Emily Colin - Freedom in a Future World Where Love is the Ultimate Sin
Emily Colin's debut novel, THE MEMORY THIEF, was a New York Times bestseller and Target Emerging Authors Pick. She is also the author of THE DREAM KEEPER'S DAUGHTER. Her young adult titles include the SEVEN SINS series, as well as the anthologies WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES and UNBOUND: STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE, AND MONSTERS. Emily's diverse life experience includes organizing a Coney Island tattoo and piercing show, hauling fish at a dolphin research center, roaming New York City as an itinerant teenage violinist, helping launch two small publishing companies, and working to facilitate community engagement in the arts. Originally from Brooklyn, Emily lives in coastal North Carolina with her family. She loves chocolate, is addicted to tiramisu, and dislikes anything containing beans. As our Author of the Day, she tells us about her book, Sword of the Seven Sins.
Please give us a short introduction to what Sword of the Seven Sins is about.
It’s so hard to sum up a book in a few words, but I’ll do my best! Sword of the Seven Sins is a young adult fantasy novel with a whole lot of forbidden love, a ton of plot twists, and a dystopian setting that isn’t quite what it seems.
Eva and Ari have trained since childhood to be warriors for the Commonwealth, where people live—and die—by the code of the Seven Sins. The two fall for each other, but love is a death sentence. Desperate, they ignite a rebellion that exposes the Commonwealth’s best-kept secrets...the most dangerous of which is Eva herself.
What inspired you to write about warriors who have been trained since childhood for the Commonwealth?
I wanted to create a society where the idea of becoming a staunch, unthinking defender of a set of ideals—no matter how brutal—was so deeply embedded in its warriors, there would be no doubt or cause for question. So, I invented a world where such ideology existed from the top down (the High Priests and the Executor) and the bottom-up (before citizens reach adulthood, they’ve been shunted into their Chosen career—including that of the Bellatorum Lucis, the warriors of light). This way, when Ari and Eva question everything they’ve been taught, it’s a truly massive step. They’re not only betraying their government and society—but the programming they’ve been indoctrinated with since birth.
Tell us more about Eva - what makes her tick?
Since childhood, Eva has been driven by the need for justice—and not the kind that the High Priests, Executor, and Bellatorum mete out. She sees the Commonwealth’s cruelty for what it is, doesn’t find it easy to condemn others just because authorities tell her she should, and wants to defend those who have been treated unfairly. But she also knows that revealing this sort of thinking would be viewed as defiant in the extreme—so she conceals it, until she can’t anymore.
A rebellion features prominently in this story - why did you take this approach?
I wanted Ari and Eva to know that they weren’t alone; there’s a whole world out there beyond the restrictive society of the Commonwealth. Ari and Eva have different reasons for wanting to pursue their search for freedom, beyond their feelings for each other—but in order for both of them to truly become the people they were meant to be, they need to experience the world beyond the Commonwealth’s gates. Of course, to do that, they’ll have to figure out a way to escape—and given all the obstacles in their way, that’s easier said than done.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Um—I don’t know if any of these are secret, but let’s see. I love to cook, and can probably cobble a decent meal together from whatever five random ingredients are in your pantry right now. I have fairly extreme powers of concentration, developed when I worked at a community youth arts nonprofit and had to write complicated grants while a drumming class took place on the other side of a very thin wall. I played the violin for many years and still have relative pitch. And I have unending patience with people, but no patience with objects at all.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
I’d say probably Eva. Ari came into my mind fully formed from the beginning, with clear goals, desires, and obstacles. But Eva was a bit muddier to me at first—who was she, and what did she want? Why did she despise the Commonwealth’s brutality so much—where did that feeling come from, and how did she react to it? What made her so gifted at the very role she despised? I reworked Eva’s character several times until I was happy with the way she turned out. She’s complex and headstrong—but hopefully likeable, too.
Readers say this book is very action-packed. How did you pull this off?
Every time I hear this, I laugh, because writing action scenes isn’t my strong suit. Unless I’m really deliberate about it, my main characters tend to wander around bantering and kissing a lot. When I wrote Sword, I revised and revised, and then revised some more, paring the book down to its essentials and leaving lots of my darlings on the cutting-room floor. In the end, readers were left with a book that’s apparently full of action—and, oh yeah, some bantering and kissing too.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Definitely the bantering and kissing. ;) Isn’t that the best part of writing every book? Or maybe that’s just me…
This is book 1 of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Sword can be read as a standalone for sure…but it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’d like to think that readers would be a bit disappointed if there wasn’t a Book 2, so they could find out what happens to Ari and Eva next! There’s a prequel to the series too, Sacrifice of the Seven Sins, which takes place a few years before Book 1. In June, I’ll be releasing a short story collection, Shadows of the Seven Sins, which gives readers behind-the-scenes insight into familiar characters and introduces them to new ones. And then the second and third books in the series, Siege and Storm of the Seven Sins, follow the main storyline…specifically, Ari and Eva’s story.
As a side note: God only knows what my publishers and I were thinking when we decided to name all these books something that started with S. Say their titles three times fast and it’s a real tongue-twister.
What fascinates you about the idea of forbidden love?
I’ve always been drawn to writing about extremes of human emotion, and to romance. Forbidden love brings both together in a really intriguing way—what happens if the person you fall for is someone you can never, ever have? How does that heighten your feelings for them—and around the experience of love, in general? And what if the reason you can’t be together is something seemingly insurmountable—like the entire structure of your society? What then? The possibilities for conflict are endless—and conflict is at the heart of what makes a good story.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Well, I come up with some of my best ideas in the shower—does that count? I have a playlist for each of my novels, and listen to it whenever I need to immerse myself in the world of those characters—especially when I’m having a hard time getting into the mood of the story. I write best in the morning, and have a fantastic group of fellow writers that I ‘sprint’ with each weekday—we’re all over the world, but around 8 AM EST, we set a timer for 30 minutes at a go and keep each other company. That’s proved really helpful for me, especially during the pandemic, because it creates a sense of community and accountability.
My average writing day begins with making coffee and sprinting with my fellow writers for about an hour and a half, with periodic breaks for more coffee and making breakfast for my son. Then I take care of administrative tasks for a couple hours—answering emails, responding to students if I’m teaching a class, posting to social media or taking care of other marketing responsibilities. After that, if I’m in the midst of a chapter or story, I’ll sit down and try to get some more work done. It helps if I have a word count in mind, since I’m very goal oriented and won’t stop until I hit that mark. Sometime in the middle of the day, I’ll take a walk or do some yoga, which usually revitalizes me and might unstick a kind of plot snag or character dilemma. I do my best writing in the morning, but I can edit and do administrative work in the evening if need be, so I try to honor that schedule.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently in the middle of writing the last short story for Shadows of the Seven Sins, the story collection set in the Seven Sins universe that releases June 1st. Then I’ve got to dig into writing the third book in the Seven Sins series. And I’ve got an adult manuscript, The Ghost Girls, that I’m about to start revising. So, lots of good stuff!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You can find me hanging out on Facebook and Instagram. I’m sometimes on Twitter (@emilyacolin) but not a whole heck of a lot. Here’s my Goodreads page and my Amazon author page, where you can see all of my books (Siege of the Seven Sins, the second book in the Seven Sins series, will be available for preorder on June 3rd, but readers can download a free prequel novella, Sacrifice of the Seven Sins, now). Oh—and if you want a free bonus short story, exclusive sneak peeks behind the scenes, and bookish news, you can subscribe to my newsletter at emilycolinnews.com.