Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Amulet
Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.
Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.
Give us your best pitch. Describe your book in 140 characters or less.
Gondal. Verdopolis. Angria. The fantasy worlds that the Brontë siblings wrote about when they were young were real. But they weren’t safe.
What drew you to the Brontë siblings?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is probably my favorite book. It’s so strange, especially for its time, and it’s so skillfully written. I love the way the wild, over-the-top behavior of our two protagonists is told mostly through the eyes of the staid, matter-of-fact servant, Nelly Dean. It makes the reader feel that the events of the novel might be a tall tale or local gossip, and yet they’re also very believable because Nelly seems like such a reliable source.
Every once in a while I read the last three pages of Wuthering Heights just to remind myself how much Emily trusts her readers to draw their own conclusions. Do Heathcliff and Catherine walk as ghosts or are they at rest? Those three pages swing beautifully back and forth between those two options, never needing to land firmly on either one.
How amazing that another book that also means a lot to me was written by a member of the same family! My grandmother read Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, aloud to me when I was about thirteen, soon after I came to live with her. Having just lost my father, of course a story about an orphan girl facing adversity resonated deeply, as it does to this day. Jane is one of the great heroines, and Charlotte writes her with amazing sensitivity and depth.
Just knowing that these two sisters wrote two of my favorite books was enough to get me interested in the story of their extraordinary family. Of course I soon learned that there were four more Brontë siblings—Maria and Elizabeth, who died before my book begins, Anne, a wonderful author who I only discovered as an adult, and Branwell, the only boy, who, though very talented, succumbed to drug addiction and died before he could really live up to his potential.
Explain why mixing
historical figures and fantasy appealed to you.
As soon as I read that the Brontës created fantasy worlds when they were children, I knew I had to write about them. The idea to make Gondal and Verdopolis real places that the Brontës could visit came to me in a flash. I couldn’t believe that no one had thought of it before. Then the panic set in. There are so many Brontë fans out there, and I didn’t want to disappoint them; I felt enormous pressure to do them justice; but by then their lives had hooked me and I couldn’t not write about them.
A lot of readers are also interested in writing tips. As a fellow Canadian author, and Vice President of CANSCAIP, what advice do you have for emerging writers looking to get their manuscript published?
First and foremost: find a community. Everything I know about the writing business I learned from other authors—or I learned from a source that I learned about from other authors. Both SCBWI and CANSCAIP have meetings in some Canadian cities, and if your city is not served, those organizations might help you to find other authors to meet for coffee or to form a group with. If you live farther afield, investigate online forums. If you can afford it, try to attend writing conferences that cater to your genre. Meet people. Share knowledge.
Second: Find a way to get feedback on your work because publishers and agents (sadly) won’t give it to you. Even if you are lucky enough to get a comment on a rejection letter, it’s often hastily composed or one of a stock set of rejection comments. I swear by my writing group. We’ve been meeting about once a month for almost fifteen years, and I would not have been published without them. Others prefer a trusted cadre of authors with whom they exchange manuscripts occasionally.
Describe the perfect reader for Worlds of Ink and Shadow.
I hope that this book will appeal both to Brontë fans and to people who’ve never read or even heard of them before. I will say that if you are looking for an action-packed page-turner, this book might not be for you. However, if you enjoy rich fantasy and lyrical writing, I hope you’ll enjoy Worlds of Ink and Shadow.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Melanie!
Thank you, Lena! I cannot wait to start reading your book today.
Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In High School, Creative Writing was the only course she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Toronto, Canada. Witchlanders is her debut novel.
Connect with the Author:
Contest ends January 29, 2016:
· 1 Grand Prize Winner will receive a “Bronte” gift basket filled with surprises from the author!
A Copy of WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW (Canadian or US edition dependent on country of winner)
A Hardcover Everyman's Library edition of JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë
A Hardcover Everyman's Library edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Brontë
A softcover Penguin edition of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by Anne Brontë
A softcover Hesperus edition of THE SPELL, juvenilia of Charlotte Brontë
Toasty Almond Tea from Tealish
A cloth ornament of Charlotte Brontë's childhood hero, The Duke of Wellington, inspiration for her character, Zamorna
· 10 winners will receive a copy of Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley
· 5 winners will receive a black bonnet (similar to the one found on the Canadian cover)