Hey fellow ramblers! Today is a very exciting day because I’m going to be talking to the author of a wonderful fantasy novel, The Endless Skies, Shannon Price! I read The Endless Skies a few months ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m very grateful that I get to converse with the author!
Her book comes out next week on the 17th of August, so make sure to order your copies! Without any further ado, let’s get into it!
High above the sea, floats the pristine city of the Heliana. Home to winged-lion shapeshifters―the Leonodai―and protected from the world of humans by an elite group of warriors, the Heliana has only known peace. After years of brutal training, seventeen-year-old Rowan is ready to prove her loyalty to the city and her people to become one of the Leonodai warriors. But before Rowan can take the oath, a deadly disease strikes the city’s children. Soon the warriors―including two of Rowan’s closest friends―are sent on a dangerous mission to find a fabled panacea deep within enemy lands. Left behind, Rowan learns a devastating truth that could compromise the mission and the fate of the Heliana itself. She must make a decision: stay with the city and become a warrior like she always dreamed, or risk her future in an attempt to save everyone she loves. Whatever Rowan decides, she has to do it fast, because time is running out, and peace can only last so long…
Hi Shannon! Thank you so much for taking the time to be here! To start off, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your upcoming/new book?
Sure! I’m a YA author based in California’s Bay Area. My first book, A Thousand Fires, came out in 2019 and is a YA contemporary reimagining of the Iliad. My upcoming book is called The Endless Skies and it’s a YA fantasy adventure about a group of winged lion shapeshifters that embark on a mission to find the cure for a disease that’s ravaging their city.
When I’m not writing, I like to bake, watch movies (I’m a sucker for a period drama), and hang out with my dog, Nana.
The concept of shape shifting warriors is so unique! What inspired this idea?
Two things! The first inspiration I had for The Endless Skies came from a dream I had in 2013. Dream-Me was in a secluded grotto, and I was looking around at a group of winged lions as if waiting for a signal. When I woke up, I wrote those images and feelings down on a piece of paper and tucked it away.
Fast forward many years later. I was building out a story on that image of Dream-Me being in a grotto as a winged lion. I knew I could shape it into the concept of a race-against-time adventure. Ultimately, the idea of my characters being shapeshifters was a practical one: I wanted to be able to expand the world I was building to include very human norms like festivals and clothing styles. I couldn’t capture that the way I wanted to if my characters were only lions, so my answer was to make them both.
Which character did you have the most fun writing?
Rowan, my MC. Rowan has a fiery personality, but she’s also hugely loyal to the Leonodai ways and the warrior life, both of which are strict, hierarchal systems. The book opens with Rowan playing by the rules, but her internal conflict begins when what she feels is the right and correct course of action is against the rules.
Writing an earnest character that’s frequently tempted by impulse and gut reactions was a lot of fun, and really rewarding. Readers will see Rowan struggle a lot, especially with her own mistakes. I think that makes her more relatable.
If you had to make a playlist for The Endless Skies, what would be some of the songs you would add to it?
I actually do have a playlist for TES! There are a number of nostalgic songs on there, such as themes from childhood movies that evoke a sense of adventure and urgency for me. I must have listened to “Heritage of the Wolf”, composed by the James Horner for the 1997 animated movie Balto, dozens of times.
I also have songs that I connect to each character. “5 out of 6” by Dessa is Rowan’s song. “No Light, No Light” by Florence + the Machine is for Rowan’s older sister, Shirene. “King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters And Men is the last song on the playlist. If my book ever became a TV show or movie, I want that song to play during the closing credits.
What, according to you, is the most challenging part of writing a fantasy novel?
Sticking to your own rules, particularly rules around magic systems. When you start building a world from the ground up, it’s all fun and exciting and easy. It’s once you start revising that you have to hone in on what’s vital and what can—or needs to—go. You reach a point where there is usually a way to solve one revision problem…but then you’ll need to go back and change a dozen other things to keep with the rules you’ve created. It’s frustrating, but readers will spot an inconsistency a mile away. You have to get it right.
What is something you learned during your writing experience of this novel, and how was it different than that of your debut novel, A Thousand Fires?
Oh, I learned so much, but if I had to sum it up: I learned how to embrace the story as it was changing. For A Thousand Fires I was so focused on keeping the drafts intact that I didn’t allow myself room to ask what made sense for the story as it went through various revisions. I think more time—and more grace towards myself—would have made it stronger.
When my publisher and I agreed on The Endless Skies as my next book, I already had 50k written from working on it here and there over the years. After the first rounds of revision, it was clear the ending I wanted didn’t make sense. The characters would not logically act the way I needed them to in what I wanted to be a heartbreaking scene…but I really wanted it to work and kept trying to make changes to the other parts of the story to keep the ending. Anchoring myself to that particular ending was hurting the book.
Once I let go of it, revising immediately felt better, and I did, too. The heart of The Endless Skies never went away. My love for it never went away, and although the ending looks different, it still hits all the dramatic notes I wanted. Now that the book is finished, it’s very rewarding to look back on how far I’ve come knowing how many changes the drafts went through.
Who are some of your favourite authors whose books you’d always recommend?
Margaret Rogerson is an instant-buy for me. She writes such visually rich stories that are as whimsical as they are poignant and unforgettable. She has a new book called Vespertine coming out in September and I cannot wait! I also love Claudia Gray. Her Firebird series changed my life: it got me out of a long reading/writing slump; and I wrote and edited what would become my first book in about 8 months after discovering it.
Finally, I always recommend Madeline Miller, specifically The Song of Achilles. I truly cannot think about that book without getting emotional. I already loved the Iliad, but what she does with the characters of Patroclus and Achilles is genius. I recommend it to everyone.
What lesson do you wish for readers to take away from The Endless Skies?
Don’t limit yourself by only listening to what you’ve been taught. Trust your gut.
Lastly, describe your book in a series of emojis! (credit for this question goes to a lot of bloggers whose interviews I picked it from!)
And that’s all for today! Once again, a big thank you to Shannon for taking the time to come here! What did you guys think? Have you read The Endless Skies? Is it on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!