Debut Author Interview: Alysa Wishingrad and The Verdigris Pawn Giveaway
Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Alysa Wishingrad here to share about her MG fantasy The Verdigris Pawn. It sounds like a great adventure story with fantastic world building and characters. It’s just the kind of fantasy story that I like.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
A boy who underestimates his power . . .
A girl with a gift long thought lost . . .
A Land ready for revolution . . .
The heir to the Land should be strong. Fierce. Ruthless. At least, that’s what Beau’s father has been telling him his whole life, since Beau is the exact opposite of what the heir should be. With little control over his future, Beau is kept locked away, just another pawn in his father’s quest for ultimate power.
That is, until Beau meets a girl who shows him the secrets his father has kept hidden. For the first time, Beau begins to question everything he’s ever been told and sets off in search of a rebel who might hold the key to setting things right.
Teaming up with a fiery runaway boy, their mission quickly turns into something far greater as sinister forces long lurking in the shadows prepare to make their final move—no matter what the cost. But it just might be Beau who wields the power he seeks . . . if he can go from pawn to player before the Land tears itself apart.
Jacqui Murray has a new prehistoric fiction novel, Laws of Nature, releasing. Here’s a blurb and a few links: In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa. Though they don’t know it, they will be the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can't stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy's unique group--which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack--but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn't trust.
Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.Links:
This sweet romcom collection contains 20 original humorous novellas from best-selling authors that are heartwarming, feel-good, and laugh out loud funny.
Between the pages, you’ll find tropes such as enemies to lovers, second chance romance, high school sweethearts, opposites attract, friends to lovers, fake dating, and more.
Your pre-order purchase of this anthology will benefit Pets for the Elderly with 100% pre-order profits donated to this amazing cause, connecting shelter animals with seniors.
Don’t miss this limited edition box set, featuring some of your favorite authors, that will leave you reeling with laughter.
Interview With Alysa Wishingrad
Hi Alysa! Thanks so much for joining us!
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Hi Natalie, thank you so much for having me!
I think I was always a writer. When I was a kid I would stay up late into the night, acting out tales and adventures with my stuffed animals until I just couldn’t fight sleep off any longer. And then in college I took my degree in playwrighting. I was incredibly lucky to be mentored by some of the greatest writers in the American theater, and I fully intended to making writing my lifelong career. But in all honesty, I don’t think I was ready to do the incredibly hard work to get there. And so I followed a different path in the entertainment industry for many years until I stepped off to have a family.
I found my way back in by way of a cooking show for kids I was pitching with a friend. This is some years ago back when my kids were still quite young. But through the development of this show I began to read more and more middle grade literature – and of course, I was reading with my kids too. The richness of these stories brought me back to that time of my life when books were a lifeline and brought the world of ideas to me. I started writing a story inspired by that cooking show, and . . . I was hooked. I love writing for middle grade readers, they’re just the smartest and most in-tuned people around.
2. Where did you get the idea for The Verdigris Pawn?
The idea was born during a writing workshop I was taking. We were given a prompt – I think it was, “Tsk, tsk, poor little boy.” And as is the way with some prompts, my mind took hold and ran with this image of a boy being raised alone in a large manor house by an old man. The idea grew and developed from there as I began to explore what it means to be “the chosen one,” and how privilege and power shape and can re-shape society.
3. I don’t do well with prompts, but it’s awesome that it helpd you with th idea for your book. World building is important in a fantasy. What was your world building process like?
I knew from the beginning that this story had to take place in a pre-industrial time and place. What began as a vague idea began to bloom as I did more and more research. I love digging deep into the ephemera of daily life- what did people eat, what did the clothes feel like on, what did the first warm days of spring smell like? But it was also important to me that the Land feel both like a world we can recognize, and like a new unknown place.
Like a character, the world began to reveal more and more of itself to me as I wrote. I hope it feels that way to readers as well.
4. How did you plot out The Verdigris Pawn? What did you learn about what worked and what didn’t from your plotting process?
I am not a chart maker, nor do I consider Excel a friend of mine, although I stand in awe of authors who do.
What I do is tell myself the story of the story. The usually involves taking a brand new notebook, my favorite pencil and writing out what happens from beginning to end. I don’t worry about voice or dialogue I just want to know what happens. Where do we begin, and where do we end, and how did we get there? Consider it a poorly written synopsis.
But what it does is allow me the freedom to follow my characters and my imagination, to play without getting hung up on the sentence level. There’s something about writing on the computer that makes me feel like each sentence, paragraph, page and chapter has to be perfect (for that draft) before I can move on.
Once I know the story of the story then I can begin drafting.
Nine times out of ten I never go back to this outline again. Things will change, drafting will take the story in new directions, but this initial map lives in my head and acts as a north star of sorts.
5. I’m not an Excel or chart fan either. Beau, Cressi, and Nate sound like such memorable characters. Do you have a favorite? Why? Share one thing that you really like about each of them.
I love them all, and I admire them all.
I love Beau for his open and tender heart. His willingness to listen, to learn, to grow. And for his willingness to face down what his father expects him to be. It takes a depth of bravery to refuse the roles your family expects you to fulfill, to stand up and say this is who I am and who I intend to be regardless of your expectations, or assumptions.
Cressi knows what she knows deep in her bones and is willing to do whatever is necessary to fight for what’s right. She not fearless, she has fears, but she doesn’t let them rule her. She listens to them, parses out the real from the imagined, and then she acts. She’s brave and kind and oh so clever. She understands the power of power, and so she never takes it for granted or even thinks about using it for personal gain. She’s a leader who understands that leadership isn’t about being in charge, but rather about inspiring others to embrace both their strengths and perceived weaknesses.
Nate’s impetuous nature is what gets him in trouble, but it’s also the spark of brilliance in him. He’s driven by his heart and the real desire to make things right for everyone. He understands how interconnected we all are and he’s willing to put himself on the line in order to make sure that everyone is safe. He’s clever and hot-headed and loyal to a fault at times.
Like the three sides of a triangle, these three both need the others and make each other stronger.
6. You have a background in theater, TV, and film. How did this help you develop your craft of writing?
I actually began my writing life as a playwright, so the three act structure is baked into my bones, as is a love for dialogue and deep character development.
And while my career in casting seemed like a detour, it also served to deepen my understanding of story-telling. Reading a script then working to find the exact right actors to bring the story to life isn’t as dissimilar to writing as it appears. It’s all storytelling.
7. That’s awesome that your writing as a playwright and in film helped you with your writing. Victoria Marini is your agent. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.
My road to publication was pretty long, although in hindsight it was probably exactly what it needed to be.
I think I spent about four years writing and re-writing and re-writing this book. I was fortunate to work with some outstanding mentors along the way. I then began querying THE VERDIGRIS PAWN on November 3, 2016 – just a few days before the 2016 election. That timing proved to slow things down quite a bit, but I signed with Victoria in February of 2017. She’s amazing and perfect for me in all the best ways. She got such a keen editorial eye and great perspective. I am incredibly lucky to have her in my corner.
We wound up doing two revisions before we went on sub a year later. PAWN sold in July of 2018 and was loosely scheduled for a 2020 release. But after meeting with my brilliant editors and talking about some key revisions, I decided to white page the book—meaning, I started over from a clean white page.
The arc of the story remained the same, but how the story unwound changed. I am so grateful they gave me the time to do so. The book is so much stronger for it.
8. What was something that surprised you about the publication process?
I’d always known that the MG book community was a warm and supportive place, but I’ve been so wonderfully surprised by the depth of kindness and connection in this community. That extends beyond writers out to teachers, librarians and bloggers as well.
9. I’m impressed with how supportive writers and book lovers are too. How are you planning to market your book? What advice do you have for other authors?
What’s most important to me is that the book find its way to readers, especially those who are ready to move on from younger MG, but are not ready, or don’t want to, move on to YA yet.
I’m looking forward to doing school visits and meeting with book clubs. I’m also looking forward to connecting with Chess Clubs. I think that FIST, the chess-like game at the heart of the book, will appeal to them. I’m also so excited to feature the rules for the game on my website!
I think the best piece of advice I can offer to any other author or writer is to not fear white paging. I know the idea of starting an entire book over from scratch strikes fear in the heart of so many writers, but there’s so much richness and depth to be found in the process! Of course it’s not always the right thing to do, but I think we know when it would serve the story best. In those cases, do not fear the white page!
10. What are you working on now?
I have two books I’m working on right now and I cannot wait until I can speak more openly about them.
Both books are upper-middle grade fantastical. Like THE VERDIGRIS PAWN they’re both set in quasi-historical time periods and have magical elements, but somehow feel grounded in a world we know and recognize.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alysa. You can find Alysa at
I’m @agwishingrad on twitter, where you’ll find me chatting about books, MG readers and how to help create a fair and ethical society.
And I’m @alysawishingradwrites on Instagram, where it’s mostly books, the writing life, and the occasional food or dog pic.
Alysa has generously offered a hardback of The Verdigris Pawn for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by July 31st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is international.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.
Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways
Wednesday, July 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway
Monday, July 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Allison Hellegers and a query critique giveaway
Sunday, August 1st I'm participating in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop
Wednesday, August 4th I have an interview with debut author Laura Rueckert and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Dragonbird in the Fern and my IWSG post
Monday, August 9th I have a guest post by debut author Rochelle Melander and a giveaway of her MG nonfiction Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing
Wednesday, August 11th I have an agent spotlight interview with Sera Rivers and a query critique giveaway
Monday, August 16th I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop and have an interview with debut author Christyne Morrell and a giveaway of MG fantasy Kingdom of Secrets
Monday August 23th I have an interview with debut author Jessica Lewis and a giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy Bad Witch Burning
Monday, August 30th I have an agent spotlight interview with
Hope to see you on Wednesday!