Author Interview: Bethany Atazadeh

Greetings! Are any of you fans of fairytale retellings? Well, Bethany Atazadeh is the author of an amazing fairytale-inspired series–and I had the opportunity to interview her! I’m so glad, because I had a wonderful time reading her answers and I think you will too.

Have you always been interested in fairytales? 

Absolutely. I grew up on Disney’s version of fairytales! The first retelling I remember reading though was The Lunar Chronicles, which was also the series that inspired me to try writing again.

The Lunar Chronicles is amazing! Are there any other fairytales you want to retell in the future?

I have a few favorites that didn’t fit the current four-book-series. Those would be fun to retell. I could probably continue writing retellings as long as people wanted to read them lol.

I know I’d want to read them! Are there any underrated fairytales you would like to see more retellings of?

I haven’t seen any Pocahontas retellings yet – that would be so cool! I really wanted to include that one in my series, but I couldn’t get the storyline to fit.

You had to do what was best for the series. 😉 Which character in The Stolen Kingdom is the most difficult to write?

Funny enough, I’d say Arie. A lot of the other characters are so different from me naturally, so they feel easier to write. While Arie is more similar, so I have to work harder to make sure she’s her own person versus an imitation of me. I don’t want to write myself into every story, so I have to take time to make sure she’s different from me and well-rounded.

I can totally relate. Great protagonists are hard to write, especially when they’re similar to you. Which character in The Stolen Kingdom is the most fun to write?

Gideon for sure! He has so much depth and also his magical abilities are fun—I feel like I‘m still getting to know him but he also feels real to me. He’s so easy to write.

Powerful, mysterious characters are really fun! What was your favorite setting to create in The Stolen Kingdom series so far?

Hmm, probably the Mere underwater world. I don’t really plot my worlds beforehand, I’ve become a “pantser” in that area, and so it was really fun to discover the world as I wrote The Jinni Key.

It was really cool to read about! I loved the little details that made the world seem real. Do you find happy or sad scenes the most difficult to write and edit? 

I haven’t noticed that either of those are harder or easier to write or edit honestly. The hardest scenes for me are the ones where I know that I have plot holes/issues, but I haven’t yet figured out how to fix them. Those drive me crazy!

Unsolved plot holes are such a pain. What was the most important thing you learned while writing your last book?

To take my time. I wanted to do “fast releases” or “rapid releases” of this series, so that readers wouldn’t have to wait to find out what happened. While I did write the first draft of the whole series, I didn’t realize how much more editing they would need. (Or maybe I did, but I just thought I could do it faster.) It was doable but it made for a lot of sleepless nights, which is not the type of author life I want to have. Now I’m realizing that if I take extra time, it lets me (and the story) breathe between edits. It lets me step back long enough to get some distance and see if it’s working. The whole experience is more fun because it’s less rushed. It’s important to enjoy the journey and not just race headlong toward a destination lol!

That’s advice I needed when I wrote my first book. Are there any common pieces of writing advice you disagree with?

I’ve always felt frustrated whenever I hear a phrase that starts with “your story has to have ____.” Whatever it is. Whether it’s a style thing, a character or world thing, a preference based thing, expectations put on us by readers, or even little stuff like a specific number of chapters… All of those things might be good, and there might be good reason for them, but sometimes breaking the “rules” makes the best art. Like how chapter one in The Cruel Prince by Holly Black has one sentence. I love that! It’s always good to learn the rules, but a story doesn’t “have to” have anything in my opinion: take creative license and write the story YOU want to tell! If anyone ever tried to tell me my story “should have” something, I’d tell them, “No, that sounds like a story YOU need to write.”

Yes, if every story contained the same elements they wouldn’t be unique! You’ve talked about how The Lunar Chronicles inspired you. Just curious… which is your favorite ship?

Haha that’s so funny because I mentioned it in the beginning. Hmm, I’m not picky, so I have a lot lol… One of my faves is definitely Kestrel and Arin in The Winner’s Curse. That’s a really underrated series! I also enjoy Jude and Cardan from The Cruel Prince series. 🙂

I haven’t read either of those series, but I also have a lot of ships! Arie and Kadin being one. 😉 Thank you so much for joining me today!

About Bethany Atazadeh

Bethany Atazadeh is a Minnesota-based bestselling author of YA novels, children’s books, and non-fiction. With her degree in English with a writing emphasis, she coaches other writers on both YouTube and Patreon, helping them write and publish their books. Bethany is obsessed with stories, chocolate, and her corgi puppy, Penny.

Instagram: @authorbethanyatazadeh
Facebook: @authorbethanyatazadeh
Twitter: @bethanyatazadeh

The Stolen Kingdom

How can she protect her kingdom, if she can’t protect herself?

Princess Arie never expected to manifest a Jinni’s Gift. When she begins to hear the thoughts of those around her, she hides it to the best of her ability. But to her dismay, the Gift is growing out of control.

When a neighboring king tries to force her hand in marriage and steal her kingdom, discovery becomes imminent. Just one slip could cost her throne. And her life.

A lamp, a heist, and a Jinni hunter’s crew of thieves are her only hope for removing this Gift–and she must remove it before she’s exposed. Or die trying.

The Stolen Kingdom is a loose “Aladdin” retelling. Set in a world that humans share with Mermaids, Dragons, and the elusive Jinni, this isn’t the fairytale you remember…

(review on my personal blog)

Have you added Bethany’s books to your tbr yet? You won’t want to miss out–these books are going places.

Also, story contest entrants: don’t forget to submit your stories by the 12th!

Have a beautiful day. 🙂

Author Interview: Taylor Bennett (Porch Swing Girl)

Anyone here a fan of Christian contemporary?

Taylor Bennett is the author of the young adult Tradewinds series, a Christian contemporary series set in one of the most fascinating places in the world: Hawaii. So far her debut novel Porch Swing Girl and its sequel, Sand Castle Dreams, have been published with Mountain Brook Ink, and Mele Kalikimaka, a Christmas novella, is coming out this November.

I got to ask Taylor a few interview questions for this blog, so without further ado…

How did God inspire you to write YA Christian contemporary?

Taylor: As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to contemporary or “realistic” genres. That was fine as long as I was young. Most middle-grade books don’t have a lot of questionable content! (Or at least they didn’t a decade ago…) However, as I got older and dove into mainstream YA fiction, I could rarely find a book to read that didn’t have a lot of “junk” in it. So, taking a cue from one of my favorite quotes by author Beverly Cleary, I decided to write the books that I wanted to see on my shelf! I didn’t set out to write Christian YA contemporary, but through the writing process I found that faith and creativity are inseparable. As I wrote the book that would become my debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, I discovered the Lord had a message that He wanted me to share with the whole world! Now I am always on the lookout for ways to infuse my writing with His truth.

Looking around at the books mainstream YA has set out for us, it’s not hard to agree with that. Great answer, and a lot of young writers can learn from that nowadays! Which author or authors inspired you to write Porch Swing Girl?

Taylor: Ooh, there were several (including Jeanne Birdsall and Ann M. Martin, who wrote two of my favorite series of all time!) but one really stands out: Heather Vogel Frederick. She wrote the Mother-Daughter-Book-Club series (ANOTHER favorite-series-of-all-time) and her writing style has influenced me greatly.

The funny thing is, I accidentally “stole” something from her series to use in my Tradewinds series!! In one of her books, Heather introduces a pizza-delivery place called Pirate Pete’s Pizza. And…well, I guess it’s a chain, because good ‘ol Pirate Pete (or at least his pizza!) shows up in my storyworld!! I realized the copycat mistake AFTER the book’s publication and emailed Heather about it. Thankfully she told me that my characters could eat there whenever they wanted! 😉

Jeanne Birdsall’s books are amazing, and I grew up with Ann M. Martin’s stories! I’ve never read Heather Vogel Frederick, but I should so I can see the Pirate Pete thing. xD What do you think is the trademark element most unique to your works (something with which readers can identify you throughout the world of fiction)? 

Taylor: Hmmm…maybe the fact that my characters are always eating, LOL! I’m a huge foodie, so I always like to throw in references to my favorite foods—and recipes in the back of the book!

In all seriousness though, I think readers can identify my work by the way I strive to create a sense of place. Whether a scene takes place in a dusty closet at night or a crowded beach in the middle of the afternoon, I want readers to feel fully immersed in the setting. My goal is to describe things so that people reading my books will feel as though they’re watching a movie in their heads!

I could learn a lesson from that… *cough* And everyone loves food descriptions in books– no kidding, Taylor’s foodie account on Instagram has the most scrumptious photos, and I love checking out cultural cuisine from anywhere… aaaand I’m getting distracted. So my last question is: One piece of advice in regards to writing good, wholesome fiction in a world overpopulated by dark stories? 

Taylor: Find the light.

Find the good.

Open your eyes to the world around you and see everything for what it is—beautifully set in place by the One true Creator. Live out your own story—one filled with joy and wonder, and learn to find peace even in the middle of life’s darkest storms. Embrace the life you live, and see it for what God intended it to be: a masterpiece.

Beautiful answer! I love how it matches our hopes on this blog perfectly. This not only applies to life, but it’s an important truth in the art of storytelling, and art is all about sharing the truth in the most creative of ways. Thank you so much for answering these questions, Taylor!

That’s all for today, book-lovers! See you next time around 🙂

Until then,