A few BlogPosts ago, I started a brand new little feature here on my website.
I realized that us authors are all tarred with the same brush. Give us a chance and we will talk indefinitely about our own books. Honestly. Get me started on Hunters and then watch the hours disappear as if you’ve slipped into some sort of time vortex!
So, I thought a better idea than simply doing basic author interviews (I mean everyone does those!) would be to engage the author in a chat about their book. I did Edge of the Breach by Halo Scot, a little while ago (click on this link to read its awesomeness!) and this week I have a new one with author Emmy R Bennett where we will talk in spoilerific detail about her book Eyes of Wynter.
So, without further ado…
Let’s set the scene…
Coming off the back of Halo‘s wonderful, yet brutal, book I felt like I needed something a little lighter to clear my mind of the dark places Halo had sent it. I decided to pick up Eyes of Wynter off my TBR pile, mostly because I’d chatted a little to Emmy about it, and there seemed to be some parallels between it and my own book Hunters. I was kind of intrigued to find out more.
It wasn’t at all what I expected (see more below!) but I LOVED IT!.
To set the scene for this post, here’s my little review (click the book to buy it, click the review to embiggen):
So, now you know where I stand on Emmy’s book, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it with the author herself!
Before we do a deep dive into Eyes of Wynter, give me a little about the background of Emmy R Bennett and the path you took to become an author.
Well, I’m a mom first and foremost.
I sell real estate, but not for much longer.
I’ve loved writing since I was 6 years old, but didn’t dive into the writing deeply until 2017. That’s when I decided I was going to do a career change. I have some college background but no too specific. I didn’t get further than a community college, majoring in English and History.
I think a lot of authors tend to get the writing bug early. I still have my old school books from when I was a teeny-Jon with some of my REALLY early stories in. Maybe I’ll share them on this website at some point! LOL
So, at this point is that I’ve only read book 1 in your Storm Bloodline Saga, Eyes of Wynter. But the depth of the storytelling dragged me into your world and I enjoyed the book so much I’ve already bought the second in the series.
So for anyone who hasn’t read Eyes of Wynter yet, PLEASE go and buy it before reading this post. It is a book best enjoyed unspoiled because the story flips what you expect the narrative to be in a very interesting way. Trust me, we’ll wait while you go buy it and read it…
Okay, so with all that said…
I’d like to begin with a quick word about your covers. The cover art is gorgeous, and I’ve already seen the artwork you have for the 4th book in the series, Wynter’s Fury, and I think that one is the most stunning of all. Who’s the artist and how did the process for creating these covers work? Did you give the artist free rein, or were you involved in the whole thing?
I’m glad you asked this question. My writing coach suggested http://thebookcoverdesigner.com I started scrolling through there and I found Consuelo Parra. Loved her work, so I contacted her via Facebook. Book 1: she literally read my mind. It was amazing. I told her the elements and she put them together. Book 2: we designed together. I wanted a model pose where Wynter discovers her magic. Consuelo designed the background. We chose the model pose together. Book 3 Again, I told her what I was looking for and she read my mind. Haha. Book 4 was ALL Consuelo. I saw her premade cover and went that’s the cover! I asked her to put dragons in the background and *poof*, cover done. Book 5–I have no idea lol
Okay, so on to what’s inside those gorgeous covers…
When I first started reading ‘Eyes of Wynter’, I admit I was a little worried I’d picked up a run-of-the-mill YA Fantasy novel. A teenage girl at school, magic in the family, etc. But that feeling doesn’t last long because you pretty quickly move the story into the realms of something very different.
Was that initial setup done on purpose? To lull the reader into thinking they knew what was coming?
Honestly, I just wrote what came to mind. An average teenage girl, in an average town, going to an average school, when suddenly everything she thought she knew wasn’t real. Sort of my life: I discovered things of my past and kept them bottled inside. I took my adult experience and put her in a teenage body, and added lore, magic, and monsters.
Because this is deeper than any story. To me it’s personal. A lot of what Wynter went through I went through in real life. Family and friends don’t know the deep dark secrets. Sweeping things under the rug seems to be the norm. Obviously, the matriarch in my family isn’t as evil as Madame Moyer but we had our issues. This book was my release, my forgiveness for –We’ll call her Moyer for the sake of keeping it simple– but she was very hard to deal with. So to answer your question fairly it wasn’t done on purpose, it was just… what it was, a fast turn of events. Life can change in a second, and I wanted to convey that.
LOL, I have to admit, I don’t remember it in the blurb.
Reading the car crash felt pretty traumatic as a reader! Was there ever a different scenario for this scene? Or was it always going to be a car crash?
Actually no. And I’m glad you asked this! I, in fact, have a deleted scene of what it was going to be. I’ll give you the link. They ended up making it to the cabin where Rory shows up, revealing she’s an assassin. I can’t remember why I changed it, because I do like that deleted scene.
(It’s linked below for your reading pleasure!)
I kind of like the shock value of the crash, but I’ll devour the deleted scene! LOL
As I was reading ‘EYES OF WYNTER’ I kept getting struck by the thematic/story similarities between it and my book. In HUNTERS, for example, I wanted to set Gayle up so that from the jump you could see that she was someone special, but she was broken. Emotionally and physically.
I got a very similar vibe off Wynter herself. It’s clear she has the touch of destiny about her, but she’s very much in the dark at this stage of the book about the world she’s about to stumble into and her role in it.
In a touch of weird synchronicity, Wynter has a busted knee, the same as Gayle does. On the one hand, Wynter’s injury serves to display to us one of her powers, that of quick healing. But I also got from it a sense of fragility from her. A feeling that yes, she might be the one with a touch of destiny, but she’s not invulnerable. In fact, the book has her VERY much in constant danger.
So, how close am I to how you saw Wynter in that respect?
Wynter went from an average teen to being broken and having to climb out of a hole she didn’t dig. Like me: I’m given the cards life deals me, it’s how you play those cards that will determine your destiny. So, Wynter got a shitty hand at life, but she’s not going to let that stop her from happiness or hope.
I think you get that from the writing. At first, it feels like she’s very much on her back foot, but as she starts to learn the rules of the Manor, she starts to grow in confidence.
Where did the concept for Wynter come from?
Hmm, a good question. I’ve never really thought about it. The name Wynter has always been there. I honestly don’t remember where I thought of it. That was nearly 20 years ago. But I can tell you that the idea first came to me when watching the movie Mommy Dearest.
Okay, I think you may need to explain that… LOL
LOL, Do you have a couple of days?
Okay the shorter version
My older daughter loves V.C Andrews books. Back in 2003, they didn’t have much of a selection of books for teens. So my bright idea was to write a book. Boy did that learning curve take me on a ride. Long story short, I never got past 19 pages, my daughter grew up, and the book never got finished until 2017.
The original idea was about the matriarch of an orphanage…
I had read somewhere that Christina and Christopher (regarding Mommy Dearest) came from the black market. Not sure if that is true, but I ran with an idea! Wow, what if I wrote a story where there is a legitimate orphanage but underneath it was a black market business of the supernatural.
LOL, I have admit, I’ve never seen, or even heard of, Mommy Dearest…
Disclaimer: No part of the movie – and never read the book – influenced my story. Just the idea of the possibility that there was a black market for selling babies, had me thinking of a fantasy story.
That was the spark. What if I created a world where there was an evil matriarch that ran an adoption agency, and her cover was an underground black market ring, for Supernatural babies.
Honestly, I think that’s pretty normal. I get idea sparks all the time from other people’s work. It could be a TV show, movie, book or even a documentary that just makes that creative process in you go… ‘Hold on! What if…” and from there you’re off and running.
I think the whole ‘black market for supernatural babies’ idea is fantastic. I would NEVER have thought of that in a million years!
Okay, so before we move on through the book’s narrative, I want to put a pin in it for a moment and ask about how you came up with the concept of what happens next. Because after the car crash scene, we shift gears and the revelations start to drip feed through to the reader via Wynter’s discoveries.
We’ll talk about some of the characters and their ‘alter-egos’ in a moment, but can you tell me where the inspiration came from? For example, I know that I spend an inordinate amount of time researching monster myths from around the world and then twisted them into my world. How did you approach it?
I don’t know if I can answer that question. I just wrote. In fact, Blair came to me at the 11th hour. I was done with the book and she demanded a role. So re-writes began. Wynter needed to get from Washington to New York somehow, so why not a private plane?
As far as research, I didn’t do much, to be honest. I played a lot of online games and have worked with magic systems from many aspects so I took ideas and blended them. None of my inspiration came from books believe it or not. I researched necromancy. And I didn’t want to do the “Oh they died, wait they’re alive because of some divine unexplained purpose.” There has to be a reason. When my characters die, they stay dead. But, with necromancy, it can spin the story.
When Wynter arrives at Storm Manor the world she discovers is both dangerous and unknown. As the reader, you feel real empathy with Wynter because you don’t know who to trust. In that respect, it’s a little different to Hunters because I jump from viewpoint to viewpoint as my arc shifts, but you always stay with Wynter so that when you meet new characters you don’t know if you can trust them…because, of course, neither does Wynter.
It gives the story a real edge, a sense of paranoia. For instance, it took me the longest time to trust Cory (and I’m still not sure if I completely do!).
You also constantly, and masterfully I might add, play on that paranoia with the whole Cory/Cole dynamic. Again, was this done on purpose to keep the reader on the back foot a little?
Oh my, you have me grinning from ear to ear right now. Yes! Success! That is exactly what I wanted the reader to feel. The reader is looking through the Eyes of Wynter. ‘See what I did there?’ She feels paranoid, doesn’t trust anyone or anything. All cares about is how she plans to escape this hell hole, her captives have brought her to.
LOL, I’d not thought about the title that way. That’s very clever!
Now you know how I came up with the title. Haha.
If you recall, Cory, too, can see through Wynter’s, eyes.
What about other characters like Stella, Nora and Rosie etc. There’s so many, and while there’s a sense of paranoia, there are still some characters who you WANT to be good. Hope are good. You as the reader are looking for allies for Wynter in her hopes to escape this hellish existence. Can you tell us about some of your thoughts on the other characters?
Well, Stella turns out to be a close friend, and they bond. Nora ends up being an antagonist and Rosie has a hidden talent. It’s later revealed who Rosie really is, in book four –rather what she is, and how her presence helps Wynter later.
I might add you really don’t know who to trust until the end of the book.
So, without getting too spoilery (because I don’t want to know what’s going to happen in book 2!), it’s evident by the end of the book that the storyline isn’t just confined to our Earth. Tell us a little about the idea of the portal?
That was something unexpected and not planned at all.
Chapter 15 of Eyes of Wynter wasn’t the original scene. So, I added that chapter 15 to scenes in several different locations of book 2. I fought with my muse and we made a deal, she would stay out of my way in book 1 and I would stay out of her way in book 2.
Basically, I didn’t want to go to a whole new world. I planned to stay on earth.
This was the moment when I created the map of Ladorielle. I used dice, threw it on a piece of paper, on the floor, traced the outline, and created a new world.
My muse was happy. This was my first experience with the word pantsing. I had no clue where I was going with the story. The Epilogue of Eyes of Wynter was originally Chapter 1 of book 2.
Now obviously, at this point I haven’t read book 2 yet, but how did the creation of Ladorielle affect your writing?
For example, I concluded really early that while I wanted Hunters to exist on OUR Earth, so people had a point of reference, I also wanted to change the world dynamic so I could play by my own rules.
It kind of feels like you have a similar dynamic.
The reader is now familiar with the Earth world that Wynter starts on, but now the reader is bought in, you can widen the canvas. Was that a conscious thought?
No, not at all. My story was to remain on earth the whole time. Originally, Wynter would come back seeking revenge. I never intended there to be a whole other universe at all. The story literally took on a life of its own. As I said, I made a deal with my muse. I wasn’t going to fight what I planned in an outline to hold me from expanding my imagination. I can’t explain it. Just like I can’t explain my summer “live” spontaneous freewrite story you’re reading now for fun. Mirror of Fate I have no idea what will happen next, until I write it I’m discovering along with you. The same goes for book 2.
I will add, the original chapter 15 in Eye of Wynter went into book 2, as I said before, and I continued with a rewritten version of chapter 15 that ended up staying in book 1. Actually, that scene of chapter 15 ended up being chapter 22 in Eyes of Wynter.
So I’m definitely getting the impression you’re a Pantser rather than a Plotter! LOL, Where would you say you stand on that? I know I’m the latter, on a scale of 100, I think I’m about 90% plotter, with a 10% seat of the pants writer thrown in. Where would you say you sit on the scale?
I’m both actually.
I had the gene family tree set up before Eye of Wynter was set up. I outline and plan. I have a character bible and the traits of each character, what they look like in my mind, what their class/race/trait, and special talents are. All the way down to hair color and eyes.
For the most part, I cannot write a book without knowing the ending. I also must have a plot established or I can’t find how the story plays out at all. I also must have somewhat of a backstory, playing out in my mind. Mirror of Fate comes easy, and it’s probably because I already have the whole Storm Bloodline Saga mapped out in my unconscious brain.
And yet, I can take a writing prompt and create a story. Not sure how, but I don’t question it. I love to write.
I would say 50/50 on a scale. Okay, here’s a breakdown…
Book 1 – Plotted and planned.
Book 2 – Total pants.
Book 3 – Plotted, planned, rearranged plotted again, and planned. This one gave me hell. The ending of chapters 36 and 40 were complete pants. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be.
Book 4 – half planned/half pants This one was hard as well. The structure mostly. I had to figure how to connect what I had plotted and planned and connect the dots with pantsing.
Book 5 – All plot. I know what will happen the twists the turns and the end result of book 5
Okay, last question… Elsewhere on this website (link) I do a ‘Casting Call’ where I talk about who I’d cast as the main characters in the inevitable HBO Max/Amazon TV series of my books. So, who would you cast as Wynter and Cory/Cole?
Wynter would be my Friend’s daughter Emily Botnen. She is studying Broadway and a great actress. And the Cory/Cole I have in my head is the Model Lucky Blue Smith. What’s completely weird about this is, his face was always imprinted in my head, but I had never seen him before. I saw his face on Facebook once and went, Omg that’s Cory!
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Emmy. I found it fascinating getting a peek inside your brain and how ‘Eyes of Wynter’ came to be. I think my readers will find it equally interesting! We’ll HAVE to do this again once I get book 2 ‘Different Shade of Wynter’ read.