"A Wilted Willow" Blog Tour: Book Review and Author Interview
Today, I've got something special for the blog. As you tell from the title, I had signed up for a Book Release Blog Tour, and I am doing a book review and an author interview for it! I am so excited to be doing this. I haven't known Julia for long or have followed her blog for very long either, but she's so sweet and thoughtful and I just love her blog. I also love her book, which is what I am going to get into soon. But first, the important official stuff. *Clear throat*
A Wilted Willow: Revised & Updated Edition is by Julia Witmer. It is a standalone.
Here's the blurb:
Day one in fifteen-year-old Mira Miller's home, and a strange man steps through the door that should lead to nowhere. Informing her that a nation from another world needs help defeating a tyrant king with an insatiable taste for power, he presents her a choice: come with him and help, or stay behind and miss out on a chance for adventure.
Cadmus Clark, a quiet boy her age who's more than happy siting at home all day, reluctantly agrees to join Mira's escapade after she arrives in his world. Faced with training for battle, a magical assassin, and, worst of all, extended time with bossy Mira, Cadmus is certain he'll regret his choice to help her.
Mira has a new skill to master. Cadmus has a stubborn girl to deal with. And together they have a war to win. They might just be in over their heads.
. . . But Mira would never admit that.
Now onto the review!
Ranking: 💜💜💜💜💜 (4.5/5)
Content: People died on scene, but it isn't graphic at all. Some mentions of blood, but that is the worse of it.
Why I love this book: The main thing for me was how engaging it was. Each time I sat down and read it, I just kept reading. I was always interested in it, even though it wasn't super exciting most of the time. I feel that this book is great for people who haven't read fantasy before or prefer no high fantasy magic. I will 100% recommended it to you if you're one of those people.
But I would just recommended it in general since I found this story so good. It is different from what I've read before, but that is what makes it even better. I love high-action fantasy a lot, but you know I love casual fantasy too. There is something unique about that.
The plot was a simple one, but it had its share of surprises. The plot twist (or is it plot twists?) at the very end was the best ever. I was literally shocked. Actually, I didn't know much of what was going to happen since the protagonist, Mira, was unpredictable most of the time, and the plot didn't follow a cliché path, though it definitely could have with the elements it had.
And the ending made me cry. Which hardly happens to me. I think about 4 or 5 books before this one have made me cry. If a book makes me cry, it gets extra points for moving me that way.
I also love the themes weaved in this story. The themes are clearly Christian, but they are not preachy or in the face. The message at the end of the story was a quite powerful one.
Here is a line that I loved from the book:
"Because if evil men were not allowed do to evil things, there would be no evidence that any choice I ever made was of my own choosing."
And this isn't even the main point.
The only things I didn't like about this, which are personally pet peeves for me than anything else, was that it was vague about some things. And the fact that I liked the second part a lot better than the first part. Don't get me wrong: the first part was good, but the second part was a lot better and fulfilled what I was hoping for in this story. I think that if the first part was on its own, it wouldn't be as good for me.
Thoughts on characters:
Mira was the most fun character to follow around. I love that when she was given the opportunity to go to another world, she was like, "okay" without a fuss. I don't know, her reaction at her age was new to me and I loved it. And she kept on behaving that way, which just delighted me a lot. Like I mentioned above, she was one unpredictable person. Her stubbornness and her determination was what I loved the most about her.
Cadmus was harder to like for some reason. At first I didn't like him that much but I grew to like him and just fell in love with him by the end of the first part. Which means that in the second part I just loved him to bits. I am only sad that I never saw him reading a book, which I know he loves doing, but again that's just a pet peeve of mine.
The secondary characters who were the most memorable to me were Benjamin, Daniel and Smoky. Benjamin because of his personality and his first appearance in the story (that was a good scene). Daniel because of his character. Basically everything about him I loved. He was just one of those characters you love instantly and continue to love. With Smoky, I am not sure, just something about her left an impression.
Other honorable mentions would be Ollie, Genevieve and Everly.
Also the second term of people were more memorable than the first group. I think it is because I didn't get to know that first term as well as the second. Even though the first I think had more screen time than the other.
Overall, this was quite a brilliant, casual, low key fantasy. I am very eager to read more of her work in the future!
Okay, time for the author interview! I am so super excited doing this because (1) sort of behind the scenes and (2) I got such awesome answers! So let's get into it!
(My questions are in bold, and her answers are in normal font.)
1. What made you decide to write this edition?
When I wrote the first version of A Wilted Willow, it was written mainly as a big "thank you" to everyone who already followed me and had been supporting me up until then. It got overwhelmingly positive feedback, which was incredibly encouraging, but it also got a lot of "We want to know more about her past!" comments. So I figured, "Why not answer that want?"
I'd never planned on writing a prequel. It wasn't written or even plotted when I wrote the original book, which takes place after the adventures of "Part One" of the new version, but when I saw people wanted it, I figured...why not? People have still been so supportive; I want to give them the stories they're asking for!
2. Who is your favourite side character and why?
This is so hard for me to answer! As the author, I obviously love all of the characters, because I've spent so much time "with" them as I write and edit the story. Maybe either Ollie or Smoky is my favorite? (No idea why that's both of the animal side characters and not any of the humans!) I love the way they interact with their "owners" and how loyal and loving they are to them. I think they really add something special to the story, and I loved writing them.
3. Do you struggle with worldbuilding, plot or character the most?
Ooh, that's a tough one. Maybe plot? Most of my stories start with characters. From that grows the world. But then I often struggle with figuring out what obstacles to add or not add, how many obstacles are too many or too little, etc. That's why I'm so thankful for for beta readers and people who critique my books in the early stages - they can help me figure all that out!
4. No spoilers of course, what was your favourite scene to write?
I think maybe the first introduction to Benjamin in "Part Two". I just love the feel of it, the way he talks and interacts with people, etc. When I sat down and wrote that scene, it came really naturally to me, and the interactions between him and the others were fun to me.
I also loved writing scenes between Cadmus and Mira, both in "Part One" (the prequel to the previously published novella) and "Part Two" (the revised version of the previously published novella). I don't know why, really, but I love their interactions with one another as they're getting to know each other and such.
5. What is your writing routine?
Normally, when I don't not in the middle of publishing a book, I aim to write approximately 1,000 words a day in whatever project I'm first-drafting, or edit at least one chapter in whatever project I'm revising. I don't always reach that goal, but it helps me to have some sort of idea of what I want to do in mind. This usually takes place in the evenings after I've finished my schoolwork, though I've considered, though I've considered getting early and seeing how that works (I'm just not much of a morning person!)
6. Why did you picked a wilted willow?
Honestly, the whole idea for the willow tree came out of nowhere. I wanted some sort of symbol in my book, something that people would think of when they thought of my story (other than the characters, plot, etc.), and the willow tree stuck out to me. At the time, I was listening to some instrumental song that had "willow" in the title on YouTube pretty much on repeat, and that might have influenced that (here's a link to that song, titled "The Willow Tree": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD8kCrlvjLY). Once I had that as a main symbol in the book, it only seemed right that I name the story after it.
Obviously, the willow itself has more depth and meaning in the story. But I won't go too much into that here - you'll have to read the story to find out!
7. Which character do you relate to the least?
Honestly, I think the least like Mira, the main character. She's great, I love her, But I'm not as outgoing, brutally honest, or adventurous as her. I'm more a Cadmus Clark than a Mira Miller.
8. How has this story changed you?
I think that writing this story has greatly influenced my writing style, voice, and process. It helped me grow as a writer and as a person, in that, as I wrote, I learned to write in a way that only glorifies God but was done alongside Him. I'm not saying that this was God-ordained or anything, but simply that in my process, I am to write as if God was sitting in a chair next to me for me bounce my ideas off of and help me through writer's block.
9. How many other projects did you do before writing and publishing this one (the first time)?
I think I'd written a total of eight or so full-first-draft-finished stories, about five or six of those full-length novels. Many of those will never see the light of day, but at least one of those I'm actually still working on editing/revising as we speak.
10. How has the writing journey been like so far, especially in regards to writing this book twice?
Writing this book twice (well, sort of - it's more like two stories smushed into one than one story completely re-written again) has really helped me see how stories connect. How the past and the future can meet in really strange and unique ways. The course of this story takes place over the span of about ten years (in a way, anyway), and it's so interesting to see how characters can change in that time, but how they're also the same person they were before. How worlds can change in that time. Cultures. It's really been very enlightening to me as an author just overall.
11. Why did you make your characters' names starting with the same first letters? For example, Mira Miller and Cadmus Clark?
Honestly, I have no good answer for that question, haha! I wanted the main character's name to be something kind of weird, so I went with "Miracle" and then went the extra mile by making her last name "Miller". And then I just decided that I liked that well enough I might as well do it with all the other characters. Plus, I thought it would be cool to have a connection between Mira and Nother World, since people on earth don't automatically have a first and last name starting with the same letters, but in Nother World it's common. So it connected them, in a way.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this, and be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour!
(December 2nd) Julia Witmer: "A Wilted Willow" Blog Tour Launch ( https://juliawitmerblog.wordpress.com/ )
(December 2nd) Stepping Stones Book Reviews: Book Review and Author Interview ( https://steppingstonesbookreviews.blogspot.com/ )
(December 3rd) Annabeth Hazel: Character Interview ( https://annabethhazel.wordpress.com/ )
(December 4th) E.G. Bella: Book Review and Author Interview ( https://egbella.com/ )
(December 7th) Raina Nightingale: Book Review ( https://enthralledbylove.com/ )
(December 8th) Ribbon Ash: Book Review and Author Interview ( https://ribbonash.blogspot.com/ )
Are you interested in this story? What did you think of some of her answers?
Here's a cool fact: my older sister had a character called Miracle too.