Today, I am honored to feature an interview with Amber Forbes, author of When Stars Die!
Amber Skye Forbes is a dancing writer who prefers pointe shoes over street shoes, leotards over skirts, and ballet buns over hairstyles. She loves striped tights and bows and will edit your face with a Sharpie if she doesn’t like your attitude. She lives in Augusta, Georgia where she writes dark fiction that will one day put her in a psychiatric ward…again. But she doesn’t care because her cat is a super hero who will break her out.
Tell us something unique about yourself.
I am a ballet dancer who has been dancing for 2 ½ years and have been en pointe for a little over a year, receiving my pointe shoes at the 10 month mark. That’s considered unusual, even for an adult, because many adults often take 2+ years to receive pointe shoes.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I suppose it was journal time in second grade. We had to write for thirty minutes in our journals each day about whatever we wanted to write about, be it a story or our daily lives. I used to be completely ambivalent about it, but then suddenly realized how cool the very act of writing was. I then decided to branch out into stories, and I knew from then on that I wanted to be a writer. I knew I had to be a writer, and I knew I wanted to be published. But I wanted to wait until I ‘grew up’ because at the time, I thought I was too young. Well, I knew I was still developing my writing skills, anyway. Now I know you can publish at any age, but your writing skills have to be pretty darn good.
The youngest person to be published, I think, was ten-years-old.
What inspired your novel, When Stars Die? What makes it special?
Well, I’ve talked a lot about what has inspired my novel, so I think I’d like to jump on what makes it special, as this isn’t a question I am often asked. What makes it special is how I use witches in my book. They are your typical witches with all sorts of spells and incantations and potions, etc.. These witches are born of the Seven Deadly Sins, and their only power is fire. However, this fire isn’t a power for them so much as a curse, as the fire marks them as a witch. Once you’re caught with fire by someone who isn’t a witch, your fate is sealed, often through death, as witches are so hated in Amelia’s world.
Another unique thing about my book is that when witches do die, they aren’t dead for good. They don’t go to some hell, nor do they go to some heaven. They turn into creatures called Shadowmen who serve the god of Amelia’s world, Deus (not to be confused with the Deus in Deus ex Machina). They serve Deus so they can Exalt themselves before him, meaning they perform such special task suited to them, so they can go to Paradise when Deus decides it’s time to end the Seven Deadly Sins. This is further expanded upon in book two, and there will be a HUGE plot twist in book three that I can’t wait to write—I haven’t even started outlining it yet, but it will be amazing.
The romance also isn’t Twilight-esque, nor is it any romance you’ll find in your typical paranormal romances. I can’t say why, as that would be a spoiler, but all I can tell you is the romance is between Amelia Gareth and Oliver Cromwell.
How did you get interested in writing about witchcraft?
I was obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials as a kid. I was fascinated by how everyone in Salem was so caught up in this threat of witchcraft that anyone who remotely seemed out of sorts was put on trial or through some pretty cruel tests that often ended up in death for them. I was fascinated by this hatred, as not very many YA witch books focused on this hatred. I think there were like one or two I read, but they weren’t classified under any particular genre, like fantasy or paranormal. It was more like realism, as in the witches weren’t actual witches, but people who were accused of being witches. So I wanted to write a genre book where witches were hated to the extreme.
Also, I was interested in Wicca at the time, but now I’m just a proclaimed agnostic who believes in something but doesn’t presume to know what that something is.
Could you tell us a little about your main character, Amelia Gareth? What was it like writing her story?
Well, in the beginning, Amelia doesn’t know she is a witch until she accidentally harms her best friend with fire. Once she finds out she’s a witch, the self-loathing starts to kick in for her. She’s vying to be a nun in the Professed Order because she hopes that by becoming closer to Deus, Deus will forgive her family of the sin of witchcraft since she knew her brother, Nathaniel, was a witch before she found out she was. She is then removed from Cathedral Reims because of a severe breakdown she has during one of the trials, and she is sent home, mostly because her parents never knew she ran off to Cathedral Reims to begin with. So she is a very indecisive character, constantly wavering between wanting to go back to Cathedral Reims and fulfilling her father’s dream for her, which is a husband and a steady home with children and all those 19th century expectations for women.
It was definitely an intense experience because there were moments throughout the book when I didn’t think it was dark enough, but I eventually got to a point where I realized that I needed to strike a delicate balance. There was an old scene in an old, old, old draft I no longer have, where Amelia goes absolutely insane, breaks her mirror, and cuts her entire body with the shards. The current Amelia is not struck with such madness, and such a scene would border on ridiculous in the current book, as in darkness for the sake of darkness; thus, I realized that I didn’t need to spend so much time trying to make it darker for the sake of doing so. I just needed to write the dang book.
If you could date any one of your characters, who would it be and why?
I hope I don’t sound like a pedophile for saying this, but it would be her little brother, Nathaniel—when he’s MUCH older of course, as he is eight in this book. He appears in the sequel as a major character, The Stars Are Infinite, and, let me tell you, he’s a beauty and I can imagine him being a serious beauty once he hits my age. Of course, I’m engaged, but, hey, you asked the question. Plus, I like Nat’s personality in the second book, even though he is extremely troubled and has a slow breakdown throughout the book. So I can’t wait for readers to meet the new Nathaniel in TSAI.
Do you have any other books in the works? What are your future goals?
Obviously The Stars Are Infinite, the sequel to When Stars Die. Alice Sheraton will be the new main character, and readers will have to analyze When Stars Die to understand why before they even read the sequel. Then there is When Heaven Was Blue, a book about a suicidal teen rescued from a suicide attempt by a puppeteer and doll maker. I hope to get back to revisions on that book next month while TSAI is being read by my assistant and beta reader, Mariah Wilson.
Then there is another book being outlined, currently titled The Hour That Winter Blooms, a story about two teens with mental illnesses trying to prove to the world that even the mentally ill deserve the love of another human being, as mentally ill people are often advised not to have relationships—but for some of us, mental illness is chronic, as in, meds aren’t properly treating it. Also, some time in December, I need to start outlining the third book to TSAI.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Just read, study the way an author writes, how said author structures the story, plot and characters, and study the writing itself. For me, I had a freelance editor whip my writing into shape, so I advise some sort of expert intervention along your writing journey—if you need it. I did.
Where do you like to write?
My favorite place to write has been in geography class because it is an abysmally dull class and I would literally throw my desk at the wall if I had to actually pay attention to the lecture. But I mostly write in bed with the comfort of my electric blanket and pillows.
Which do you prefer: longhand writing or via laptop?
Laptop, which is my surface. I longhand my outlines though.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Currently, it’s contemporary literary, anything in the vein of John Green, like Jenny Torres Sanchez.
Cats or dogs?
Cats all the way. They’re more loveable than people give them credit for, and they don’t just give their love to anyone like dogs do. Of course it’s great dogs don’t judge, but I don’t want a dog befriending a serial killer.
Warm weather climates or cold weather climates?
WARM! I DESPISE the cold.
Dinner or dessert?
Dessert. Sometimes I eat dessert for breakfast. No kidding.
Ice cream or cake?
Ice cream and cake together.
What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Thank you, Amber!! Check out Amber’s novel!
When Stars Die
Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.
Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.
Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?