Hi guys! I am a HUGE fantasy fan now. I used to have a strong dislike for the genre, but I’ve magically been converted as I read more books full of magic. One of the street teams I have been really active in this year is the Relay Riders for Mindee Arnett’s latest book Onyx & Ivory, which is super epic. Check out my review here on why you should read it! Today I invited Mindee on the blog to talk about Onyx & Ivory, and I hope you enjoy this interview!
About the Book
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime. Cast out of the noble class, she now works for the royal courier service. Only those most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.
And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan mysteriously massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormane, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget, after he condemned her father to death. With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin uncover secrets, both past and present, to face this new threat of drakes who attack in the daylight and the darker menace behind them.
1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
My love for writing grew out of my love for reading and story in general. As a child, I started off telling myself elaborate stories with my toys, and when I hit the sixth grade my teacher gave me my first short story writing assignment. Once I figured out that “story” was an actual world I could get to just by putting my pen to paper, I knew I wanted to go there again and again. And that’s why I love it so much—it’s an escape into another world.
2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?
Gosh, I have so many. Early on my biggest influence was adult fantasy writer Jennifer Roberson. Before her I loved Roald Dahl, Walter Farley, and C.S. Lewis. Nowadays one of my favorite writers is Maggie Stiefvater. I adored her Raven Cycle series as well as The Scorpio Races, and I find her writing very inspirational.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
Writing is a full-time job for any writer that’s actively publishing. But for me, I do have to hold down a regular full-time job in addition to the books. That definitely keeps me very busy, but in my free time I’m either hanging out with my family or riding my horses.
4. Your latest YA fantasy novel Onyx & Ivory, which released from Balzer and Bray back in mid-May, is set in two points of view: Kate, an outcasted Relay Rider who possesses an outlawed magic, and Corwin, a crown prince scarred by past failures and mistakes. What are some of the biggest challenges of writing in the points of view of two unique characters? Would you consider yourself to be more like Kate or Corwin, and why?
Going into the book, I honestly had no idea how hard it is to write two points of view. I learned a lot about that process through this book—although I’ve still got plenty to learn. One unique thing about the story is that Kate and Corwin both have complete story arcs that intersect with one another but also standalone. Of the two, I relate to Kate a little more than Corwin. If only because she is a perpetual outsider. She never feels like she belongs in any of the groups she inhabits, and that’s a feeling I know well. I suffer from imposter syndrome so much. I also relate to Kate in how she has a troubled history with her father.
5. How did your devotion to horses and experiences in horseback riding and eventing influence Onyx & Ivory? Would you be a Relay Rider if you had the chance to be one?
If I lived in Rime, I would definitely want to be a Relay Rider. Since it’s still a pretty patriarchal society, I think the risk of being a rider would be worth it to have that freedom. My own riding definitely had a heavy influence on the book. Even more than eventing, the sport I do now, a lot of it came from endurance riding, the sport I competed in growing up. Endurance riding is long distance racing, with races starting out typically around 25 miles and going up to 100 in a day. I didn’t do those long ones, but I did plenty of 25 and 40 mile rides and that experience helped create the Relay.
6. The magic system is probably my favorite element of a fantasy novel. Why do you believe magic and imaginative realms have such a universal appeal to readers? What kind of magic would you have in the Kingdom of Rime?
I have a feeling I would be a magist. By default, their magic requires a lot of study and a sort of academic and workmanlike approach to magic as they imbue spells on everyday objects. That sort of studious approach definitely fits my nature. I think the appeal in magic is that it makes the mundane extraordinary. We live lives of incredible repetition and sameness, but the magic in fantasy creates a break from that, a chance to see the world as something new.
7. How was writing Onyx & Ivory different from writing The Arkwell Academy series or the Avalon series? In what ways has your writing process evolved since your first book?
My process has evolved tremendously since those early books and I think the later books are the better for it. Going into my first published book, The Nightmare Affair, I really had no idea what I was doing. I wrote on instinct and made a lot of mistakes. These days, I’ve armed myself with a lot of knowledge about story structure just the overall craft of storytelling. Instead of just following my instincts without any real sense of why they’re there, I can now look at those instincts with a greater understanding of why they work (or don’t) within the overall craft of storytelling. It’s very empowering.
8. As an author of both the futuristic and the fantastic, if you could only choose one, would you rather read and write only fantasy or science fiction for the rest of your life?
If I really truly had to choose—and thank goodness, I don’t—I would have to go with fantasy. Fantasy was my first love. And as much as I love spaceships, I love horses more. I also tend to have more fantasy ideas than sci-fi, but I enjoy writing in both areas equally. And in reality, I don’t think there’s honestly that much difference between them. They both deal with the fantastical.
9. How would you “sort” your characters into Hogwarts houses?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I think Kate and Corwin would both be in Gryffindor. Bonner would be in Hufflepuff, Signe would be Slytherin and Raith would be in Ravenclaw.
10. How has writing Onyx & Ivory impacted and changed you as a person?
Every book changes you just as every life experience does. With Onyx & Ivory I’ve learned how to better navigate the good and bad in publishing, the constant ups and downs.
11. What could we look forward to in the sequel to Onyx & Ivory? Are there any secrets you could share with us about your upcoming novel?
Oh, I’m so excited to start sharing news. We’ll be revealing the title this month, but I’m not sure yet about the synopsis. We’ve got a long while to go on edits at this point still. [Spoiler alert] I will say book 2 starts off with Kate and Corwin heading to Seva to retrieve Kate’s little brother. But of course things don’t go as well as they planned. In fact, things take a real nosedive, followed by a huge crash and burn—and then we flash forward to a whole year later.
12. Before you go, would you like to share any advice you have to any aspiring authors or writers?
My first advice is to make the decision right now to not give up. You’ll have all sorts of reasons to quit along the way, but don’t. Quitting is the only real failure there is. My second piece of advice is to study the craft. This isn’t something I did, and I regret it to this day. I didn’t realize how many awesome books and podcasts and websites there were out there to learn the craft of storytelling when I started, and I’ve been working hard to correct that. And lastly, protect your love of writing at all costs. Remember that’s the real reason you’re doing this—to get those stories out of your head and on the page. Make publishing the goal, but remember that it’s never the prize. The only true prize is the story itself.
Thanks so much, Mindee, for coming onto the blog!!! It was my pleasure to serve under you as a Relay Rider!
About the Author
Mindee Arnett is the author of the critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Avalon as well the Arkwell Academy series. An avid eventer, she lives on a farm near Dayton, Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals. When not telling tales of magic, the supernatural, or outer space, she can be found on a horse, trying to jump anything that will stand still. Onyx and Ivory is her first foray into high fantasy. Find her on the web at mindeearnett.com.
Have you read Onyx & Ivory? Do you like YA fantasy?
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!