Today we're excited to spotlight As She Ascends by Jodi Meadows. Read on for more about Jodi and her book, plus an excerpt, interview, & giveaway!
Meet Jodi Meadows!
Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.
But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.
Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.
No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.
Thirteen Years Ago
When I was four, I realized that I would never be enough.
A strange man had come to my house all the way from Summerill, the capital of Idris. When the front door shut, blocking out only scraps of the storm's rush and clatter, Mother performed her duties: offering towels to wipe off the rain, tea to warm the body, and a new reed mat on which to place his wet shoes. All this she did quietly, speaking only with looks and gestures. Aloud, Father apologized for her slowness. The man said slowness was expected when a woman could give birth at any moment; his annoyed tone, however, outweighed his polite words.
After all the proper welcome rituals were finished, Father introduced me. Not my sister, although she stood at my side, as still and soundless as a held breath. I lifted my chin, as expected of the boy of the house. But of course I spoke not a word. Today, of all days, I was meant to be silent.
More than silent.
The man strode toward me, his footfalls hidden under the rain that pattered endlessly against the house. The Isle of Silence had two seasons: the dry season and the wet season, and the wet season was always, always loud.
As the man peered at me, I stuffed down a whimper. A choke of worry. A breath that might be too loud. I pushed it all deep inside my stomach, locked away in an imaginary box that resided there, because I was certain he would be able to hear any noise I made, even with the rain beating the walls.
Strength through silence, I prayed, but the man's scrutiny was like fingernails scraping my skin, harder when thoughts turned into words. So I put prayers in the box, too.
Perfect silence: unattainable by mortal men, but demanded nonetheless.
My heartbeat was thunder in my ears; he must have heard it, too, because abruptly he spun and his attention returned to Father. Freed of his sharp stare, I didn't dare make a sound in relief. I just faded into the background with Korinah and wondered if that was all, or if there would be another test.
With the expression of a most obedient son on my face, and my hands twisted behind my back, I tapped ::Strength through silence:: over and over, as though Idris might look up from his bed in the sea and suddenly find me worthy.
Had the god of silence found the strange man's companion worthy?
The man had a boy with him, just a year or two older than me, though besides their light brown skin, the pair didn't look anything alike. Where the man was round, the boy was narrow. And while the man's facial features were all spread out, the boy's were squished into the center.
Yes, I decided. The man must have gone to that boy's home, squinted at his face, and deemed him not just satisfactory, but worthy. Silent enough to be taken.
But silence had little to do with manners, at least as far as the boy was concerned, because he prowled the edges of the room until his brown eyes settled on Korinah, who was still very small for a two-year-old. Then he smiled, his boredom and apathy transforming into keen interest.
Korinah tensed, and I quickly shook my head at the boy, hoping to warn him off.
But he pinched her.
My sister flinched, closing her eyes and swallowing hard, but she didn't make a sound.
He pulled one of her curls.
She winced and sidled toward me, and I put myself between them, tapping in the quiet code for him to quit bothering her. But the other boy was bigger. He simply reached over me and tried to poke her left eye.
"Stop," I hissed, underneath the thrum of rain.
Until that point, the entire exchange had been soundless. But at my word, all the adults looked over, deep frowns crossing their faces.
::He was trying to hurt her,:: I explained in hurried quiet code, but it was too late. I'd spoken aloud. In front of a guest. An adult guest.
It didn't matter that the other boy had been cruel to my sister, or that I'd used my voice to stand up for her. It mattered only that I'd broken the first high law of Idris:
Strength through silence.
First it was the basement. Later would come the beating.
There, as close to Idris as I could possibly be, I learned about silence.
In a society that valued silence most of all, every book was next to holy. They possessed the ability to convey words and thoughts and meaning across time and space, without uttering a single sound. Books were for the wealthy, though, so my family had none—save The Book of Silence, of which every family owned at least one copy. The holiest book of all. Idris's words, silently spread on sheets of paper so soft that they didn't so much as whisper against one another when the pages were turned. Every evening, Father read the book's stories and teachings aloud, while Mother tapped them in quiet code.
The Book of Silence, as expected, had a lot to say on the subject of silence. Hand-copied pages were scattered on a table in the basement, with a pencil and pile of empty papers next to them. Waiting for me. Though I couldn't yet read well, I could copy letters, and I knew what these pages were about.
Primarily, they instructed on reflective silence. In traditional music, the silence of every instrument was meant to allow the listener time to reflect on the note that just ended—to be joyful or frightened or worried. This silence heightened tension.
And they instructed on submissive silence—only one or two instruments playing while the others sat at rest. It forced the listener to focus on what was truly important in the moment, rather than the unendurable crush of unnecessary voices.
I sat at the table and copied letters one by one. I should have reflected, as The Book of Silence instructed. I should have surrendered my voice to the adults in the room. To the grown men.
Above, I could hear the man speaking: "Thank you, but he clearly doesn't have the gift."
"Please reconsider," said my father.
"You embarrass yourself. But I should not be surprised. You have such a noisy little family." Scorn filled the man's tone. "I'll take my leave now."
I had shamed my family.
The sky went dark behind its ever-present shroud of storm clouds, and Mother came to get me. One hand curled around her belly, as though it had finally grown too big to stay up on its own.
"Are you finished praying?"
I hadn't been praying at all. I supposed that meant I was finished.
I put down the pencil and nodded.
"Then come up and apologize to your father for humiliating him." She turned and gripped the banister to haul herself back upstairs. Halfway there, she paused and looked back. Her voice was low, meant only for me. "I'm proud that you wanted to protect Korinah. But if you want a good life, learn how to do it silently, or don't do it at all."
A Chat with Jodi Meadows:
1. Who is your favorite character in the book?
If I have to pick a human -- besides Mira, since she's clearly the favorite, what with the book being about her -- it would be a tie between Aaru and Ilina. They're both so kind and supportive in their own ways, one quiet and thoughtful, and the other fierce and loyal.
But if I can pick a dragon . . . LaLa. She's a pretty great dragon.
2. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel. This is a sequel, so I knew I was going to have to write it before it ever had a title. When I was planning out the series, I had some ideas for titles for all three books, but I didn't end up using any of them. After brainstorming with my then-editor, we came up with BEFORE SHE IGNITES for the first book, and I used that as a jumping off point for AS SHE ASCENDS.
3. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
A lot of them, honestly. This book was really difficult to write and there were several parts I had to go over multiple times to get right -- not just with editing what was already on the page, but scrapping entire chapters and scenes to find the right part of the story. This whole book was such a challenge that I can't pull out just one part that I'm most proud of . . . but I can tell you a scene I'm very happy with. There's a part around the 1/4 mark of the book where Mira uses her power deliberately for the first time, and it changes her relationship with that power for the rest of the book.
4. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Everything! The cover is gorgeous! But I think what first struck me is the wind in her dress, and the way it gives a sense of movement to her. And the second thing is that hint of red on the horizon, like dawn is coming.
5. What’s up next for you?
Fallen Isles 3, of course! As She Ascends is the second book in a trilogy, so there's one more to go! And after that, I have My Calamity Jane releasing!
6. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The entire end. I knew something was wrong as I was drafting the book, and as I was revising the book all the way through the editing process, but I couldn't put my finger on what exactly was missing. But I couldn't stand the thought of leaving the reader unsatisfied, so I talked through the problem with a couple of friends, and the moment I figured out what was wrong, I started fixing it. Unfortunately, I only figured that out a week before the book was due, so I spent that entire week hunched over my computer trying to get the end in shape. There wasn't much sleep involved.
7. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I like the feeling of creating something from nothing. There's still so much possibility and discovery. But the moment words go on the page, the story begins to solidify and the possibilities narrow. And sometimes I really prefer the work of looking at what I have and figuring out how to make it better.
8. What would you say is your superpower?
Knitting. Somehow, my knitting process and my writing process are very similar. I often end up ripping out rows and rows of knitting to fix a mistake at the same time as I'm doing the same thing in my writing.
Before She Ignites
By: Jodi Meadows
Release Date: September 12, 2018
One winner will receive a copy of Before She Ignites, as well as swag (US only).