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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Story Secrets: BLUE FIRE by Janice Hardy + Giveaway!

Once in a while, we fly into fantasy around here - rare, I know, but I do love fantasy, especially when I'm in the middle of writing something contemporary and want to escape into a completely different world.

Janice Hardy is here to chat about her new fantasy YA, BLUE FIRE: THE HEALING WARS Book II. (You can browse an excerpt of Book I: THE SHIFTER here.)
Way back in the D&D and fantasy game days, I used to always love to play a healer. So I find the premise of Janice's books, the dark consequences of healing gifts, to be quite fascinating. I hope you will, too. So I'm giving away an ARC of BLUE FIRE that I picked up in my travels! Details below.

Welcome, Janice!

THE HEALING WARS is the story of Nya, a war orphan who has the unique ability to heal by shifting pain from person to person. She's forced to use that ability to save her sister in book one, and ends up being drawn into a growing rebellion against the ruler currently oppressing her people and the surrounding lands in book two. BLUE FIRE is the sequel to THE SHIFTER, and it follows Nya as she deals with the consequences of saving her younger sister in the first book, and her discovery that her city isn't the only one being oppressed. And of course, things go horribly, horribly wrong.

Years ago I was playing with different common fantasy ideas, trying to turn them on their heads to find something new. I started thinking about healing and how you rarely see any consequences associated with it. It made me wonder if there could be a darker side to it, and if something always portrayed as good could be bad. That led to the idea of buying and selling pain, and how a society like that would work. The rest developed from the world building. I created the culture first, then thought about who would suffer the most in this world. That was Nya.

"The Pain Takers" idea and how it grew:
It was probably seven or eight years ago now that this idea first hit me. I did a ten-page outline called “The Pain Takers” about a boy who could shift pain, and the evil pain merchants who were after him. The story was terrible, so I stuffed it in a drawer and forgot all about it. Years later I was at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference and the presenters there were stressing fresh, original ideas. I was pitching a Prophecy Quest Novel #4 at the time, which was not very original. When I got home, I dug through my old idea file looking for something fresh, and found that outline. It was still just as bad as I remembered, but the idea of pain shifting stuck with me. I took that basic idea and started world building, and a year later I had a novel and an agent. I think it was a great example of the right idea at the wrong time, because I hadn't learned what I needed to about writing yet to make that idea work. But when I was ready, I found it again and everything fell into place.

Ideas and Inspiration
My inspiration comes from all kinds of little things more than one big one. I'll read a great story and it makes me want to write something that gives others the same feeling that story gave me. Or I'll see a movie where they use color in an amazing storytelling way and it makes me want to try something with setting. I was once inspired by a groundhog sticking its head out of a storm drain and wrote an entire short story, and even got a whole novel idea just recently from thinking up different words for "bar" for something in Shifter III. Inspiration is everywhere all the time.

The Writing Process
I'm going to use both THE SHIFTER and BLUE FIRE here since they make a great example of how every book is different. THE SHIFTER took six months to write the first draft, then three months of editing before I got my agent. We did a few rounds of edits after that (rewrote the ending twice), but it was an astonishingly easy book to write. BLUE FIRE took 15 months to write, I rewrote it from scratch five times, and we went through three more rewrites once I finally gave it to my editor. It was the hardest thing I've ever written in my life. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, period. Everyone told me second books are hard to do, and the middle book of a trilogy is the hardest thing to write, which helped a lot when I wanted to tear my hair out. BLUE FIRE was a nightmare, but it was a great learning experience and now I'm glad to have done it.

Very little of the plot changed for THE SHIFTER, though the plot was constantly changing for BLUE FIRE. But the story itself never did. Nya has the same story arc I came up with when I wrote the first book (and wasn't sure if I'd sell the whole trilogy). The story definitely evolved though, and I've learned a lot about who Nya is and how big a role she and her family played in the history of the book’s world. It's deepened considerably, which is a lot of fun. Small details that seemed like throwaway details in the first book became critical in books two and three. None of that was planned, it just sort of happened, but when you look at it, it couldn't have unfolded any other way.

Story secrets?
Hmmm.... let's just say that there are a lot of secrets being kept in THE SHIFTER and a few of them are revealed in BLUE FIRE. One character in particular, has been lying to us.

Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your process, Janice! Janice has a HEALING WARS blog for all things shifty, plus she also has a terrific writing blog, The Other Side of the Story.
Ok, readers, you know the drill. For a chance to win my ARC of BLUE FIRE, comment below about one of the following: a) why you'd like to read it, b) what you might do with a healing gift or c) what kind of consequences you imagine a healing gift might have.
Comments close Monday at midnight!


  1. I would love a healing gift because I think it is one of the best gifts to have. Who doesn't want to help people right!


  2. I read the first one and loved it. I can't wait to read the second to find out what trouble Nya finds herself.

  3. I've never read a book about someone with a healing gift, so I'd love to read this one. I would think if you had this gift, it would be hard to choose who should be healed.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  4. Why would I like to read her books? Because she's Janice "ABS" Hardy :-) (Awesome Burrito Supreme-inside joke). Seriously, I want to read her books because I'm a huge follower of her blog. She's my go to blog when I have any question/problem/doubts about anything regarding the writing process. I'm a fan of her blog, so I know I'll be a fan of her books.

    What would I do with a healing gift? Wow. I think it would have to be to heal all young children with life threatening illnesses. It kills me to think that a five-year old would have to go through Chemo treatments and be bed ridden and hospitalized for months and months at a time. They're just too new to the world and it's not fair.

    Consequences... I think being a healer could have major consequences. Especially if people know about it. The bombardment of people who would be asking for help. Sick people, injured people, people on the verge of death. I don't know if it's anyone's place to interfere with the natural order/happenings of things. And then how do you say no to someone who is dying or hurt, but you don't like them because they don't stand for what you do, or they committed some horrible crime. I wouldn't want to be the one to have to make that decision. It's kind of like playing God.

  5. If I had a healing gift, I would heal my friend. So that he won't have to go to the hospital again.


  6. I forgot to say thank you to Janice for sharing this information regarding her process and mindset in coming up with her stories. So interesting!

  7. Ah, healing is great, but what if it could also be used to hurt people? That was what drew me to the idea. To take something so inherently good and turn it on its head. And Nya wants most to help people, so having the ability to also hurt them was really hard ion her and fun to play with as a writer.

  8. I'd like to read Blue Fire, because I just bought The Shifter, and I'd like the next book in the series to read after. Also, I will be passing these books down to my daughter when she is old enough to read them. (She's just starting to read MG now.)

  9. I would love the healing gift.
    bkhabel at gmail dot com.
    I would use it to relieve suffereing and pain.

  10. Thanks for all of the thoughtful comments, everyone! I think one of the most fascinating ideas is that Nya doesn't eliminate pain but rather can shift it from one person to another. In essence it's a story about sacrifice. Not really something we think about, but even the smallest decisions have a cost.

  11. Wow, two of my favorite authors together. How awesome.
    1. I'd love to read Blue Fire because I loved The Shifter. And I've read a number of blog interviews by Janice on how to do a sequel right and I'd love to see how she did it.
    2. I'd love to have the healing power of healing lung problems so that I could heal my husband's chronic lung problems and he could get off steroids and oxygen. I'd heal others too.
    3. This would hugely impact our lives because we could do things that take walking and energy. I know it would impact other people with lung problems too.

    I hope I win. Thanks both of you for the contest.

  12. I'm going to be honest, I want to read Blue Fire because Janice Hardy's blog is awesome. Really, you'd think everything that could be said about writing has been said, but Janice says it better. I love the idea of healing power and how it could be used to hurt. So, yeah, please, please pick me, o random generator overlords?

    PS, email is janinesclayson@gmail.com

  13. I want to read this because I love fantasy books and the storyline is really unique. Please count me in if this is international.


  14. I would like to read this book because the idea of healing and its consequences intrigues me.

  15. With a healing gift, I'd probably just heal anything that needed healing if there were no consequences or limitations. If there were, I'd only use my gift if it were absolutely necessary.

  16. I just read The Shifter - loved it! - and I can't wait to read Blue Fire! :)


  17. Aw thanks, you guys! It's really interesting to see the comments on what folks would do with a healing gift.

  18. I would love to read this because I'm totally intrigued by the premise now!


  19. If had the gift of heal the first thing I would do is heal a couple of friends who are quite sick. Then I would probably volunteer at the local hospital for a couple of hours a week.
    The problem would be both the overwhelming hate and love you would recieve from people and the sense of guilt aover all the people you don't have the time or opportuinity to help.