It's pretty exciting to not only welcome the co-regional advisor for SCBWI Western Washington, but also an accomplished fantasy novelist and one of the members of the original Class of 2k7, Joni Sensel!
She's here to chat about her latest, THE TIMEKEEPER'S MOON, companion to FARWALKER'S QUEST. "Joni Sensel writes like a dream," says award-winning author Karen Cushman.
In THE TIMEKEEPER’S MOON, sequel to THE FARWALKER’S QUEST, Ariel Farwalker follows a strange map and an even more mysterious voice to discover the answer to an unsolved mystery — who sent the telling dart that started her on the Farwalker’s path.
What was it like to write a sequel, and how did you develop the idea of the dart?
As I drafted the last few chapters of QUEST, I realized what the source of the dart must be, and I wanted to write about Ariel’s search for it. Also, in my first tender ideas for the book, I’d envisioned a character who was an older teen girl and a Flame-Mage. But she never showed up in the story! So when I continued Ariel’s adventure in MOON, I focused on the source of the dart and made sure Ariel found Sienna Flame-Mage on the way. I also used my love of things astronomical and stories within stories (expressed in Ariel’s necklace).
Do you have a Story Secret for us?
When it comes to secrets, two things stand out to me about these two books. The first is that secrets are a running issue for Ariel — her story starts off with one, but she’s unable to keep it. The Finders’ nefarious motives are secret for a long while, to Ariel’s grief, and she later regrets a secret of her own. By the second book, she’s completely soured on secrets, but knowing Sienna’s secret still takes a great toll on Ariel before she breaks that confidence. I didn’t realize this before working on Moon, but clearly I have a subconscious conviction that secrets are poisonous.
Which is weird, because people have described me as secretive — or at least, someone who doesn’t volunteer much information. (Although I have to say, promoting books has changed that quite a bit!) I rarely discuss writing projects at all before I have a complete draft. I can’t tell my stories OR my secrets until I’ve had them to myself for a while.
Another insight related to secrets also struck me while drafting Moon. Secrets are a form of communication — or withholding it — and I have a fascination with the inability to communicate. (This is either ironic or appropriate given my corporate communications day job.) Maybe all writers have a special relationship with communication, but it came as an “oh, wow” moment when I realized how often I write characters who are mute, by choice or otherwise, or who struggle with abnormal communication channels or senses. The hottie love interest in MOON is a mute boy named Nace, who was a challenge to write. But every one of my books and manuscripts carries this theme: strained communication with ghosts or other paranormal forces, messages coming in bottles or through the toaster, characters fighting to keep or uncover secrets. You’d think I’d figure out this life issue and move on!
But I must still be working it out. I usually realize about three-quarters of the way through a draft what the book is “really” about — not just the theme, but how the story relates to some personal issue. That’s what makes writing always worthwhile for me, even when the work doesn’t get published. And I’ll tell you a secret — QUEST is “really” about a personal trauma I had and my rather long journey learning to reconcile life’s joy and pain, love and loss, betrayal and hope. I doubt if even those closest to me would see where the analogies lie between Ariel’s story and my own. But I do. MOON follows by being “really” about the ability to relinquish and keep moving forward to create one’s own destiny. That one’s probably a little more obvious to readers.
What’s up next for you?
Right now I’m pretty excited about the current revision of my first middle-grade novel without a hint of fantasy. I’ve learned a lot working on it. And since I know it’s “really” about redemption, I hope it may redeem a few other manuscripts I haven’t been able to sell! :)
Thank you for stopping by and telling us some of your secrets, Joni!
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY:
We have one copy of TIMEKEEPER'S MOON to give to a lucky commenter - just leave a comment below about a) why you'd love to read TIMEKEEPER'S MOON, b) are you able to keep your own secrets? Why or why not? or c) how you might try to overcome a communication challenge with someone you love. Contest closes on Monday at 5pm PST, please leave a way to contact you. Happy commenting, and may the dart find you!