I enjoyed interviewing Bree Barton when HEART OF THORNS first came out. TEARS OF FROST expands on the expert worldbuilding of the first book, and explores the dangers of unbridled power:
Mia Rose wants only one thing: revenge against the Gwyrach—feared, reviled, and magical women—who killed her mother. After years training under her father’s infamous Hunters, Mia is ready. She will scour the four kingdoms, find her mother’s murderer, and enact the Hunters’ Creed: heart for a heart, life for a life.
But when Mia is thrust into the last role she ever wanted—promised wife to the future king—she plots a daring escape. On her wedding night, Mia discovers something she never imagined: She may be a Huntress, but she’s also a Gwyrach. As the truth comes to light, Mia must untangle the secrets of her own past. Now if she wants to survive, Mia must learn to trust her heart . . . even if it kills her.
Mia Rose is back from the dead. Her memories are hazy, her body numb—but she won’t stop searching. Her only hope to save the boy she loves and the sister who destroyed her is to find the mother she can never forgive. Pilar is on a hunt of her own. Betrayed by her mother, and plagued by a painful secret, she’s determined to seek out the only person who can exact revenge. All goes according to plan… until she collides with Prince Quin, the boy whose sister she killed.
As Mia, Pilar, and Quin forge dangerous new alliances, they are bewitched by the snow kingdom’s promise of freedom and opportunity. But with the winter solstice drawing near, they must confront the truth beneath the glimmering ice, as lines between friend, foe, and lover vanish like snowflakes on a flame.
In our last interview, you said, “You never know when your words might arrive at exactly the right time.” In what ways have your words “arrived” to your readers, and what have been some of your favorite reader responses?
What a great question. I think, when I said that in our last interview, it was mostly aspirational. My book had been out for six weeks and I was so hopeful it would “arrive.” But I had no idea if it would or wouldn’t! More than a year later, I am grateful for every reader who has reached out to me on Instagram or email to tell me my book meant something to them. It’s fascinating to see what resonates with whom. A lot of readers really connect to the mental health piece. As someone who deals with depression, I think every book I write will have some element of that struggle; the parallels are more pronounced in book 2, but it’s certainly there in book 1, too. One reader wrote to tell me HEART OF THORNS arrived at a very dark time in her life and helped her get through it. Other readers have responded to my Instagram posts on depression, including my IG Story on World Mental Health Day chronicling my own journey from age eleven (pinned here). I remember one reader told me in a DM that, while she liked HoT a lot, it was my honesty about mental illness on social media and in my author newsletter that meant the most to her, and that my words had inspired her to be braver about talking to the people in her life. It was balm to my heart, hearing that.
An entirely different reader told me she took solace in the sister relationship—at least for parts of the book! Ha. No spoilers. 😉
Mental illness is definitely something that a lot of us experience, and I’m so glad that so many have found solace in your books and online presence. TEARS OF FROST follows Pilar’s journey toward revenge. Without giving away too many spoilers (ha!), in what ways, if any, did Pilar surprise you?
Pilar was an utter delight to write. She tumbled onto the page in all her fist-clenching, blood-spitting glory, and never let go. But it took me a while to figure out who she was and how she spoke. At the beginning she sounded a lot like Mia, with the same sort of tortuous cyclical thoughts and complex sentence structures. Then my partner said something brilliant: “Isn’t she kind of from the wrong side of the tracks?” That was it: the key to unlocking Pilar d’Aqila. She didn’t grow up with the “pedigree” of Mia / Angelyne Rose, the daughters of a rich and powerful man, so privileged they couldn’t even see it. Of course Pilar wouldn’t have the same vocabulary, decorum, or low-key snobbery. As soon as she shat in a man’s hat on page one, I knew exactly who she was.
But to answer your question: because I was writing a new POV character, everything surprised me. Pilar is violent and pugnacious; she’s also tender, funny, gifted, and deeply wounded. Her humor is different from Mia’s, and her banter with Quin was great fun. Mia spends a lot of time being polite; Pilar doesn’t give a shit (except for, well, in the aforementioned hat). Only as I was writing those early scenes did I realize just how much Pilar and Quin had in common. And as I began to peel back the layers of Pilar’s trauma, I understand better and better why she wants the things she wants. What happened to her is unconscionable on so many levels, and the fact that she was able to survive it at all is a testament to her ferocity and strength.
And it lets us know that we can be resilient too. The book launch for TEARS OF FROST included a book-themed scavenger hunt. What fun! How did this event come to be?
Oh my gosh, the scavenger hunt was an absolute blast. Definitely one of the highlights of my whole author journey thus far. I knew I didn’t want to do Just Another Book Launch; I was dying to create something special for my audience, instead of sticking them in a chair to listen to me drone on for an hour. And there’s so much fun magical stuff to play with in TEARS OF FROST—runes, clues, secrets—that I felt I had unwittingly left myself clues! I also had a good college friend who’s been putting on an epic scavenger hunt in NYC for the last eight years, and he had just moved to LA, so I thought: if I don’t take advantage of this, I’ll never forgive myself.
When people arrived at the ice cream shop, they gathered in the seemingly normal lobby where I was nowhere to be found. Teams of scavengers formed and received their copies of ToF with maps tucked inside them. The maps led them to three different locations where they had to find live cosplayers—dressed as characters from the other three kingdoms—and complete specific challenges. Often the challenges required scavengers to flip through their copy of ToF. In the river kingdom they had to recreate one of the feasts from the book using crayons, markers, or Play-Doh. In the fire kingdom they had to scour the area looking for ingredients to Jouma’s magical brew. In the glass kingdom they had to pillage the shelves of Barnes & Noble to create a book poem in the style of the ToF epigraph. In each kingdom they were given a piece of a magical rune when they completed the challenge, and once they had all the pieces, they returned to the ice cream shop, where they were taken behind the counter, led through a faux freezer door…. and into the secret VIP lounge, where they found me waiting amidst the falling snow. We gave out different prizes: first team to make it back to the snow kingdom, most creative players, etc. I’ve attached a few pictures of the shenanigans.
But at least we have pictures! What are some of your current projects?
Right now I am pooling all my efforts into book 3 of the Heart of Thorns trilogy, due out January 2021. It’s a book about healing, which has manifested itself in two ways: the characters are each trying to heal, but it’s been healing for me to write, too. Book 2 was the most difficult and painful thing I’ve ever written; I had to delve deep into my own past trauma, and my family’s as well. Writing about sexual assault, rape, and depression put me in a pretty dark place for the better part of a year. I hope it paid off in a book that feels raw and true. But suffice it to say, it has been an immense relief to write a story about traumatized people trying to process the awful things that happened to them. I stripped my characters of so much in books 1 and 2: their families, their bodies, their autonomy. There’s a whole lot of loss. The question then becomes: How do you cope with loss? How do you integrate your past trauma to become your future self? And how do you accept help from other people as you do these things?
Full disclosure: they’re all quite bad at accepting help, as we often are after surviving horrible things. But bit by bit, they are finding their way back into the light.