Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Author Guest Post: Two Worlds, One Story

Today I have debut author Andrea Cremer here to discuss how her academic life inspired her novel Nightshade. Nightshade is a fantastic novel, and you'll get to see my review of it tomorrow. Until then, check out the synopsis of the novel and what Andrea has to say about how the story was born.

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

I started out as an English major, but amid a semester of learning poetry scansion I enrolled in a history course titled “Women in Medieval Europe.” The professor of this course was a fantastic woman and the readings penned by women some seven hundred years ago were completely absorbing. While I loved the literature in my English classes, I was frustrated by the emphasis on the mechanics of writing itself – I wanted to know why the author had written the piece, what it meant to the society it was produced in. In a meeting with the history professor who I found so inspiring, I confessed these disappointments. Her response: “If you’re a history major, you can do it all.”

That was the beginning of the next ten years of my life. After a B.A. I went on to receive an M.A. in history and then a Ph.D. I’m now an Assistant Professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Thinking my life was somehow settled after my first year of teaching, I decided to pursue the things I’d loved outside of work. My first idea was to get back into horseback riding, something I’d done constantly until I went to college. But my summer of riding and my foot were smashed in a riding accident the first day I went to the stable and I was banished to my couch with physician’s orders not to walk for the next twelve weeks.

Rendered lame, I returned to my idea of reclaiming things I loved and hit on the idea of writing a novel. I’d always dreamed of being a writer, but the pragmatist in me quelled that impulse – channeling my research and writing skills solely for academic purposes. But some part of me wasn’t satisfied with the scholarly writing required by my profession. It lacked the soul of storytelling that made me love books. I decided to give storytelling a shot. I began to write and I was hooked.

But history didn’t leave me alone. I wanted to write a story about a female character who wasn’t being pulled into a magical world – she was already in the middle of it, a leader and a warrior. The world of Nightshade came as I tried to figure out how someone like Calla, a girl who I knew was incredibly powerful, could be afraid and angry. What was controlling her? Why would she be fighting against her own destiny? I realized that she was facing off with something even more
powerful than herself. That’s where my background as a historian came in. I teach early modern history (1500-1800) – a period of immense, violent change in human societies. This is the time of witchhunts, religious warfare, colonization, the Inquistion; all types of cataclysmic social transformation that turned the lives across the globe upside down. The more I thought about Calla I thought about the ways in which wolf warriors and witches could have intertwined lives. The mythology in Nightshade is a blend of history and lore plus new twists I imagined along the way.

In the whirlwind of dreaming the story to becoming a published author with three more books on the way (and more to come!) I’ve realized that I’ll always be both a writer and a historian. It’s not just the story that matters to me, each word of Nightshade from the characters’ thoughts to the settings where the plot unfolds, is shaped by its context, by its history.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Andrea! Be sure to run out and grab yourself a copy of Nightshade. It hits shelves today!


  1. oh my gosh Liz that is AWESOME! She's like my new hero, because I'm a history major and I kind of subscribed to the thought that "creative writing is a English-majors only talent." That's so cool to know that Dr. Cremer represents YA fantasy writing from the history field!

  2. Thank you for this interesting post! :D Nightshade not only sounds great, but I'm in love with the cover! *_*

  3. I haven't read this yet but I really want to! Andrea Cremer's words here are so inspiring!



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