FAST FORWARD FRIDAY – Alex Aster

Welcome to MG Book Village, Alex! I’m so happy that you could be part of our Fast Forward Friday feature. Your debut book, EMBLEM ISLAND: CURSE OF THE NIGHT WITCH, comes out on June 9th. Could you please let our readers know what it’s about?

Thanks for having me! Curse of the Night Witch is the first book in a series set on Emblem Island, a world where everyone is born with markings on their skin that determine their fate and talents. Tor Luna is born with a leadership emblem, like his mother–but he doesn’t want to lead anyone. So, on the annual Eve celebration, where Emblemites can make a wish in hopes of it being granted in the new year, Tor wishes to be gifted a different emblem. Instead, he wakes up cursed. To reverse the deadly curse, he must cross Emblem Island for the first time in search of the wicked Night Witch, with only ancient legends as his guide–and creatures from those same myths in his path. 

I was lucky to read an eARC of your book, and it’s a great fast-paced, high stakes adventure based on the stories that your abuela used to tell you. Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration for the story?

My abuela always used to tell my twin sister and me cuentos (or stories) before bed. These were always legends that had been passed down generations–and were definitely too dark and scary for kids! One of my favorites featured a girl that was gifted a special marking for following the rules, and a sister who was given horns for breaking them. The idea of earning emblems based on behavior, and how that affected their lives really stuck with me, and helped inspire the world of Emblem Island. Many of the monsters in the book are also inspired by Latinx myths, including La Patasola, La Ciguapa, and La Llorona. Since legends played such an important role in developing my creativity during childhood, I wanted to make them a focus of Curse of the Night Witch. So there are actually Emblem Island myths in between each chapter (the same ones the characters use to find the Night Witch) so it’s almost like a book within a book!

This is the first book in the Emblem Island series. Are you working on the next one, and are there any details you can share with us?

Yes! I’m almost finished with it, actually. Though the first book is set completely on Emblem Island, the second is set in the waters surrounding it. 

Which character was the easiest for you to write? What about the hardest?

The easiest character to write was definitely Melda, because I can relate to her the most (always trying to control the situation, working really hard to get good grades, being a little too obedient). The hardest was actually Tor! His entire arc revolves around not really knowing who he is, or why he wants what he does, and I’ve never really felt that way. I knew I wanted to be an author when I was Tor’s age (twelve), so having my book come out soon is definitely a long time coming, and very exciting 🙂 

The characters in your book are born with marks that determine their futures. If you could choose a mark for your younger self, based on what you know about yourself now, what would it be?

I grew up in Florida, went to college in Philly, and ended up in NYC. I didn’t really anticipate living so far from home as an adult, so I definitely would want a teleportation emblem (which plays a role in the book!). That way, I could see my family as often as I wanted. I never really realized how badly I would miss them until I was hundreds of miles away. 

Where can people go to find out more information about you and your writing?

My new website, asterverse.com! There, you can preorder Emblem Island: Curse of the Night Witch, read about the main characters, and even take a quiz to see which emblem you would be born with on Emblem Island!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors who read this interview?

My first book to be published was the sixth I had ever written. It took millions of words and countless rejections to get here, and I’m truly grateful for the journey. Rejection and “giving up” on manuscripts is difficult, but truly, you want your first published work to be the best you can possibly produce, and that only comes with practice and time. Keep writing, be patient, and good luck!

Thank you again for joining us today, Alex, and best of luck with your book’s release!

Thank you so much!!

Alex Aster recently graduated from The University of Pennsylvania, where she studied English with a Concentration in Creative Writing and Consumer Psychology. She currently lives in NYC, a few blocks away from her twin sister, and is the author of the upcoming MG fantasy Emblem Island: Curse of the Night Witch

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