Hello, Annaliese! Thank you so much for stopping by the MG Book Village to reveal the cover for the American edition of your debut novel, The Nightsilver Promise. Would you care to kick things off by introducing yourself to our readers?
Hello, MG Book Villagers! I’m Annaliese Avery, I live in Suffolk, in the UK, and I’ve been writing for a while. Last year just before the lockdown I was selected as one of SCBWI UK’s Undiscovered Voices. Off the back of this amazing competition I met my awesome agent, Helen Boyle of Pickled Ink, and at the start of the first lockdown in the UK Scholastic made a pre-empt on The Nightsilver Promise. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then. The past eighteen months have been bonkers for us all and this part of my writing has been an additional layer of brilliant bonkers amongst these strange times we find ourselves in.
Now, those readers who have been with us from the very beginning of the Village may recognize your name. You, in fact, got this whole thing started! What began as a month-long, Twitter-based celebration of reading and sharing blossomed into this website. Back then, you were working away at your novel, and now here we are, with one book already out in England and soon be launching in the States, and more on the way! What’s it like to come back, at last, as a published author?!
It is so lovely to be back and to share The Nightsilver Promise with you all. The MG Book Village is such a supportive and connecting community for readers and writers. I am amazed and in awe that the hashtag that I, Jarrett, and Kathie ran four (?) years ago has grown to become such a positive and much valued resource in the middle grade community. I can’t take any credit for all the good work that The MG Book Village has done but I am very proud to have been there when it started.
Okay, now that we’ve reminisced and caught up, tell us what The Nightsilver Promise is all about!
The Nightsilver Promise is an epic fantasy adventure set in the Empire of Albion where science rules and everyone’s destiny is mapped in the stars of the Celestial Mechanism at the moment of their birth. The Celestial Mechanism was created by the Chief Designer with the aid of the Great Dragons who have long been extinct, hunted by the rule of Albion – The George and his Knights. But smaller dragons still exist as do the Dragon Touched – women who have dragon-like attributes and powers. Paisley Fitzwilliam has waited thirteen long turnings to be given her stars and when she receives them she finds out that her destiny is to die before her next birthday. Paisley sets out to defy her stars and keep her Dragon Touched brother, Dax, safe as she finds herself his sole protector. To save her little brother Paisley must travel through the floating boroughs of Upper London and the labyrinthian sewers below to avoid the Dark Dragon that stalks her family and unlock an ancient secret that will change the course of history forever.
DRAGONS! I’ve got to ask — what is the appeal of dragons? Why do you think they are such an enduring, ever-popular (at least it seems to me) creature in fictional worlds and stories?
Dragons are intriguing mythical creatures, for me the appeal is that I can see how dragons might have evolved from dinosaurs. I’ve always been interested in paleontology and being able to see that link between something real and something mythical gives it a bit of credence. Also, we are all very familiar with different representations of dragons in the stories that we read. Dragons are part of our childhood we have lived and grown with stories of dragons – we have feared Smaug and loved Pete’s dragon, we have wanted to ride of Falkor and befriend Toothless, we have grown up knowing that “there be dragons” and part of us believes that this is utterly true.
Something that often comes up in discussions about fantasy writing is world-building. Can you tell us anything about how you built the world of this book?
Worldbuilding is one of my favourite things to do. The world of The Nightsilver Promise is inspired by many things but the biggest was my love of Astronomy. In the thirteenth century a monk and scholar called John of Sacrabosco theorised that the universe was a machine, this was also a popular idea during the enlightenment era, I thought it would be interesting to create a society that believed that they lived in a created clockwork universe, a machine with a purpose and a function. So I started asking lots of questions, like – what would this world look like? What constructs around this belief would the society have? The dragons appeared when I realised that the Chief Designer had created the unseen tracks of the Celestial Mechanism using alchemy to produce an exotic metal by fusing elements. I thought that it made sense that to make the metals The Chief Designer would need something hot to bond all of the exotic elements and particles together and that Dragon’s breath would be perfect.
What do you hope your readers — especially the young ones — take away from reading The Nightsilver Promise?
I hope they take away a sense of adventure and discovery. I hope the book encourages them to stay curious about our world, to find things out – to question. I hope it encourages readers to be bold and to trust in themselves, to make informed decisions and to take responsibility for their own paths in life. The Nightsilver Promise deals with some big questions about fate and destiny but I hope that all readers take away a sense of power from knowing that they are in control of their actions.
Okay — on to the cover… What did you think when you first saw the cover of your book? And what did you think when you saw a second cover, for the American version? How were the experiences similar and different?
The cover design process for the UK version was very different from the American version. We went through several designs for the UK cover before finding the perfect one. I was quite involved in the process, cover designer Jamie Gregory would send me images and we would have a conversation about them, when illustrator Natalie Smillie got onboard the cover leapt out and became the gorgeously deep and foil filled creation that it is. With the American cover I had little idea about the direction that the team was taking until I saw a near finished cover that designer Stephanie Yang had been working on with illustrator Alyssa Winans. You haven’t seen it yet (unless you’ve scrolled ahead) so I won’t spoil it for you but it is beautiful. We made a few tiny tweaks to achieve the final cover and I am so delighted with it. The two covers are quite different but both individually striking and I think that they both capture the adventure and intrigue in the story. I can’t really describe the way that I felt when I saw both of the covers, excited and very emotional, but also intrigued at how the story had been interpreted by both teams.
All right, let’s take a look!
WOW — it is gorgeous! And so intriguing! How could you NOT snatch this up off the shelf?!
In the promotional material for The Nightsilver Promise, the book is described as “perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Cornelia Funke, and Diana Wynn Jones.” I am fairly certain that YOU are a fan of these fantasy giants — can you tell us how they and anyone else influenced your writing in general and The Nightsilver Promise more specifically?
As well as fantasy, I love science fiction and speculative fiction – I like anything that is smart and immersive and that makes me think. I love the writing of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, both together and individually, they have both been hugely influential. I also love the works of Alan Garner and obviously Diana Wynn Jones and Cornelia Funke! I also love Ursula Le Guin and Orson Scott Card. Philip Pullman’s work was a huge motivation for me – I discovered the writer that I wanted to be by reading HDM – it was as if he was showing me that I could write the multifaceted and deep story that I wanted to tell because he had been rich and complex with his storytelling! I didn’t realise I was allowed to write like that for children until I read his work. One of my favourite books of all time is The Giver by Lois Lowey, I gift this book to others all the time – I adore her writing.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary fantasy authors? What books should American readers dive into while they’re waiting to get their hands on The Nightsilver Promise?
I’m going to share with you some of my favourite recent reads, that I know you can get hold of in the US: The Starfell series by Dominique Valente, The Strangeworlds Travel Agency series by LD Lapinski, Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray, The Apprentice Witch trilogy by James Nicol, Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston and The Brightstorm series by Vashti Hardy. Brilliant stories full of adventure!
The Nightsilver Promise is the first book of the Celestial Mechanism Cycle. Without any spoilers, can you tell us a bit about what’s in store as the story continues?
You can expect to move a little deeper into the world of Albion, we spend a little bit more time with the George and his Knights We also get to understand a little more about the attitudes towards the Dragon Touched. We travel to the Northern Realms and take in a new landscape. Paisley will continue to try and travel her track and the Dark Dragon will continue to try and thwart her! Lots of action and adventure, intrigue and mystery to be had.
Lastly, when can American readers get their hands on The Nightsilver Promise, and where can they learn more about you and your work?
The Nightsilver Promise is available from Scholastic Press on the 2nd November 2021, you can visit my website annalieseavery.com for more information or you can pop over to Twitter and say hi – @AnnalieseAvery.
Thank you Jarrett and MG Book Village for hosting this cover reveal and to all of you brilliant book villagers too. Keep well and keep reading, Annaliese Avery.
Annaliese has spent most of her life surrounded by stories, both at work as a library manager and at home writing them. She holds an MA in Creative Writing and is now the Program Leader for The Golden Egg Academy in Scotland which leads creative writing workshops across the UK. In January 2020, Annaliese was shortlisted for the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2020 anthology. The Nightsilver Promise is her debut middle-grade novel, and the first in a thrilling, new fantasy trilogy.