Next big thing…?

Okay, so if you follow writer blogs then I’m sure you’ve seen this meme flying around! I’ve been tagged by the amazing Emma Pass (her YA dystopian novel, ACID, is also being published by RCHP next year). All the authors I’ve tagged are absolutely amazing (and you should visit their websites and find out more about their books, even if they don’t complete the meme!) Start off with Emma, though – she’s definitely poised to be a ‘next big thing’!

1) What is the working title of your book?

 My book is going to be published as The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, but that was about the fourth incarnation of a working title (I’m very bad at titles). It started out life as Secrets in the Sand and at its most terrible was called by the very bondage-sounding Ties that Bind.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I remember quite distinctly when the idea came: as I was sitting in the darkened Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto, waiting for the Lord of the Rings musical to start on opening night. I was at uni at the time, writing an essay on role of women in Yuan dynasty China (when Kublai Khan reigned) for my History of China course, and at the same time was deeply entrenched in Medieval Literature. My head was a mélange of times and ideas and periods. Yet despite their obvious differences, I was struck by the similarity between the very Western medieval idea of a pledge of fealty between knight and lord, and similar pledges being made to the Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan on the other side of the planet. It’s also a concept that is so inherently medieval – you can’t imagine someone nowadays promising to be loyal unto death without some kind of mental illness being brought up. The best thing about fantasy is that you can take a concept and stretch it as far as your imagination can take you, so I imagined: what if breaking an oath (especially something pledging your life to someone) had a real, physical consequence, like a scar or a shadow? And thus The Oathbreaker’s Shadow was born.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s YA epic fantasy.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh gosh, this is so tough! I do like to leave my character’s up to my reader’s imaginations, but of course I have ideas of my own. Raim is a hard one to cast because I would need to be way more familiar with Asian cinema than I am! Zheng Kai might work, or Harry Shum Jr if he didn’t look so… well… gleeful all the time! But wait until you see the jacket, because that’s pretty much how I envisage him!

Ooh, I am hot and broody… but Raim would never have pig tails.

For Khareh, I picture a much older Maddox Jolie-Pitt. Okay, I know, I know, he’s still a young kid… but look at this attitude! Tell me he isn’t a little king in the making.

Prince Khareh as a five year old? I could see it.

My main female character, Wadi, however, is one for whom I have a pretty clear vision of who I would have play her in a movie. From one of my fave TV shows Vampire Diaries… it’s Kat Graham. I think she has the gumption to play a kick-ass desert-dwelling heroine with a destiny of her own.

The beautiful and strong Kat would make a perfect Wadi.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An apprentice warrior pledges his life to his best friend – the future khan – and in doing so breaks another promise he never knew he made… leaving him scarred, haunted and outcast into the desert where he tries to find the answers that can clear his name.

6)Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by the REAL next big thing, Juliet Mushens, and it’s going to be published by Random House Children’s Publishers in June 2013.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

First draft took about 18 months. I remember scrambling to finish it before summer ended and I would be going off on my round-the-world gap year, which would end up informing so much of the revisions. Add on 5 years for revising before it was ready to be picked up by an agent, and then another year of proper edits with agent and editor before it was finally ready for publication!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I find this reaaalllly tough. It’s epic fantasy, but the magic is quite subtle – and there aren’t very many traditional fantastical creatures. I’m going chicken out and take a cue from the Random House press release about it, which says it’s for “fans of Philip Pullman, Jonathan Stroud, Garth Nix and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones”.  I would add as a caveat, probably the Dothraki chapters of A Game of Thrones 😉

9) Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My inspiration came in three parts:
1. The story above about all the Western and Asian medieval history swirling in my brain,
2. I’m also really intrigued by intelligent, charismatic, probably massively egotistical people who can make someone else want to pledge their entire life away…
3. My travels, and the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit – check out my inspiration page for more on that! – and by my parents, who own an oriental carpet store in Canada and introduced me to so many wonderful cultures and traditions.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The world is inspired by Genghis Khan-era Mongolia, so there are plenty of yurts, camels and nomadic tribes.  But at it’s heart it’s also a story about friendship,  the bonds and words that tie people together, and the complicated notions of forgiveness and betrayal.

Tagged for next week (Week 24) are some of my very talented writer friends. Check out their blogs next Wednesday, November 14th, when it’s their turn to post answers to these same questions about their own works-in-progress!



  1. Emma Pass November 7, 2012 / 9:17 pm

    “fans of Philip Pullman, Jonathan Stroud, Garth Nix and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones”

    … I officially can’t wait to read this book! (And thank you so much for your lovely comments at the start of the post!)

    • amymcculloch November 8, 2012 / 10:12 am

      Thanks Emma!

  2. dansmithsbooks November 8, 2012 / 7:34 am

    Fab; sounds great. And for fans of Game of Thrones? I’m sold. Oh, and you even managed to tag four people – I didn’t even manage one. Tcha!

    • amymcculloch November 8, 2012 / 10:11 am

      I’m always extremely wary of that comparison, but it’s a very nice one. I can’t believe you wrote a first draft in two weeks! That’s not just blistering, that’s bone shatteringly fast!

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