by Dave Amaditz &
Welcome to August's version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut novelist, Kit Grindstaff, and her novel, The Flame in the Mist. I had the privilege to meet Kit at 2009 Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference, where she was busy working on her novel. Fortunately, I ran across her again this past June at the New Jersey SCBWI conference where she was able to share good news of publication, and more importantly, where she agreed to participate in this month's Five Favorites.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave - There were so many to choose from, but in the end, without revealing some of the plots inner secrets, I chose this paragraph because it shows the perils that Jemma, the main character, must face, as well as illustrates one snippet of the fantastic writing found throughout the novel.
Jemma closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The Prophecy. Despite everything, it still burned inside her, driving her. She'd been drawn inexorably to this destiny from the moment she first started having doubts about the Agromonds, and had set it in motion with their first step toward escape. How she would ever bring back the sun, she had no idea, but rescuing the triplets was vital. They couldn't wait.
Marcy – Jemma has lived her entire life in the castle with the Agromond family. She always knew that she was different – not like them. She finally finds the courage to escape from them with the help of Drudge. In this scene, her brave behavior and change of heart for Drudge is the beginning of how her character greatly changes throughout the novel.
“A big cave. Then another tunnel, which will lead away from the castle, where there’s no alarm. I understand.” Jemma squeezed his hands. “I wish I wasn’t leaving you here! But—”
“Go!” Drudge pulled his hands away. “Mussst, now! G’bye, Jmmmaaah.”
“Goodbye. And please say goodbye to Digby for me, will you? Tell him…tell him I’ll look for him in Hazebury, when I get there.”
Drudge nodded, wiping one eye with the back of his sleeve. “Trussst,” he said again, softly.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - Again, without giving too much away, I picked this chapter ending because I didn't see it coming and needed to immediately turn the page to find out what came next. To set the scene a little, Jemma is feeling pretty good about herself because she has gotten away from the castle, and the likes of Nox Agromond... only to see... well, you read for yourself.
Every face, every tree, and every building in the square was still crystal clear. As crystal clear as the electric sense of someone approaching from behind her. Crystal clear as she turned around. And crystal clear as she saw the unmistakable dark hair and determined stride of Nox Agromond, exiting the inn and heading straight toward her.
Marcy – This chapter ending gave me chills. In the last 24 hours, Jemma has discovered that her entire life has been a lie. Jemma is reading the back of a newspaper clipping and recognizes the picture of her mother.
She turned the picture over.
Tiny writing was scrawled with obvious effort across the back.
My darling child. We are waiting.
Jemma felt her destination sharpen in her mind as clearly as etching on glass. For somehow, something in her knew that her mother, at least, was still in Oakstead – and alive.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave - Nocturna is my favorite secondary character. She is the epitome of evil, one hundred percent committed to her cause and only willing to waver with feelings or actions that resemble kindness if, and only if, the end result will benefit her. Who else would say the following to their daughter?
"Yes, you will, Mord take you," Nocturna said, gripping her harder, "if I have to kill you to get it."
Marcy - My favorite secondary character was hard to choose because there were so many characters I adored. Jemma meets a young girl named Talon during her travels to escape. The reader expects Talon to turn Jemma in to the Chief Inquisitor who is also happens to be Talon’s father. But boy, does Talon surprise Jemma and the reader.
Talon frowned, then broke into a grin. “I know – come to my house! It’s the last place anyone’ll think of lookin’. Pa’s never home, an’ it’d never occur to ‘im you’d be hidin’ under our roof. Don’t worry, Ma can’t stand ‘im any more’n I can. We both felt ‘is fist a bit too often. ‘Sides, she’d be dead chuffed to meet yer. So come on, let’s be off!”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave - This was not easy! So I picked two in order to give you a sense of the fantastic writing as well as of the evil Jemma faces in her quest.
First - Everyone dozed. Only Grandmama Mallentent seemed to be awake, her crazed paint-cracked eyes staring from her portrait as if they saw into Jemma's duplicity. Jemma fixed her gaze on the fire, and on the family motto glaring at her from the mantelpiece: Mordus Aderit. She tried re-ordering the letters to make pleasant words, but it only yielded ones that seemed to taunt her: Ruse. Dare. Dread. Dread. The word slithered into Jemma's head, then wormed into her bones, where it curled up and tightened like a noose.
Jemma mopped her mouth with a napkin, her stomach in revolt. The stew had been vile. The silkiness of the pancreas made her retch, and how could she have ever liked the bitter taste of spleen, with its crumbly texture? Even the crunch of the bees-in-syrupwater dessert was disgusting to her now.
Second - What met her eyes was more horrific than she could have imagined. Countless small human skeletons were grouped together in twos and threes, some whose arm bones embraced another; others with finger bones entwined. Several behind the door looked as though they'd been trying to claw their way out.
Marcy – Jemma has never guided a horse before – this is her first time trying to ride Pepper under strained circumstances. I felt like I was right in the scene with the fantastic imagery and action.
“Easy, girl – easy!’ Terrified, Jemma gripped with her legs as she lay over Pepper’s withers, her arms wrapped around the mare’s outstretched neck. The ground rushed by. She could feel her cloak streaming behind her like wings. Wings that had saved her, breaking her fall from Mordwin’s Crag…She began to feel as though she was flying, and melted into Pepper’s thundering gallop, remembering the thrill of speed she’d felt earlier with Digby’s arm around her. All fear vanished. Her mind merged with the mare’s, envisioning where to go: Over there, to the right – Yes! That’s it…
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave - Even with all the scary scenes I've picked for my favorites, I think this line proves, that in the darkest hours, there can be hope.
"Nobody is evil through and through, Jemma," said Lumo, “or good, for that matter. Each of us has the capacity for both, and for most of us, one wicked act, or even several, does not make us a wicked person. That depends on how we choose to commit our lives. Yet even good people have the capacity for cruelty, just as evil ones have the capacity for kindness."
Marcy – Digby made Jemma die her flaming red hair with a muck of berries and mud, then sheared her hair off like a boy’s so people wouldn’t recognize her. Jemma is not happy about this transformation until Digby gives her a compliment – sort of.
“’S’alright, Jem. I understand. Your hair is kind of your crownin’ glory. But you still look pretty good without it.”
Jemma smiled, her stomach flipping.
“Does stink a bit, though,” he added.
You can find Kit at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kitgrindstaff (@kitgrindstaff)