Hello everyone, I am so so excited for today's post! Back in May, I was able to meet the wondering Astrid Scholte whose debut Four Dead Queens is releasing February of next year, was able to interview her! I was completely mesmerized with this book and its twists, and it is safe to say that I was not at all prepared for how good it would be. So in honor of today being exactly seven months until Four Dead Queens comes out, I will be posting the interview, my review of this amazing debut, and I will be hosting a giveaway for one person to win a preorder of Four Dead Queens!
(quick note: as I was writing this, I realized that the book comes out two days before I thought it did, so lets just pretend today is actually on the seven-month mark. Enjoy!)
Publisher: Putnam/Penguin Random House
Release date: 26th of February 2019
Hardcover page count: 416
About the Book:
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.
With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.
An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.
Preorder Four Dead Queens through the links below:
graphic from author
About the Author:
Astrid Scholte has loved telling stories for as long as she can remember, writing her first "novel" at age 5. Her desire to be surrounded by all things fantastical led her to pursue a career in the visual effects and animation industry. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Film, Media and Theatre and a Bachelor of Digital Media from the University of New South Wales and the College of Fine Arts in Sydney.
She has spent the last 10 years working in visual effects production as both an artist and an artist manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and Happy Feet 2 by George Miller. She currently works as a product support manager in the entertainment industry and dedicates her spare time to reading and writing young adult fiction.
She is also a traditionally trained oil painter and enjoys painting her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Australia with her two Burmese cats among her ever-growing mountain of Disneyland memorabilia.
FOUR DEAD QUEENS is her debut novel and will be released by Putnam (Penguin Random House) on the 26th of February 2019.
Interview with the Author:
2. I saw that you worked on the movie Avatar. Do you want to talk about that?
I worked on that in 2009 for a year in Wellington New Zealand as a model’s coordinator. Basically, I looked after the artists that worked on all the characters and the creatures which was super fun but also a lot of work. I think for me being an author works well with my structural, kind of logical mind because it’s all about putting pieces and character motivations together, so it is kind of like a big complex puzzle just in words rather than visuals.
3. How has your job in film influenced your passion for writing YA?
Hugely! I think very early on, the big motivational moment I can remember was when I was 8 and I saw Jurassic Park and I was like I have to be involved in the magic of movie. I always wanted to do something that had to do with stories so that, and seeing these dinosaurs come to life influenced me a lot. I have to do visual effects and I think I very much write books in a cinematic way, because I see them in my head like a movie, so I try and create it on the page like that, so when the reader reads it they see it in their head like a movie too. So, it very much does tie into my film background and my love for film.
4. What inspired you to write Four Dead Queens?
I often have difficulty pinpointing the exact moment, because I think I’m one of those writers that pulls inspiration from all different areas and kind of germinates a bit before I come up with the idea. One of the things is that I’ve always loved murder mysteries ever since I was a kid. You know, Agatha Christie and the whodunit style of storytelling. And I’ve always been a fantasy/YA lover and reader and writer, so I thought combining the two would be pretty fun. I also had this dream that I was in this awesome car and this silver hovercraft flew by and it gave me the kind of inspiration for what it would be like to have these very distinct cultures, and technologies, and people all within one nation, and why and how would it be that way. Then I just had this image in my head of four queens sitting back to back in one court on their thrones, each ruling the same nation at the same time but their own little regions. So yeah, it was kind of a combination of a few different sparks of ideas and inspiration.
5. How did you get to be a debut author?
Well it's been a long journey, it's been seven years that I've been seriously pursuing. I mean, I've always been writing but seriously pursuing being published. I started with two YA novels that I wrote and queried and also tried to get published in Australia where you actually go directly to publishers as opposed via an agent. I didn't have much luck and I kept getting the same feedback that YA Fantasy is a very saturated market and that my novel sounded too similar to other novels that were out, so I wanted to write something really different. I have this love for murder mystery, so I thought okay, this could work in a fantasy setting. When, I heard about PitchWars, I'd only written maybe 15,000 words in March of 2016, so I was like okay let's aim for PitchWars, let's try and get a first draft. I didn't really understand the competition very well at the time which is not good. I should have read the fine print, but I thought if I at least had a first or second draft, I might be able to get in. But you are actually supposed to have a completed manuscript so... I rushed to write it and then I got requests like straight away for the whole thing and I hadn't even finished writing it. So that was a stressful weekend where I quickly tried to finish and polish it as best as I could in the short amount of time. And yeah, I got into PitchWars and I was part of team Pusheen, which is our team name, and I had great experience and again I was just hoping to have a better manuscript. One thing I hadn't really had with my other books was feedback, real CP [critique partner] feedback. So I got that manuscript into shape and was planning to query after PitchWars, but I ended up getting my agent through PitchWars, so that's awesome. Shout out to Hillary Jacobson, she's awesome. So from that she helped me do some further revisions, and I went out on sub[mission] and shortly after I got the offer from Putnam at Penguin. So PitchWars for me, really ramped up my whole experience and made it a really kind of... well usually you hear people being querying for months being on subs for months but I was very lucky that it all happened really quickly through that.
6. What about this genre made you interested in writing in it?
I mean, I love fantasy, I love speculative fiction, I started reading YA back when... well YA wasn't a thing when I was a teen, but paranormal was kind of the first, and Twilight pretty much created YA. Well, I like to think so, and Harry Potter helped as well. I've loved anything that's make believe ever since I was a kid, anything that takes you to another world, explores made up lands and cultures and people and they always connect back to the real world. So you know, it's escapism but there are always parallels we can draw to our own world, which I always think is very interesting to explore.
7. Talk about your debut. What is it about?
Well its called Four Dead Queens and it’s a murder mystery set in fantasy world where there’s a nation spilt into four divisions, so there’re very distinct cultures and people and have a very different way of life. These four queens start being murdered in very brutal ways. The main character Keralie discovers a communication which basically shows the queens being murdered in these terrible ways, so she tries to uncover why this happened, without getting herself killed in the process. Hopefully. No spoilers.
8. What should readers who are interested in this genre look forward to in you debut?
I think the fact that it is a little bit different with the murder mystery aspect. Thrillers in YA are having quiet a moment right now, so if you love that kind of fast-paced, twists and turns, not knowing what’s going to happen next, I think you would really love Four Dead Queens. And also the fantasy elements. So it’s a fantasy, but it also has a lot of hints of sci-fi. Sci-fi is my favorite film and TV genre, so that’s kind of melded a lot into the fantasy element.
9. What piece of advice would you tell aspiring authors who are unsure of their skill?
I think it's very common for authors and writers to question their skills. I think it's just a way that writers tend to be very analytical and self-critical because that's the way that you write. You're like, how can I make it better, this isn't working, so it's hard to turn that off. But I think that as long as you believe in what you're working on and I think the best thing is to create something that you, well I mean people say it all the time, but write what you want to read. I think that's really the most important thing, to believe in what you're writing. If it's something that you would love to read, I'm pretty sure you won't be the only one out there who would want to read it. And also turn off the inner critic like I... because I'm a pantser, I don't revise in my first draft, I just get it all out in the paper. I mean first drafts are supposed to be bad. Let it be bad and then come back and you'll find it's so much easier once you have something on the page. Trying to edit nothing, gives you nothing. So you've got to get it all out there and then work on it and revise it and make it shine.
*I received a copy of a bound manuscript of this book as a thank you from the author when I interviewed her. All the thoughts below are my own*
In the breathtaking standalone debut of Astrid Scholte, Four Dead Queens tells the story of Keralie Corrington, a thief (called a dipper), for Mackiel, an influential businessman who deals in all things black market. Tasked with stealing anything not found in their quadrant, Keralie flourishes in the job that was seemingly meant for her. But when Keralie intercepts a comm disk from another quadrant, things don’t go as perfectly as hopes as she inadvertently watches the deaths of Quadra’s four queens. Hoping to find the culprit as a way of leveraging the palace, she teams up with Varin, the messenger she stole from, to track them down. But with time against them, and Keralie’s old boss following their every move, victory may be harder than they thought.
Only one word could describe how I felt about this book: wow. I was completely blown away with the sheer beauty of this world Scholte has created. Told in immaculate detail, not one aspect of this story was left underdeveloped or without resolve, with everything wrapping up nicely. This is especially notable because Four Dead Queens is a standalone (unfortunately), something we rarely see in fantasy. Not that Four Dead Queens is exclusively fantasy, as it includes a murder-mystery spin filled with the air of a thriller and the technology of a sci-fi, making it truly genre bending. But this is far from the only reason why Four Dead Queens is a book that demands to be read.
As mentioned previously, I read this book as a bound manuscript, meaning that final changes had yet to be made. But this in no way meant that the book was lacking in anyway. In fact, it contained some of the best descriptions and prose I have ever read. I was immediately sucked into Keralie’s story from page one as she hid in a corner conspiring with Mackiel. And as her story continued, that level of engagement never ceased, I was truly experiencing the golden domes and dark corners of Quarda with Keralie. Whenever I had to put this book down, I instantly felt myself longing to pick it back up, its allure constant and undying. Everything seemed to be alive in Scholte’s world, with not a single thing coming off as flat or half-baked.
But of course, no description would be good without the world it was based on. And Scholte made sure to deliver this with ease. The world of Quadra was complete and filled to the brim with so much detail that it felt real. I loved how much effort the author put into making each of Quadra’s four quadrants, laws, and technology, so real. Like wondering which Hogwarts house people belong too, readers would wonder which Quadrant they would hope to call their home. Some would fall in love with Toria, the trade quadrant filled with curiosity and exploration, or Archia, the agricultural quadrant that emphasizes simplicity and nature. Others would wish to be in Ludia amongst all the passion and entertainment their quadrant has to offer, or Eonia where futuristic technologies are integrated into every part of their stoic and harmonious lives. Either way, once someone is born into a quadrant, they have little opportunity to leave again. This is just one of the laws that dictate the way the queens must rule Quadra, separate but together. These are laws that rule almost as much as the queens do, strict but for the good of the people. And readers would be happy to know that these laws are not just one-off tidbits to help embellish the plot a bit, but important to the progression of the story and fully integrated. I never thought that I would find myself caring so much about a book’s law system until I read Four Dead Queens. And combined with the absolutely amazing technology, readers will wonder just how many twists Scholte has planned.
To navigate these twists, Scholte created a cast of utterly unique characters to run free. Her main character, Keralie, is a girl of bravery yet anxiousness, both trying to do her best to please those in her life, but also unsure if she even can. She is the type of girl who appears tough and faultless, but later reveals that she is full of depth and care. Keralie is the type of girl you would never expect to fall for in the span of just one book, but do without a second’s doubt. There was so much about Keralie that I loved. From her sass, to her badass-ness, to the fact that her backstory was not at all what you would typically find in a fantasy, everything about her was amazing. And it wasn’t just her who was well thought out, with all the other characters receiving the same type of care. Readers will fall in Varin, with his slow-to-warm-up cuddliness and pure-of-heart attitude and Machiel, who knows what he wants and goes for it. Each of these supporting characters received just as much care as Keralie did, with fears and drives and backstories both as well-thought out as Keralie. These were characters with many sides to them and felt, without a doubt.
And of course, with all these aspects going for it, the plot was nothing less than hypnotizing. It was both fast-paced and filled with enough detail that you won’t get whiplash. Bursting with political intrigue, romance, and a murder mystery twist, it was not something that would let readers down. Most of all, it contained something that every reader would enjoy. From good old-fashioned thievery and sneaking through a grand palace, technological contraptions and badass fight scenes, and of course the intricate mystery that readers will struggle to piece together with Keralie and Varin, there isn’t a single thing that will bore a reader.
I would recommend this book to fans of Six of Crows who were enamored with its trickery and setting, and also fans of Warcross, as its plot that wouldn’t be the same without the awe-inspiring technology. Of course, it is very hard to describe this book in relation to others, as it contains so many different aspects, but readers of classic mystery authors such as Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would also enjoy this book. Four Dead Queens is a genre-bending debut that readers will be unable to put down as they sail through it like they were watching a movie.
I hope that you enjoyed this post! I completely fell in love with this debut, and I hope you do too! And of course, I would like to say a special thank you to Astrid Scholte not only for writing such a great book, but for letting me interview you and get a copy of your debut.
Until next time,
Welcome to the Book Enigma! I review different genres of books from young adult fiction to sci-fi. Enjoy!
Aspiring author who, along with reading YA and with other genres, also fosters kittens, and play the piano and cello!
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”