Hello my bookish badgers! Today I’ll be sharing the interview I did with the wonderful Coco Ma about her debut, Shadow Frost! Read my review here.
About Shadow Frost:
Publication date: 1st October 2019
IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes. Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm. Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.
When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.
To kill it.
But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.
That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.
From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.
Hello and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me! You wrote the first draft of this book at the impressive age of fifteen- what was your initial inspiration to start writing this story and how did it develop and change over time?
Thank you for having me! A very long time ago, I fell in love with fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. And I also fell in love with writing in general before it ever occurred to me to try and write a book… Shadow Frost initially started as a school project in tenth grade. I meant to write a collection of short stories, but then the first one just kept getting longer and longer until I suddenly realized that I had over 50k words and half a story left to tell! Which, of course, led to a lot of problems in terms of pacing and plot, so those were main editing points later on. I recently finished the first draft of the sequel, and it was such a different experience going into the manuscript with the intention of actually writing a book! Still, I can really appreciate the editing process I went through in the first book, because I definitely learned a lot from it. A lot of authors will tell you that the only way to write better is to write, and I think the same applies to editing and publishing, too, so even though it was scary diving into the industry at fifteen, I’ll always be grateful for it!
The novel is written from multiple perspectives. Was it challenging to keep track of so many points of view?
It really depends! I actually think that writing in first person can be a lot more challenging because you lose so much of what is going on in other characters’ heads. My process for choosing what character’s perspective to tell the story from correlates very directly to the story itself. I never force a perspective when it isn’t natural to the story, and I try to think about which character a certain chapter or chapter section is going to affect most in advance, whether emotionally or physically or mentally. Or maybe I know there is going to be a big reveal affecting Character A in the next chapter, in which case I might pick a different POV because I want to showcase Character B’s specific reaction to that reveal. Since there are so many main characters in Shadow Frost, the hardest part was probably making sure all of them had a consistent presence—not an equal presence, which is a very important distinction—but just making sure that the reader isn’t startled by a character’s appearance because they’ve disappeared for like, eleven chapters!
Shadow Frost is full of elemental magic, centered around a complex stone system. I loved the idea of being unifinitied all the way up to being omnifinitied. What inspired this magic system?
I’ve heard a lot of people relate the magic system to Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I didn’t watch that until waaay after I wrote the book, haha. If I’m being super, super honest… I think my liking for elemental-based powers came from the Rainbow Magic Fairy books, which I read when I was like, seven. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them, but I owned. A lot. Of those books. So I felt very comfortable in an elemental magic word, and I loved spicing it up with other spoken-word spells derived from the Immortal Tongue, which is basically the only other existing language in the Shadow Frost universe. Pretty early on, the first idea I had for the magic system involved wands instead of stones, actually! The idea was for there to be wands made of different materials—like wood, or iron, or sapphire, etc. It was based off the Mohs scale, so a ‘level ten’ wielder would use a wand made out of diamond, which ranks as a ten on the Mohs scale. And the elements and their respective kingdoms were a completely separate entity on their own. Then, during one of my revisions, I realized that the wand idea kind of sucked. And it suddenly occurred to me that the characters were already mostly using the magic originating from each of their kingdoms. Everything kind of clicked and fell into place after that, and it was just a big moment of, “well, of course it should be like this!”
Imagine that all of your characters were invited to Hogwarts. Which houses would they be sorted into?
Oh, god, I love this question. Let’s see.
- Asterin — Gryffindor. Like, the hat wouldn’t even touch her head before screaming out.
- Luna — oh this is hard. Like, if I tell you honestly, it will spoil sequel stuff. I’ll just leave it at that.
- Orion — Hufflepuff. I know that might come as a shock. But what can I say, he’s a good finder! Or maybe he would be a hat stall between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. I don’t know.
- Eadric — Ravenclaw. Or Gryffindor. But IMO he thinks more with his head than his heart.
- Rose — Ravenclaw.
- Quinlan — I kind of want to put him into Slytherin. He would look really good in green and silver.
- Harry — Either Hufflepuff or Gryffindor. Immortals, I’m so bad at this, I can’t pick a single house! I should do a poll and let all of you decide for me…
- Garringsford — Slytherin. *hisses*
I’ve heard that you’re a brilliant musician, which instruments do you think Asterin, Orion, Luna, and Quinlan would be good at playing?
Aw, thank you! Wow, okay, never thought about this.
- Asterin — er… for some reason, I feel like Asterin would be tone deaf. And not have the patience, at all, to practice any instrument. Maybe she could do the cowbell. Or another instrument that involves hitting/beating/striking something.
- Orion — I can see him playing classical guitar. I don’t even know why. Or maybe the accordion so he can serenade people (badly) as they walk by.
- Luna — She gives me violinist vibes. Like one of those scarily talented seven-year-old prodigies. And also, she can probably sing really well while playing the ukulele or something like that.
- Quinlan — Undoubtedly, the flugelhorn. Just kidding. Probably jazz piano, although that might just be me projecting. He has a really smooth voice, so I would die to hear him sing some slow ballads while accompanying himself on the piano. Think Chet Baker It’s Always You, or I Fall In Love Too Easily, or But Not For Me. All of which are really amazing songs that you should listen to if you haven’t heard them before if you like the kind of jazz that melts you into a puddle of ahhhh.
Which books and authors inspired you to write?
It’s a cliché answer, but basically every book I’ve ever read has inspired me in some way or another (yes, even those Rainbow Magic books). The first five off the top of my head are: VE Schwab, Vicious; Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom; Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer; Holly Black, Cruel Prince; and Alex Bracken, Never Fade. Obviously, there are so many others. Oh, god, I didn’t even mention Sarah J Maas and Marie Lu. I think the first two YA books I ever read were by them, and obviously, they are Queens™. Anyway, the point is, these are just a few (and only from YA) out of a gazillion.
Can give us any hints as to what the next book will have in store for us?
For a lot of characters, time is running out… in every sense of the word. You’ll get a much richer look at the Immortal Realm and one Immortal being in particular. You’ll meet a few new players in the game… and lose a few more. Relationships get tense. Some end well, some just… end. Lots of happy/sad/angry crying from just about everyone throughout. If you thought the betrayal stung in Shadow Frost, get ready for a world of hurt. Also…… Luna. Just… Luna. Overall, stuff is gonna hit the fan. But there’s cake involved! With the sequel in general, not the stuff hitting the fan.
And I, for one, cannot wait. 😉
About the author:
Thank you so much to Coco Ma for doing this interview with me, it was a pleasure!
Incidentally, I also used to be obsessed with the Rainbow Magic books when I was much younger so it’s cool that we have that in common!