel was a top six finalist (out of 1000) in the Gotham Writers' YA Novel Discovery Contest.

When Valerie's not writing, she's working on freelance public relations projects, wrangling her overgrown garden, traveling the world, and reading everything she can get her hands on. Once upon a time, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and political science. More recently, she moved back to small-town Wisconsin, happily violating her teenage vow that she would never do so. Valerie's husband and three children are always providing her with new story ideas whether they mean to or not.

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1 comment:

  1. Circle of Nine sounds like an awesome read, i would love this book. Thank you