On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family's tent to see the dawn. She buried her toes in the sand, cold from the night, and she wrapped her father's goatskin cloak tight around her shoulders. She had only moments before everyone would wake...
I am thrilled to announce the release of my new book, VESSEL!VESSEL
is a fantasy novel for young adults, published by Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books. It's set in a desert land where serpents made of unbreakable glass fly through the sky and wolves made of only sand hunt within storms. Liyana is destined to be a vessel, to sacrifice herself so her clan's goddess can inhabit her body... but her goddess never comes.
I loved writing this book. I loved creating Liyana's world, and I loved immersing myself in it. Sitting down at the keyboard felt like stepping through a portal.
As a kid, I used to routinely check my closet for an entrance to Narnia. VESSEL is my plunging into that closet and bursting out the other side into a land of sun and sand.
Really, that feeling is part of why I love books so much. Books are (or can be) portals into other worlds, other lives, and other adventures. I love crossing through those portals, and I love that when I cross back out again, this world feels wider and fuller.
To create Liyana's world, I researched several deserts (the Sahara, the Gobi, and the deserts of the Southwest US), and then I filled Liyana's desert with its own magic and mythology. I wanted the feel of a rich storytelling tradition but in a unique world. The act of weaving together these bits of reality with pieces of imagination felt very much like fulfilling a childhood dream. As a kid, I used to spend hours inventing imaginary lands. I'd tape together all the scrap paper I could find and draw enormous oceans and mountains and deserts. I'd doodle pictures of magical creatures and fantastical plants in my school notebooks. I even read the phone book in search of names for magical characters. Okay, yes, maybe I took it a wee bit too far, but in my defense, it was a safer way to spend an afternoon than attempting to ski off the roof of a two-story building (which my brother tried, until our mother suggested he and his friend find a slightly less life-threatening activity).
The story itself for VESSEL came not through research but through a dream. I don't always remember my dreams. (The one with a legion of spiders was a standout. Ditto the one with the killer robot Gonzos.) But this one stayed with me. It was just an image really: a girl, dancing. She was barefoot in the sand, and the moon was shining over head. And she knew that when her dance ended, she'd die. But still, she danced wildly and joyfully.
When I woke up, I was still thinking about that girl. I couldn't shake the image of her -- her skirts swirling around her and her tattooed arms reaching toward the sky. I kept wondering why she was dancing, why she was joyful, and why she was going to die. And that was the moment when VESSEL was born, when Liyana danced across my desert.
VESSEL is about losing your destiny -- and what happens after. It's a sweeping, romantic, epic adventure. And I am so very, very excited about it! I hope that you will join me on the journey to Liyana's desert and dance on the desert sands with her as the sky serpents fly overhead and the sand wolves howl.
Much more about VESSEL, including the first two chapters
, can be found here