Today’s post comes from Nicole O’Dell, author and She Reads YA reviewer.
“In this medieval fantasy debut, idealistic servant Achan Cham dreams of becoming a Kingsguard Knight, while Vrell Sparrow disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage. She has a supernatural gift of being able to communicate to Achan without words. This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections.” –Library Journal —–Library Journal, April 2009
I’ll start right off by admitting that I’m not a big fantasy reader. I can’t remember the last fantasy book I actually read. It’s not that I have anything against fantasy or spec fiction–in fact, I just may have to start adding it to my reading list now that I’ve been completely captivated by Jill Williamson’s debut novel, By Darkness Hid.
By Darkness Hid portrays a speculative world of danger as it lives out the age-old battle between good and evil with swords and the gift of bloodvoicing. (Intrigued, yet?) So many times, as I was reading, I forgot that Er’Rets wasn’t real. That’s the true mark of great fantasy, in my opinion.
I felt myself tense up at important scenes and wanted to shield my eyes at others–nope, not going to tell you what they were. Some of the danger and extreme situations would have been over-the-top and unbelievable if they weren’t crafted so well.
The underlying Christian message is that of God’s light prevailing in the darkness. That message is skillfully woven throughout the book without being overdone.
If you have a teen who enjoys this genre, or even one who doesn’t, this is a must read. I’d actually encourage readers of all ages to pick up all three books from the Blood of Kings trilogy as they’re available.
As a bonus, Jill answered some interview questions for us, letting us look a little deeper into her life.
Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Alaska with no electricity. My biggest dream was to get out of Alaska and experience “real life.” I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I eventually went to New York City for a year to finish that degree. We moved to Los Angeles next because my husband wanted to work in the movie industry and I could do fashion there. It didn’t take long for our hearts to change.
My husband went back to school to become a youth pastor. I stayed home with our kids and started writing articles and short stories. I got hooked on writing a young adult novel. So hooked that it drove me crazy and I had to put it aside and write another story, then another, and anotherÃ¢â‚¬ ¦
We now live in Eastern Oregon where my husband is a youth pastor. Ministry is my life. Teens are a big part of that. God has allowed me to write and teach about writing and I’m thrilled about that. (Wedding dresses were a lot more work, believe it or not.)
Actually, I do believe that.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I get up and help my husband get the kids off to school. I try to have prayer/Bible study/worship time and a walk on the treadmill. My day is always better when I do all that first, but I’ve been known to skip parts of it too often. I try to write each morning, but again, I get distracted, usually by emails. I try to work on my writing until lunch, then after lunch, check emails and critique the work of others. The idea is to stop when the kids get home from school. Whether or not I do, depends on my deadlines.
Describe your surrounding while you write…
I sit in the back room of my house at a big desk covered in piles of paperwork. (My “to do” piles.) This room has a wall of windows on my right that overlooks the back yard, the John Day River, and the “mountains” beyond. It’s beautiful. (I put mountains in quotes because I’m from Alaska, and these John Day “mountains” are really more like hills in comparison. They are still beautiful.)
How did you choose your genre?
Could someone like me really write anything else? I love weird stuff. When I was nine, my parents rented a TV and a VCR and all three Star Wars movies. We didn’t have electricity, so Dad started up the generator and we watched them straight through. It was the most amazing day. I think it opened my imagination up to the speculative genre. And that same year, the first movie I saw in the theater was ET. I love to read all genres. I’ve even written some contemporary novels, but I just seem to gravitate toward the speculative stuff. When you love something, you’re drawn to it and you invest more in it. That’s true for me with my speculative stories.
With which character do you most identify?
With Vrell Sparrow. She is a girl who is pretending to be something she is not. What girl has never done that at some point in her life? Plus, Vrell has a controlling seed that comes from her own insecurities. I so have that problem too. God’s been working on me over the years and I’m learning to trust God and others, which is quite difficult and freeing. Arman is working on Vrell too. Vrell also tends to point out injustice, which is something I’m prone to do. She is also creative and extremely loyal.
6. Can you tell us about the other books in the series?
By Darkness Hid is the first book in the trilogy. It’s about how Achan and Vrell came to be in this mess, how they met each other, and how they discovered their bloodvoicing abilities.
And I’m working on book three right now. It’s called From Darkness Won and will probably be out April 2011. Sign up for my Facebook fan page or the E-zine on my website (look in the top right corner) to get updates on book three.
Where can we find you on the web and where can we buy your books?
On top of that, I run two blogs. The first is Novel Teen Book Reviews at www.novelteen.com. It’s a website that reviews clean teen fiction. This is a great resource to see what books are available in the Christian market for teens. The other blog is for teen authors, though adult authors may find some useful tips too. www.teenageauthor.com.
And if you are looking to buy one of my books, online go to Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or MarcherLordPress.com. You can also buy an autographed copy from me through my website. Many libraries have the first book and if they don’t they would likely order it if you ask. And you can request your local bookstore order my books too.
Thanks so much, Jill. I’ve loved hearing about your life and your writing area. For some reason, I’m fascinated by where authors write.
I hope you’ll all take a look at this fantastic book trailer. If this doesn’t make you want to read this trilogyÃ¢â‚¬ ¦
Jill has graciously offered a winner the choice of a signed copy of either By Darkness Hid, book number one, or To Darkness Fled, book number two in the trilogy. As always, just leave a comment on this post and the winner will be selected at random on Friday.