Welcome to YA Books Central's "Indie Superstars" column. This monthly event will spotlight the best and brightest of the indie community.
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This week our staff reviewer, Kelly St. Clare is interviewing Raye Wagner, author of the The Sphinx Series
Kelly St. Clare: Welcome Raye! It is so lovely to have you joining us at Young Adult Book Central today. Could you please describe the area you are sitting in right now? And whether there is a reptile currently roaming close by….
Raye Wagner: Ha! No reptiles roaming by; we keep them in their own rooms in the basement (there is a hot room for desert/tropical animals and a cool room for the arboreal mountain species). They also have their own misting systems, but that is another crazy topic.
I’m sitting at my “desk” which is really the kitchen table. I have my laptop to the right, but it’s plugged in to a larger screen so my old eyes can see what I’m writing. There are stacks of 3x5 cards scattered underneath my keyboard that have oozed out to the right, scenes outlined for Fates and Furies (The Sphinx #4). To the left of the keyboard, I have my phone and a smattering of lists on yellow legal paper, envelopes and old bills stacked in a pile. Some are to-do, others I’ve done but I’m afraid to throw them out until I know I’ve completed everything.
The sun is shining through the window behind me, pounding its warmth on my back. But the heat will disappear when I step outside to go to the gym. It’s still winter here in Tennessee, but I’ve made the mistake of going out to the car without a jacket more than a dozen times, fooled by the sun’s rays through the glass.
Kelly: I have had the pleasure of working with you on occasion. What blows me away is your absolute creativity. You fire ideas out left, right, and center! How do you funnel all that idea goodness and decide which you will incorporate into a story?
Raye: I pantsed my way through my first two books, but by book 3 I had to plot to make sure things were coming together. That being said, I feel like my characters still dictate a lot of the story for me.
And my PA can tell you I’m a hot mess. I have ADHD and I grew up with a dad who also has it, as well as several of my siblings (none of us were officially diagnosed until we were adults- another long story). From the research I’ve read, lots of ideas tend to go along with the way the ADHD mind works. That being said, I’ve found that having ideas (and lots of them) is both a blessing and a curse. I get distracted easily, and my memory is not the greatest. Finding people that are highly organized and have good follow through (here’s looking at you Kelly) are a fabulous balance for me. Also, I’ve found being accountable to someone helps me “hyper-focus” so I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do.
Kelly: You talk about the power literature has to change us and teach us. What is the most powerful quote you have ever come across? Has it affected the way you write?
Raye: My dad used A LOT of inspirational quotes to help keep him motivated and often gave us kids (there are 8 of us) plaques and framed illustrations of “successories”. But my favourite quote is one he repeated over and over…
That which we persist in doing becomes easy. Not that the nature of the task has changed, but your ability to do has increased.
When I get frustrated with a task (and it happens often), I remind myself of the importance of persistence. The older I get, the more I realize that if I want something bad enough, I will find a way to make it happen.
Oh, another quote: Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
There’s some perspective on creativity. ;)
Kelly: Confession: I cannot solve a riddle to save my life. Massive respect to the main character, Hope, for solving them throughout Curse of the Sphinx. Are you any good at riddles, yourself?
Raye: Um, not at all. I spent hours researching riddles online. I wrote dozens of them down in a notebook, now somewhere lost, and picked the ones that best fit a character, or the situation of a scene.
Even now, my oldest son will ask me a riddle and 90% of the time I have no idea. The other 10% of the time, I know the answer only because I wrote it down years ago.
Kelly: Can you tell us one? We can put the answer at the bottom!
Raye: When I was writing the first draft, I really wanted to find a riddle that would hint at the creature I was writing about. Of course no such thing existed (at least not that I was able to find), so I eventually, over several weeks wrote a poem/riddle.
Riddle me, riddle me. What do you see?
A puzzle of words, What can this be?
Come close, sit down, let’s have a chat
Now, what do you make of this big, lithe cat?
With tawny eyes like a bird of prey,
The face of an angel at the dawn of day;
Amber wings crimson lined,
Sun-kissed skin, an Egyptian shrine
Maiden hands, soft and fair;
Golden fur and honey hair
Atop a cliff with words she tangles;
Answer wrong, her strength will mangle.
A monstrous creature, cursed of a god,
Within the gray, was found a flaw
Wandering the earth, without family or friend,
Until she finds love, which brings a swift end.
You’ve heard the riddle,
‘Tis truth not lie,
Now tell me, tell me…
Who am I?
And here’s one from Curse:
If you break me, I do not stop working. If you touch me, I may be snared. If you lose me, nothing will matter. What am I?
Kelly: You have the best book inspiration story! You posed for a painting of a Sphinx in college – the picture is gorgeous and on Raye’s website if you would like to check it out. Tell us more about how this painting eventually lead you to write Curse of the Sphinx.
Raye: James C. Christensen was the artist of the picture. It’s in his book, Voyage of the Basset, and someday I hope to make enough money to buy the original (it sold at auction for $10,000 in 1994, and since Jim’s death last year, I’m sure it’s gone up in value- *le sigh*). As partial payment for modelling, he made me a print (the only one ever made) and signed it. It’s hung in my home for years, and I’ve always viewed the Sphinx as a beautiful, but sad, creature.
When I read the Percy Jackson series, in Battle of the Labyrinth, the Sphinx is portrayed as a washed-up game show hostess. It was like a personal affront (this is my ONLY complaint about PJO, it is such a fun, fabulous read), and I ruminated on it for weeks.
I knew the Sphinx had a better story than that. She had to. She deserved it! I thought a lot about what would drive someone to strangle men, what it would be like to be a monster among humans, and why would the gods create such a creature. I’m sure there were lots of other thoughts running through my mind.
I have two boys, and they were little at the time. It was late June, and my husband was in Mexico for lizard business, and Jacob and Seth were on the back patio playing in the $10 kiddie pool from Wal-Mart. I was sitting on a swing daydreaming and inspiration struck.
Kelly: The final book in your Sphinx series comes out soon. Please tell us you have more books on the way.
Raye: Ha! I’m plotting a new series now with dragon-shifters, fae, wicked kings, and a whole fantasy world I’m so in love with. I’m hoping to have the first in that series out before the end of 2017. That’s my optimistic goal.
I’ve also got plans for two spinoffs in the same world as The Sphinx series, as well as a prequel story of Phaidra (the original Sphinx). The prequel should be out this year. It’s written but needs a heavy revision. It might even come out before book 4, if I can get my stuff together.
I’ve got a couple short stories I’ve been working on as well, both prequel stories of side characters from the Sphinx series. Son of War is a Xan short, and Daughter of Discord is Dahlia’s prequel. Both will come out this year.
Finally, I got the rights back to Narcos, a YA/NA political realism story about the drug-traffickers in Mexico. I’ll publish that later this year, too.
Kelly: What is the answer to your riddle from above? (If you are reading this interview, be honest and comment below if you got it right! Or fess up if you have no idea, like me.)
Raye: One’s heart.
--Interview contributed by Kelly St. Clare, Staff Reviewer
Raye Wagner writes young adult urban fantasy with a mythology twist. She's a big fan of both the Percy Jackson series (shocker) and the Twilight saga (gasp), and those two series *might* have led her to pursue her dream of writing teen fiction.
Raye's a big believer in realistic characters and draws on her background in healthcare to ensure that her strong protagonists are believably flawed and act rationally. She loves reading young adult paranormal romance so there's bound to be some kissing in her books. That being said, Raye writes for all ages, so it's still clean romance. ;) Raye also relies heavily on her martial arts training to pen realistic fight scenes (3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do) with believable consequences.
No one is allowed to love her, except the god who cursed her...
Seventeen year-old Hope Nicholas is considered a monster. Cursed by Apollo, she and her mother scramble and hide from the demigods and shadow-monsters of the Underworld who hunt them.
Her mother is killed, and Hope flees, desperate to disappear among the mortals of a small town. When the attractive and persistent Athan Michael arrives at school, Hope's plan to stay overlooked and detached unravels. With demigods and Skia closing in, Hope struggles to trust in her new relationships, and there is definitely more to Athan than he lets on.
Faced with choices that could change her fate, Hope must decide what it really means to live--and what she's willing to sacrifice for love.
One winner will receive a signed copy of Curse of the Sphinx (Raye Wagner) ~ (US Only) ~
Three winners will receive an ecopy of their choice of Raye's books + a Sphinx swag pack ~ (US and International) ~
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*