“Spilling Ink With…” is a special blog series dedicated to authors who have taken the time to answer to a series of questions which I have written especially for them. The purpose is to connect writers across nations, to promote their work and their creative process.
Mia Tavor is the young and talented writer of the Lupus Constellation series–a fantasy thriller which focuses on Alex Leran and her coming-of-age story. My honest review of the ARC can be found here. I am currently hosting a giveaway for ten e-copies of her novel for information on how to enter click here.
I wholeheartedly thank Mia for cooperating with me and I wish her all the best regarding her amazing new series!
Q: Warm Season’s Greetings to you, Mia! Welcome to Ink&Papercuts. The Beginning comprises the first installment of the Lupus Constellation I gather that this is the first novel you have ever published. How did you come up with Alex’s story? What was your source of inspiration for such an alluring yet cruel world, and for such a strong yet reckless heroine?
A: Thank you for having me! Indeed, “Lupus Constellation. The Beginning” marks the start of my writing career. I think my major motive to begin writing was that at some moment I stopped enjoying others’ stories. Even bestselling novels, with few exceptions, seemed cliché or annoyed me with a highly predictable plot or its bland, two-dimensional characters who were all alike. However, there was one thing I was always certain about: I was not going to produce another fairy tale. Instead, I wanted to create a unique story and to touch topics that were seldom covered in fantasy novels, such as teen violence, dictatorship, oppression, excessive exercise of power, and many more. It’s the world we live in and its darkest sides that serve me as an endless source of inspiration.
Q: In one of our earlier interactions, you mentioned that the novel comprises an English translation of its original. Which is the most difficult: to draft and write your novel or to render it in a target language while trying to choose the most appropriate diction so as to create the same contextual ambiance and tone as in the original? On this note, did you have a hard time translating your own novel?
A: Translating any novel is a challenge. But when you’re not a native speaker in a language you’re targeting, it makes it even harder. I admit that writing in my mother language was much easier for me, but I always knew that this day would come and the “Lupus Constellation” series would come out in English. It paves the way into a global market, helps the novel reach a bigger audience, and even bears more opportunities in terms of film adaptation. However, I felt bold enough about that only after my recent move to the US—albeit, my writing is still far from what I want it to be. The translation process is painful, and yet the key element would always be a final polishing touch by a good editor.
Q: I have just finished reading The Beginning, and I confess that it has been a long time since a young adult fantasy series has taken me by surprise. You have created such an appealing and dark world—albeit, at the end of the novel several questions which pre-existed were either half-answered or remained untouched. Did you follow a specific strategy in order to accentuate suspense and to establish a profound sense of mystery throughout this novel? If yes, why did you choose to write a novel that has deliberately kept the protagonist in the dark until the very last page?
A: It may sound unusual, but I don’t have any strategy for telling you this story. I assume that some experienced writers may use some tactics for generating mystery, but “Lupus Constellation. The Beginning” is my first novel. I never attended any writing seminars or workshops. In my writing, I tend to keep the pace that seems natural to me and I myself enjoy. Indeed, some questions you might have had during your reading remained half-answered, but take a closer look at the title. I have always treated this installment as an introduction to Alex’s world. I know being in the dark for so long may annoy some readers – I am already seeing this in some of the book’s recent reviews. And yet, since the “Lupus Constellation” series was, at least to some extent, inspired by my vexation at modern young adult fiction, my writing process is highly affected by my own enjoyment of it. I assume some readers will find themselves stuck somewhere along the way while wandering in the darkness. But those who will keep going, are to come out and see the stars shining.
Q: I will now shift to the characters. Alex is a greatly stubborn and proud creature—she is forced to accept her family’s and the school’s inhumane treatment either towards her or towards selected victims without really fathoming the reason why. At times, I was even irritated at her careless behavior of always provoking and challenging those appearing superior to her. Why did you choose to come up with a strong yet naïve female protagonist? If we could categorise the characters based on their narrative function, what would be the answer?
A: Well, let me avoid any categorization in my writing. My main desire was to make Alex alive. She is indeed stubborn, impetuous and naïve. But she is a teenager! Pause a moment and think back to your own adolescence. Where you the same rational and understanding person you are today? Most likely, you were not. I admit she irritates me, too, at times. But this is Alex – pampered, provoking, impossible, yet strong. I have never really created her, she came out of me so naturally and with her own personality that I myself find it hard to explain. Indeed, creating another reasonable and sensitive female protagonist who rebels against whatever injustice, drawing sighs of admiration from fascinated readers while doing so, would have been easier. It would have been more popular too. But it’s not what “Lupus Constellation” is about. I wanted to make this story as different and unique as possible, including by its main characters.
Q: Often, I found myself evidently disturbed by the teachers’ unjustified and silent endorsement of corporal punishment against students who demonstrated deviant behaviour. Did you also face considerable difficulties in illustrating this idea on paper? How does the oppressive system assist in Alex’s coming-of-age journey from complete ignorance to painful understanding?
A: As strange as this may sound, but I didn’t encounter any major difficulties in illustrating that idea on paper. The only tricky thing was to find the right words in order to give it just the right amount of what I wanted to be there.
I think this may be attributed to my professional background. Over the last seven years I worked as an intelligence analyst with a focus on political and security trends, as well as militant groups and criminal networks around the world. As part of my work, I have been exposed to things that not many people would be willing to watch. I assume it has made me tougher both in life and in writing fiction.
Back to the series, I think Alex’s journey reflects my own experience, though somewhat paraphrased. It’s the inner growth process, which makes you reconsider things after being presented with a different perspective. In her case, I think her unique personality makes this process even more pronounced. You don’t have to be the most reasonable person on Earth to make great things happen.
Q: Could you name the most urgent topics of your novel? Is it bullying, isolation or power dynamics?
A: I would say teen violence and power dynamics were the two main topics I had on my mind when I first started writing. The main challenge was to figure out how to combine them in a way that wouldn’t be too fantastic and far-fetched, as most of other dystopian fantasy novels.
Q: What comes next for Alex? It seems, at least for me, that you denied any form of romance to be developed in The Beginning. Should we expect any love subplot(s) in the sequel?
A: You definitely should. However, as the rest of the story, don’t anticipate it to be something you may be accustomed to.
Q: On this note, could you describe the second installation in a single sentence? Is it about Alex’s power, the school which she attends or the various and mysterious people surrounding her?
A: The second installment of the “Lupus Constellation” series is all about the Games that will take you farther into the darkness of grand ancient ruins high in the mountains, from where not everyone returns.
Q: Given the fact that your novel has been compared with massively popular series like The Hunger Games, are you in favor of new novels being labeled as worthy reads according to their predecessors? By extension, what are the faults of the current book marketing?
A: I treat this kind of labeling as a way to attract the right audience to my book, rather than to make it sound worthy of general attention. For me, marketing my own novel is much more exhausting than the writing process itself, as I find myself spending more time learning promotional techniques than working on the next installment, which frustrates and alienates me as a writer. In a reality where publishing houses are no longer in control of what people read, indie authors are striving. However, we are also obliged to become both marketing experts and the agents of ourselves. The competition is enormous, and since successful promotion is the key to book sales, I think writing has become affected by commercial elements as never before.
Q: Could you delineate your writing process? Do you come up with a draft or do you simply start writing and brainstorming at the same time? Is there any person close to you who acts as a beta reader once completing your manuscripts?
A: I remember the moment I first opened my laptop and stared blankly at a white page in front of me. The only thing I had back then was a strong desire to write a story, but all those ideas were still vague in my head. Until the very last moment, I had no clue what this story would be. The words seemed to have been pouring out of me, forming sentences and passages, chapter after chapter, on the screen of my computer, and the characters slowly emerged in my head, each growing and gaining his or her own personality. However, while working on the next installments, I used to make rough sketches to help maintain a sequence of events throughout the main story.
As for beta readers, a friend of mine did read a few books before they got published. Today I’m publishing without any. Family or close friends tend to be over-supportive, even if they don’t like the story. I’m inclined to let my readers decide whether they enjoy the novel or not. After all, they are the ones I’m writing for.
Q: Mia, do you have any tips for young writers who face writer’s block?
A: Never ever press yourself to write! Every time I did that to myself I had to rewrite those parts later and it was just a waste of my time. Take a break, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and isolate yourself from the book for a little while. Ideas will flow naturally.
Q: In your short bio, it is mentioned that you have lived in different countries and you are a fluent speaker of three very different and unique languages. Do you think that this multicultural experience has influenced you as a writer? How so? Could this impact be detected in your fiction as well?
A: Oh, that’s a very good question. And my answer is yes, it very much has. Actually, I would never be able to come up with something like “Lupus Constellation” without that valuable experience. I was fortunate enough to spend a few years of my life in three completely different worlds: Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the USA. Speaking of different perspectives, this unique multicultural experience contributed a lot to my understanding of the world and powerful forces, both seen and unseen, that shape global politics. I think much of it has manifested in my series. While the violent environment you will be embroiled in may be the first thing that catches your attention, the “Lupus Constellation” series carries messages that go far beyond bullying or rampant inhumanity. The Reds and their incredible power, the covert way in which they maintain their interests, even the true nature of their ability to control others… I very much hope that at some point you will stop and ask yourself – am I sure that I am reading a fantasy series?
Q: What is your next writing step? When is the release of the sequel? And how many books of the Lupus Constellation are to be expected?
A: The sequel will come out in spring. I intend on releasing six books in total, with the fourth installment comprising of two parts. However, from my publishing experience, things are subject to change all the time.
Q: Last but not least, are you on social media? Also, from which sites could readers order a copy of The Beginning?
A: You can find both Kindle edition and paperback on Amazon.
Join me on Goodreads for any questions about the series.
Mia Tavor is the author of an international best selling series “Lupus Constellation”.
She spent her childhood and adolescence in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, which gave her a unique international and multicultural experience. Today she lives in the US, holds a graduate degree in Political Science and is fluent in three languages.