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?