#LoveOzYA Q&A with Astrid Scholte for LEAGUE OF LIARS
Astrid Scholte was raised on a diet of Spielberg, Lucas and Disney, and knew she wanted to be surrounded by all things fantastical from a young age. She’s spent the last fifteen years working in film, animation and television as both an artist and manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron’s Avatar, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin and Disney’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her fiancé and two cats, Lilo and Mickey. Her debut YA novel, Four Dead Queens, was an international bestseller and award winner.
Her second novel, The Vanishing Deep, was released in March 2020.
Astrid spoke with #LoveOzYA’s Alex Patrikios about her 2022 release, LEAGUE OF LIARS – you can watch the interview on our YouTube channel, or read below!
Can you tell us what LEAGUE OF LIARS is about?
I’m really excited about LEAGUE OF LIARS because it is a combination of all the things I love. So it’s a crime fantasy mashup, and it’s set in a world where magic can be lured from any shadow to alter time.
It’s about a 17-year-old legal apprentice who decides to study the other side of the law before wanting to become a prosecutor. He goes on an apprenticeship at a magical prison, where he meets three criminals and finds himself siding with the criminals despite the overwhelming evidence against them.
So if you were to pick it up at a bookstore, expect a very mysterious twisty ride that has lots of devious and morally grey characters. And yeah, I don’t want to give too much away, but it also ends up in a heist.
Where did the seed of inspiration come, to make this a blend of legal thriller and fantasy? Did you draw on any pop culture references, like John Grisham adaptations?
I am a huge fan of How to Get Away with Murder, so I that’s one of my main inspirations.
The way LEAGUE OF LIARS came about was I was brainstorming what my next book would be after The Vanishing Deep had come out, and I had two half-written manuscripts, which I was not feeling that they were the right thing to come out next.
I started thinking about the inspector from Four Dead Queens, and what his next case might be, and also what kind of criminals he would come across.
So that kind of led me onto thinking, ‘Well, I love court case drama, I love the thrilling elements of a whodunnit’. I did pull upon my knowledge and my enjoyment of those types of thrillers — the other one I really enjoyed was Runaway Jury, which is probably back in the 90s.
So I really wanted to delve into that kind of courtroom drama, but set it in a fantasy world
You’ve said that you wrote two other manuscripts before settling on this one as your next book. How did you go about making that decision?
There was quite a gap between when I got my book deal, and when Four Dead Queens came out: I think it was two years. So I had actually written what I would have hoped to be the third book.
But I think writing a book before you’ve been published, and before you have any readers is a very different experience, than with writing a book once it’s come out – once you hear what people like, and what they didn’t like, and also expectations of readers. Four Dead Queens and The Vanishing Deep were quite different books. So I had written one, which was more going in the sci-fi adventure route, which I guess, would have been a transition from The Vanishing Deep, but I felt like I wasn’t really tapping back into the people who loved Four Dead Queens. So I kind of put that to the side, and then I wrote another novel, and I enjoyed it, and I do think that I will go back to it. But again, I didn’t feel like it made sense as my next step as an author.
So I really wanted to go back to, ‘Okay, what was it that I loved about Four Dead Queens and writing that story?’ Of course, the crime aspect, the court case, and courtroom drama.
It’s something that I am now aware of, and I’m now thinking of when I’m writing. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, because I’m still writing things that I love. It’s just like, what is the right book at this moment in time?
I love the texture of the fantasy worlds you create. How mindful are you of other big hitters in the YA fantasy space and their worldbuilding styles when you set about to craft your own? How do you find a point of difference?
You really do have to, especially when you’re starting out, think about what different point of view you have and what it is that you’ll be offering that isn’t currently in the market.
That is still something that I think about, and maybe one of the reasons why I didn’t go with an earlier manuscript for the third book that I’d written is that I didn’t feel like it was ‘hooky’ or big concept enough. It’s quite an oversaturated market, especially in the US – YA fantasy is such a huge genre over there – so having a distinct world is something that I’ve always tried to do.
For LEAGUE OF LIARS, I wanted a magic system. I’ve always loved magic. This is the first book I’m having published with magic in it, but not the first I’ve written and I wanted it to be unique.
I needed the magic in LEAGUE OF LIARS to have such dire consequences that it would make sense that people would be arrested and locked away for using it, but also that there was something so alluring about it that they would continue to want to use it and break that law.
So they were yet definitely questions I asked myself as I was writing, and how I could make it feel unique.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects without giving too much away?
I have plans to return to some welds that I’ve already built. I (also) have a fresh story that’s actually one of the manuscripts that I didn’t go with for my third book that I’ve returned to, so that just shows you that it’s never the end!