I first fell in love with the premise and cover of Clare Di Liscia’s upcoming book, NELIEM, set to release on May 21, 2019. Judging from the interviews she’s done online, she’s also a wealth of knowledge about writing. Have a look:

Half the population of the island of Madera are dead, killed by an unforgiving and indiscriminate plague. Oriana dreams of escaping her life of ruthless cruelty from the people who now rule over those who remain. No telling whom the plague will strike next, Oriana means to find freedom for herself and her people. Drawing strength from ancient tales of her enemy, young Oriana transforms herself from victim to warrior with the help of a mysterious and powerful dagger given to her by a kind and dying boy.

Years later, during her enemy’s betrothal ritual, Ezra, a boy she has never before seen, selects her as his mate. With servitude her only option, Oriana accepts the offer. Whisked away to a seemingly perfect world, Oriana discovers sinister secrets at every turn, including the identity of Tristan, a boy with whom she shares an undeniable but impossible connection.

Why would a boy she doesn’t know wish her to be his betrothed? Why does she feel such a strong pull toward a stranger? Someone in Ezra’s family not only knows the answer to both those questions, but also about the dagger Oriana possesses. He will do anything to stop the union. Now, with everything on the line, Oriana turns inward to find the strength she needs to seize the full power of the dagger so that she may protect herself and save her people.

In your interview with Author Turf, you talked about the dangers of works that are “dismissed as derivative.” Can you explain what it means to be derivative, and what, if anything, that writers can do about it?

Early on, one thing I kept hearing was that my work was original with a distinct voice. It was what made me stand out. What had editors coming up to me after a reading at the conference. Regardless of the initial pass, my work always earned me a follow-up, ‘please send further works when ready.’ I encourage my fellow writers, whether it’s your first query, or third agent, to always use your unique experiences and voice to tell your story. Trying to write the next TWILIGHT or HUNGER GAMES is a waste of time. The world doesn’t need another Stephanie Meyer or Suzanne Collins, they need you. Your heart, your fears, likes, pain and joy. Put yourself in the story.

Ask yourself this question: What is the story I’m too scared to write because it’s too personal? The story that’s just for me. The story that changed my life?

That’s the story agents and editors are dying to read.

Excellent advice. NELIEM deals with the deceptive nature of perfection. How did you know this needed to be a part of Oriana’s story?  

In Oriana’s world there are two classes: The people who rule, who seem perfect, and those who are ruled, scattered people who have persevered, only to live in destitute. Oriana falls into the later category. Her people’s lives are controlled, their futures pre-selected. While she’s forging for her food, her rulers are wasteful, taking for granted their elevated position. Because of this, she views everything as the glass empty, envying and hateful towards her oppressors.

But as the story unravels, her vision starts clearing. She begins to understand the truth behind the fake smiles and pretty dresses. How many of them are merely broken pawns. And their beauty but a mask. And that she has more in common with people she regarded as enemies, who also have suffered unspeakable horrors. With her newfound empathy, she’s able to do what she previously thought impossible: rise above her circumstances to become the person she was always meant to be.

Such a great story. And I love NELIEM’s cover! What do you think are the necessary elements of a good book cover?

A great cover captures the essence of the book, drawing you in. It’s as if you’re compelled to pick up the book and read the first page. Luckily for me, my publisher Georgia McBride, knew exactly who could combine the elements of fantasy, girl-empowerment, and intrigue to draw in my readers.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects? 

Currently, I’m finishing the 4th draft of an older contemporary YA romance. It deals with themes of self-worth and prejudice, telling the story of a girl who’s recently escaped abuse to accidentally find true love. It’s nearly done. I also have a finished MG modern day version of Huck Finn. Both have been workshopped with positive feedback, so hopefully soon they’ll find the right editors.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

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