E.S. Christison has written a fast-paced YA novel, The Blameless. Below is an interesting interview with the debut author:
1. You're a busy woman as a nurse and a mother of seven kids, so what inspired you to write a book? I had too much free time. Just kidding! I wrote The Blameless after having an incredibly impactful dream about a city under siege, the royal family being murdered, and a young princess escaping and fleeing for her life. I woke up with my heart racing, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. The next morning, I told my husband about it, and said, “Man, it would make an amazing book.” He responded with, “Sell the idea to Disney and make a movie out of it.” We laughed and carried on with life. But, my dream stuck with me for months. The princess burrowed into my heart and invaded my thoughts until I decided I had to tell her story.
2. What's The Blameless about? It’s about a young princess, Brie, who loses everything in one night—her family, her friends, her home, and her kingdom. She’s rescued by a group of magical people called the Blameless who receive their magical gifts after performing acts of selflessness or kindness. The Blameless take Brie under their wing and teach her to control the mysterious powers within her. Among the Blameless Brie finds purpose and friendship. She works through grief and guilt, and determines to seek justice for her family, and, one day, to take back her people’s freedom.
3. What sets The Blameless apart from other middle-grade novels? Indies Today calls The Blameless “An engaging and exciting tale, truly the perfect approachable fantasy.” The Blameless is an action packed, magical, family-friendly tale with humor and some very lovable characters. It touches on some deep subjects, like surviving loss, the power of friendship, finding a home outside of family, and good triumphing over evil. The book covers a lot of ground, and it has content that most readers can relate to.
4. Your book’s story revolves around a princess who loses her family. Why do you think so many stories feature orphans? I think a lot of kids go through tough times. They may not be orphans, but they experience unfortunate circumstances at home or at school, maybe due to illness, bullying, family dynamics, or any number of things. I myself had some challenges in my childhood—my mother had schizophrenia. We like to see an underdog fight their way through seemingly insurmountable situations, and come out on top.
5. In your book, some characters can achieve magical powers by doing good deeds. How exactly does the magic system in The Blameless work? The Blameless are a secret society of magical people who receive gifts of magic after performing acts of unparalleled selflessness or kindness. They don’t know they will be gifted with magic as a result of their good deed; it’s unexpected. They are entrusted with magic after they’ve been deemed worthy, or “blameless.” Their magic continues to work as long as they use it for selfless purposes, so it’s a very different take on a magic system. The evil villain in The Blameless has some deep, dark secrets, and discovers a way around the magic system, of course!
6. With all powers, they can be used for good or evil. How can we ensure one uses their powers for good? Well, that’s the catch in my book. The magic powers are supposed to only work when they are used for good. The evil villain finds a way around this, of course, shattering centuries of peace, and wreaking all kinds of havoc in the world of The Blameless. Kirkus Reviews calls it, “a feel-good, page-tuner,” and kids will likely just appreciate it for its entertainment, but, in addition to all the fun, The Blameless is filled with many examples of people being rewarded for their good deeds. We always have a choice between good and evil, and this story highlights the benefits of choosing the good.
7. There are dark forces circulating in your story, including a princess on the run from mysterious people who murdered her family. How does she remain strong in the face of adversity? Princess Brie is rescued by a group of powerful, yet endearing, magic wielders, and they become like a second family for her. Each of them has a different background and family dynamic, so she doesn’t feel out of place, and they band together to support one another. I’ve had MG teachers comment on how they like the different family dynamics in The Blameless. Brie’s rescuers teach her how to use magic and defend herself. Brie discovers life can be happy, even after experiencing so much loss. She finds strength and determination through her new friendships.
8. Your book is also about seeking justice and pursuing freedom. Why are these such enduring pursuits in so many books and movies? When we read, or watch movies, we do it for entertainment, for escape from daily life. Most of us want a happy ending; we want good to triumph over evil, we want justice to be served. If not, we may change the channel, or pick up another book. In my opinion, a good story starts with the main character in a seemingly hopeless situation. Then, it goes from bad to worse before it gets better. But eventually, against the odds, they end up with justice, freedom, or their happily ever after.
9. How can kids relate to your main character, Brie? Brie has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. She’s trying to master her magical abilities, but discovers she can’t control her powers very well. She often fails when attempting a task for the first, second, or even third time. Her powers don’t come easy, she’s not perfect; she has to practice and train. I think kids can relate to not being perfect and needing to put in a lot of effort when they want to be good at something. I’ve had several MG teachers recommend The Blameless for their classrooms and libraries, in part, for this reason.
10. Is there a character in The Blameless
that is based on you? While it wasn’t intentional, my friends
and family tell me I remind them of a character in The Blameless called Milly.
She’s newly married to one of my main characters, Flinton, and steps into the
role of running the house and caring for his five younger sisters who live with
them. She’s got a big heart and becomes a sort of mother figure for my heroine,
Princess Brie, also. As a nurse and mother of seven, I can relate to Milly’s
role. She experienced a tough childhood too which will come out more in a spinoff
book I plan to write. I can relate to this because my childhood wasn’t the
easiest either; my mother had schizophrenia.
11. What books did you enjoy reading as a child/young adult? Did they inspire your writings? I read a lot as a kid! Reading was an escape from some of the challenges I faced growing up. I enjoyed books with humor, like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Superfudge by Beverly Cleary. But, fantasy books were my favorite! The first fantasy book I read was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. My favorite fantasies series as a young adult was The Belgariad by David Eddings. And yes, some of the characters in my book, The Blameless, were inspired by characters from this series.
12. What are some books similar/comparable to The
Blameless? With its elemental
magic in a medieval time setting, I would say The Blameless is like a cross
between Avatar The Last Airbender and The Rangers Apprentice by John Flanagan.
The humor, action, and voice of The Blameless could also be compared to The
False Prince by Jennifer Nielson.
13. As a nurse, you sacrifice for others and offer healing. Do those characteristics come out in your characters? One of the magical gifts of The Blameless is healing. We will see this gift more in my sequel, The Tarnished, which is being released in 2022. Sacrifice comes out multiple times throughout The Blameless. An example of this happens right at the beginning of the story when my main character, Brie, sacrifices her own wishes, putting the good of her kingdom first. I personally believe when we sacrifice for others, something good or “magical” happens as a result. People feel appreciated; it makes them happy, etc. This is an underlying theme throughout The Blameless.
14. What challenges did you overcome in penning your first book? I didn’t pursue a degree in writing, I’m a nurse. For 25 years I’ve been using medical jargon and abbreviations to summarize things as quickly and efficiently as possible. Even though I’m not a trained writer, I’ve always been a storyteller. But, I quickly discovered that telling a story and writing a story are two completely different things. I had to learn this skill through a lot of trial and error.
15. Your story also shows how friends can become like family. Why is friendship so important? Friendships are powerful. Life is always richer and better when we have friends to share it with. Not everyone comes from a happy home, but regardless, we can find a sense of belonging among good friends. And sometimes, bonds of friendship can run deeper than family. In The Blameless, Princess Brie loses her parents and brother, and she feels lost without them. She’s welcomed into a family of magic-wielders where she finds love and acceptance, and she experiences friendships strong enough to make life worth living again.
For more information, please consult: https://www.eschristison.com/
Note: I was retained by the author to consult with her.
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