So I have been doing research on pre-sales marketing, and perhaps the most interesting pointer I found was to imagine your number one fan, and marketing everything toward that number one fan. What I decided to do was actually write a letter to my hypothetical number one fan who hypothetically wrote some fan mail to me about When Stars Die. I just thought it’d be a fun way to keep myself striving toward some pretty high goals for myself as well as a fun, unique way to speak a little bit about the book.
Dear Hypothetical Number One Fan,
I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed When Stars Die. It’s nice to know that you find Amelia a relatable character. She wasn’t really inspired by anything. She took on a life of her own. She had this goal, this almost impossible goal of wanting to be a professed nun, and so every action, every decision she made revolved around that. And she is very protective of her younger brother. It’s why she wants to become a nun. She believes that by becoming part of the Professed Order, she can become closer to Deus in order to cleanse her brother’s blood since he is a witch–and witches, in her world, are worse than murderers, after all. So it’s great to hear you can relate to that protective aspect of Amelia.
As for the inspiration for my witches, well, I wanted there to be a reason for someone being a witch. I wanted witches to be mankind’s punishment for sinning. I wanted people to hate witches only because their religious text tells them–so, in essence, these people are brainwashed to hate witches. They don’t question their text because they’ve been inundated with it so strongly throughout their lives. It’s hard to undo something that has been imprinted from the time you are able to grasp and remember things. But I also wanted the witches to be taboo, for no one to speak of them. Propaganda is the only thing that reminds anyone of their existence. Cathedral Reims is filled with terrifying imagery of witches being strangled, burned, and impaled. I wanted fire to be the only way a witch can be recognized so that way I could create my own reason for why witches are later burned in the book–use their own terrifying power against them.
As for Cathedral Reims itself, where the book begins, I did do research on convents and hierarchies and how things worked. I even watched a special on a particular convent in America. I concluded that while they move through a hierarchy before being professed, each convent is run differently, so I decided to make mine unforgiving to show just how strongly the country of Warbele is devoted to Deus and how much these people are willing to sacrifice to worship him. I don’t know if there are people out there who would take a severe beating for God, but the characters in my book endure worse to show they are devoted to Deus. They endure beatings, hair pulling, leeches, claustrophobia, and harsh, cold winters on their way to becoming professed as nuns. I’m into the whole religious fanaticism thing, so what goes on at Cathedral Reims is fanaticism–definitely not what modern day convents are like. I find it fascinating that people would give up who they are to prove themselves to an almighty being. I know I couldn’t endure what Amelia does, especially since there is no promise of a wonderful afterlife in spite of what the religious text in Amelia’s world says.
So why did I create a new country instead of using a country already in existence? At first I had an entirely new world planned out, but once I parsed everything down, I no longer had a whole world anymore. But I still wanted new laws, a new governmental system, and I wanted it to be in the 19th century but not hold the same values as the rest of the developed world. In order to do that, I had to create a new country completely ruled by the papacy. The papacy determines the laws, dress, mannerisms, how everyone should act, and who should be in power. While I don’t focus heavily on the papacy, it’s obvious Warbele is a country ruled by religion. The rest of the world doesn’t treat witches the way Warbele does. In fact, the rest of the world would view Warbele’s treatment of witches as barbaric, but Warbele is deliberately shut off from the rest of the world so no one is influenced by the thinking of the other countries.
All in all, I am so happy you loved my book and had so many interesting questions. Feel free to always write to me, and I will always try to answer when I can.