Alpha Academy, #2
by Sara E. Tall
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Billie thinks stopping her fellow students from committing murder and almost getting kicked out of the Realm is as bad as it gets, but she should know better. Not only are seven of the most powerful students out for her blood, but Sedna —her former enemy turned ally— turns her enemy again when Billie refuses a part in her revenge scheme. What’s more, Alpha Administration’s refusal to address the injustice in their school is sparking a full-on rebellion, and a lot of innocents are going to be caught in the crosshairs. It isn’t just the school either, the Realm itself is overrun with violence and hatred, which will have deadly consequences. Lucian, her self-imposed magical guru, insists Billie’s extraordinary magic is the key to stopping the flood of violence coming their way. Billie knows her magic is extraordinary, but she also knows its destructive power. It might do more harm than good.
Nothing said, “I’m sorry,” like a scalding hot iron mallet to the face. Especially when you were a Faerie, and allergic to Iron. Saranya and her friends really knew how to make a girl feel special.
At least, we heard they were going to attack me with a mallet, it was hard to keep up with all of Saranya’s schemes to get revenge on me for preventing her from torturing another student. The nerve of me.
I tightened my grip on the empowered soap Iris, my roommate, had given me. It paid to be friends with an Elf, I’d learned, as they possessed the ability to infuse magical properties into a variety of house-hold objects. And all she ever wanted in return was my help getting books down from her top bookshelf.
“Uhh, Billie,” Thea, my other roommate, said. “Perhaps it would be in your best interests to not look so tense? We are supposed to be discussing a class project, after all.”
I loosened my grip on the soap and gave her a quick smile. Thea was terrified of Saranya and the others, but that hadn’t stopped her and Iris from telling me about their plan, or offering to help me thwart it. She had a lot to lose, too. As a Wizard, she had a certain image to keep up, and helping a Misfit against other Wizards would do nothing good for that image.
✨ Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
I guess you could say my original concept for the Alpha Academy series was “mean girls with magic.” And I like to think I delivered on that premise. Since Piper’s Song is the second book in the series, it deals with another theme I really wanted to explore, “Deception, Manipulation, and the seduction of revenge.” Billie is heavily plagued by all of these in Piper’s Song.
✨ What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I brought in a lot of mythology, so it was incredibly exciting to revisit some of my favorite myths as well as discover some new ones. While I relied a lot on Greek/Roman, I was also able to explore Norse, Celtic, Aztec, Chinese, Persian, and a myriad of other lesser known, but equally fascinating mythologies.
This book also let me really explore first love and heartbreak, which are two things I don’t think anyone fully understands, but that impact us all so much anyway
✨ What surprised you the most in writing it?
There were definitely some characters who I thought had certain arcs or motivations, but they did a 180 on me halfway through the book and became completely different people. Some for the better, some for the worse, but they were all incredibly fascinating discoveries.
My villain also really surprised me. I kept trying to write them as sadistic and cold, but they surprised me with how much pain, passion, and even guilt they weaved into their story. That discovery of who my villain really was has reshaped the entire series.
✨ What does the title mean?
In addition to myths, I like to draw on folklore and fables as inspiration for my magical world. The Pied Piper is pretty familiar story. When a town fails to head their promise to the magical pied piper, he gets his revenge by leading all their children to their watery deaths.
✨ Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
I wouldn’t say any of them were inspired by real people. I do think I drew on elements of one of my exes for one of them, but in that case, this person does not know.
✨ Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
I try not to be preachy in my fiction, but I do think we write and read fiction to explore and understand difficult situations or dilemmas. A lot of stories have “happily ever afters” because we want to see these moral dilemmas worked out in a positive way, because it gives us hope as we deal with these problems in the real world. Billie grew a lot as a character throughout the book, and she learned a lot about forgiveness, acceptance, and where true power comes from. I know I learned a lot from her journey, and I hope my readers feel inspired by her story as well.
✨ What is your favorite part of the book?
That’s a hard question, as there were a lot of parts I absolutely loved to write. There’s a chapter near the end called, “The Revelation,” that was probably the most exciting, albeit difficult part to get right. It was worth all the extra revisions though. It’s the chapter where Piper’s Song earns its title.
✨ Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Lucian, Billie’s friend and mentor, has always been a difficult character for me to write, in part because it has taken me a while to really understand him. While my other characters will let me flop around as I figure them out, Lucian likes to be written correctly in the first draft, and he’s not patient with the mistakes I make with him. He’s lucky he’s my favorite or I might not put up with him.
✨ What are your immediate future plans?
The third book of Alpha Academy, Queen’s Fall, will be released this fall. I also have another couple novels in the works, and I will be returning to in Yellowstone National Park this summer. So I would say good things are ahead.
Sara’s enjoyed creating fantastic stories since she was old enough to hold a play sword, around the time she learned how to walk. Gradually she learned to direct her creative energy into writing, and it’s been a downward spiral ever since then. When she’s not writing she’s probably either dancing or reading batman comics. She also loves running away to the mountains of Utah and Montana. Nothing gets more fantastic that those views.
Sara E. Tall will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.