In celebration of Julie E. Czerneda’s most recent release, A Turn of Light, Julie graciously accepted to stop on the blog and share about one of her inspiration: Toads. Now you didn’t see that one coming? I certainly didn’t lol! Please welcome her warmly :)
There are toads in my desk. There are toads in my novel, A Turn of Light. Important toads. You may be wondering ... why?
What I, as a writer, create exposes something of me -- if I'm being honest with my readers, which I try to do -- as much as it reveals the deliberate thought-filled choices I've made for the story. When it comes to Turn, the toads, my “house toads” or “little cousins,” reflect my love of nature. And, yes, toads.
Where we live, at the edge of a forest, is marginal turf for Bufo americanus, the American Toad. Before we allowed the meadow to expand, a palm-sized specimen ruled the vegetable patch, with a dozen smaller leaping aside when we mowed the lawn. Their numbers declined, and the big beauty moved elsewhere. A pond in the back, as well as piles of rock in the flower beds, encouraged a few to return, to my great joy.
I want to be a good neighbour to nature, quiet and unobtrusive, yet aware of my surroundings.
Toads, I feel, have much the same intent.
When I began to conceive of A Turn of Light I had dragons and horses and all the usual suspects, but something was missing from Marrowdell (the story setting). I found it one sunny afternoon. We were strolling down our main street, it being closed for the annual summer sidewalk sale, when I spotted a huge ceramic toad on a store step. There was something not-toad about its eyes. Curious, I went closer and discovered they'd used dog-like brown glass. Artistic license.
And inspiration! I didn't buy the toad, though I lusted after it with a wholly uncharacteristic desire-for-stuff. Instead, I took the store owner's card and wrote on the back: “toad with puppy eyeballs.” That card's still taped into my notebook for Turn.
And that toad? Is in the book, sitting on the Nalynn's porch. What had been missing -- a touch of what-you-think-you-know-isn't whimsy -- had been found. I described Marrowdell's house toads as more or less like the large toad of our garden, save for the puppy eyes and, well, sharp teeth. I made them good neighbours too.
I also, because this is Marrowdell, made them sentries. They guard the settlers' homes. They have their own small magic. They speak, to those who can hear them. They annoy my dragon, to whom they are “little cousins,” no end. They are pompous, brave, loyal, and practical.
As I wrote Turn, I fell more and more in love with toads. I went back to that store, cash in hand, only to find he no longer sold what I now considered “my toad.” Knowing my disappointment, our amazing daughter found a little shop in Colorado that not only had one, but would ship it to Canada in time for Christmas! Yes, that's the toad I'm holding in my author photo.
Marrowdell's house toads hopped, squatted, and blinked their way through the entire story and have made me smile times without count. My wonderful editor made toad jokes galore as I wrote the book and, with my publisher, conspired to send me yet another fabulous toad this past Christmas. In fact, toads have begun to accumulate in our home, to no one's surprise, and I've featured them in announcements and fun moment on my Marrowdell facebook page. Now that the book's out, toads are following me -- or arriving to greet me -- at events. I've even made TOAD cookies for my readers.
Why, says I with great glee and a blink, not?
Thank you so much Julie for stopping by!
Here’s more about A Turn of Light:
The village of Marrowdell is an isolated pioneer community, but it is also the place where two worlds overlap, and at the turn of light--sunset--the world of magic known as the Verge can briefly be seen.
Jenn Nalynn belongs to both Verge and Marrowdell, but even she doesn't know how special she is--or that her invisible friend Wisp is actually a dragon sent to guard her... and keep her from leaving the valley. But Jenn longs to see the world, and thinking that a husband will help her reach this goal, she decides to create one using spells. Of course, everything goes awry, and suddenly her "invisible friend" has been transformed into a man. But he is not the only newcomer to Marrowdell, and far from the most dangerous of those who are suddenly finding their way to the valley...
More about Julie:
Many of you know Canadian author Julie E. Czerneda as the former biologist turned science fiction novelist published by DAW Books NY. You may have read her Clan Chronicles series, or be a fan of Mac or Esen from her other work. Maybe you've heard she's an editor. Also true. This spring, however, prepare to meet the Julie you don't know. After three years of work, she's letting out her whimsical side with the release of her first fantasy novel, A Turn of Light, also from DAW. The setting, Marrowdell, is based on pioneer settlements in Ontario. There are toads. And dragons. The magic? All her own. For more about Julie's work, including book excerpts and upcoming events, please visit www.czerneda.com.
Photo credit: Roger Czerneda Photography