Friday, June 5, 2009

Into the Dread Forest . . .

by Nancy

Today we welcome back YA author Gillian Summers and her alter-egos, Michelle Roper (below left) and Berta Platas (below right). They're celebrating the launch of The Secret of the Dread Forest. This is half-elven Keelie Heartwood's third outing and the final book of the Faire Folk Trilogy.

Welcome, y'all! For those who aren't familiar with the Faire Folk, who is Keelie Heartwood, and why is she in the Dread Forest?

Michelle: Keelie Heartwood is a California girl, who discovers while living with her Dad on the Ren Faire circuit that he's an elf, and that makes her half-elf. The Dread Forest is the home forest for her father's tribe of elves.

Berta: Keelie initially doesn’t want to leave California or live with her father, and especially dislikes the Renaissance Faire. She has a lot of changes in store!

How has Keelie changed over the course of the trilogy?

Michelle: She's gone from a grieving teenager, totally overwhelmed with her new magical abilities and the discovery of the elves to someone who is learning and accepting her place in her new world.

Keelie's journey begins when she arrives at the Renaissance Faire, and she
tree allergy she's had all her life turns out to be tree magic inherited from
her tree shepherd father, Zekeliel Heartwood. As Keelie opens herself to her
magic, she discovers more and more about the trees, and her elven side.
As she learns how to balance her magical abilities with the trees, she also
grieves the loss of one parent, and getting to know her father, along with living
in a new environment. It's a lot to throw at a kid, but she handles it.

The Tree Shepherd's Daughter is the first book in the Faire Folk trilogy. It starts when fifteen year old Calilfornia girl, Keelie Heartwood has to go and live with her father on the Ren Faire circuit, after she loses her mother. At the Renaissance Festival, Keelie experiences another world within the Renaissance world, she discovers magic and that her father is an elf. And that means--she's not totally human.

Into The Wildewood continues Keelie's story as she travels with her Dad to an upstate New York Renaissance festival. She is still grieving the loss of her mother, adjusting to life with her father, and discovering her magic. To complicate matters, the elves are getting sick, the forest is not well, and the Wildwood unicorn, the forest guardian is dying.

A hawk figures prominently in this book and earlier ones. What inspired you to use it?

Michelle: At the Georgia Renaissance Faire there are raptors who cannot be released into the wild. I thought as a character, Keelie could relate to an injured hawk. Keelie is grieving for her mother and her old familiar life. An injured hawk has to grieve for its freedom and for the life it once had.

Berta: Yes, the hawk’s frustration mirrors her own. Because the hawk is half blind it can no longer hunt or fly well. Keelie identifies closely with Ariel the hawk. Hawks are so beautiful, and can be so strong and deadly. We saw Keelie’s potential that way as well. Her growing powers, if she chooses to accept them and learn to use them, will make her a force to be reckoned with. If she doesn’t learn, she’ll be just as injured as Ariel.

There's no Ren Faire in this book, as there was in the first two. What takes its place?

Michelle: We have lots of fun things taking the place of the Ren Faire. The setting of the Dread Forest allows readers to see the home forest of the elves. There is a 'human' town that borders the Dread Forest, and we created some fun characters, including a tattoo artist who reside in this unique place and befriends Keelie.

Berta: We wanted to have a Ren Faire in each book, but there was no way to cram one into this story, and it was a story that we had to tell before we went on with Keelie’s adventures. The next book definitely has a festival, as do the next two, but as Michelle said, there’s plenty of exciting stuff happening in this one. Lots more magic, for one thing.

Keelie seems to be having some romantic issues. Can you tell us a little about those?

Berta: Keelie has an ugly surprise waiting for her in the Dread Forest. I won’t say anything more about that. I will say, though, that she gets to spend much more time with Sean than she has before, since he’s not working. Elves are such workaholics. Who knew? He’ll be in the Redwood forest with her in book four, as well.

What unusual goodies do you have on Gillian’s website?

One way we connect with readers is by adding to the published stories. Gillian's website has a map of the fair from The Tree Shepherd's Daughter, and we're putting the finishing touches on a map of the fair from Into the Wildewood because readers requested it. For Into the Wildewood we also posted paper dolls of Knot the cat with various outfits, suitable for the color, cut and paste kid in all of us! At Halloween last year we posted a short story on our blog about Knot's visit to the elven pumpkin patch. As you can imagine, no good came of it.

Besides Keelie’s further adventures, what’s ahead for Gilian Summers?

We plan to write stories about Keelie's friends, too. Laurie, her old friend from California, and Raven the herb lady's goth daughter, will get stories, and so will her new friend in the Dread Forest.

What has been happening with Gillian Summers since you were here last year?

Seems as if it was just the other day! Had we announced the continuation of the series then? We’re doing three more Keelie books! We just finished an appearance at TimeGate 2009, a science fiction and fantasy convention where we hosted a launch party for The Secret of the Dread Forest, and were surprised by a group of kids who made a role playing game of The Faire Folk for a school project! It’s based on Dungeons and Dragons rules, and it’s amazing! What a huge amount of work and dedication, and so much fun! We’re wrapping up our May contest this weekend. We have two autographed copies of the new book to give away on our blog, and on June 20th we’ll be signing at the Norcross Hilton on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard at 2:30 pm, joining several other authors. The public is welcome! Romance Bandit readers don’t have to enter our contest – we have an autographed copy for you to give away here (much better odds, believe us).

For more about Gillian Summers and Keelie's adventures, visit Gillian's website.

Do you remember teenage angst? Do you like the outdoors or are you, as Keelie starts out, much more at home at the mall? If could have a magical power, how would you use it?


PinkPeony said...

Nancy...Is it even possible to be a teenager without having angst?

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I think that is a good question, I think angst is mixed in with the surging hormones of puberty.
I just love the whole elvin world that has been created. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Terry Odell said...

They didn't have malls when I was a teenager! We just hung out at each others' houses.

Helen said...

Congrats PinkPeony have fun with him

What a great post Ladies, these books sound like lots of fun who wouldn't want to be a teenager with magical powers I am sure every teenager at sometime in their life dreams of that.

Angst in teenagers I remember that from my four children there is only 6 years between the eldest and youngest and there were some fun times in our house.

I love the outdoors and have never been a mall person I really don't like shopping.

As for magical powers I would love to get my housework done so as I had more time to read but as a teenager maybe I could have used it on some teachers to give me better marks LOL.

Congrats on the release Gillian and thanks Nancy for inviting Gillian back.

Have Fun

Joan said...

Hi everyone! (Michelle, Berta and
;-) Gillian)

I thought this series sounded fantastic on your first visit and am beating myself up that I never got to ordering them! Will remedy THAT this weekend!

Elves....yup. Went looking for them in the forests of Ireland. :-)

As to outdoors or mall? Well, depends on the weather. Ky has been seeing a lot of BEAUTIFUL sunshine, low humidity days and I've been out in that a lot. But come July? A A/C mall sounds fine to me.

Arwen said...

Hello Bandits,

It's Michelle Roper a.k.a one half of Gillian Summers. I know my blogger name says Arwen. Arwen is my Siberian husky's name, and she has a blog. Yes, my dog has a blog. Do I have a blog? No. You would think I would do something about that. It's on my to do list.

Arwen has all the angst and attitude of a teenager. If I've done something to garner her majesty's displeasure, she gives me a long drawn out sigh and turns her back to me. If I can't see you, then you don't exist is the mesaage she's sending me.

As for being a teenager with angst, it goes with the territory.
I have three kids ranging in age from 27 to 13, so I've had a constant supply of teen drama for fourteen years straight. I figure I have six more to go. Twenty years of teens. If I sit down and really think about it, makes my eyeballs roll around indepenpendly in their sockets.

I want to say thank you to Nancy and to the rest of The Romance Bandits for letting Gillian be your guest today.

PJ said...

Hi Gillian! (You too, Berta and Michelle!) Welcome back to the lair. I enjoyed meeting both of you at M&M last fall and hope to see you there again this year. I haven't read the first two books in this series yet but the girls who received the signed copies I bought at M&M love Keelie and her adventures. Maybe they'll loan the books back to me for a bit so I can catch up with the story. :)

I remember plenty of angst from my teen years but a whole lot of fun too. I grew up in pre-mall days and was definitely an outdoor girl. Still am. The closest mall to where I live now is 40 miles away.

Louisa Cornell said...

Congrats, Pink! Have fun with our own fey creature - the GR !

Hello Gillian Summers and all your incarnations. This series sounds like so much fun. I have a teenaged niece and I can see now she WILL be getting these books for her birthday. They sound right up her alley. Especially the teen angst part. Her brother doesn't call her The Drama Queen for nothing!

It has been a LONG time since I was a teen, but I do remember a lot of angst and worry from those years. I was a real geek - a brain, musician, training to be an opera singer in a world where the Eagles and Chicago ruled. (Am I dating myself?) One of my best friends was the quarterback of the football team who was considered the high school hunk, but was actually a closet intellectual.

I love the world you have created and I have a special fondness for Renaissance Fairs. I've attended some in England and the one in nearby Georgia a number of times.

The world you've created sounds fascinating. How hard is it to create an entire world for your stories? How do you keep track?

Arwen said...

Thanks for everyone for your wonderful comments on the series. Writing the Faire Folk trilogy has been a lot of fun.

As for creating our world, we knew
we wanted to have the setting a Renaissance Faire. Berta has been
active in the SCA, Society of Creative Anachromisn, a re-enactment group, and I've been attending Renaissance Festivals for years. Love them. Between our two brains and our experiences, we created a unique world.

I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give for worldbuilding is keep a story bible. A story bible is a separate notebook, or it could be a computer file, where you keep
important information of our your world, like the color of your character's favorite shoes. In our case, the location of different shops in the different faires is important. Trust me, keep a story bible; otherwise,(coughing into fist) you'll be searching through your previous books asking yourself questions like what color eyes did that cat have?

Laurie said...

A teenager always looks for peer acceptance , struggles with their identity and decisions about their futures.

I just survived 4 kids getting throughHS Girls have a harder time!!

I prefer the outdoors I absolutely HATE shopping!!

Magical power- grant worldwide PEACE!

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, congrats on taking home the rooster! That's a good point about teen angst. It does seem to go with the territory.

Nancy said...

Dianna, glad you like Keelie's world. I've enjoyed it immensely, and I love the way the stakes have risen, along with Keelie's power, in each book.

Surging hormones of teenagers are one reason I didn't decide to teach at the middle school or high school level--didn't want to have to deal with a mass of kids going through that.

Nancy said...

Terry, I remember when one of our local malls opened. It was a huge deal with its skating rink and food court. And now it's practically derelict as that side of town has gone downhill. It's sad.

Nancy said...

Hi, Helen--

I'm not a big shopping fan either, in the sense that I don't like to go to store after store, trying on a bunch of garments just for the heck of it. I like to have in mind what I need, find it as quickly as possible, and go.

Unless it's a bookstore. The dh's sister-in-law once dropped me at a huge independent bookstore in their city while she ran errands. When she came back, I had hardly moved because I was checking out every book in the sections that interested me. (If you're curious, she found me going between the military and history sections.)

I think the teenage desire to be special, particularly at a time when they often feel out of step with their peers, is part of the appeal of Harry Potter and of a lot of YA fantasy and SF.

There's a wonderful series by Diane Duane I read some years back, YA fantasy. The first book is So You Want to be a Wizard. I read the first three and enjoyed them but stopped after that.

M. said...

That is a BEAUTIFUL cover! At one glance you can tell the story involves a young protagonist, elf, and forest. What a refreshing change.

Nancy said...

So, JT, did you actually find any elves in Ireland? Inquiring minds want to know.

I think one reason I prefer the indoors is that I'm not good with plants. I pretty much kill them. If the dh didn't have a green thumb, we'd have nothing growing in our yard but crabgrass.

I do have fond memories, though, of poking around in the woods near our house when I was growing up. The dh's family lived on the side of a mountain, so he had lots of forest to explore. I sort of regret that not being part of the boy's life.

Nancy said...

Michelle, good morning! Where can inquiring minds locate Arwen's blog, which I hear is hilarious?

Isn't it funny how dogs do that "I don't see you, so you're not there?" thing? It's sort of like little kids with the "I don't see you so you can't see me" thing where they "hide" by covering their eyes.

Our first dog did something similar whenever she realized we were preparing to go out. She'd lie down and present her tail to us. She did the same thing to the Christmas tree every year. We like big trees, so we have to rearrange the living room every Christmas. I don't know whether she resented the attention the tree got, didn't like the room being rearranged, or both, but she'd lie down in the dining room archway with her rear toward the tree and not look at us for hours.

Twenty years of teenagers--the mind boggles!

Nancy said...

Hi, PJ--I loved the first two books, too. I scored an early copy of Book 3, which I planned to read while we were on vacation this week. However, the dh wanted to show it to someone at work, so I loaned it to him--and he left it at his office! Aaargh.

I've phoned him to remind him to bring it home today so I can actually read it. I did start it before he whisked it away, and the beginning is great. We also seem to be picking up on the hawk's story again, which I love.

Nancy said...

Louisa, if it makes you feel any better, I also saw the Eagles in concert, and my high school band buddies in the brass section went nuts for Chicago ("25 or 6 to 4?" What does that mean?).

I was a geek, too. Still am. I liked to poke around in the woods but was terrible at tree-climbing, in part due to a fear of heights.

Nancy said...

Michelle, the story bible sounds very practical. I think TV series do that, too. And I'm taking your advice to map out the locations in this latest book the way "Gillian" did for the Ren Faire.

Nancy said...

Hi, Laurie--I do think girls have a harder time. Boys can be mean, but girls can be downright cruel, especially in the teen years.

Bringing world peace would be a great magical power!

Nancy said...

M, isn't that a great cover? All the books in the Faire Folk trilogy have that girl on the cover, and her face is progressively larger on each one.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Gillian! I'm peeking out of the cave long enough to wave hi, and say how much I enjoy your books!


Love the Ren Faires, although I've never been to the Georgia one. :>
Love hawks too...

Okay, back to the cave! Have fun in the Lair today.

Minna said...

Outdoors or mall? Both are fine with me.
Magical powers... To make all those ants disappear from the house. Well, I'm off to read The Shining Ones by David Eddings. I was sorry to hear he died couple of days ago.

Enigma - Beyond The Invisible

Indica - Vuorien Taa

Nancy said...

Hi, Jeanne--

I love Ren Faires, too. I've only been to our local one and the one in Colorado, but they're a lot of fun.

Nancy said...

Minna, making ants disappear would be a great power!

jo robertson said...

Welcome back, Michelle and Berta! Your series sounds so delightfully engaging. And I love the paper doll idea!

Can you give us some idea of how you two work together to complete "Gillian's" ideas?

Arwen said...

I'm an outdoor girl. Love hiking and swimming. I hate malls, and the only reason I visit our local megalith of retail is because of the bookstore and Starbucks.

If I had a magic power, I would like to write the perfect first draft on each of my books. No revisions necessary.

Pat Cochran said...

Yes,Terry, there were no malls back
in the day! Teens of today are so
unbelieving of that fact. There was
one movie theater about 2 miles away and we walked there on Saturdays, all my sibs and I. When I was in junior high school, Mother would drive us into downtown Houston and drop us off
at the movie theater.

Angst, with such a large family there wasn't much time for angst! My senior year in high school, angst did appear when I dated and was dropped by one of those supreme beings: a football team member!! Needless to say, I got
over it!

Pat Cochran

Arwen said...

Hey Jo,

When Berta and I join forces and become Gillian, we usually start out by brainstorming. Since we're critique partners, we're familiar with each other's writing style.

Usually after we brainstorm, we work on an outline. Berta takes one chapter, and I'll take the next one, and we switch off. I'll layer in magic, and she'll layer in descriptive details and so on. We continue like that until the book is finished. The result is taking two voices and blending it into a unique third one.

When you collaborate with someone, it's important you leave your drama at the door. It's all about the book. You have to respect one another, but be able to say to the other person when something isn't working in the book. For example, I don't think Knot wearing a ballet tutu in the middle of a sword fight is right for that scene.

Working with Berta has been a privelege and an honor. She's fantastic. There's a lot of laughter when we work on the Keelie books.

Nancy said...

Hi, Pat--As a way of showing my students how the world has changed, I point out that we had one telephone line, a land line, for the entire family and no cell phones. We had vinyl records, not CDs. We had no computers and it was a big deal when a third TV channel became available.

I'll have to add "no malls," as you and Terry point out. :-)

Nancy said...

Michelle wrote: There's a lot of laughter when we work on the Keelie books.

There's a lot of laughter wherever the two of you go, so finding it in the books was no surprise.

Virginia said...

Congrats Pink Peony on nabbing the bird!

We didn't have Malls when I was a teenager! I do remember my teen years though. I myself love the outdoors and hate Malls. I could spend hours outside walking and working in the yard. Right now I don't have time because working on the house.

Nancy said...

Hi, Virginia--

I envy everyone who works in the yard and produces beauty. I mostly produce dead plants. :-/

The first year we were married, we set out bulbs, which now need replacing, and they were beautiful for a while. I did that under the dh's direction, though, and he's way more plant-friendly than I am.

Arwen said...

I grew up in a small town, and we didn't have a mall. The teen tribal gathering spot back in the 70's was cruising through downtown, so everybody you saw in the halls at school could see you on the road.

I guess the mall is the teen tribal gathering spot of today, especially the food court.

Arwen said...

Hey Virginia and Nancy,

I envy anyone that can grow anything.

I have a black thumb. My children have forbidden me to buy plants. It's unfair to the plant if you buy it, Mom.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jen, congratulations on the chook!

Gillian and Nancy, just swinging by to say great interview. Love the trio of guests! Congratulations on the new release, Gillian!

Nancy said...

Michelle, I also grew up in a small town. We didn't really have a teen gathering spot. We hung out in people's family rooms, mostly.

One summer, the bridge-playing parents undertook to teach us, perhaps fearing we had too much time on our hands even though many of us had jobs. We played fanatically in the evening and were actually pretty good. I suspect I couldn't even count cards now, though.

Berta said...

I check the blog at 8:00 am and say, "nice!" Check it again at 4 - and HOLY COW! I feel as if I'm late to a fun party. Michelle's answered ably for us both. We've done enough personal appearances now that we just eye each other (when we're in the same room) and with a glance know who's going to answer, and what she's going to say!

We have a lot of fun writing the Keelie series. I'm so happy it's going to continue. I'll save my comments on angst and malls for a separate post, lest this become an essay. Thanks for inviting us to join in the fun here!

Nancy said...

Berta, I like the picture.

You gotta be quick around here. It's a happenin' place. *g*

Berta said...

Excuse the icon with the generic lady in the suit. That's my business alter ego, for when I blog about paycards and cutting payroll costs. :)

Re angst - I've always been fairly easy going, so nail-biting angst was never me, but I saw it in my friends, and in my daughter and her pals. I have angst now. Writer angst. Mortgage angst. Will-my-kids-survive-to-adulthood-because-I've-had-it-up-to-here angst. Luckily, now I'm old enough for a glass of wine, to counteract that grumpiness. Okay I said wine to impress you all with my ladylike charm. It's actually beer and martinis.

Re malls - First mall I ever went to was Perimeter Mall, which is still running happily upscale in Dunwoody, Georgia. Back then, it had a cow pasture next door, and horses would run up to the barbed wire fence and laugh at us when we piled out of our clown car (six girls, one Gremlin - that was the car, not something out of folklore) when we went shopping. We still preferred to hang out in basements with ping pong tables and bean bags. No TV, just records.

Arwen said...

It's amazing what we did back in the day to entertain ourselves. I can relate to the game fanaticism. We use to have Monopoly marathons in my family. It's amazing how seriously we took it. "You really want to buy that hotel? Can you afford it?"

I had a job, too. I remember a lot of picnics, and on Sunday after church we had to go visit grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins.

Arwen said...


Nice suit in the icon :)

Nancy said...

Michelle, I loved church suppers. I still remember Mrs. Caldwell's cupcakes with Hershey bar icing. Yummm. I looked for those, going down the line. And the church always had Nehi grape or orange for the kids, iced tea for the grownups.

Nancy said...

Wasn't there something about Keelie and custom-made boots in one of the books? Remind me, "Gillian?"

Arwen said...

Nancy, Gillian here.

Yes, there are custom-made boots in INTO THE WILDEWOOD. Upon arriving at the Wildewood Faire, Keelie is delighted to discover a
bootmaker next door to her father's shop. These aren't ordinary boots, these are hand-tooled leather boots with leaf shaped buttons. They're very expensive and appeal to her inner-mall shopping self.

Keelie decides she has to have a pair. So, she orders them thinking it's no big deal. She has a trust fund. However, her father tells her she has to be financially responsible, so he tells her she has to get a job to pay for the boots. This is the catalyst that begins a series of unfortunate jobs in the faire for our heroine.

The boots in the book were inspired by a wonderful bootmaker, who used to be at the Georgia Renaissance Faire, years ago.

Berta said...

Funny how after writing those boot scenes I got a craving for custom boots... Now I want Victorian high button boots.

Berta said...

re games: At our house it was Chinese checkers (on a thin metal board that banged like a drum when you moved your marbles. It had built in plastic drawers that would get stuck so that when you finally yanked them free, the marbles would shoot across the room. What fun!

Parcheesi and Scrabble were also big. My family had no patience for Monopoly. We played cards though, and Canasta is still rip-roarin' fun at gatherings.My daughter is a card shark.

Berta said...

Another comment about malls, and a tease for the next book - In The Tree Shepherd's Daughter, Keelie pines for retail therapy and her father finally takes her to a mall, which makes him very sick. Full-blood elves don't do well surrounded by concrete and steel.

In the fourth book, which we turned in this year, Keelie returns to LA for a brief trip and finds that she's changed more than she'd thought. We had a load of fun sending Keelie to LA with Sean. And Elia. LOL!

Nancy said...

Michelle and Berta, I can't have a shoe fetish. I have such a narrow foot that my choices are always limited. So I go for purses instead.

Berta, my grandfather and I used to play Chinese checkers. I still have the board and marbles, but I don't remember the rules anymore.

Berta said...

Nancy, I'm so glad you still have all your marbles *chortle* Next time I'm in Charlotte I'll teach you the fun rules. Much more fun with three or four players! And custom boots are perfect for a narrow foot. You'll definitely get your $900 dollars worth!

Nancy said...

You know, I probably could get custom boots to fit. Duh!

The dh is finally home with my book. Skimming through it quickly, I get the impression all does not go well as Keelie meets other relatives she didn't know before. Hmm.

sherrinda said...

What a gorgeous book cover! I know we aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but THAT cover draws me in completely!

I wasn't so much a mall girl growing up, but we had 5 acres of wooded area behind my backyard that I explored and "dreamed" in. It was a perfect place for elves and faery folk to exist in. :)

Barbara Monajem said...

I love Knot's clothes! (Knot is my favorite character. He is just so cool.)

Your forest pic looks a lot like the forests in BC where I grew up. Huge firs and cedars and lots of moss. Sigh.

Nancy said...

Sherrinda, I love that cover. All three covers have that young girl's face on them but with a different leafy border.

I envy you the five acres. The woods around us were mostly vacant lots, never more than a couple of acres in one place.

Nancy said...

Barbara, I didn't realize you grew up in BC. How neat!

I love the paper dolls, too, and I envy that nice map on Gillian's webpage.

Gannon Carr said...

Hi Gillian (Berta and Michelle)! :) I so enjoyed meeting you at M&M. I bought the first two books to save for my daughter---she'll probably read them this year, but I think I'll borrow them first. ;)

Of course, I remember teen angst. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a girl, not as much hanging out at the mall. More hanging out with my friends at one of our houses.

As for a magical power, I'd love to just "blink" myself from one place to another, a la Samantha Stevens on "Bewitched."

Nancy said...

Hi, Gannon--

Teleportation would be a pretty cool power. Having just spent a day traveling, including making connections at what felt like opposite ends of the Houston airport, with 35 minutes to do it (we're never doing that again!), I definitely see the advantages!

Berta said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! I got engrossed in writing last night and worked to the wee hours.

re acres of woods - I'm so jealous, Sherrinda, although as I kid I didn't know that the woods around the house didn't belong to ME. I thought all woods were God's woods and made free with them.

And Barbara, some of those pics are of the forests that will be the setting for our next book, in the Northwest Territory. Deep woods, that. It's where the High Court of the fae live. I should say that it's the next book we're writing. The next one to be published is set in the Redwoods of Northern California.

Berta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.