Writer Charlie N. Holmberg is known for writing such romantic fantasy stories as The Paper Magician and Smoke And Summons. But in the following email interview about her new novel, The Will And The Wilds (paperback, Kindle), she explains why this story is a fantasy romance tale instead.
To begin, what is The Will And The Wilds about?
The Will And The Wilds is about a woman named Enna who lives on the border of the wildwood, a forest known to be frequented by mystings, or demonic creatures of the monster realm. When a mysting attacks her, she seeks to protect herself by hiring a mysting of her own: a demon named Maekallus. But things go awry, leaving Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Because of the nature of his and Enna’s bargain, if he dies, she dies, so Enna must keep him alive by feeding him pieces of her soul…pieces that give Maekallus the ability to feel for the first time.
Where did you get the idea for The Will And The Wilds, and how did the story evolve as you wrote it?
I got the idea from a weird dream I had. There was this guy with a unicorn horn who had the power of invisibility. He lost his horn, and could only get it back by taking a maiden’s virginity.
It sounds silly, but that dream really stuck with me. I started brainstorming it, and while The Will And The Wilds has nothing about missing horns (or missing virginity), the character of Maekallus was heavily influenced by that dream. I wanted to create a world where a creature like him belonged, so the wildwood and the monster realm stemmed from that. The protagonist, Enna, morphed into a sort of scholar for the occult, so subsequent drafts really helped build up the worldbuilding as well. Each chapter has an excerpt from her notes on mystings.
It sounds like The Will And The Wilds is a fantasy story, but with elements of fairy tales and fables in it as well. Is that how you’d describe it?
I call it a fantasy romance. I write a lot of romantic fantasy, but this is the first book of mine where I feel the romantic plot is much more crucial than the fantasy surrounding it.
It definitely has that fairytale vibe, which honestly just came out naturally; it wasn’t planned. Though the enchanted forest trope is very popular in fairytales.
The Will And The Wilds is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on this story, but not on anything else you’ve written?
Not really. The Will And The Wilds switches POV styles; Enna’s is told from first-person, and Maekallus’ is told from third. That was honestly a mistake I made that I ended up liking, and I knew Renee Ahdieh had once done something similar, so I figured I could get away with it.
The story could also easily be painted as a retelling of Beauty And The Beast, but again, that was purely accidental.
What about non-literary influences; did any movies, TV shows, or video games have a big impact on The Will And The Wilds?
I’ve always been hugely inspired by Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. They always lurk in the back of my brain whenever I write anything.
The Will And The Wilds is a standalone book. I actually consider myself a standalone writer. I have other standalone books, including Followed By Frost;Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet; and The Fifth Doll. The Paper Magician series being a series was honestly happenstance. I didn’t initially plan it that way. And the Numina series came about from publisher pressure to write another series.
Generally speaking, my ideas come out succinct enough that everything fits into one book. It’s nice, as a writer and a reader, to have stories you don’t have to read multiple volumes to finish. In this case, Enna and Maekallus’s tale wraps up nicely in roughly 80,000 words.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Smoke & Summons [which you can read here], you mentioned that your Paper Magician series had been optioned by Disney, but that the rights were still available for The Numina books. Is that still the case?
Yep! I’m very excited with the direction Disney is taking The Paper Magician series. And as of now, the Numina books have not been optioned for film. Though I think they would make an interesting high fantasy series…
And has there been any interest in doing something with The Will And The Wilds?
Not yet, but I am of course always open to it. Because this book is a standalone with a fairly simple plot, if it were to be adapted, I’d think film would be better than a series.
If that happened, who would you like them to cast as the main characters?
I am really bad with celebrities. To give a really good answer, I would have to spend several hours on IMDB. So, with my limited knowledge, I would say [Harry Potter‘s] Emma Watson for Enna (oh hey, their names are even similar) and perhaps Aaron Taylor-Johnson [Godzilla] as Maekallus.
Okay, maybe I did have to get on IMDB to find an actor for Maekallus. Aaron could probably pull it off.
Lastly, if someone enjoys The Will And The Wilds, what similar kind of fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?