Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author Lani Forbes talking about her beautiful novel, THE JADE BONES, publishing journey, writing dreams, and so much more! I’m so excited to introduce you to Lani, her words are gold you guys!
SP: Hi Lani! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey.
Absolutely! Thank you so much for having me! I am the daughter of a librarian and an ex-drug smuggling surfer (which explains my passionate love of the ocean and books). A former teacher turned trauma counselor, my passion is showing readers the transformative and encouraging power of story on the human experience. A California native whose parents live in Mexico, I now reside in the Pacific Northwest where I stubbornly wear flip flops no matter how cold it gets. I am a proud nerd, Gryffindor, and member of Romance Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
SP: THE JADE BONES just released February 2021 by Blackstone Publishing. Please add on Goodreads! Here’s the blurb:
Four young people risk their lives to save the world from a looming apocalypse in this captivating sequel to The Seventh Sun.
Cast into the underworld after an act of shattering betrayal, Mayana and Ahkin must overcome unimaginable odds if they are to return home and reclaim the throne of the Chicome. A river of blood and demons disguised as children are only two of the challenges standing in their way. Fortunately, they are not unequipped. Mayana’s royal blood controls the power of water, and Prince Ahkin wields the power of the sun itself. Ometeotl, the Mother goddess, provides them with other gifts — and an ominous warning that one of them may not survive. But can the goddess be trusted?
Back in the lands above, Mayana’s best friend, Yemania, has survived the empress selection ritual — but her next challenge may be more than she can bear. The new empress of the Chicome Empire demands she become High Healer. Yemania has no interest in serving in the palace; she wants to use her healing ability to help the common people. More than that, her heart is no longer her own. She has met an enchanting stranger — Ochix, one of the feared Miquitz people who are ancient enemies of the Chicome.
As Mayana and Ahkin move ever closer to confronting the lords of the dead, Yemania and Ochix must hide their forbidden romance or face the wrath of both their empires. Meanwhile, the new empress has made a dangerous alliance that might destroy everything they hold dear.
Based on ancient Mesoamerican legends and mythology, The Jade Bones is a compelling and romantic adventure that builds to a heart-stopping climax.
SP: Your tagline on IG is “Illuminating darkness through the transformative power of story.” Amazing! Can you tell us more about that? What does it mean to you and for your books?
Transformation is at the heart of every story we love. Whether it is a hardened detective learning to face his demons as he solves a crime or a Victorian-era debutante finding her self-worth as she falls in love, it doesn’t matter the genre or age range—all stories are about transformation. According to screenwriter Blake Snyder, “we transform every day, re-awaken to new concepts about the world around us, overcome conflict, and triumph over death… only to start again each morning.” This is why stories of transformation resonate so deeply within our souls. Each day, just like a protagonist of a good story, we much change and adapt and find hope in the darkest parts of life. That’s why I love stories so much and it’s something I aim to capture in every book I write.
SP: How long did it take you to write THE JADE BONES and how did this story come about? Was it harder or easier to write than the first book?
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient civilizations, and ancient Mesoamerican civilizations in particular. My stepfather lived in Mexico for many years and would always share stories with my sisters and I growing up. When my parents decided to move back to Mexico, I knew I wanted to write a story based on ancient Aztec and Maya mythology. Originally the events of book two were planned to take place at the end of book one, but I had so many ideas I knew that this part of the story needed its own book! It took me about 5 months to finish it (as opposed to only two for book one), and I think in some ways it was harder to write, but easier in others. When I was writing book one, I wasn’t aware of as many “rules” and went a lot faster, but with book two, it took longer and required less edits! I think knowing the rules ahead of time slowed me down, but definitely paid off in the editing process.
SP: Favorite piece of research you did for this book?
I actually had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and Belize for research, and that experience was priceless. I got to go into the cave that they believed might have been the entrance of Xibalba, the Maya underworld. We saw artifacts that are thousands of years old and skeletons of actual teenage sacrifice victims. I think the most interesting research was learning the mythology of Xibalba, which I tried to incorporate into the design of the fantasy version we see in the book. For example, the mythology describes three rivers that are comprised of blood, scorpions, and pus. I had to cross three rivers in order to reach the cave too, which I found interesting! We see variations of those three rivers in the story itself.
SP: What sets this book apart from the first book? I’ve heard many reviews say it’s even better than the first!
I’m SO glad readers are enjoying this book just as much if not more than book one! I think one of the unique features of book two is the introduction of a new POV, Mayana’s best friend from book one, Yemania. Everyone tells me how they loved her story, and it was actually my favorite part of this book to write. Yemania gets her own beautiful storyline of self-discovery but also a steamy forbidden romance with a handsome death prince! I think her storyline balances really well with Mayana and Ahkin’s more intense storyline.
SP: What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? The first draft? The development in revision? The final touches?
My favorite part is when the book is finished! Haha! Just to see the finished product and feel that sense of accomplishment—it really is incredible. But during the actual writing process itself, I love when I’m drafting and I get into a “zone”. I love when you lose yourself in the story and it seems to almost write itself. I am what I consider a structured pantser in that I love having a general structure and outline in place, but I “pants” in between, letting the story grow and develop as I feel it. There was a moment when writing book two, for example, when I realized a character was going to betray another! I had been laying the foundation for the betrayal without even realizing it, and then it came together, and I was as shocked and amazed by it as my readers probably were! I love when that happens!
SP: Any writing tip you’d like to share?
My biggest piece of writing advice is to be flexible and not take things so personally. I think sometimes as writers we can get so stuck in what we think a story should be that we resist listening to quality feedback from others we trust. Or worse, we take feedback as criticism and internalize it as a judgment on our ability as a writer. Editors and agents care just as much about a story as you do, and their feedback is NOT a reflection on you and your talent. EVERY writer needs an editor to help them polish their work until it shines! EVERY author is continually learning and growing! Embrace that idea, and it makes the whole process a lot less painful
A few fun questions. Is Lani a…
Both? Haha! I love outlining and structure, but I love holding that structure in my head AS I pants. I also always go back after I pants and make sure that it follows the structure I want it to. But I have to have the freedom to pants and “go with the flow” as I feel it or else the emotional undercurrent of the story suffers.
Last book you read?
Aurora Rising! I’m really enjoying the humor and unique worldbuilding.
Current dream vacation spot?
Anywhere tropical, preferably with a white sand beach, dense jungle foliage, and a hammock! I really loved Belize in particular. I’m also a huge history nerd though, and I really have a dream to visit a castle in Scotland!
Current favorite K-Drama?
I am ashamed to admit I have never seen K-Drama!!! Please don’t hate me!
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR?
I would TOTALLY be a marine biologist! I come from a family of surfers and grew up running around on beaches with no shoes on. I loved catching crabs and exploring tidepools. I was a science teacher for ten years, so I clearly have a passion for science!
Favorite childhood book?
My favorite book as a child was always Ferdinand the Friendly Bull. I loved the part when he sat on a bee! When I got older, I was a total Harry Potter fan girl that waited in line at midnight for every book and movie release with my Gryffindor scarf.
Thanks so much for your time Lani! Wishing you the best on your continued writing journey!