Have you always been a writer?
I’ve always been interested in stories. When I was a kid and my family went on long car trips, my brother and I used to make up maps of fantastical lands and then tell “choose your own adventure” style stories about them to pass the time. I think my first “official” story was one I wrote in the fourth grade, an invented myth about how whales got their baleen. Then I wrote an embarrassingly bad science fiction novel when I was in high school, complete with over-the-top prose, a girl with oddly colored eyes who is a child of prophecy, and an antihero who looked like my favorite rockstar heartthrob of the time. Hopefully I’ve learned a few things since then, though I expect to be learning much more in the years ahead.
What inspired you to write Fortune’s Folly?
I had been working for over a year on a big epic sort of book, a series really, that was relatively dark and serious. Unfortunately, it was also dragging its heels and the more I worked at it, the more I despaired. Then a friend of mine invited me to join a group who were doing a novel-writing marathon. I was tired of my big epic book at that point, so I told myself I would take a month or so and just write for fun.
How did the story come to you?
I’d had a glimmer of an idea back in the midst of my work on that serious epic book. You know how a lot of epic fantasy stories have prophecies in them? Well, I thought to myself, “What if one of those prophecies was just a big fake? What if someone made it up, and then had to MAKE it come true? I sure wouldn’t want to be in her shoes!” So I started thinking about what sort of person would make up a fake prophecy, and why. And that was when Fortunata jumped out of a corner of my mind and started telling me her side of the story: how she had to make up fake fortunes to survive. It all came together pretty quickly after that. I had my character, I knew how she got into her predicament, and I knew the prophecy she needed to make come true.
When you started the book, did you know how the story would end?
Yes, for the most part. There are lots of different ways to write, but I’m the sort of person who usually works best with an outline. Plus, the story revolves around a prophecy, albeit a made-up one, so that drove things in a certain direction. I also wanted the ending to be, in a sense, up to the reader. Fortunata is a practical girl and does not believe in magic. She relies on her wits and her quick tongue to get herself out of scrapes. And yet, there are things happening to her that even she can’t quite explain. I wanted readers to be able to decide for themselves if what’s happening is magic, or not.
One of the most interesting things about Fortunata is the contradiction between her innate honesty and her fortunetelling, in which she must often stretch the truth. Can you talk a little about that?
I think she is trying to do the right thing. But it’s never so easy to do something questionable as when it’s for a good cause. Like most of us, Fortunata makes some choices that cause her difficulties, then needs to figure out how to set things right.
Fortunata’s teacher Allessandra suggests that their fake fortunes actually serve a good purpose, by giving people hope, or by helping them to recognize truths they haven’t admitted to themselves. That is an interesting idea for me, as a writer
Why do you write fantasy?
Because it’s fun! But I also want to care about the people in the story, so it is important to me that the characters be real people with fears and hopes and silly quirks. Also, I think it can be easier for stories to help us understand the world if they have a bit of the fantastic to them. Most of us struggle to make the right choices every day, searching for the good in the world. But sometimes it can be harder to see things clearly when you’re right in the middle of it all.
Are there other genres that you love and would like to try your hand at?
Fantasy is definitely my favorite genre, ever since my mom read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was a kid. But I also love a good mystery. I am the type of person who can’t just sit quietly if there’s a puzzle or a riddle or any sort of unanswered question. And since I love to travel but can’t afford a round-the-world tour, I really enjoy books that take me to foreign lands full of history and adventure. If I could write about the adventures of a spunky globe-trekking kid detective I’d be very happy!