Teen Author Spotlight and September Reviews
I'm happy to spotlight 16-year-old Hermione Lee who is the author of the YA Fantasy In the Name of the Otherworld. It will be published by World Castle Publishing this Tuesday, September 21st.
Below the Q&A, check out the reviews for my September reads, including one of my favorite books this year!
First, a little about her:
Hermione Lee is a sixteen-year-old author born and raised in Taiwan, where everyone and everything in her life stimulated her rich imagination and inspired her to write. Although she prefers writing stories in her grandma's quaint, cozy home, she writes anytime and anywhere. To her, words are portals that whisk her to whimsical worlds of magic. When Hermione isn’t writing, she indulges herself in epic tales of fantasy, horror, and adventure; but mostly, dwelling in her reverie.
Hermione's life motto says a lot about her stories: Fight for what you believe in; believe in what you fight for. This sentence best represents her journey of becoming a writer. She waged a constant war against invisible enemies— self-doubt, self-discrimination, and of course, countless rejections. However, these struggles only strengthened her will to succeed and pursue her ambition. Along the way, Hermione learned to stick to her goals, have humility and perseverance, and stay loyal to her own beliefs. Her personality is strongly projected on the characters she created; firm, unyielding, and with a thirst to prove themselves.
When Hermione first started writing, she had eyes for only the fame and recognition accompanied by success; however, her opinions have matured greatly during the past few years. She continues to write stories nowadays, but out of sheer interest and passion rather than gaining profit.
About the book:
Regarded as a witch and alienated by the majority of her peers, fourteen-year-old orphan Alexandria Richardson wants to be anybody but herself. However, this all changes one day, when the mysterious fountain in her school transports her and her three classmates to a world of magic— the Otherworld. The four of them are brought to the palace of the Otherworld on the rulers' orders, and the shocking truth of Alexandria's identity and parentage is revealed. As Alexandria then participates in a miraculous adventure with her companions, she explores the depths of courage, kindness, and friendship. But will she make it safely back to the Otherworld? Or will she eventually yield to her biggest enemy, someone no other than herself?
It's not just an adventure. It's a journey of growth and redemption.
Q&A with Hermione
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies from book to book. I spent six months writing In the Name of the Otherworld, four writing Marvels of the Underworld (the sequel), and two-and-a-half finishing the third book in the trilogy, War of the Chaotic Worlds. Interestingly enough, my duration of writing a book has nothing to do with the word count, (In the Name of the Otherworld is around 71k, Marvels of the Underworld 89k, and War of the Chaotic Worlds 124k) but rather the events and other things that are going on in my life.
2. What do you like the most about your publisher?
❶ My editor Maxine is very patient, kind, and efficient. She makes the editing process easy for us authors and never gives us deadlines. She chats with me from time to time, and cares a lot about not only my book but also me and my writing career. I honestly don’t think I could’ve come across a better editor. If you’re reading this, Maxine, thanks a lot for your help!
❷ Karen, the owner of World Castle Publishing, is also an amazing lady. What I like the most about her is she never treats me like a kid or a foreigner, or brings up my age and nationality. I went through the SOP and everything with her like a normal adult author, which made me feel respected. Also, Karen and I created the beautiful cover for In the Name of the Otherworld together. She values my opinion very much, and she is always willing to listen to the ideas or suggestions I propose for the cover.
3. What does your family think of your writing?
They weren’t all for it in the beginning, but tables turned after I earned my first contract after two-and-a-half solid years of hard work. Now they’re very supportive of my writing. Sometimes you’ve got to prove yourself to others. Show them you've got merit and talent and what it takes to be a real author.
4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I’d say the most surprising thing I learned in creating my books is the strength of perseverance and willpower. With my sky-high ambition, strong motivation, and unyielding determination, I achieved goals beyond my wildest imagination, made the dreams I once had a reality. Nothing is impossible if you’ve got enough grit. As I continued to write, I continued to surpass and surprise myself with every milestone I reached along the way. I didn’t know I had this much potential, and I’m glad I had the courage to break through my limits, leave my comfort zone, and let my talents soar. We'd all be shocked at how much we can actually achieve once we set our minds and put our hearts into our dreams.
5. What do you think makes a good story?
Every good story requires an intriguing plot, believable and likable characters, prose that stylistically grasps the readers’ attention, and a nice moral like a cherry on the top. It is very difficult to succeed in all four aspects, but all of my favorite books— Bridge to Terabithia, the Harry Potter series, Nineteen Minutes, My Sister’s Keeper, Defending Jacob, The Chocolate War, and Holes—have done it beautifully.
6. What do you want to do when you grow up besides being an author?
I want to be an English professor. My dream is to inspire more Taiwanese students to love English and regard it as a form of art and not a subject or a lifeless tool. In fact, I often plan out the syllabi of my courses in my mind. I would love to open a course dissecting my books and have my students discuss the plot, characters, prose, and moral. It would be wonderful to actually interact with them and hear their opinions on my writing.
7. How would you process and deal with negative book reviews?
It depends on what kind of negative review it is. If it’s some disgruntled troll blabbing about how lousy the plot is, how obnoxious the characters are…. I’ll choose to disregard that review. But if it’s a review that points out plot holes or weaknesses in character development, misuse of terminology, or unreasonable scenes, I’ll reflect on my book and avoid making the same mistake in the future. It is important to embrace constructive criticism. They are blessings in disguise, and as authors, we should have the intelligence to distinguish between malicious haters and wise readers who genuinely want to help us improve our craft.
8. Which themes are discussed in In the Name of the Otherworld?
Many themes are presented in In the Name of the Otherworld. Familial love, friendship, courage, wisdom, bullying, faith, good-versus-evil, redemption, trust, and forgiveness…. These are all covered in the story. I would like to stress the importance of three themes in particular.
*~*SPOILER ALERT BELOW*~*
❶ Be yourself, stick to your moral values
“Don’t let people define who you are. Don’t mind what Alexandria or the others say about you. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe in. Don’t let anyone or anything sway you if you’re doing the right thing. Just keep being yourself and following your values. One day, everyone will accept you as you are.”
— In the Name of the Otherworld Chapter 9.
King Patrick said this to Eric in the ninth chapter. Eric was rejected and disliked by Alexandria when he revealed his parentage. However, he did not despair. He continued to be himself; his true, genuine self. He remained loyal and faithful to his new companions, and time eventually proved everything. They accepted him as he was in the end. In our lives, we may meet many disagreeable people. They may hate us, everything about us, or even discriminate against us for our age, gender, race, religion, or nationality. However, all we have to do is to just be ourselves. If we stay true to ourselves and stand by our moral values, they will eventually see us as who we truly are, and judge us for our positive traits rather than what they see on the outside.
❷ Fight against gender stereotypes
“Were dressing up, falling in love, and revolving around their lovers the only things important for women? No. Not for me, at least. I’m not at all concerned about my appearance nor romance. The one and only thing I care about is the future of our realm. We don’t have much, but we have the Otherworld, and we’re not going to relinquish it no matter what. So I want all the Otherworldians to know that I, as their princess, will do my best to defend our kingdom and fight for the Otherworld. And so should every one of them.”
— In the Name of the Otherworld Chapter 13.
The second theme I would like to discuss is to “fight against gender stereotypes.” Although this is not mentioned in my summary, Alexandria was discriminated against by some Elders in the book because of her hot temper and adventurous personality. They deemed her unfit as a princess, thinking that princesses should be “dainty, demure yet delicate.” People used to think women were inferior to men, and should always be passive. Women were mostly judged based on their beauty and ability to do housework, while men, active and adventurous, were judged based on their courage and chivalry. Women were deprived of many opportunities, while men had more freedom. I think this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. We are all humans, and everyone is worth the same. Nobody is superior or inferior, better or worse than each other. It is absurd and unfair to deny women of the opportunities that men had. Fortunately, Alexandria succeeded on her mission and proved the superficial Elders wrong. She made her parents proud and saved the Otherworld.
❸ Forgiveness and redemption
“I forgave myself at the same time I forgave them. By doing so, I earned redemption and set myself free from the past.”
— In the Name of the Otherworld Chapter 13.
The third theme I would like to elaborate on is forgiveness and redemption. In the story, Alexandria forgives the bullies, her parents, Daphne, and finally, herself. What good does holding grudges against people do? None. Instead, we let the petty anger and hatred mar our hearts and make it a shade darker. When we bear too much hatred and darkness, we burden ourselves with negativity and become cynical, unable to forgive and forget. We can’t change the past. Sometimes, we can’t even make the people who wronged us apologize. So, instead of holding grudges against them, why not just forgive them instead? By forgiving others, we will find redemption in our hearts and return to our happy, carefree selves, like Alexandria in the end. When we forgive others, we actually forgive ourselves at the same time, sparing ourselves the negativity and hatred that so consume us.
See more on:
September Book Reviews
Highland Games by Evie Alexander
Kinloch Series #1
Releases October 15th, 2021
5 stars. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I get sent a lot of books but I don’t remember the last time I stayed up until 1:00am reading, got this immersed in a book so I lost track of time, and looking back can’t think of anything I’d want different.
The characters are perfectly strong but flawed. The conflict felt compelling but realistic. The romance was palpable and well-written. Plus, Rory managed to be both conventionally masculine (in strength, appearance, etc) but also didn’t perpetuate toxic masculinity (ie didn’t have to “save” Zoe, cooked and cleaned, was emotionally available).
If you’re a fan of M/F enemies-to-lovers, complex characters, masculine-presenting but emotionally available Scottish men, and a bit of spicy romance, this is the book for you.
Basically, this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t wait for the sequel. If Evie Alexander isn’t the next big romance writer, I’d be shocked.
The Light and the Loyalists by Viera and Veronika Landis
The Lodestar Diaries: Book 1
4.5 stars. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. The "chosen one" trope is overdone and often falls flat, but this story is fresh, gripping, and well-written. The writing itself was excellent with vivid descriptions, realistic dialogue, and compelling characters. Finding debut books of this quality is rare.
Zara and Emir were easy to root for, especially given their complexity, strength, and compassion. Plus, I loved the themes and middle eastern setting.
Speaking of reviews, if you've read Starvation but have yet to review it, please consider doing so (on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you prefer). This is not only one of the best ways to support me, it also helps me support other authors such as with this spotlight.
Finally, if you're interested in submitting a book for review, or applying for a spotlight, check out my review policy.