I met Starla at this year’s UTopYA conference (now known as Utopia Con), and was immediately taken by her cover art. Her newest book, RIDE THE WIND, debuted November 2, and is the latest in her Flipped Fairy Tales series. Have a look:
Once upon a time, I made a promise to a stranger. Though I’d never seen her face, I cared for her above all others.
Once upon a time, I broke my vow. In trying to save the one I loved, I condemned her to a cursed life and stripped her of all freedom in a single, misguided step.
Once upon a time, I set out on a journey. Though it might never earn me forgiveness, I would set her free or die trying.
Starla also has a follow-on to her Evolution series under the name S.A. Huchton, starting with the book SPARK:
A shadow looms over every day of Phoebe Lawrence’s life. The child of two of the most powerful superheroes on the planet, she’s never had the choice to be anything less than perfect. Making mistakes isn’t an option, and being normal is definitely off the table. Being a Superkid is far from easy, and controlling her newly awakened ability feels nearly impossible. Fear finds her around every corner, and her potential for absolute destruction is a demon that not only haunts her nightmares, but chars the edges of her waking moments at the slightest lapse of control. When the Supers of ISLE start getting sick one by one, it falls to Phoebe to step up and take her parents’ place. With her world crumbling around her, it’s up to her to uncover the source of the disaster, and with her parents out of commission, a boy she barely knows might be her best, and only, hope. All she has to fear is herself but can love truly conquer any demon?
And here are Starla’s answers to some interview questions:
I love your covers. What goes into each design, and how do they develop as you go along?
This varies really widely. A lot of it involves getting to know the story, characters, and setting for each book, but a big part is also researching design trends and new techniques. Each book faces its own challenges when it comes to a cover. That can be anything from finding the right cover model that hasn’t been seen a bazillion times already, expressing a completely abstract concept with color and shape, or figuring out how to add the right amount of fire to a person’s hair to make them look paranormal rather than like an arson victim. My questions for my clients are more or less the same as ones I ask about my own books. It’s not the job of the cover to give away every detail about the story inside, only to tease at those things enough to make a reader want to know more. This is somewhat easier when I’m working for someone else, as I can’t always whittle down the most crucial elements of my own words. It’s a forest for the trees sort of thing. First I get the basics (genre, tone, age range, general idea of the plot), then move on to specific details I think I’ll need for a successful cover. That could include anything from character descriptions and personality, to setting, to objects that play an important role, to the focused themes of each story. Some are easier to work out than others, and the design falls into place immediately. Others might take hours of trial and error with different ideas before I finally figure out what works for an individual book. No two projects ever play out the same way, so it keeps me from getting bored. 🙂
So true. And I love that paranormal heroine and arson victim aren’t that far apart! Since SPARK is the first in the follow-on to the Evolution series, how did you know more of it needed telling, and how did the new story form?
There was one particular thread from the Evolution series I thought needed more exploring, but I wasn’t able to tell that story within the confines of the trilogy. The rest was really me asking myself what would happen if these superheroes went on to have children. Those two things formed the groundwork of the overall plot of The Chronicles of ISLE, which was just brain fuel for more what-ifs.
I’m glad you got to further explore plot elements and make them into reality. And I’m excited about RIDE THE WIND. The concepts in your Flipped Fairy Tales series are always so unique. In what ways do you build on existing elements to make them your own?
When I first started writing SHADOWS ON SNOW, I never intended my Flipped Fairy Tales to go further than the one book, but it turns out these ideas are like rabbits. You just end up with more of them. In telling the tale of Snow White as a prince, I unintentionally found myself seeding ideas that could easily be used as ties to other fairy tales. The “formula,” in as much as one exists, is to look at each story and pick out the defining themes and plot points of each, and then expound on them. For Snow White, the theme is “true love conquers all,” but there are different forms of true love, not only romantic. In SHADOWS ON SNOW, love is found not only between Raelynn and Leo, but also among her and her sisters, to show how deep devotion can run and how powerful it can be if you embrace it. Because that’s also the trick to it. Love is work, and you have to let it work, and encourage it to work, and foster it before anything will come of it.
That’s the more complex issue of theme. Plot structure is already built into the original fairy tale. Here’s a short list of original versus flipped elements from Shadows on Snow as an example of what I do:
Evil Queen obsessed with beauty/Evil King obsessed with power
Princess attacked by huntsman while picking flowers/Prince attacked by his soldiers on a hunting trip
A corset, a golden comb, and an apple/Golden flax, a knife, and an apple
So you can see how I sort of pull these things in order and use the original as a loose basis for the flipped story. Fairy tales are simply the skeletons of full stories. It’s my job as an author to put the meaningful flesh and soul around that structure.
Very well put–and your examples were great! If you were stuck on an island, which three books would you pick to have with you and why?
There are only a few books I’ve read multiple times, so this is a fairly easy question to answer. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. All three are very different, and so bring various qualities to the table that would keep me occupied during my island exile.
Those sound great! Thanks, Starla, for an excellent interview!
To buy Starla’s books for yourself, check out the links below:
Flipped Fairy Tales series:
SHADOWS ON SNOW
STILLNESS IN THE SKY
RIDE THE WIND
The Evolution series: