The coming of summer means the coming of new book releases! One of the best books coming out this summer, that I had the pleasure of reading, is Shielded by KayLynn Flanders. Shielded is about Princess Jennesara, a strong young woman who has kept her magic a secret from everyone. When her father plans to marry her off to the Prince of Turia for help that their kingdom needs, Jenna accepts the opportunity to help. As Jenna sets off to Turia, her party is raided, forcing her to go on the run taking Jenna on a dangerous journey. I was given the opportunity to interview KayLynn Flanders about her book, her writing, and what it feels like to be a published author.
It appears that Shielded is your debut novel as an author, what is that like? What is the process that you went through when writing your novel like?
It’s surreal to have words that I wrote out in the world connecting with other people. I’ve been working on it for almost five years, tearing it apart and piecing it back together, and now that it’s in print, with people I’ve never met reading it, I’m always surprised when someone likes it! It’s been a long road to get where I’m at, though. Shielded has been through about twenty major revisions—plot changes, character changes, and I even took out a POV character! But with the help of my beta readers, agent, and editor, I think the story that will come out in July is the best yet, and I’m so excited for others to meet Jenna!
Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t, actually. Reading has always been a big part of my life, but I always thought writing a book would be too hard (I wasn’t wrong about that, lol). I didn’t decide to sit and finish a draft until a few months before I turned thirty.
Image via Goodreads
What was the most challenging thing when it came to writing Shielded?
I’d say keeping all the pieces straight. There are layers—characters, hints, world building, magic, reveals, etc.—that need to be weaved into the fiber of every scene, and I am really good at forgetting things (all things—names, my kids’ activities, where I put my keys, etc.). So that took a lot of revision to get right. Keeping the pace moving along without settling into swaths of backstory and the history of the world was also challenging at times.
What is it like for you to see your book online for preorder?
It’s really hard to wrap my head around it! There’s a huge thrill that comes with knowing others will read Shielded, followed immediately by the fear that it’s not good enough. So I try and focus on the thrill part and keep my head down and write my next story.
I recently finished Shielded and I can’t help but hope and ask, is this going to be a trilogy?
It’s a duology! The next book will be a companion novel, so there will be new point-of-view characters in the same world tackling related issues.
In the future do you think you will stick to the fantasy genre of writing or are there other genres that you want to explore?
I have several fantasy ideas I’m itching to work on, but I also love reading contemporary romance (YA and adult) and think it would be fun to learn how to write one. I love a good love story!
While reading Shielded I was in quite awe of your ability to continuously surprise us with so many twists and turns. This book really makes you feel all of the emotions, how did you figure how you wanted to do this?
For me, books are all about emotions—connecting to characters because I’ve felt that, or that’s true for me, too. It’s about feeling less alone and finding comradery in a fantastical world where we can overcome the challenges facing us. So while there are a lot of events that take place in Shielded, I wanted Jenna to be the driving force, to get deep into her head and heart. Because while we might never be lost in a magical wilderness, for example, we do all feel lost in our lives at some point.
As a reader, what are some of your all-time favorite books?
This is not a fair question! Like I said earlier, forgetting is my superpower, but I’ll try and list a few. The Farthest Away Mountain (Banks), Ella Enchanted (Levine), The Animorphs (Applegate), Jane Eyre (Bronte), Sense and Sensibility (Austen), The Lord of the Rings (Tolkein), Ender’s Game (Card), Harry Potter (Rowling, #3 is my favorite), Crown Duel (Smith), The King of Atolia (Turner), Heir of Fire (Maas), These Broken Stars (Kaufman, Spooner), Followed by Frost (Holmberg), P.S. I Like You (West), The Demon King (Chima), The Lunar Chronicles (Meyer)…and a lot more.
As a character Jenna is an all-round absolute badass, before you started writing did you know that you wanted to write a book with a strong female heroine?
I wanted all my characters to be strong, but yes, I always knew this was Jenna’s story, and I knew I wanted her to be strong and determined to make good choices despite the obstacles in her way. I wanted to read about a character I could admire, one I wish I’d had when I was a teen.
Shielded was full of amazingly complex characters, which one was your favorite to write/write about?
Jenna was the best thing about this story. She made writing and re-writing Shielded fun, even after five years and twenty rounds of revision. But all of the side characters had their own fun moments—Ren, Enzo, Yesilia, Luc, Chiara. I’m not sure I can pick just one! But one fun fact is that in one draft I tried to age Mari up to be a teenager, but she resolutely refused. She was not ready to grow up yet, lol.
Finally, I have to ask, do you have any other books/series in the works?
Yes! I’m always working on something, these days. I’ve turned in the second book of the Shielded duology to my editor, so that’s in the works. I’ve also got a standalone fantasy retelling I’m polishing up right now that I adore, and have a couple more ideas for fantasy series I want to start brainstorming!
Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. I cannot wait for everyone to read Shielded and love the story as much as I have!
Thank you so much for this opportunity and the great questions! I’m so glad you enjoyed Shielded!
You can read Shielded when it comes out July 21, 2020!