Hi everyone! Tania here with another interview with a debut middle grade author, Alex Aster! Her book, EMBLEM ISLAND: CURSE OF THE NIGHT WITCH, comes out on June 9th and looks absolutely spooky! I was so excited for the opportunity to chat with her about her work!
TANIA: Hi Alex! Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming book, EMBLEM ISLAND: CURSE OF THE NIGHT WITCH and the inspiration behind it?
ALEX: Emblem Island: Curse of the Night Witch is set on an island where everyone is born with markings on their skin that dictate their future, talents and role in society—and follows a character that will go to great lengths to change his fate. To reverse a deadly curse, Tor and his two friends must cross Emblem Island for the first time, with only an ancient book of legends as their guide, and monsters from those same stories in their path. The idea for this world came from a story my Colombian abuela first told me as a child: La niña con la estrella en la frente. In the story, a girl earns a magical marking on her skin for following the rules, while her sister earns a terrible marking for breaking them. In addition, many of the monsters the characters encounter trying to reverse the curse are inspired by other Latinx legends I grew up loving, like La Llorona, La Patasola, and La Ciguapa.
TANIA: As a Latinx author, how does your background influence your storytelling?
ALEX: Growing up, my abuela was the storyteller of the family. I learned storytelling from her, and how to create stories from the cuentos she would tell us. As you know, Latinx myths are generally very dark, so that definitely influenced my craft. Even though I’m writing middle grade, the monsters are supposed to be a little scary, and the stakes are always high, the same way they are in Latinx legends.
TANIA: Your book seems to tackle some dark themes including the fate and facing death. Why do you think scary topics like these are important for young readers?
ALEX: I think no matter what you’re writing, the stakes should be high. In this story, the stakes are that if they can’t reverse the night witch’s curse, Tor, Engle, and Melda will die. Obviously that’s scary, but if the stakes were any lower I don’t think it would warrant them crossing a super dangerous land for the first time! Also, I think even though eight to twelve years old seems young, this age group has encountered themes like fate and death before—and it’s definitely an ode to dark Latinx children’s stories (which I heard when I was five years old…thanks, abuela!). Instead of serving as a cautionary tale, these themes are meant to make the world feel more real, and hopefully get the reader thinking—if I was born in a world where my fate was predetermined, would I try to change it? Even if the stakes were high?
TANIA: What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
ALEX: Probably somewhere in the middle. For Emblem Island, I had a pretty clear picture of what was going to happen, and fleshed out the specific obstacles/creatures/places the characters would encounter on their journey as I was writing. For the second book in the series though, I know exactly what will happen since I had to write a very detailed synopsis for foreign rights.
TANIA: What are you working on next? Also, feel free to plug or promote anything else you’d like in this space.
ALEX: I’m working on book two! Emblem Island: Curse of the Night Witch is the first in a series, so that has my focus right now.
Thanks for having me!
TANIA: Thanks for your time, Alex! Spookies, you can follow Alex on Twitter to learn more about her and her work!