Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring The Songkeeper Chronicles
War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.
Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street–wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.
Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran's fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?
“Adams' characters are colorful, witty, and heartwarming. Her tale is a welcome melody that our souls long to sing. A new voice in fantasy, sure to thrill readers of many ages.”
– Wayne Thomas Batson, Best-Selling Author of the Door Within Trilogy
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for The Songkeeper Chronicles?
Gillian: To be honest, I didn’t have much when I started. Just a name—Birdie—and a smidgeon of an idea. What if there was a girl who was the only one who could hear the music that had created the world? It wasn’t long before a gruff traveling peddler with wild red hair blustered his way onto the page and declared himself the “great” Amos McElhenny. And shortly thereafter, I found myself dodging soldiers and slinking down back alleys with a street thief named Ky. From that moment, the story that became the Songkeeper Chronicles was unleashed, and it took me five solid rewrites of the first book, Orphan’s Song, to untangle the wild mess. I guess you could say I’ve refined my writing process a bit since then.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters? Who are they, what makes them unique.
Gillian: There are three main point of view characters in the Songkeeper Chronicles: Birdie, Amos McElhenny, and Ky Huntyr. The Songkeeper, the outlaw, and the thief. At twelve years old, Birdie has spent most of her life an orphaned serving girl. Now as the Songkeeper, she can hear the Song that weaves through everyone and everything in Leira. She can also hear the individual songs of each person she meets—broken melodies, incomplete and twisted by suffering. Her gift is both a blessing and curse, for while it sets her apart as special in the eyes of some, it also sets her apart as potentially dangerous in the eyes of others.
From the toes of his salt battered boots to the tip of his feathered cap, Amos McElhenny embodies the word unique. He is a self-made man, and he is proud of the man he has made himself. Over the years he has worn many different guises—sailor, outlaw, traveling peddler—and yet he prides himself on having remained the same man throughout.
Deep down, Ky is a rebel. The thief who cares. The runner who can’t obey the rules of the streets if it means leaving a brother behind. The fighter who cares less about defeating the enemy and more about keeping his people safe. He is unquenchable. Indomitable. If you knock him down, he gets right back up, and he just keeps on coming.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Gillian: Oh, but that would be telling. *grins* I’m just going to have to point you to the books. Most of the characters facts that can be known now are in there, and the rest will be revealed eventually!
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
Gillian: War. Brokenness. Peace.
Songkeeper is about choosing to stand when standing in itself requires all the strength that you have. It’s about living in hope in the midst of brokenness. And it’s about walking in peace when everything within and without feels shattered by the turmoil of war.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Gillian: My writing process changes slightly with each new book. I generally draw up a very basic outline of the important plot points and then write my way from plot point to plot point. It’s like road-tripping through the story. I like it because it allows me room for creativity and sight-seeing as I go. But it can be dangerous because there can be a million different ways to get from point A to point B, and it’s way too easy to be distracted by rabbit trails and drawn right off the edge of the map. It also means I frequently write myself into a bind after managing to get my characters caught in a trap while my extremely unhelpful outline provides no other information than “somehow they escape.” Yes, that actually happened once …
Brock: How do you believe Songkeepers relates to the lives of readers?
Gillian: What you take away from a novel so often depends on what you bring to it, and I think this will be true with Songkeeper. With war looming on the horizon in Songkeeper, the country of Leira trembles on the verge of collapse, and each of the characters is faced with a decision—to risk all and dive into the fray, or to sit back in safety and wait until the dust settles. It’s easy to look at the changes happening in our own country, or the difficult situations that we face in our own lives, and expect someone else to step up and solve the problem. But we’re each faced with that same decision. Will we decide to do what we can today to make our world a better place, or will we sit back and watch the train wreck occur?
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
Gillian: Epic fantasy has always been—and no doubt always will be—my favorite genre both to read and to write. I believe that the true beauty and glory of fantasy is its ability to capture the deepest truths and set them in a new light, to ask questions and inspire thought, and to leave the reader searching for something greater. That’s why it’s my favorite. The possibilities are limitless in story, world, character, and in the impact it can have on the reader.
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Gillian: The Songkeeper Chronicles is a trilogy. Orphan’s Song, book one, released in the fall of 2014. Songkeeper, book two, released in April. And I’m currently sprinting toward the finish line in the writing of book three.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Gillian: Medieval weaponry and warfare! It’s always intrigued me, so I probably spend more time researching it than I actually need to. But it does come in handy when it’s time to write fight scenes—which I tend to do a lot, because those are my favorite scenes to write!
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Gillian: I am a part-time author. For my full-time day job, I work as the Equestrian Director and Assistant Junior Camp Director at a youth camp, which means I get to maintain and work with a herd of twenty or so horses, hang out with kids, and help facilitate the program. I teach classes, run trail rides, and stomp around in boots and spurs. (It’s pretty awesome.) I also write the Bible Drama scripts for summer camp, which is super fun. Novel writing takes place on my days off and in the evenings, so I stay pretty busy.
Brock: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Gillian: I am a notoriously slow writer. There are a lot of authors who write without looking back until finishing the first draft. But that has never worked for me. I write slowly and painstakingly and can spend an hour on a couple of paragraphs, reworking and rewording each sentence to get it just right. But while it takes me twice as long, my first draft usually winds up being much closer to the finished product. So in the end, I think it mostly evens out.
Brock: Expound on the spiritual themes in Songkeeper.
Gillian: Woven throughout Songkeeper is the struggle between walking daily in trust and the desire to seize control of your own life. I wrote this novel while recovering from a car accident and subsequent surgeries. I can be a fiercely independent person, so being forced to rely on others was a challenge, even as I knew in my heart that I should always be relying on God and not myself. Our lives are never truly in our hands, but there are times when that becomes more apparent than at others, and for me, this was one of those. It seemed such a long time since I had felt true peace, and I longed for it with every aching beat of my heart. That longing knitted itself throughout Songkeeper and led the story to an ending scene that I personally think is the most beautiful scene in the whole book. Needless to say, this book is near and dear to my heart.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Gillian: It’s not so much a favorite place as a favorite style of vacation. I like anything that involves being around the outdoors. Cabin in the woods. Tent in the jungle. Bed and breakfast in the mountains. Cottage on the beach. Anything where you can bask in the glory of God’s creation while drinking coffee, with plenty of adventure near to hand.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Gillian: Dr. Pepper. I’m slightly addicted. Slightly. And coffee. Lots of coffee.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Gillian: My favorite Bible verse is ever changing, but there are certain Bible passages I find myself reading over and over again. The Psalms. Philippians. I John. Colossians. Hebrews. But Psalm 42:8 is one of my current favorites. “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are some examples?
Gillian: Oh yeah! I listen to a lot of music while I write. Every now and then I’ll stumble across an extremely challenging scene where I need complete and total silence in order to focus. But most of the time, I like finding just the right mood music for each scene. Certain fight scenes call for some good old fashioned classic rock. But for the most part, I listen to movie soundtracks. Some of my favorites are the soundtracks from The Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, the Eagle, Braveheart, and Master and Commander.