THE QUEEN’S RISING by Rebecca Ross

As soon as I saw the cover for THE QUEEN’S RISING, I knew I had to feature it–it’s a fascinating YA Fantasy that explores two societies at odds, and different ways of finding one’s identity. It comes out on February 6, and I’ve already pre-ordered it.

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

According to your blog, you began drafting THE QUEEN’S RISING about three years ago. What sort of a revision process was involved in this book, and in what ways, if any, did it change from start to finish?

The very first draft of TQR stood at 127,00 words. It was very wordy and I knew it was too long, and yet I have always been more of a drafter than a reviser. I also knew that if I was to catch an agent’s eye, I needed to cut around 27,000 words, so I began to self edit the best that I could. Miraculously, I got an agent with the book at 115,000 words (by most agent standards, this is still entirely too long), and then she helped me hone it down to 106,000 when we went on submission. From the beginning, I was always whittling and cutting, which can be difficult with a fantasy. It was important to me that my world felt fully realized to the readers, but I also did not want to bog my readers down with needless descriptions.

But I think my biggest shock was when I got my first edit letter. I had no idea what to expect in the letter; it was 12 pages of my editor’s questions and concerns. And I read it and went into a daze, completely overwhelmed. I sat on it a few days, and then solutions to all those problems began to bloom in my mind, and I redrafted the book with my editor’s notes guiding me. I definitely changed a few plot threads in this revision, and the story that emerged was much stronger than what it was initially.

I think you’ve pinpointed a challenge that many YA Fantasy authors share–the line between two much and too little. I’m glad you found a happy medium between the two. And I love how THE QUEEN’S RISING confronts the difficulty of choosing between two conflicting lands. What do you hope readers gain from Brienna’s journey?

Brienna herself is divided between the two realms in the book. Her mother was Valenian, her father is Maevan, and she eventually has to decide how to bring these two parts of her heritage together. And I think that all of us, in some way or another, go through an experience like this, where we long to figure ourselves out, and know where we belong and who we are and what our mission or purpose in life will be. I hope readers can relate to Brienna, and, of course, enjoy the adventure she takes them on.

I’m sure they will–that kind of conflicted journey affects many of us, especially in establishing our true identities. Speaking of personal branding, I love your website. How did the design come to be, and what, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a good author website? 

I am so happy to hear you love my website! It was important to me to have an author website that reflected things I love and also appear frequently in my writing (maps, constellations, and flowers). I hired Hafsah Faizal from IceyDesigns to design it for me, and she did such an amazing job incorporating those elements!

When it comes to an author website, I think it really depends on how much the author wants to share of themselves. I have seen some websites that are very minimal (author bio and book description and contact page), and some that are very engaging (events page, blog, FAQ, social media links, etc). The author should definitely go with what makes them most comfortable, but I think it’s also important to consider what a reader is going to connect with. I know when I finish a book I love, I instantly search for the author’s website, because I want to know more about the author, their books, and even their writing process.

Regardless of how much the author decides to share on the website, at the end of the day, the website should be easy to navigate. Above all else, information about the author’s book(s) should be easy to find.

Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?

I just finished and turned in my first round of edits for TQR Book 2 (I hope to share more details on this soon!). I’ve drafted bits and pieces of Book 3, so that story is always at the back of my mind. And I’m also scheming up ideas for my next fantasy project. I feel like my mind is always working, bouncing from current projects to future projects, but I guess this is a good thing (as long as it doesn’t keep me up at night!).