#LoveOzYA Q&A with Bonnie Wynne about THE STARS BEYOND THE STONE
Bonnie Wynne is the author of YA series, the Price of Magic. She told #LoveOzYA’s Bianca Breen all about her latest release THE STARS BEYOND THE STONE — check out their chat below!
Can you tell us a bit about Gwyn’s journey so far?
I had the benefit of starting Gwyn from a fairly clean slate. At the beginning of THE NINTH SORCERESS she has basically no life experience, no skills, and no confidence. She’s by nature a passive character – so it’s been exciting to help her grow across the course of the novels, even though it’s sometimes one step forward and two steps back. For the first book, her journey was mostly about learning to make decisions for herself and become her own ‘active protagonist,’ after a life of being tucked away and controlled. For A WIND FROM THE RIFT, the focus moved to taking responsibility for those decisions – the good and the bad. In THE STARS BEYOND THE STONE, it becomes more about taking a leadership role and learning to make decisions for other people. And obviously I’ll be exploring the repercussions and consequences of that new role in Book 4!
What were some of the challenges of writing a book that’s in the middle of a series?
Yeah, that was definitely tricky. You want the sense that the story and stakes are escalating towards their conclusion, but at the same time you can’t afford to blow things up too much too soon. I find it’s mostly about trying to strike a balance – levelling up your protagonist without overpowering her; continuing her emotional journey and giving her meaningful breakthroughs without tying everything up with a bow.
I think a key consideration for me has been keeping each book distinct. Gwyn ends Book 2 on a pretty high note, full of energy to get out there and save the world. So of course, I had to totally undercut her in Book 3 and start her at a loose end with no idea where to go or what to do. ‘Here’s a Scion, let’s go kill it’ would have been, I think, rehashing what I already covered in Book 2 – plus life is rarely so straightforward! I wanted something a bit more ambiguous, with questions like ‘am I still allowed to do things other than save the world?’
What’s your process for worldbuilding?
I draw inspiration for things like architecture and clothing from real cultures, and try to rethink and reimagine them in a way that feels fresh. I have a lot of Pinterest boards! Other elements, like the shapeshifter culture, or the sorceress’ blood magic, have just started from the question of ‘what if…?’ What if parents and children were from a different social class? What if the most powerful magic required unspeakably evil acts?
When it comes to keeping track of everything, I use a big Word doc with lots of tables and lists. It covers all the different countries and their foods, naming conventions, current rulers, political situation etc., as well as all the different rules for the various types of magic. It gets a little longer with every book.
Do you have any tips for plotting a series or something you wish you knew before you started?
I probably would have made it easier for myself if I’d plotted the entire series before I started. I had a fairly detailed outline for Book 2, but after that it was just dot points of major things that needed to happen, with none of the actual ‘hows’ and ‘whys.’ I’m still not sure who will survive the final book, but I’m planning to start drafting it in January, so I guess I’ll find out soon.
There’s so many amazing characters in these novels – I especially like the villains! Who’s your favourite baddie to write and why?
Thank you! My goal with villains is to make their motivations relatable, even if their methods skew toward evil. The Scions are bent on the whole world-domination angle, but they also have pretty legitimate grievances against humankind. With that said, Ailbhe is definitely my favourite antagonist, because she’s really a dark mirror of Gwyn and how her life might have gone under different circumstances. That’s always fun to explore.
What kind of magic power would you love to have?
I wouldn’t mind a bit of alchemy. If I could turn base metals into gold, I could quit my day job.