This month our roving reporter, Deeya, from Cerdon College in Merrylands NSW, caught up with KATHARINE J ADAMS to chat with her about her new book, Tonight I Burn.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A witch with the power to walk between the realms of Life and Death finds herself at the centre of a magical rebellion – and a dangerous romance – that could destroy her coven and her soul in this dark and decadent debut. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, and Chloe Gong.
Thorns, Tides, Embers, Storms and Ores. All five covens are bound in servitude to the tyrant High Warden of Halstett.
Penny Albright is a daughter of the thorn coven, forced to patrol the veil between the realms of Life and Death, keeping it safe and whole. Each night, one thorn witch – and only one – must cross the veil by burning at the stake. Each morning, that witch returns with the help of their magical lifeline. Failure to follow the rules of Death risks them all.
When Penny’s favourite sister doesn’t return from Death, Penny breaks the rules. She burns in secret.
Determined to find her sister, Penny makes a deal with the devastating Lord Malin who she meets in Death. Someone who shouldn’t be there at all. This bargain leads her to Alice, a mysterious captive prophet, and to a rebellion against the High Warden brewing in the shadows of their city. Penny soon learns all is not as it seems in Life or Death. And as her world splits between her growing love for the ethereal Alice in Life and her attraction to the seductive Malin in Death she’ll face a devastating choice.
Because it’s not just her sister’s life that hangs in the balance. It’s the fate of all magic.
All it takes is one witch – and one spark – to set the world ablaze.
MEET OUR ROVING REPORTER
Deeya is in Year 10 and loves to read books, especially fantasy. She enjoys playing guitar and has a curiosity to learn new things.
Q&A with Katharine J Adams
Why do the thorn witches prefer death over life?
It’s the Thorn Coven’s responsibility to keep Death safe, so they’ve grown rather fond of it over the centuries, and their magic is tied to it. Since the coven’s forced arrival in Halstett, Death became a respite from the horrors of the Warden’s regime. Penny in particular finds herself at home in Death as she can finally access her magic, and of course, there’s the manor and Malin pulling her back.
Where did you get the inspiration to write the book Tonight, I Burn from?
I was actually writing another story when Tonight, I Burn hit me. I’d read an interview earlier in the day about how Julie Kagawa came up with her Iron Fey series. Her agent had suggested taking a trope and twisting it into something new and unexpected. The concept of witches burning themselves at the stake instead of being burnt popped into my head and blew the other story out of the water.
Have you always been interested in fantasy?
Absolutely. I’ve inhaled fantasy books since I read TheHobbit. I love how the real world takes a breath and pauses while I’m in a fantasy world either in a book I’m reading or a story I’m writing.
Due to what particular reason Mila and Ella drifted apart?
Mila and Ella fell out over their father and his choices when they first arrived in Halstett. Mila was older and more involved in the coven’s workings, so she was able to empathise more with the position their father was in. Ella and Penny were protected from the worst of it, and Ella resented her father for what she saw as the easy way out. As Ella began to question and rebel against Halstett’s rules, Mila was being trained up to lead the coven by their grandmother, so the sisters ended up on opposite sides.
Does the protagonist Penelope relate to you? Where did you get your inspiration to create a character like Penelope?
Penny is a of an overthinker like I am. She’s a dreamer too, hoping for a better world and believing in the impossible. I’m also guilty of hiding from reality in the pages of a book!
Do any characters in the novel share the same characteristics as you?
I think all of them have little pieces of me buried inside. Malin’s sarcastic sense of humour, Penny’s love of reading, Miss Elsweather and her cups of tea. But they’re all very much their own people too. I’m not sure I’d have the courage to face what Penny faces and to still keep fighting to the end. She’s a lot more forgiving than me too.
How long did it take you to write the novel?
This story hit me hard and seemed to write itself. The first draft took me two weeks. It took about six months after that to get it ready to pitch to agents, and then it’s been through several months worth of edits with my agent and editor since then too.
Who were your favourite authors growing up?
I’m a huge Tolkien fan, and I’ve read and reread The Hobbit and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ over and over again. I loved Steven King since my early teens and I’ve always had a soft spot for the classics like The Secret Garden and ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
Are there any other genres that you like besides fantasy?
I do quite like rom coms and I adore the odd dip into literary fiction! I also discovered a love of Sci-Fi last year. To be honest, I’ll read pretty much anything. I think it’s super important as a writer to read widely and outside the genre we write in.
Was there anyone in your life that inspired you to become a writer? If so, who?
Stories have always been my lifeblood! My grandad used to tell me stories about Peanut Butter Land, and my Dad used to make up incredible stories about Clous Captains when I was a child. We used to live on a boat and there’s a kind of special magic to tales told at sea under the stars with the wind in the rigging. Once I started writing seriously, I discovered my great grandad was a publisher author. I got sent a few of his stories and it’s been pretty cool knowing I’m following in his footsteps.
Do you plan on writing more fantasy novels in the future?
Absolutely! I have Tonight, I Bleed coming in 2024, and then Tonight, I Blaze in 2025. Outside of that, I have a pile of worlds and stories and characters sat here waiting for me to do something with them. I’m itching to get back to a few of them and I have a few new ideas up my sleeve too!
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist, Penelope?
Penny is steadfastly loyal and puts others before herself, but she’s prone to acting impulsively and not stopping to think things through or consider other people’s opinions and feelings. She’s also a huge dreamer and clings to hope even in the direst of situations. Somehow, the belief it will all work out seems to carry her through…to a point!
What made Penelope attracted to Malin? Was it his nature, attitude, etc?
She’s physically attracted to him pretty much straight away, but he makes her feel unsettlingly safe. Safety is in short supply in Halstett, so she finds herself drawn back to him and resenting their bargain less and less.
How does the novel, Tonight, I Burn, highlight problems that people face in this generation?
I think that sense of safety that Penny craves can be in short supply in this world too. With so many things going “wrong” globally, it feels like there’s no chance of things ever getting better. But I cling to hope that the generation of young people about to take the reins of the world have the drive and desire to truly make changes that will bring about long lasting change. There’s a lot of intolerance in the older generations, a lot of prejudice and hate – like the dislike and distrust between the covens – but if we can work together to bring down those barriers and join forces against the really big issues the world faces, the stars are the limit.
In the novel, who would be your favourite character and why?
I should probably say Penny, Alice, or Malin, and I love them all dearly, but secretly, I think my favourite would be Toby. He’s such a cinnamon roll underneath that gold plating. (My daughter just read this over my shoulder and told me off. She says the only answer is Alice.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m a dark gothic fantasy writer.
My childhood was spent travelling the world, and I finally settled in glorious Oceania, more specifically in New Zealand. I just adore the name Oceania. It reminds me of mermaids and sea witches and Neptune ruling beneath the waves. I’m passionate about positive LGBTQ+ representation, and love blending my own bisexuality into my character’s journeys.
I write. A lot.
Mostly tucked away in my office with a dog curled up at my feet in the wee small hours of the morning while the rest of the house sleeps. Sometimes in the car waiting for dance class to finish. On Mondays it’s one of three cafes with a huge caramel latte and a view of the Cook Strait.
No matter where I am, I’m never happier than those moments when my writing truly takes me away, and I’m in a realm where Death is a place, the future is woven from silk, and love can be found in the most unexpected places.