Title: Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure
Author: Emily A. Steward
Back Cover Blurb:
When 13 year-old Penelope Gilbert accidentally transforms into a stapler during math class, she’s sure she’s going crazy. But she’s not imagining the men in black suits now patrolling the halls at school, nor is she imagining the new substitute teacher who orders the class to take a special new test. A test that requires blood. Hunted for her powers, and torn from the life she knows, Penny is swept up into a world in the clouds where magic meets machine and pirates rule the sky.
A six-foot-tall arachnid hovered over them. One of the creature’s razor-sharp metal legs was raised to attack. The scream seemed to confuse it. It wasn’t much of a window, but it was long enough. She rolled to the side just as the beast’s leg smashed into the ground, leaving a deep hole behind. Crane turned to see what was happening. He let out a cry and fell back into Haldor.
“Guard your necks!” Penny shouted. A web shot out from another spider just behind the first, catching Crane around the ankle. It pulled him in faster than he could react. Another web shot toward Penny. She managed to deflect it with her sword. She could hear Chip hooting wildly from somewhere above, as if cheering them on.
“Haldor, these guys are metal, can’t you do something?” she cried.
“I’m trying, but I have to get closer.”
“Help!” Crane yelled from where he hung upside down from the spider’s back. Haldor jumped to his feet and ran at them, swinging his spear around. He let out a gasp as a spindly leg knocked him to the ground. Another rose up to make the kill. Penny leapt forward and chopped the leg in two with her sword before it could connect.
The metal shrapnel scattered onto the ground. Haldor took that moment to drive his spear into the soft underbelly of the animal. It let out a horrible shriek but only seemed to be angered more. It came at him again, foam dripping from his fangs, his glass eyes gleaming red like a hundred tiny traffic lights. Haldor fell back, losing his grip on the spear. The spider lunged just as Penny attacked it from behind, stabbing her blade deep within his thorax. She then swung around, looking for the spider who held Crane. She could see it skittering toward the forest.
“Come on!” she yelled to Haldor who was wriggling out from under the spider corpse. She ran to the spot where she saw the creature enter as Haldor hurried to catch up. She scrambled through the brush until she came to a stream. There she saw the spider. He was across the water under a large tree. Above him were several objects swinging in the breeze. It took her a moment to realize that they were rotting bodies strung up by their necks. Their unseeing eyes stared eerily into the darkness. Upon closer inspection, she saw that there were at least thirty of them. She wretched silently as she tried to think of a way for Crane to not become one of them. The spider was already trying to wrap a strand of webbing around his neck. A thought occurred to her. An outrageous, outlandish thought. I can do this, she assured herself. She tried to picture every last detail of her slain foe—every creepy crawling, hairy, shiny detail. Penny could feel the energy pulsing through her. Her hands were no longer her own. Her teeth had become fangs, and her eyes were the eyes of a killer.
Emily Steward spent the better part of her childhood dressed as a ninja and trying to convince others to call her ‘Ace.’ When she wasn’t saving the world from evil samurai, she could usually be found in the branches of a tree reading a good book. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and dog Bentley. Though she seldom dresses as a ninja now, her adventurous spirit remains as does her love of tree climbing and reading good books.
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What is the best thing for you about being a writer?
I love the ability to share the stories and ideas I have running through my head. It’s so cool to see a project come together, and a story form out of nothing. You also can’t beat the flexible hours!
What is the hardest thing for you about being a writer?
The hardest thing is finding the time to sit down and actually write and there are so many distractions when I finally do.
What genre/s do you write and what genre is your latest release?
I write primarily middle grade books. I’ve written a mystery/horror novel that I hope will be published in the near future and I’m also working on a realistic fiction book along the lines of a more contemporary Harriet the Spy. My latest release is my debut novel and it’s a middle grade fantasy called Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure.
What essential things have you learned about writing in the last year?
That persistence does actually pay off! I’ve also learned the value of good writing buddies and critique groups. These have been so helpful. Some critiques may sting, but there is usually something you can learn from them… even if it’s how not to critique others.
Who is your favourite heroine from your books and why?
I would have to say Penny from my new release. She has a great imagination, a feisty spirit, and she has the awesome ability to morph into anything!
What type of hero do you like? Super alpha, wounded or somewhere in between? Or even something totally different? You could give an example from a movie or well-known book.
I’m not too familiar with these hero types. I do like a good antihero though as long as they aren’t too dark. A hero with some flaws is much more interesting and relatable like Captain Jack Sparrow. You never know quite what he’s going to do.
Tell us about your journey in writing this book.
Well, I first started writing it about ten years ago. I just decided to quit waiting for inspiration to strike, and start writing. The story looks a lot different now than that early draft, but it was effective because it got me out of my head and actually writing. I took some long breaks and took a few writing courses before I got back to it.
Tell us three quirky or interesting things about yourself.
1. Sometimes I wish I had the power to turn back time so that I could do something outrageous and funny and then take it back afterward.
2. When I was 8 or 9 I started a no girls allowed club. I said that I was a tomboy, so I let myself in.
3. When eating M&M's I have to eat an even amount at a time. Preferably the same color.
What rituals do you use to help you focus or get the words down on the page e.g. music or a snack?
I almost always have to leave the house and go to the library or a coffee shop. I just can’t concentrate when I can see things around me that need done. I actually love to eat sunflower seeds while writing, but sunflower seeds are not exactly an easy thing to eat in public without looking like a cow chewing my cud. Since I prefer to write in public, my methods kind of clash.
Mention something unique about your books and your writing style.
My books are a little eclectic. I feel like each one could have many sub genres. This is partially due to the fact that I don’t work well with an outline. So I may veer off a bit, but it all seems to work together in the end.
What book would you like to work on next?
I plan on diving into book two in my Penelope Gilbert series very soon. I already have a few chapters and a (very) loose outline.
Thank you for a fascinating interview. I love your "no girls" club idea! So funny!