Interview between journalist JoLynne Lyon and Amber Argyle
JoLynne: Throughout the story, Senna struggles with her identity. What advice would you give to her—to anyone who feels like an outcast?
Amber: Senna finds herself trapped in a situation where she’s persecuted/bullied/belittled because of who she is. If you’re in a similar situation, don’t sit back and take it. Do everything you can to improve your situation—including looking for outside help. If everything fails, avoid the situation if possible. If even that doesn’t work, remember that nothing lasts forever and do what you can to make it bearable. Remember, what makes you different is what makes you beautiful. In the beginning of the book, Senna wants nothing more than to blend in, be like others. It’s only as she matures that she realizes the very things that make her different also make her beautiful, strong, and powerful. And she wouldn’t trade any of those qualities just to blend in.
JoLynne: What are the qualities Senna values the most in others? In herself?
Amber: Like so many of us, Senna doesn’t see herself very clearly. She’s harder on herself than anyone else. She’s blind to her own strengths, seeing only her faults in glaring florescent lights. So when she looks at others, her view is colored by her own weaknesses—all she can see is their strengths in comparison to her weaknesses, which isn’t fair to herself. Or the other person for that matter. But let’s be honest, we’re often anything but fair to ourselves.
Through the book, Senna’s warped perception begins to change. She discovers her strengths—strengths that were there all along—were just in need of sunlight and water to blossom. Strengths like her ability to love—fiercely, her determination, her courage, her loyalty. And most importantly, she realizes that she’s strong—strong enough to face her biggest fear.
JoLynne: Trust comes up again and again in the story, as your characters decide who is and is not worthy of it. How can young people decide whom to trust?
Amber: It’s really very simple. If a person encourages you to become something more— someone better without asking for anything in return (except friendship), that person is worthy of your trust. Please realize that people who genuinely care about you don’t need anything in return. There is no price, no bad consequences for being with them. Because they’re pulling themselves up with one hand and you with the other.
The reverse is also true. If a person brings you down socially, emotionally, physically or asks a price for their friendship, that person is not to be trusted.
JoLynne: Senna's mother chooses to protect her—so much so that Senna feels unprepared to face her life. How can a mother protect her child without leaving her helpless?
Amber: By teaching that child to protect himself/herself. As a child becomes old enough to face a situation (ie bullying, pornography, peer pressure) we as parents need to provide the tools to deal with that situation. I’m a firm believer that if a child is old enough to ask the question, their mature enough to receive the answer (in an age appropriate discussion). And it doesn’t stop with physical safety. Children need to be taught moral guidelines—things like kindness, integrity, individual worth, etc.
JoLynne: Sacrifice is another theme that is repeated in this story. How does Senna decide what she will and will not give up?
Amber: Senna makes her choices the same way we all do—weighing her past experiences with the expected outcome and seeing which consequence she can live with. Refusing to hide from her problems, she educates herself about overcoming them. She doesn’t feel it is adequate, but she does the best she can with what she has. Though she faces daunting odds, she’s knows the cost of failure is simply too high not to try.
JoLynne: Joshen is a heroic man who falls in love with a powerful woman. What kind of future do you envision for two people who are both remarkably strong and stubborn?
Amber: There will be fights. There will be enormous clashes of will. But if Senna and Joshen truly love each other, they’ll work it out. And no, I won’t elaborate. You’ll have to read the sequel.
JoLynne: Reden is an interesting character who makes his appearance later in the story. Which beliefs and values dictate the choice he makes? Will he appear in other books?
Amber: I don’t give a lot of the backstory on Reden, simply because it isn’t really needed. But he’s actually from the Boor class. His military prowess was such that he worked his way up through ranks that are normally closed to the lower class. He’s intensely loyal to his men. And he’s very decisive and strong willed. He’s fascinated by Senna, in more ways than one. And yes, he’ll be a big part of book two.
JoLynne: Eventually Senna finds other people treating her like a leader, though she would rather blend into the background. How can a young woman come to accept and embrace her own leadership qualities?
Amber: By not letting fear cripple you. If you see something that needs done, don’t sit around waiting for someone else to take care of it. You take care of it. Or delegate. Either way, make sure it gets done.
Thanks for the interview, JoLynne! If you'd like to check out JoLynne's book, you can look her up here: http://mountainlyon.blogspot.com/