Interview with Intisar Khanani, Author of the Sunbolt Chronicles

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Good fantasy work is hard to find. Many that are out now in the YA world are just true carbon copies of one another. You have to have a special talent in order to create unique worlds, characters, and of course just the right conflict.

I have the worst time digging into a highly acclaimed book only to have to be completely predictable and all around boring. This has happened to me too much this year. I almost took a "fantasy" hiatus, until I read the blurb for Intisar Khanani's "Sunbolt". It drew me in by page one and did NOT disappoint. "Sunbolt" is filled with action, adventure, and absolutely 0 instalove

The story follows a young orphaned girl named, Hitomi in the land of Karolene, who is not only a spunky street thief, but also one who is holding a very magical secret (And yay for non-European fantasy characters!). 
I know, I know! Orphaned chick with magical powers? What a typical fantasy trope!
Not so, I tell you! Tropes don't necessarily HAVE to be a bad thing, when they're done well. And Khanani does this extremely well. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the second half and almost threw my iPad across the room when the book ended so abruptly. Nothing that I expected to happen-did. There are some pretty noteworthy characters in this book too (*cough*cough* Val). My only complaint-the book was too short! It IS a novella, but still. I wanted to stay and hang out with Hitomi a little longer. Thank the Lord that the second book in the Sunbolt Chronicles, "Memories of Ash" will be released on May 30th. (and I got an advance copy!). You can pick up BOTH ebooks for only .99 each! You can also get a paperback version of "Sunbolt" for only 6.99! That's a pretty awesome steal for such greatness! (Yeah, I went there.)

Now, after reading such a good book, I'm honored to get the chance to also bring you guys a great interview by Intisar Khanani herself! 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background:

I'm a young adult fantasy author. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I wrote my first novel during my senior year of university because I wanted to see if I could do it–I chose a fairy tale as my plot, and retold it as a novel. While I continued to write (and edit) on the side, I spent the next ten years working with hospitals, earning my masters of public health, and then working with my local health department to improve maternal and infant health, and community health in general–which was as close as I could get to saving the world.

As my family started to grow, I decided to quit work, stay home with the kids, and develop my writing career. Someone should have told me that I was just signing up for a more flexible full-time job! I completed the 12th (or 13th?) revision of my first novel–a retelling of The Goose Girl titled Thorn – published it, and never looked back. I now have an epic fantasy series underway called The Sunbolt Chronicles, featuring a street thief with a propensity to play hero when people need saving, and her arch-nemesis, the dark mage who killed her father.

What/who inspired you to get into writing?

I can't say--perhaps all the authors out there who I've read, whose stories have inspired my imagination since I was a child? My parents were always reading to us, and by the time I was four I was reading fluently, and I haven't let go of my love of stories since. It was only natural for me to tell my own.

Which writers inspire you?

As a young duckling, I imprinted on the early works of Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley. I actually haven't read much by them lately, but way back in middle school I stumbled across their particular brand of strong heroines, and knew I'd found the kind of stories I wanted to write. 

Where did the idea for your current book come from?

I've just finished final edits on Memories of Ash, the full-length sequel to my novella, Sunbolt. This has been a challenging series to write because it has changed so much over its writing, and has been anything but linear. Sunbolt actually began as about a ten-page short story that didn't have an ending. That story haunted me for a couple of years until I was traveling overseas to be with my in-laws during a family illness. As I stayed up each night to sit by the sick bed, I pulled up that story, and both Sunbolt and Memories of Ash came pouring out of me in the space of two weeks. I don't know precisely where the storyline came from, but I fell completely into it. Interestingly, since that initial draft, the stories have changed and developed immensely, and there's not a single word left of those first ten pages. 

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Hitomi is an interesting character for me to write. She falls into some of the basic character tropes of fantasy: she's an orphan, she has an amazing magical talent that she's hiding, she's a street thief. I don't much like fantasy tropes, so what's fun about these is I get to play with them. Is she really an orphan? Is it really all that great to have an amazing magical talent? And if you're a street thief and no one cares whether you live or die, how awesome is that? But Hitomi is also super scrappy and extremely loyal. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and no matter how much she gets knocked down, she keeps getting up. Perhaps the best thing about her, though, is she keeps thinking and learning as she goes.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

A bit of both. I have a general outline / story arc I know I want to follow, but I don't plot too closely. My imaginative side tends to get stifled when I micro-plot, so I let myself write with particular goals in mind, and see what comes out in the story.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Sitting down every night to work. Seriously. Back before I wrote nightly, I had time for movie nights, and lots more books, and random games, and ... geez, life was different. But writing a story that you want to immerse a reader in? You have to immerse yourself. And editing it? You have to do it day in and day out to get something worth publishing. I do a minimum of five revision passes on anything I write, sometimes more. It's painful. It's necessary. And I really miss my movie nights. :)

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I do try to read at least a half hour every night (often ends up being more because... shh! No one knows I'm awake!). I'd be hard pressed to pick favorite authors, but lately I've been enjoying some awesome reads by indie authors like Andrea K. Host, W.R. Gingell, and Rabia Gale.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

Both! I like an e-reader for staying up late with hardly a light on. I like print books because... print books. I grew up with them. I like the feel of them, the smell of them, the reality of them. I like flipping pages. But I don't have much space for them, so most books I buy are e-books, most books I borrow are print, and only the books I love with all my heart will I buy print editions.

What book/s are you reading at present?

I just finished Dragon Rose by Christine Pope--it was interesting take on Beauty and the Beast, and I'm curious to see how Pope develops as an author. There were some pacing issues, especially at the end, and the book would have benefited from a light copyedit, but I found myself enjoying the story overall.

What is your favorite book and why?

Hands down, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Persuasion is a close second. I just love the humor and wit of these stories, the depth of emotions at play, and the characters. 

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Book Links:

Amazon: (all marketplaces)

I thank Intisar so much for her time, and even more for sharing her wonderful art with us! I highly recommend this series for my true fantasy lovers! I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars! I'd give it more if I could! 
*I received this in exchange for my honest review*

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