Tricia D. Wagner - Tight, Riveting, Fun Novels That Will Pull On Your Heartstrings
Tricia D. Wagner is an award-winning novelist, poet, and short-story writer. She grew up in Amarillo, Texas, chasing storms, riding stallions, sojourning through painted canyons, disappearing into floating mesas under starry skies. She now lives in Rockford, Illinois (though the truth is, she's a citizen of a dozen fictional countries.) Tricia works in education and lives day to day wonderstruck - but luckily she can feel her way about this terrifying, beautiful Earth through writing. She has pieces published in The Write City Magazine, Chicago Newa, Word of Art 3D, Literary Yard, and Midwest Review.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Strider and the Regulus is about.
The Strider and the Regulus is the story of Swift, a boy torn between the pressures of growing up and the appeal of clinging to his childhood fantasies. Swift’s father, Justus, sees himself in his youngest son, and he aims to guide him into an internship for youth planning to one day read medicine–which Swift wants to do. But one day. Not now.
Accepting the challenge of the internship, though, will mean stronger inclusion in his family–four older brothers, all accomplished. The prospect of growing up, of the internship, of a closer connection to his father and brothers all but vanishes, though, when Swift discovers a secret inside a favorite book–a book of sea legends, centering on the Star of Atlantis, the most renown lost sea relic in Wales.
It’s a map. A legitimate map. Time-worn. Hand-drawn. A map that might lead him to treasure.
Check out the book trailer for The Strider and the Regulus – https://youtu.be/HQlRZVKP9dA
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything that made you want to tackle this?
When I first started writing, after one glorious summer of discovering my love for the craft, a 400,000-word speculative fiction trilogy fell onto the page. I’ve since devoted myself to learning about story creation. It’s been ten years, now, of intensive, obsessive endeavoring into the world of writing craft.
That speculative fiction trilogy is now a single polished book (unpublished, but someday will be ). In that book, Swift is an adult.
One line in the book, a happenstance line, points out that Swift grew up sailing. I wanted to explore that, so I wrote stories of Swift as a child, to understand him. As it turns out, Swift has quite a fascinating childhood. My book–Where Fish Can Breathe–and my Star of Atlantis series stories, including The Strider and the Regulus, capture these early adventures with Swift.
Why did you decide to include a famed pirate relic in the story?
One of the qualities that’s consistent with Swift throughout all the books that I’ve written is a love for adventure, for discovery. This love does manifest, in an academic sense, in a deep interest in wanting to learn medicine, to understand anatomy and biology and chemistry, and he dreams about journeying into that field and exploring it. When Swift was very small, his father was given a Brigantine ship – his Regulus Borealis. Growing up on that ship, Swift’s fantasies about venturing as a hero, as a pirate, come to life.
I have a book written called Night Swiftly Falling, which is the story of Swift–at eight years old–lost in sea legends and discovering a book called The Star of Atlantis. This cherished book certainly lit his imagination with visions of finding lost treasures.
Tell us more about Swift. What makes him so special?
Swift is pretty special. I’ve written so extensively about him that I know him well as a small child, as a teen, and as an adult. He cares deeply about others and falls in love hard. I think he’s relatable because he’s often torn between pressures pulling him opposite ways.
For example, in Night Swiftly Falling, Swift’s friendship with Ash–his best friend at the time–crumbles. Swift’s brother Caius coaches him to let go (which Swift should) but Swift can’t just stop loving someone.
Swift is also a mad genius–at eight years old, he could work out of college math texts, and he speaks close to a dozen languages, many of them fluently, some of them rare or lost. This brilliance, paired with his big heart and his draw to adventure, sets him up for a lot of challenges, some chances to win big, and a good deal of pain.
Why did you pick a 13-year-old to be your protagonist?
In writing, I tend to be interested in coming-of-age situations and psychology. It’s fascinating to follow the development of a character who’s at the brink of great opportunities and even greater challenges. These moments deliver strong conflicts and intense desires. I also love what my editor calls “competency porn”–a character facing struggles so immense that he must be highly competent to navigate them.
YA readers also love this stuff. Younger readers tend to perceive more challenges with emotional regulation, whereas readers at about Swift’s age want to see some action. They love characters (as I do) who are resourceful and can accomplish incredible things. And not necessarily with superpowers. More compelling than superhero fiction, I think, is hero fiction—the main character saddled with the same weaknesses that I deal with, and yet possessing strengths and abilities that I could envision mastering. Swift, with his crazy amazing skills, gives me plenty of chances to dabble in the realm of real heroes.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m with Swift in his love for languages. In my day job, I direct an Adult Education program, which includes adult ESL learners. We have a wonderfully diverse population–in our program, we have 51 countries represented, and 49 languages. This is so inspiring! I’m fascinated by languages and language learning theory, and because I’m around different languages all the time, I get some practice.
It’s great fun to be a language learner myself–it helps me to relate to what our students are experiencing, and it provides insights that I can share with our instructional staff. I’m currently studying Russian, Swahili, French, Spanish, Egyptian Arabic, and Ancient Egyptian. (And yeah, one of the things that I’ve discovered is that the mind is totally capable of absorbing multiple languages at once. Really, this stuff is thrilling.)
I say that I “study” languages, rather than claiming to “speak” them, because fluency in languages takes immersion and years. But I know enough to have some fun joking around with our students and to appreciate the strides that they make.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
The cover design for The Strider and the Regulus is one I came across in searching for premade covers. I attached to it instantly as a beautiful fit for the story. I love the artistry of it, with the background elements interfacing with the text. I reached out to the cover designer, who did a beautiful job with it. She’s a true visual artist. She’s since designed the cover of the two books that follow The Strider and the Regulus.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
ALL the time. By the time I’ve finished with a book, I feel more like a catalyst than a creator. Writing does involve hashing out scenes and planning and revising and tweaking, however, it also involves listening to the voices that, quite literally, are present in one’s head.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this story?
I love the dynamic between Swift and his brothers. Swift has a very different relationship with each of them, and those relationships evolved over the many times that I revised The Strider and the Regulus. One of the surprises—a character taking his own tangent—was with regards to Edric, Swift’s oldest brother. Edric took on a much more supportive role than I’d envisioned (although that support feels very harsh to Swift).
I intended for Edric to be a consistent agitator, always playing the role of opposing Swift. But as it turns out, Edric cares deeply for Swift. He sees himself in Swift, and he understands Swift’s quandary, in many ways, better than the others do. So he’s a dark ally. That was really fun to see happen.
Readers say The Strider and the Regulus is fast-paced. How did you pull this off?
Pacing a novel is one of the most difficult skills to master. I have wonderful readers and writing coaches who help me identify places where the story drags. Developing this skill comes from years of revision (which I love doing—the artistry of revising brings about many of the surprises!). And although I’m constantly learning, and despite that I’ve still got a long road up this mountain of story craft, I continue to find techniques that support a fast-paced novel, that keep the story airborne.
This is the first book of your Star of Atlantis series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Yes, The Strider and the Regulus sure can be read as a standalone. Night Swiftly Falling and Where Fish Can Breathe are origin stories of Swift, and they, too, can be read as standalones. I just published Book 2, and Book 3 is drafted. I envision three more stories following, culminating in that original speculative fiction story I wrote, many years ago. All of them will have a strong arc and will be sufficient standalones.
My goal with the Star of Atlantis series is to ensure each book is a strong enough story that each can be read and enjoyed independently while rewarding series readers with an engaging wider story arc and satisfying build.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Writing is my obsession. My love. My drug. I consider myself a career writer with a full-time job on the side. I’m driven so hard to create stories, to do justice to the characters I’ve conjured, that if I go too long (read: hours) without working on a story, I can’t focus on anything at all. I must write, it seems, in order to live. And I’m 100% okay with that.
I do have to balance writing with my day job, of course, and other life pressures. So writing is my early-morning peaceful space, it’s my lunchtime company, my evening relaxation, and the weekend’s strenuous work. I have a pretty addictive personality, and my husband is thankful that I discovered writing, as it may be preventing me from latching on to less healthy obsessions.
What are you working on right now?
This week is launch week for Book 2 in the Star of Atlantis series! Book 2 carries the series title, The Star of Atlantis. Check out the book trailer for Book 2! https://youtu.be/beZ35ypQzo8
Since I’ve started publishing, I’ve needed to learn to balance writing with publishing tasks, and I find that I like to do the marketing and publishing end of things, too. So at this moment, I’m thick in promotions for Book 2, setting up ads and tracking sales. And let’s not forget Book 3, as this story is also on the horizon. I’m in the midst of the hard, fun work of polishing Book 3 (it’s such a relief once a book is finished, and polishing is the task at hand). I’ll be working with readers and writing coaches for the next several months, and I’m aiming for a release date in February.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love connecting with readers! I have a website through which readers can contact me, and I’m active on social media. My website includes a free story that I offer to anyone wishing to connect.
Below are my links for these platforms:
FACEBOOK: Tricia D. Wagner, Author | Facebook
TWITTER: TriciaDWagnerAuthor (@WagnerAuthor) / Twitter
INSTAGRAM: Tricia Wagner (@tricia.d.wagner)
GOODREADS: Tricia D. Wagner (Author of Where Fish Can Breathe) (goodreads.com)
BOOKBUB: Tricia D. Wagner Books - BookBub
AMAZON AUTHOR: https://www.amazon.com/Tricia-D-Wagner/e/B06XDWMZKD