Today we're excited to chat with Heather Maclean, author of Toward a Secret Sky. Read on for more about Heather and her book, plus a giveaway!
What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I had just seen the first Twilight movie with my oldest daughter, who was 13 at the time, and her friends. We had all read the book and loved that we could all see the movie together. There should be a YA event movie like Twilight or Hunger Games every 6 months! It’s just such a fun night out and gives you so much to talk about with your teen: comparing and contrasting the book, talking about the casting, seeing the setting in real life...
As soon as we got home, my daughter and her friends said, “Write us a book like Twilight, only it has to take place in Scotland, we want to be characters in it, and we all want to die!” So I did. I wouldn’t kill off all their characters though. Just a few!
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Maren because she’s so relatable. On purpose. I didn’t describe her too vividly so every reader could picture themselves as her. And I love that she’s not the prettiest or smartest, that she doesn’t have any superpowers. She’s just an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances—which could happen to any of us at any time.
Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel! I’m terrible at naming things. The book has had at least a dozen names—none of them good! I finally realized that my favorite titles—“The Fault in Our Stars,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes”—came from quotes from other famous writers like Shakespeare. So I started looking at my favorite quotes and when I came across Rumi, I knew I had found it! All three of the titles in the trilogy series are from Rumi quotes and they all start with “love is...”: #1: Toward a Secret Sky
#2: In the Sea of Fear
#3: The Bridge Between Everything
Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Patience! Every part of the publishing cycle takes so long, and I am not a patient person! Actually, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve learned how to be more patient, but I did find a workaround: always be working on something else! When I’m juggling multiple books in their various stages, the wait until publication date doesn’t see so bad.
What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love everything about the cover! I won the cover lottery! My favorite part though is the raised relief of the Tudor Rose. The Tudor Rose plays an important part in the book, and it’s a symbol for so much: secrecy, unity, British loyalty.
What’s up next for you?
Finishing the sequel to Toward a Secret Sky! It’s called In the Sea of Fear and it follows Maren as she enters The Abbey for training. It takes place in Scotland, France, and believe it or not, Kazakhstan. I love it even more than the first because the characters have been established, now I get to really run with them!
Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The very first scene when Maren is watching her mother’s coffin be lowered into the ground, and she wants to climb in after it. I had a friend I worked with at Disney who lost her daughter unexpectedly, and that’s all she could keep saying, “I want to crawl into the coffin with her. I need to take care of her. What if she’s cold?” It’s such a primal instinct, a child and mother not wanting to let go of one another. I cried writing it, thinking about her pain and about my own daughters.
Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Maren because she starts the book in such a tough place. It’s hard to write a sympathetic character who’s naturally upset and angry at the hand life dealt her, which is when we meet her. I didn’t want to put readers off, but I wanted to be true to her feelings and experiences.
Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Drafting because everything is new and fresh and exciting. Revising reminds me of what an idiot I am!
10. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Mary’s Meals (www.marysmealsusa.org) It’s an organization started by a single Scottish guy, a fish farmer from Argyll named Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, who set out to help the world’s poorest children. Mary’s Meals now feeds over 1.2 million school children around the world every day—many times providing the kids’ only meal. My husband (who’s also from Scotland) knows Magnus and his wife, and they are the most amazing, kind-hearted, humble people in the world. They are such an inspiration and proof that one person can make an enormous difference!
Meet Heather Maclean!
Heather Maclean, mother of three, is a Princeton graduate and the founder of Little Laureate, an award-winning educational children's media company. Named one of the '16 Best Entrepreneurs in America' by Sir Richard Branson, she accompanied the adventurous business legend on a 50,000-mile trip around the world, alternately helping improve the lives of others (designing sustainable development initiatives in South Africa) and fearing for her own (rappelling out of a Black Hawk helicopter in a Moroccan sandstorm). Heather began her career at Disney, where she had the distinction of being the first person ever to answer Mickey Mouse's e-mail. When not castle hunting in her husband's native Scotland, she and her clan happily reside in Michigan.
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she's never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that's now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she'll continue her parents' fight or stay behind to save her friends.
With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she's not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn't as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
Toward a Secret Sky
By: Heather Maclean
Release Date: April 4, 2017
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