Hi, hello! I’m honoured to share this interview which I did with the amazing Annie Sullivan about her latest release, Tiger Queen. You can read my review of the book here!
About Tiger Queen:
Author: Annie Sullivan
Publication date: 10th September 2019
From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.
Hello and thank you for doing this interview with me! Tiger Queen is a retelling of ‘The Lady, Or The Tiger?’. Which elements of the short story did you adapt and include in your novel?
Yes! Tiger Queen is heavily inspired by that short story, and I kept a great deal of the original story. Everything from the king throwing the princess’ lover into the arena to the princess having to help choose what door gets opened made it into my version. But I also included a lot of new elements in my novel, like the fact that the society is running out of water. Plus, the original story ends with a cliffhanger. In my version, I give the story the ending it always should have had!
The world that the book is set in has very interesting and unique customs, legends and beliefs. What were the inspirations behind these various cultures and traditions?
I love coming up with new creatures. I often do a lot of research into what animals and insects live in a certain environment, and I then I see how I can twist them so they belong in a fantasy setting. For example, I created Grieving Spiders, which are so named because if you get bitten by one, everyone around you will be grieving because you’ll die. So overall, the setting was inspired by the creatures that live in desserts, but it was also inspired by the time I spent in Antarctica. Believe it or not, Antarctica is actually one of the world’s largest desserts because it is so dry, and I wrote a lot of Tiger Queen while I was there. I simply replaced the endless stretches of snow with sand. However, since I was writing about the desert, I worked with a sensitivity reader just to ensure that I didn’t delve into any harmful stereotypes of desert cultures.
Kateri was a brave, strong character who went on a great journey of self-discovery. What inspired her character and what were the challenges of writing her?
I loved writing Kateri because she is so strong. She was practically born with a sword in her hand and won’t back down from a fight. She’s fiercely loyal and a little bit stubborn. I think she gets those elements from me. I loyal to a fault and can be stubborn when I think I’m right. But overall, her strength was inspired by the landscape she lives in because you have to be strong in order to survive the Achran desert.
I would say the challenge of writing such a strong character is making her relatable and giving her a softer side that can still come through. It takes her a while to open up, but Kateri eventually learns to trust others.
Did you have to do a lot of research before writing Tiger Queen? What was your main method of research and what interesting things did you find out?
A lot of the research I did was into what types of creatures live in the desert. I had so much fun taking actual insects and twisting them into something new and dangerous. I also did some research into clothing and food that would be common in the desert. Outside of that, I made a lot of it since it is a fantasy world.
How do you write? Do you carefully outline or discover the story as you go? Was writing this book a different experience from writing your other book, A Touch of Gold?
I’m a total “panster,” meaning I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t outline. I like to discover the story right along with the reader. Sometimes that means I write myself into a corner, but then I go back and start again until I get it right. I might know where the story is going to end up, but I don’t always know how we’re going to get there until we do.
And I would say this book was very different. Just the fact that there’s no real magic involved made it easier to write because magic complicates things—who has it, how you get it, how can it be used, etc.
Which books would you recommend to people who enjoyed Tiger Queen?
What a fun question! I think people who love Tiger Queen will love books like:
About the author:
Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairy tales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).
Thank you so much to Annie Sullivan for doing this interview with me- it was a pleasure!