Blog Tour & Giveaway | Exclusive Interview with Lena Coakley!

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Book: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Amulet

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.

pooled ink Review

…This book has a wisp of polite adventure, an air of something ancient and magical, and all swept together in the world of the Brontë siblings in a dreary Yorkshire, England. It’s a fairytale, a fantasy, a dream, a wish, but it is also a horror, a thriller, an old wives’ tale come true. It is all of these things but throughout it all it remains wholly human.

I invite fellow readers to consider Worlds of Ink and Shadow as an addition to their shelves but I’ll warn you that if you ever take a walk in the woods that you be wary and resist the urge to turn your palm up in offering for you never quite know what Old Tom might take…

Read my full review here: Worlds of Ink and Shadow (ARC Review)

Interview with Lena Coakley!

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An interview between pooled ink blogger Angela Jones-Cuéllar and author Lena Coakley on her new novel THE WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW (released on January 5, 2016)

Q1: Worlds of Ink and Shadow is a book written in beautiful prose that weaves together magic and fantasy with an almost biographical look into the Brontë siblings. How did this idea come to you to fuse these ideas into a historical fantasy?

A: Thank you! Because the novels of the adult Brontës are almost entirely realistic, I was very surprised to learn that there were so many fantasy elements in their early writings. One of the first things that got me thinking about fusing the Brontës with fantasy was an exhibit I went to at the British Library in London called Out of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It. In it there was a whole section called Were the Brontës Science Fiction Authors? This was not a question I had ever asked myself! They had some wonderful examples of the intricate maps the young siblings had drawn of their invented world, the Glasstown Confederacy. The exhibit made the point that since Glasstown was ostensibly in Africa, and since the Brontës used both real and made-up characters, their early work might be considered part of the sci-fi tradition of parallel worlds. This really got me thinking.

Later, when I visited the Brontë home in Haworth, I could see why the young Brontës would want to escape to fantasy worlds. The parsonage is so tiny that scholars still can’t figure out where everybody slept. Haworth is a lovely village now (with a Brontë-themed gift shop every ten feet) but at the time it would have been a very dingy and remote factory town. I think it was the juxtaposition between the stark life they must have been living in Haworth and the ornate opulence of their fantasy worlds that really sparked my imagination.

Haworth Today
Haworth Today, Photo credit: Lena Coakley

Q2: You clearly have a love for the Brontë sisters and their stories, but what was it about them that inspired you to write a novel about the four Brontë siblings in their younger years, almost as a prequel to their literary works (and lives) later on? 

A: One of the rather encouraging things about reading Brontë juvenilia is: It’s not all that great. In other words, they didn’t emerge into the world great authors. It’s fascinating to compare what Charlotte wrote at twelve to what she wrote at nineteen. Her development as a writer is right there to see on the page, so of course those are the years I wanted to delve into—the years she found her voice.

In a way, the Brontës at the time were doing a lot of the things I’d recommend an aspiring writer do: They wrote regularly and prolifically; they didn’t get bogged down on one project; they didn’t worry about publication; they tried out different genres; and they got a lot of feedback. (Branwell and Charlotte actually created little newspapers where they wrote critiques of each other’s work—which could sometimes get pretty scathing!) People think of the Brontë sisters as these poor governesses who decided to write books one day because they needed the money and—poof!—turned out classic novels. The truth is, all three had long apprenticeships as authors.

Q3: With Worlds of Ink and Shadow you’ve put authors into their own book, taking rather well-known historical literary figures and bringing them back to life upon the page, careful to make each of them unique and whole. How much of the Brontë siblings (or any of your intriguing characters for that matter) are based on fact and how much stems from your imagination? 

A: This was so difficult. I wanted to be as true as possible to who the Brontës were, but at a certain point, I had to make these characters up. No amount of reading Charlotte’s letters could tell me what she and I would have thought of each other if we’d had the opportunity to meet in person, and you have to have that level of knowledge about a character to make them true on the page.

Characters like Rogue, Zamorna and Mary Henrietta were all created by the Brontës, but I took liberties there, too. When I started writing I had this crazy idea that my Brontë characters would only travel into scenes from existing Brontë juvenilia. Then I thought, how many of my readers will even have read that stuff? Why am I hobbling myself? Now some of the scenes in my book are suggested by stories Branwell and Charlotte wrote, but most I have invented.

Q4: The characters not only spend time in your vivid reimagining of the Brontë family’s life in England but they spend pages and pages in their fantasy worlds of Verdopolis and Gondal. What sparked these cities in your imagination and what did you hope they would reveal about their creators? 

A: It’s funny because with Verdopolis there is almost too much existing information and with Gondal not enough. Both places were created by the Brontës, not by me. The city of Verdopolis was mostly created by Charlotte and Branwell, while the island of Gondal was the private world of Anne and Emily. Volumes and volumes of Charlotte and Branwell’s childhood writings exist for scholars to peruse, but Anne and Emily seem to have destroyed all their early work. I had to make up Gondal from bits and snatches, whereas I practically knew all the street names in Verdopolis before I started.

It’s so interesting to me that what Charlotte and Branwell wanted to write about were the scandals of the fabulously rich. These were parson’s children, but they loved writing about bigamy, illegitimate children, patricide, and vice. It’s such a contrast to their lives on the Yorkshire moors.

From what little there exists of Anne and Emily’s world, it seems to have been starker and bleaker. It’s hard not to imagine that the seeds of Wuthering Heights must have lain in Gondal.

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Map of the Glasstown Confederacy and Angria by Branwell Brontë, Photo credit: British Library Board

Q5: What was your favorite scene to write and which character did you enjoy writing the most? Oh, and why?

A: I adore Rogue. Many scholars believe that this character—originally created by Branwell—was actually the inspiration for Emily’s character Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

My favorite chapter is the one where Emily creates Gondal for the first time so that she can meet him there. She’s developed a crush on Branwell’s character and she wants to change him, use him for her own stories.

Once we get there it’s full of imagery reminiscent of the Garden of Eden—complete with a snake, of course!

Q6: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a thousand times but do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

A: One of the hardest things for me was developing the writing habit. If I could go back and have tea with my younger self I’d say, don’t scold yourself so much for not writing. It’s not helping. Start by trying to write 10 minutes every day, and build a habit. It takes time. Now I write from 9 to 4, but it would have been very unrealistic to think I could start out putting in those kinds of hours—just as unrealistic as someone who’s never jogged trying to start with a marathon. 

Q7: What do you do when you’re not spending your time spinning fantastical stories or other writing projects? When you are writing do you have a favorite place or particular rhythm you settle into?

A: Right now, I’m lucky enough to be a full time writer, and my weekdays are pretty regimented. I often tell myself that I’ll write on weekends, too, but having those days off is so ingrained in me from school that I never get much done.

Some writers like to get away to write, but I adore my desk. If I start to get a little squirrely, however, I do have some writing friends who I write with at coffee shops.

When I’m not writing, I’m often swimming, doing volunteer work (I’m the Vice President of CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers), or cooking. I also love to travel when I can.

Q8: The world of YA fiction seems to have gained a lot of traction over the past few years. What do think about the shifting trends and growing popularity of YA fiction? I’ve found that more and more people are falling in love with them, not just teens. Why do you think the YA fiction audience is changing and how do you see your book, Worlds of Ink and Shadow, fitting into this wave of new readers? 

A: I’m one of those adults who reads a lot of YA, and for me, a lot of the reason is that we have great writers on our team! I’d be hard pressed to think of an adult writer who can match MT Anderson’s depth or Maggie Steivater’s beautiful prose or Garth Nix’s inventiveness.

Honestly, I don’t think much about adult readers when I’m writing. I loved to read at 15, 16 and 17, so I’m always trying to write for that girl, to create what she would have liked. I feel that if authors start writing for those adult readers, won’t we lose what made them love the genre in the first place?

Q9: Besides your own fabulous book, do you have any books that you’ve read lately that you might recommend to your readers?

A: I’ve said this before on other blogs but I have to say it again: Frances Hardinge! I discovered her this year and she is SO GOOD! A Face Like Glass (middle grade) is probably my new favorite book.

Q10: Now for the most important question…what house in Hogwarts would you be sorted into and why? 

A: Ravenclaw—I was always a bookish girl—but Slytherin on my bad days.

Thank you Lena for taking the time to answer some questions! I wish you and Worlds of Ink and Shadow the best of luck, I can’t wait until the rest of the world gets to discover it and love it as much as I did!

Worlds of Ink and Shadow

worlds of ink and shadow

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

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Grand Prize

1 Grand Prize Winner: 
  • A Copy of WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW (Canadian or US edition dependent on country of winner)
  • A Hardcover Everyman’s Library edition of JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë
  • A Hardcover Everyman’s Library edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Brontë
  • A softcover Penguin edition of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by Anne Brontë
  • A softcover  Hesperus edition of THE SPELL, juvenilia of Charlotte Brontë
  • Toasty Almond Tea from Tealish
  • A cloth ornament of Charlotte Brontë’s childhood hero, The Duke of Wellington, inspiration for her character, Zamorna

Enter the Giveaway for a chance to win! (Contest ends January 29, 2016)

  • 1 winner will receive a “Bronte” gift basket filled with surprises from the author!
  • 5 winners will receive a black bonnet (similar to the one found on the Canadian cover)
  • 10 winners will receive a copy of Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Enter here! –>

Lena Coakley

lena coakley

Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In High School, Creative Writing was the only course she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Toronto, Canada. Witchlanders is her debut novel.






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