Starflower, Tales of Goldstone Woods Series #4Starflower, Tales of Goldstone Woods Series #4
Anne Elisabeth Stengl
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When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission... and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?
     


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Anne Elisabeth StenglAnne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, fantasy novels written in the Classic Fairy Tale style. Her debut novel, Heartless, won a 2011 Christy Award, and her sophomore novel, Veiled Rose, was a finalist for Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year and is now a finalist for a 2012 Christy Award.

Favorite Verse: Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV) "He hath ma de every thing beautiful in his time."


 

 Our Interview with Anne Elisabeth Stengl


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello! I am Anne Elisabeth, a lover of Fairy Tales, cats, Sri Lankan teas, classical piano, fuzzy socks, and old literature.

I am the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, fantasy novels written in the Classic Fairy Tale style. My debut novel, Heartless, won a 2011 Christy Award, and my sophomore novel, Veiled Rose, was a finalist for Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year and is now a finalist for a 2012 Christy Award. So, by God's grace, it has been a busy couple of years for my series!

I live with my handsome husband in a little house on a hill in North Carolina, where we enjoy gardening and music, fine tea and pastries, and lots of company.

What is your favorite Bible verse?  (Translation too, please) Why?

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time." Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV).

This has been an ongoing truth in my life as I have watched God's plan unfold for me. Even those events and situations that I would have avoided and would never choose to relive, God has turned to good and blessing. This verse reminds me that nothing can thwart His will, and that His will, not mine, is ultimately best and most beautiful.

What was your inspiration to write Tales of Goldstone Wood Series?

It's hard to pin down just one! I think the simplest answer is that there were not enough books being written that I liked to read. While there is a great deal of fantasy for young adults, not much of it is composed in the styles I most enjoy. Authors Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner, Shannon Hale, and Sir Terry Pratchett all write wonderful YA novels that are very readable to modern audiences, but which also tap into stylistic modes of older eras, lending a richness to their work and worlds that I find exceptional.

I wanted to write a series of intricately connected fairy tale novels in the style of these authors I so love. While each story in Goldstone Wood  is relatively straightforward and can work as a standalone, with every successive book read, the reader will see a bigger, more epic-scale picture unfolding.

This concept was my initial inspiration, but many more inspirations have moved me and encouraged me with each new story I've written. And ultimately, isn't every writer inspired by the simple need to tell a good story?

How much research did the Tales of Goldstone Wood Series take?

Quite a lot of research has gone into building the Tales of Goldstone Wood, though perhaps not of the usual variety. For the basic world-building, I wanted the series to have a familiar flavor, one that my readers would feel they had encountered before even if they could not place quite where. Thus I spent a great deal of time studying old fairy tales: works by Shakespeare and Chaucer and Spenser; works by Tennyson and Shelley and Browning; The Ballad of Tam Lin, several translations of Beowulf; Samuel Taylor Coleridge and George MacDonald. All of these and more have influenced the development of my world.

Specific research has been more random and pursued as needed. I took fencing lessons for about a year so that I would know how to write decent sword-fighting scenes (a must in any self-respecting fairy tale novel!). For my most recent manuscript, I found myself researching the pollination of certain types of figs, fig wasps, and the unusual species of fig known as the Caprifig. Odd, I know . . . but it will all make sense when that book releases!

 

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Starflower?

Possibly the most interesting research influencing Starflower did not start out as official research at all. During the spring and summer I wrote that novel, I also began to work with feral cats and kittens. Feral cats are wild animals that have had no human socialization. They are terrified and, in their terror, they can be vicious and even dangerous to work with . . . it is rather like trying to handle miniature tigers! But my husband and I had moved into a house bordering a feral cat colony and decided it was our responsibility to work with these wild animals.

I began trapping kittens and bringing them into my basement to tame. They were all unique in their reactions to this, and many took weeks and weeks to tame (one took a full year to settle down and become a lap cat). I tried many different methods to make breakthroughs with them. But ultimately what made the difference with each of these kittens was love.

I know it sounds cliché, but it was fascinating for me. These little beasts had never experienced love, so they didn't know how to love back. They were completely wild--vicious, snarling creatures without personality. But as I showered love upon them in, I watched the beast recede and the pet--which was always there in potential--emerge. Each kitten began to display its own personality and become a happy, purring, domesticated lapwarmer.

This was a profound reflection to me of how God works with people. The potential for spiritual life and relationship with God is inside all of us. But if we remain untouched by His love, we will be nothing more than beasts, wild and vicious at heart. His love breaks down those walls in us and allows the potential spiritual being to emerge, submitted to Him as our Master and filled with love.

So, lessons I learned while working with feral kittens became the major theme of Starflower. Though there isn't a kitten to be seen from beginning to end, the story of transformational love forms the backbone of this tale.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story?

Because Starflower is a prequel, I ran into many interesting glitches in the writing process. I'd written about my two main characters, Bard Eanrin and Dame Imraldera, in my previous three novels . . . only now, I was writing about them many hundreds of years before we met them initially! They aren't the same people in Starflower that they become by Heartless or Moonblood. So who are they back in time? And what experiences do they undergo that lead to them becoming the characters we meet later?

This challenge led to many writer's-block moments. But it was also one of the richest and most rewarding aspects of writing this story. And I do love my two main characters!

Do you write by the seat-of-your pants letting the story unfold as you write, plot the entire story, write with an outline, or a combination of the above?

I am all about an outline! My stories tend to be complicated, with many plot threads weaving together to form the complete picture. Trying to handle it seat-of-the-pants would be entirely overwhelming to me. So I use a loose outline, mapping out key plot elements per chapter. This is very flexible, and a great deal of spontaneous work emerges as the story develops. But I like to have an outline, for certain.

 

Do you make up the setting in advance?
 
I do make up my settings in advance, but, since this is a fantasy world, I remain flexible within that as well. I want my characters to move and breathe within a convincing context, however, so as much as possible I try to have everything fixed in my mind for each setting. This creates a deeper sense of authenticity, at least for me!

How many more books will be in the Tales of Goldstone Wood Series?

I am currently contracted for six novels in the series.

What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?

At the moment, I am very focused on the Tales of Goldstone Wood. I recently finished drafting Book 5, and am now making headway into Book 6. When it is complete, I have many files of projects and even roughed-out manuscripts to tackle. But for the moment, I am living in Goldstone Wood exclusively.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Tales of Goldstone Wood Series? 
 
Ultimately, the theme of each of my fairy tales is undeserved grace. My characters go on exciting adventures and face many horrible monsters, yet their deepest fears and most secret sins always prove to be their greatest enemies. Each one must face the enemy of "Self" and realize that grace is the only hope.
 
I would like my readers to walk away from each story with a renewed heart, knowing that although we can never earn grace, it is offered beyond our deserving.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to leave a little note of encouragement to those reading this interview: If God has given you a passion for something, He intends you to use it. Pursue your passions, pursue your dreams, be open to learning from many different sources, and remember that every experience, whether good or bad, can be used by God to shape your life in amazing directions as long as you are submitted to His leading. He uses broken people, not perfect people. And His grace is sufficient.

For those of you aspiring writers out there, my best advice is this: READ! Read a lot, read in many genres, read things you disagree with, read things you love. Study what you read, figure out why you love it or why you don't. Then WRITE! The only way to finish a novel is to write it. No excuses. Put words down on the page, good, bad, or indifferent. Foster a teachable spirit; remember that we are called to lives of courageous humility, and the writing world is a top-notch arena in which to practice this lifestyle!

Feel free to contact me via my writing blog: anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com. I love to interact with my readers. And I hope you will pick up Tales of Goldstone Wood and disappear with me for a time into the strange and wonderful realm of Faerie!


 


 

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