In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.
Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.
With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.
I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for this exciting debut novel by Sarah Ahiers. We’ve got a great Q&A with Sarah about Assassin’s Heart, her writing process, and what’s next. Check it out:
What inspired Assassin’s Heart?
I’d been reading a lot of books where the protagonist would have an important person in their life and then that character would be killed and the protagonist would maybe cry for like a paragraph, but also kind of get over it because there was a new boy (or girl) they liked. And that really bothered me. Because I knew if my best friend, or family, or someone I loved, died (or was murdered!) a pretty boy or girl would not make me just get over.
So I wanted to write a story where the main character’s grief follows her through the whole book. And while there is a boy, their relationship doesn’t just make that grief vanish.
And at the same time I was thinking about what a culture would be like if they not only didn’t condone murder, but fully welcomed it.
What was your favorite part of writing this novel? What was most challenging?
I liked the things that surprised me. Like the ghosts really came out of nowhere (I’ll get more into this in the plotting/pantsing question) and then it turned out they were pivotal in so many ways, especially the world building.
But, the book as a whole fought me quite a bit for the first half and that was challenging. I think it was because I was trying to write it so soon after finishing another book and I just wasn’t ready for it. At the time, I thought it was because the book was terrible, but that wasn’t the case because that first half of the book I drafted is very similar to how it exists now, minus a character or two. But, once I set it aside for a bit and then came back to it, it came so much easier and I loved it.
The world in Assassin’s Heart is very well developed. What was your strategy while writing? i.e. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m a plotter. I used to pants when I was younger and I would get half way through something and get frustrated and give up on it. So now I plot everything and that works well for me. I don’t always know how the ending is going to go (like, for ASSASSIN’S HEART I didn’t know what would happen until I got there) but I tend to know the big plot points and the bad things that happen.
But I try to be loose in my outlines, because I still like to be surprised by things that just come up from my subconscious. So maybe I have a scene where I know the love interests are going to kiss, but how they get to that moment, I don’t know until I write the scene and see how it all unfolds.
Or in case I write something that surprises me, I have space to roll with it. Like, in the beginning of ASSASSIN’S HEART, I wrote a line about the angry ghosts on the dead plains. It came out of nowhere and I paused and said, who are these ghosts and what are the dead plains? And because I have a loose outline, I was able to explore that without losing my way (and when it was all said and done, the ghosts are pivotal to the story and world. I honestly don’t know how I was planning to write the book without them.)
If you could have lunch (safely) with a character from Assassin’s Heart, who would it be and why?
Oh, Les for sure. He’s fun, and nice and I know he would just answer any question I had. And probably pay for lunch, too. Which, I mean, free food!
What was your favorite book when you were the prime age for reading YA? Did that influence your own writing at all?
So, when I was the prime age for YA, there wasn’t much YA available. And by that point I had jumped to adult horror and adult SFF. I really loved (and still do) Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I still reread the entire series every few years. I was also reading a lot of Dean Koontz and Mercedes Lackey. I don’t know that it really influenced me per se as a writer, other than knowing that I love stories in any medium. But by the time I was a teen, I was already writing a ton of fanfiction with my friends (this was pre-fanfiction on the internet, too) and writing group stories with my siblings and I think just reading in the horror and SFF genres just reinforced the idea that these were the genres I loved. Both to read and to write.
Can you tell us what is next for you?
There’s a companion/sequel in the works right now for ASSASSIN’S HEART, so that’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to digging through that. And I have a few other YA fantasies I’m cleaning up right now, and I’m also finishing a draft on a MG fantasy that I absolutely love and can’t wait to finish.
Sarah Ahiers is working towards an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and lives in Minnesota with three dogs and a house full of critters. She has a collection of steampunk hats and when she’s not writing she fills her time with good games, good food, good friends and good family.
Sarah writes Young Adult and Middle Grade novels and occasionally dabbles in Picture Books. Fantasy is her favorite genre, though she sometimes can be found playing around with Horror and other things that go bump in the night.
Sarah’s debut novel, ASSASSIN’S HEART (HarperTeen, February 2nd, 2016) is a Young Adult Fantasy. In the Kingdom of Lovero, where families of assassins lawfully kill people for the right price, seventeen-year-old Oleander “Lea” Saldana sets out on a path of vengeance against the most powerful assassin family of all.
She is represented by Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary & Media.
Thanks to the wonderful people at Rockstar Book Tours and HarperTeen, one winner will receive a finished copy and some swag (bookmarks, postcards), US Only! Enter here:
Make sure you check out the rest of the blog tour to learn more about Assassin’s Heart:
1/25/2016- Adventures of a Book Junkie- Interview
1/26/2016- Brittany’s Book Rambles- Review
1/27/2016- Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews- Guest Post
1/28/2016- The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club- Review
1/29/2016- The Young Folks- Interview
2/1/2016- Cover2Cover- Review
2/2/2016- YaReads- Guest Post
2/3/2016- Dark Faerie Tales- Review
2/4/2016- Storybook Slayers– Interview
2/5/2016- Fiction Fare- Review