A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a book called Semester Aboard, by Elizabeth Kirke. It was such a fun read from beginning to end. So when I heard from Elizabeth again, we decided to do an interview. I hope this interview will inspire those of you who haven’t read the book to read it, and those who have read it I hope this helps hold you over until her second book comes out.
UFR: When I was reading the book, I wasn’t sure if it was intended to be a YA Book or not. As my own personal preference I have a hard time finding YA books I like, but the thing I really enjoyed about Semester Aboard was that it was enjoyable for me and I could easily see it being a great upper YA book. So my first question is Semester Aboard a YA book, or was your goal to appeal not only to adults but to the upper YA audience?
EK: Honestly, I wrote it without a true audience in mind. Semester Aboard actually started out (well, the long version is a lot more complicated, I’ll post it on my blog someday) as a “fic” that I was posting on the Original Work section of a fanfiction website. Most of the members were women between the ages of 17 and 26, so I was writing it to appeal to them. I suppose that makes it upper YA by default, but I never really labeled it that until after it was out and people started asking.
UFR: Another thing I loved about the book was the wide variety of “magics” in the book, why did you chose so many different types of “magics” for the book?
EK: Why thank you, I’m glad! That’s another part of the long history of the birth of More than Magic. I suppose I’m going to have to post that soon to explain it all! Right from the beginning I wanted a wide variety of characters and abilities. One of my favorite books growing up was The Hobbit (today is Tolkien’s eleventy-ninth birthday in fact!) and one of the things I always loved about was how there were hobbits, and dwarves, and elves, and wizards, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love books with just vampires or just witches. That said, I really enjoy books with more than just the usual collection of races. Having a bunch of different kinds of magics allowed me to really expand on the magical world and, I felt, made it a lot more fun to write.
UFR: A question I love to ask in most of my interviews is what would your books theme song be?
EK: That’s a tough one. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but a large portion of this book was written with the soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean (the first 3 in fact) playing in the background. I’ve spent hours and hours sitting on the decks of ships listening to that soundtrack, and every time I hear it it takes me back. I also hear songs from time to time and think “Oh, that’s SO this character’s theme song!” but I’m not sure if I’ve ever really thought about one for the entire book. Is it a cop-out to say that I don’t know? I think it’s too long (you wouldn’t believe how much I trimmed and I still couldn’t get it shorter! Actually, seeing how wordy these answers are, I’m sure you would.) and has too many ups and downs and changes of pace to easily attach a single song to. Maybe I should go kill some time by compiling a soundtrack!
UFR: Is there a character in the book that has a lot of your personality in it, and if so who?
EK: I think they all have a little of me here and there, although they’ve all morphed and developed into complex “people” over the years. I think most of me actually shows up in the (non-magical) events more so than the people. I often hear the advice “write what you know,” so I did. I’ve visited each and every place mentioned in the book and experienced most of the (sadly, non-magical again) things. But, I’ll throw some specifics your way, Jen shares my love of history, Dani has my taste in cheesy movies (he’s also the older brother I wish I had) , Charlie picked up his blacksmithing hobby because I worked in a blacksmith shop, Mariana and I both felt daring enough to get tattoos in South America, Thomas (and Jon) got Japanese thrown at them because I studied it in college, and TS ended up an Irish/French mutt (hah!) because the Welsh blood in me demanded a UK character and I love France. Speaking of languages, most of the characters are at least bi-lingual because if I had the time, I’d learn as many languages as I could. TS is fluent in all of the languages I wish that I knew!
URK: Jen is a so curious and has a huge desire to learn more about the magic world she kind of fell into. How did you find the balance of how much to tell both Jen and the audience about magic?
EK: That was tough. I tried very hard to stick to the “show, don’t tell” mantra, but there were times where I had to just say “This is A and this is B.” As things were explained to Jen I tried to step back and ask, “If this is as much as I say, will the audience understand?” If not, I embellished and if it was too much, I trimmed it back. I also tried to only explain what was needed. One line in particular sticks out. Jen asks TS something to the effect of “How are you colorblind during the day if you’re human?” The original answer was a long, overly wordy explanation of magic and things. I looked at it and said, you know, “I may be human right now, but I’m still a magic. And more importantly: a werewolf.” sums it up. The extra information doesn’t need to be there. The audience can fill it in for themselves.
UFR: One of the great things about you having so many characters in the circle of “magics” that the book follows, is that each person really offers a different emotional response for the reader. I loved reading TS, he really lightened up situations. Was there any one character you had the most fun writing.
EK: I’ll agree with you there, TS was loads of fun to write. It’s hard to pick any one character. I have a ball writing scenes between Thomas and Dani, those are always fun. Rak, brief though his appearance is, is fun to write too. I’d probably have to say that the most fun I have isn’t just one character, but when it’s dialogue between at least two. At the risk of sounding crazy, when I stick two characters together the dialogue just flows and takes on a life of it’s own. All that said, Dani isn’t always the most *fun* to write, but he’s got a few skeletons in his closet that make writing him very interesting. I’ve got more than a few pages lurking on my hard-drive about his life and it was very hard to resist revealing more about him than I did.
UFR: You are in the process of writing the sequel to Semester Aboard, are familiars going to play a bigger role in the next book?
EK: They won’t exactly play a bigger role, but Rak will be there from page one and throughout the book. I have a vague outline/dream (dramatic music) for the third book, in which (keep in mind the second isn’t anywhere near done yet) familiars will play a much larger role.
UFR: Jen clearly has a lot left to learn about magic, even though she got a lot of experience in the limited amount of time in this book, she has only scratched the surface. Is Thomas going to continue teaching her?
EK: Well, I’m sorry to say it, but they haven’t seen each other! Semester Aboard ends in August and the second book picks back a few months later, in January, and will be the first time Jen has seen any of the gang since the voyage ended. But don’t worry, her magic and knowledge have already come a long way! Then again, as you said, she has only scratched the surface. Thomas and the others still have a lot to teach her.
UFR: One of the things I was curious about when it came to the sequel was how you were going to get the group back together. The semester on the cruise was the catalyst for everyone being in the same place, would you like to give us some hints as to how they find there way back together.
EK: Nothing terribly complicated =) The gang likes to go on vacation together, so this time they invite Jen along. I mentioned that the story takes place in January; the plan is to spend a couple of weeks between semesters at a ski resort. Of course well…they may run into more than just moguls and ice patches…
UFR: Finally is there anything you want your readers to know about Semester Aboard or the upcoming sequel?
EK: First, I’m thrilled by all of the positive reactions I’ve been getting! I can’t say how much it means to me that people are enjoying it! You’ve inspired me to go ahead and write (heads up, it’s going to be a mouthful) the full story behind how Semester Aboard came to be. I suppose I’ll wrap things up by just saying that if people want to know more about Semester Aboard and the sequel, they can check out my facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/morethanmagic and my blog,
elizabeth-kirke.blogspot.com The first three chapters of Semester Aboard are posted on the blog. I’ve also been amusing myself by filling out internet questionnaires on behalf of the characters and posting them on my blog. They’re spoiler free, so people who haven’t read can check them out to get to know the characters, but I think people who have read it will get a kick out of them too. I also post updates on Book 2 on there, and often have coupons and free copies of Semester Aboard up for grabs. I can tell you the next free copy will be going when my page hits 400 likes (then, 450 etc etc)
Speaking of which, to thank people for reading, I’d like to offer a coupon code (which doesn’t expire for a year!). If you want to pick up a copy for only .99 cents, head over to http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79269 and enter the code, ZM56D at checkout.
And also, the first 3 people to comment on this with their email addresses will get a code for a free copy =)
Thanks so much for having me, Kate! I hope I didn’t wax on for too long!
UFR: I want to say thank you again for joining us today here on UFR. For people who haven’t read the book yet you should check it out, as well as the review of it as well: http://www.ufreviews.com/2011/12/semester-abroad-by-elizabeth-kirke.html. I think readers will appreciate the learning experience that Jen goes through as well as the adventures on the ship. There are a lot of elements within the book that appeal to a wide variety of readers, so check it out!