Sunday, August 3, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with 'Two Empty Thrones' C.H. MacLean

To young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.
With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.” C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality.

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. 

“Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

C. H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

His latest book is the YA fantasy, Two Empty Thrones.

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About the Book:

With her powers growing every day, fourteen-year-old Haylwen Rightad thinks she’s safe in the magical forest. And now that she finally has the friends she
always wanted, what is there to be afraid of?

But she’s not out of the woods yet. Old enemies rip through her beloved forest, threatening to haul Haylwen and her newfound friends away. Their safety shattered, Haylwen and her friends are suddenly at each other’s throats. Is the friendship she worked so hard for already ruined, or is there another, unseen enemy at work?

Haylwen and her brother must unmask this mysterious enemy before they can fight it off. But even if all their enemies are destroyed, the King of the magic users will stop at nothing to ensure he’s still in power when the dragons take over the world. And he’s hidden an enemy where Haylwen would never think to look. 

If no one is what they seem, who can she trust?

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Welcome to the book club, C.H.! Can you tell us what got you interested in the YA fantasy genre?

C.H.: I like fantasy as it allows a real exploration of an unlimited set of potential conflicts. Similarly, young adulthood is the time when life’s decisions are the sharpest, at the cusp of first discovering who you are. But I didn’t set out to write in a particular category. I really just write the stories as they come to me.

Your book, Two Empty Thrones, is the second book in the Five in Circle series.    Can you tell us a little about the series as a whole?

C.H.: As a whole, the series tells how the present world will be utterly transformed when the dragons return. We follow fourteen year-old Haylwen as she, her brother and their friends realize they not only live in this world-changing time, but could be important. Haylwen and her friends have to choose if they will safely slide into slavery or if they really are powerful enough to save the world.

Can you tell us about your heroine, Haylwen Rightad?  What are her strengths and what are her weaknesses?

C.H.: Like everyone, her strengths are her weaknesses. She's powerful, but that means she has to learn self-control, especially when you are talking about throwing fireballs. She's compassionate, but that opens her to manipulation or trying to help when it isn't wanted. Her youth even lets her ignore authority's impossibilities, which really are there for a reason. Time travel and matter manipulation really are inherently dangerous.

Can you tell us a little about the secondary characters in your book?

C.H.: Haylwen's brother, Cadarn, is an asocial nerd but even more powerful than she is. Her parents, Abrennin and Crystyn, each have a complicated past with a Romeo and Juliet story. A couple other favorite minor characters are Feabee O'Park, Crystyn's friend, and her twin boys, Oakren and Doakren, and Tommy, another of Haylwen's friends with a dark past. Then there are the dragons...

They say every book has a pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one of yours?

C.H.: Of course, I was hooked at the Prologue, but chapter three called Cold Creek, is when Two Empty Thrones really sinks its teeth in. Of course, that's literally for the characters.

What’s next for you, C.H.?

C.H.: I am just finishing writing We the Three, the third book in the series. I recently finished another book entitled Fire Above, a story about a young man who dared to dream and started the first human-dragon war. It is currently going through the first round of edits.

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