When Jennifer Cano isn't dreaming up new plots, taking notes, staring at nature, singing or cooking delicious spicy food, she writes enthralling fantasy for kids. Her stories are filled with mystery, quirky, relatable characters and a lot of heart. As our Author of the Day, Cano talks about how Broams Eld was conceived, why Livy Hinge makes such a great main character and reveals the underlying message of her book.
Please give us a short introduction to what Hinges of Broams Eld is about
The story is about Livy Hinge and her life-and-death adventures among the elfin warriors of Broams Eld. It’s a quirky tale full of magic, secrets, enemies, friends, and learning how to do the impossible. Below is the description on the back jacket of the book.
Livy Hinge thinks her biggest worries are the bully next door, the mysterious ingredients lurking in her mother’s Everything Casserole, and the tricky dilemmas her overactive imagination lands her in. But even Livy has never envisioned trees slinging splinters big as swords at her. Or falling off a giant moth five-hundred feet in the air, commanding the elements to stand still, or battling a throng of birds. And she’s certainly never been tasked with defeating an enemy bent on the destruction of her world. Until now. When elfin warriors escort Livy to Broams Eld, she discovers a world where imagination is power, tadpole soup is what’s for dinner, and trees whisper secret enchantments. There she finds not only friends, a welcome home for her dare-devil antics, and magic, but an astounding destiny to inherit—if she can survive her first night.
Tell us about Livy Hinge - who is she and why did you pick her to be your main character?
Livy is a rough-and-tumble misfit with nine brothers and a hunger for trouble. She’s funny and daring, but is unsure of her ability to meet the challenges in front of her. Like most of us, she is flawed. By habit, she leaps first and thinks it through later—which of course leads her into all sorts of trouble. In the end, she learns to put doubts aside, listen to voices of courage, and rely on friends to help her accomplish the impossible work that is placed in front of her.
Growing up, your family moved a lot. How did this affect your writing?
All of those moves gave me the opportunity to experience many challenges—including being a kid that other kids picked on. My heart reaches out to kids facing that challenge right now. But I learned early that while it hurt when other people said mean things, it didn’t make their words true. I still feel like that today. I hope that I’ve reflected that in Livy’s character.
How much of your own personality ended up in Livy Hinge's character?
Very little of my own personality actually ended up in Livy’s character. She is much bolder than I am. The strongest influence for her character is the young Anne of Green Gables. She’s a day dreamer who has an unquenchable curiosity.
What inspired the world of Broams Eld?
I am one of those people who remembers my dreams pretty vividly. It has always been strange and intriguing to me that I could dream so much in just ten minutes—like time works differently when I dream. Sometimes a long dream would seem like it took days or weeks. So I started exploring the idea of living a completely different life in a dream. And that’s the premise of Broams Eld. Livy enters the world of elves when she falls asleep. The difference is that what she does in Broams Eld does affect her own world—Terra—when she is awake.
Does Hinges of Broams Eld have an underlying message? What do you hope readers will get from it?
SPOILER ALERT. Throughout the book, Livy is presented with very big challenges. She is competing to become “the Deliverer” who will save her world. Only she can’t really imagine that she’s strong enough, smart enough, or special enough in any way to become the one child in the world that is capable of defeating an overwhelming foe. She builds up in her mind the greatness of this Deliverer. Eventually, she is given a choice to wake up from this death-defying circumstance and allow someone else to do the job. And she receives a message that leads to a pivotal moment: “Do not concern yourself with being great. Only do great.” This is the moment she realizes that she cannot put aside the difficult challenge and leave it for someone else. She stops thinking about whether or not she is great enough and just focuses on doing what she has been asked to do. And this changes everything.
When those words came to me while I was writing, it was a spiritual moment. It taught me something. I wasn’t sure whether readers would catch it, but I was grateful for it. I have since heard from readers that they are getting this message and they are relating similar experiences to the one I had when I wrote it. Humbling.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I love to cook. I’m great at making things that don’t require precision. My family loves spice and so we often eat homemade Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Indian, and Thai food. I also sing. My husband claims it’s how he fell in love with me. (He’s an amazing catch and support.)
Your book has been compared to Harry Potter, Fablehaven and The Serafina books. Are you a fan of any of these?
I’m a fan of all of those books. Harry Potter for such fabulous imagination and character development; Fablehaven for wonderful Fantasy and family relationships; and Sarafina for a strong female character that is vulnerable and tries so hard to just do what needs to be done to help her loved ones. I have read a lot of children’s literature. But Anne of Green Gables is my favorite influence. It’s been a great pattern for me for Livy’s early character development and the situations she finds herself in.
If you lived in Broams Eld, who would you be?
Probably Zephyr, the owner of Snips and Snails. Either him or Snapdragon, the Flora and Fauna master.
Family and friends play a prominent role in your book - why?
This is where my real life comes in. I mentioned that I was sometimes the picked-on kid growing up. Because of this and because we moved so much, family became really important. My big brother, Ken, was my best friend until he left home when I was 16. Then, when our family moved to Japan my Senior year, my little sister, Mariah, became my best friend. Despite many challenges as a kid, my parents taught all of us that we were capable of doing anything—as long as we were willing to work for it. These have been powerful influences for me. Our family is still very close. It’s a blessing. I realize many of the children who read my books do not have that situation. I hope that they can experience some of what that is like when they are home with Livy.
Do you work from notes when you write?
All the time! The story has a few subplots, and keeping all the details straight is sometimes a stretch. I can’t do it without my very detailed outline. Before I make a change in a manuscript while I’m writing or revising, I check the outline to account for how that change might affect the rest of the story.
What is the best time of the day for you to write and do you have a favorite writing spot?
I usually write on the weekends or evenings, since I have a full-time job and I have a family at home. I love to sit where I can see nature. At home, that means the beautiful mountain range that I can see from most of the windows in my house. Away from home, I look for a spot near a window with trees outside. And I love to go to a nearby restaurant, put my headphones on, and bury myself in my writing.
What are you working on right now?
Book Two: Death Jars of Broams Eld is about to release. It’s going through the final proof right now. Simultaneously, I’m working on Book 3: Sanctuaries of Broams Eld.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I’m always happy to interact with my readers. They can find me in two places: jennifermcano.com and on Facebook at @jennifercanoauthor.