Wednesday, May 22, 2024
May 22, 2024

Author returns with first YA fantasy novel

Giselle Vriesen was a volunteer at the Salt Spring Public Library when she was a Gulf Islands Secondary School student, graduating in 2018.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 4:30 p.m., the 23-year-old woman will return to the library for the book launch of her first young adult fantasy novel — Why We Play With Fire — published by 100 Block Futures, a division of Row House Publishing and Simon & Schuster.

“It’s super fun to be able to have the launch there,” she told the Driftwood in a recent interview.

Vriesen started seriously writing fiction when she was 16 years old, and has kept to that course ever since.

“I have a tendency to just really commit to things. So when I was 16, I decided I wanted to be an author. I kind of just full tilted into it. It’s been a dream,” she said.

Why We Play With Fire is the second book she wrote which she thought had the potential to be published, and her instincts were obviously correct.

Vriesen serendipitously ended up having a one-on-one conversation with Row House president Rebekah Boroucki, where her questions about the editing and publishing process were answered, and led to her book being edited by two different lead editors.

“The editor ended up really liking it and acquiring it, and that’s how I got a publishing deal.”

Vriesen said the journey from submitted manuscript to final version was a very cooperative one. She and the editor would focus on one aspect of the novel — the minor characters, for example — going back and forth with ideas and suggestions until they were satisfied with the results.

She was also given ample input about the illustrator, as well as cover image and design. That process began with her looking at a board full of other book covers she was inspired by and had a similar energy to her story. The illustrator, ShinYeon Moon, provided several samples and she chose from a narrowed-down final grouping, and also provided her opinion about use of colours.

“It was definitely very input heavy and it was amazing to be able to have that much control.”

Why We Play With Fire is about a 16-year-old girl named Thea and the odyssey-like challenge she is given. As publicity information explains, “Thea finds herself transported to a house for the children of gods, where she must retrieve lost keys while navigating secrets, rival schools, and her own doubts, all before the shadow creatures catch up to her.

“Embark on a spellbinding odyssey of self-discovery, where Thea’s extraordinary journey unfolds withint a realm of enchantment and peril. Desperate to escape encroaching darkness, Thea is propelled through a mystical well by her mother and groundmother, left only with a cryptic mission to ‘retrieve the keys.’”

Vriesen said the setting includes places with recognizable names — including Salt Spring Island and Crofton — but the characters also go to other magical worlds.

“The story is really about the rites of passage it takes to become an adult,” said Vriesen, “and I was really excited to be able to include that as the main element.”

Thea is 16 years old in the novel, but Vriesen said younger readers will also benefit from getting to know a character who will experience life challenges long before they have to.

“It will almost prep them for all the different ways that they can handle the grief and loss and tough decisions and stuff like that, but in a safe environment while they are at home and reading.”

People can learn more about the book on the website.

Vriesen studied creative writing at UVic for a year, and took Neil Gaiman’s masterclass and Tomi Adeyemi’s The Writer’s Roadmap course online.

While she understands the value of acquiring general skills through a traditional university writing degree, Vriesen said because she already knew what she wanted to learn it made more sense to study the specific genres and styles she was interested in.

With online course options, “You can study exactly what you need to take you in the direction you want to go, one step at a time . . . I got to refine what I was learning to be specialized towards what I wanted to make of it.”

Vriesen has a long list of favourite authors, but among the top entries would be Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Tomi Adeyemi and Holly Black.

In addition to Tuesday’s launch at the Salt Spring Public Library, where copies of Why We Play With Fire will be available to purchase, Vriesen is so far scheduled for in-person events in Nanaimo, Vancouver and Duncan, and other online activities, such as interviews with book Instagrammers and influencers.

People can find Vriesen on Instagram @gisellevriesen.

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