Vanessa Thurgood - Elemental Magic, Love, Honor, and Family
Vanessa Thurgood didn't go to college to write, but her teachers always told her she was good at it. She even had one professor get her to sign one of her homework assignments because he thought she had written it so well. However, she chose to go into Agricultural Business and Event Planning, NOT writing. Flash forward several years, and she finds herself finally penning out the worst rough draft of what was to become The Earthspark in the dead of night. All because of a dream she'd just had. It will be a dream she will never forget. But again, Vanessa put it aside until she found herself a mom wanting to listen to a good book but couldn't find anything appropriate to listen to with kids in the room. At this time, she pulled out that handwritten draft of her book and decided that if she couldn't find a clean book to read for adults, she was going to write one. So she did, and now she can't stop. Now, you may find Vanessa out exploring the rugged landscape that makes up her home and the worlds she creates. Or she may be sitting in front of her fireplace, enjoying a slice of hot fresh bread and homemade jam while reading the next book on her TO-BE-READ list. Vanessa has always adored fantasy books, movies, whatever, and loves every minute she gets to dive into the one she created for you.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Earthspark is about.
The Earthspark is a story about Nienna, who is trying to live her dream of being a cartography professor at her kingdom's university. While on an assignment from the dean, she discovers she possesses a power everyone thought had disappeared, along with one of the four elemental Guardians. The more her power grows, the brighter she shines. Dark creatures hunt her power with the intent to free the Guardian of Fire, who would destroy the world Nienna knows. To survive, she must ally herself with Tellen, Guardian of Earth, the man her family blamed for the destruction of the Comstock empire a thousand years ago.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
The original inspiration for this book came from a dream I had when I was fifteen. I tried to write it down in a notebook, but never finished it. After experiencing a burnout with my photography career, I decided to pick that notebook up again and found I loved writing so much that I changed careers.
Why did you decide to include primordial Guardians in your story?
I'm a Tolkien fan. I love the depth of his stories and have tried to bring that level of depth and history into my own writing. The Guardian's came about because of this need for depth. If you've ever read the Silmarillion, then you would know it starts out with seven beings who helped shape Middle Earth. This was the original inspiration for the Guardians in my story. At some point I plan to do a prequel for this series that tells how they created this world.
Tell us more about Nienna. What makes her tick?
Nienna is a true INFJ, if you've ever taken the Meyers-Briggs personality test. She enjoys horseback riding through the wilds of Tellidus with her friends and she loves a well drawn map. She doesn't make a promise lightly, and has no desire to be tied down romantically, despite her brother's teasings. He deepest desire is to be seen as more than a spare to the throne of Tellidus and married off to someone, saved for the worst case scenario of her brother's death. She wants to feel needed and wants to make a difference in the life of her people. From her limited perspective, being a professor at the kingdom's university of Alturis seems like her only option. The she's given a chance to do more when she finds out she possesses the Earthspark.
Besides writing, what other skills do you have?
My education is in agricultural business and advertising, so I spent some time in that field. I've also done event planning for a few years putting together wild game dinners and archery and pheasant hunting excursions. I spent several years doing commercial and portrait photography, and a recent skill I've picked up is martial arts. I especially enjoy using a bo staff and jo staff. I'm an avid outdoorswoman, and love hiking, dirtbiking, horsebackriding, and snowboarding.
Why fantasy? What drew you to the genre?
As I mentioned above, I'm a Tolkien fan. I love epic adventures and magic, so that's what I wrote.
This is the first novel in The Earthspark series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
I feel there is enough in The Earthspark that it could be read as a standalone, but you would definitely miss out on Nienna's interactions with the other elements in the following books. The upcoming four books will show how Nienna grows and matures in her Earthspark power and how she deals with the elements of the sky, water, and fire. The reader will also have a chance to dive deeper into Tellen's past and his lost love in later stories.
Beautiful cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
Thank you! This cover came about after me trying to make it myself and failing to achieve something great for a full month. I gave up and put a cover contest out on 99 Designs. Several of the designs that came in were beautiful and intriguing, but this one felt so on par with my book and other books in the genre that it was an easy pick. This same designer has recently finished the cover for book 2 and it is just as beautiful. I feel very lucky to have found my designer.
Readers say the book had a couple of plot twists that they didn't see coming. Did you plan it all out before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
When I wrote the first few drafts of The Earthspark, I was a total pantser. I just wrote whatever came into my head and went with it. However, after my wonderful editors got hold of the manuscript, I learned how to build up the tension and create a story that flows. That being said, there are many instances when I'm writing where it feels like one of the characters whispers something in my ear and even I get surprised by the turn of events.
Do you have a set of rules for your world? Is there a process you go through that helps define these?
When world building, you have to get very specific on the rules of the game. There have to be consequences for everything your character does, just like in real life. In the early phases of writing, I had a chart I used to keep track of the various magical abilities and defined what it could or could not do. I also used this chart to define the various social order of the world and where each of my characters fall.
If you lived in the world of your series, who do you think you would be?
I would probably choose to be a professor at Alturis University. I would love to be able to take my class on field trips through the forest and see a new waterfall at every turn.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I am a sticky note person and my plot wall will show you that. It makes it really easy to adjust or take away things from the storyline and provides a nice visual for me to keep track of where I'm at. Some of my habits as I write are I need a blanket around me, I need some epic soundtracks playing in the background, and if I'm working in the afternoon, I need some homemade trailmix by my side.
An average day of writing starts out at 5:30 a.m. where I read something enlightening, then write in my journal for a few minutes, followed by affirmations and meditation. Once done with that I open my tablet and get writing until I have to get kids ready for school. Once kids are off, I exercise, and take care of chores or errands until my youngest takes a nap. Then it's back to the computer for more writing or working on my book marketing. Then if I have time and energy I'll work some more after kids are in bed. The life of being a mom and a writer.
What are you working on right now?
I'm currently working on the rough draft for book three in this series, which is currently titled, "The Queen of the Night." I'm really excited for this one because it resolves a lot of unanswered questions from books 1 and 2.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn and my website (www.vanessathurgood.com). I respond to every message I get from readers and would love to connect.