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I Belong

Across the Worlds Event: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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Today for Across the Worlds Event we get to visit the fairytale world of Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer! This is the first book in a brand new series from Lexa and it is a dark retelling of the famous Sleeping Beauty tale!! This story sounds so good and I seriously can’t wait to read it! We have a wonderful guest post from Lexa about world building!


World Building Guest Blog Post by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire is the story of Sleeping Beauty turned inside out. I wanted to empower Aurora to be her own hero, rather than simply being the sleeping princess—an object, really—around which the rest of the story turned. In order to give her her own hero’s journey, I decided to make the spinning wheel into a kind of enchanted portal—into a whole other world, constructed out of the dreams and memories of an ancient faerie queen long thought to be dead. I named this word Sommeil—French for sleep.

Meanwhile, the other twist to the familiar tale is that Aurora has a half-sister named Isabelle. She goes on a journey of her own to try and bring back the Prince Charming she believes will awaken her sister. I really loved the idea of a bastard sister on a mission to fetch a prince, rather than the traditional version of the story, where the prince is the one venturing alone to rescue the maiden. The book is really about the two sisters becoming their own heroines, and the love that binds the two of them together.

At the same time, layered over it all is this seriously effed-up faerie culture. These faeries have been fading out of power over time, consumed by greed and vanity and corruption. As a result, those that remain are particularly desperate and their loyalty is unpredictable. The fae in my book are obsessed with humans, in a way, even though they also see humans as lesser because humans don’t have magic. They find humans fascinating and their particular form of magic allows them to take away human qualities and senses. They don’t just bestow gifts, such as beauty and grace, for free. They bestow them for a price. Everything is a trade with them. And nothing is more delicious to them than the senses of a young princess.

So when Aurora is born, all these faeries gather to try and get in on a chance to take away little pieces of her. Two of them succeed in taking her voice and her sense of touch, but when the third asks for her sight, the king and queen shove the bastard daughter at them instead, and they take Isabelle’s sight. This all means that Aurora and Isabelle are complicated and somewhat unusual narrators. I really wanted to do justice to this and handle it very carefully. Their quests are not to try and get their senses back—I would never want to imply that you need all your senses in order to be whole, because that’s just not true. Instead, I was determined to explore how they experienced the world around them, what their own unique lens was like. Since I first started out as a poet, I found that I was able to draw on a variety of different types of imagery—sound and smell, texture and taste—to bring their journeys to life.

It’s funny talking about world-building because I started out as a contemporary author and before that I was a poet! So in some ways I’m a just a baby fantasy author compared to some of the experts I admire! That said, I loved fairytales when I was a kid (who didn’t?) and I remember reading the Mists of Avalon when I was eleven or twelve, just in awe of the expansive medieval and Druidic world of the book. I remember when I discovered Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and realized you could take elements of the fairytales you love and turn them into whole new worlds. I also love books like Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, which has such lovely writing. When I became an editor, I acquired a book called The Replacement by Brenna Yovannoff, and I was so delightfully creeped out by how she evoked the faerie world in that book, even though it was situated right below a perfectly normal small town. I thought it was interesting that so many YA books about faeries either deal with the old, darker faerie myths OR with fairy tale stories like the ones we think of that have been made into Disney movies. I liked the idea of making something that combined a little of both.

In terms of other inspirations, I love Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor. And of course Game of Thrones—I don’t think you can write something medieval and political, with kingdoms at war, and not be influenced by that series! And one of my favorite writers in the last year or two has been Marie Rutkoski who wrote The Winner’s Curse. Her fantasy world feels almost like it could be historical rather than fantastical, but what I love most are her characters. They have such an intense sense of honor and bravery, and for them, love and romance are things that must be repressed and held back so that they can focus on heroism instead. I am really drawn to characters who must make incredibly difficult decisions and must hide some of their truest feelings deep down inside of themselves.

In that sense I’m also very influenced by classic 18th and 19th century literature like Anna Karenina and Far from the Madding Crowd and Wuthering Heights—stories of misunderstood women and forbidden love set in sweepingly pastoral settings, with overlays of social and political injustice. I think that definitely inspired a lot of Isabelle’s journey in particular.

When it came to creating Sommeil, I began by brainstorming around the idea of dream tropes—like losing all your teeth or appearing in public naked or realizing you could fly. Quickly, however, the ideas started to feel un-special to me, and not in line with the tone I wanted—the romanticism, and the character-driven nature of the book. That was when I realized what I really needed to do was understand the mad faerie queen: what memories and dreams mattered to her, what the world felt like to her. I made an expansive borderlands, a forest that constantly shifts so that you are perpetually losing your bearings, because I imagined that was how the faerie used to think of the woods when she was a little girl—truly endless. A place not only where you could get lost but where you inevitably did, as though lostness were a condition of the woods themselves.

I took a lot of inspiration from the character of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, too. She is a woman trapped in perpetual waiting, a failed attempt to stop time, oblivious to her own decay, and thus protected by a veil of denial from the pain of her past. When Aurora winds up in Sommeil, she realizes that her sheltered little life as a princess in a tower, worshipping stories of romance, actually helps her out here—she must use her vast knowledge of story, and of true love, to unravel what really happened to cause the queen to be trapped in Sommeil in the first place—realizing that her mission may be bigger than just saving herself.


About Lexa

Lexa Hillyer is the author of Spindle Fire and Proof of Forever, both published by HarperCollins. She is also the author of Acquainted with the Cold (Bona Fide Books), the 2012 gold prize winner of the Foreword Book of the Year Award for Poetry and recipient of the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize. Her work was featured in Best New Poets 2012 and she has received various prizes and honors for poetry. Lexa earned her BA in English from Vassar College and her MFA in Poetry from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She worked as an editor at both HarperCollins and Penguin, before co-founding creative development company Paper Lantern Lit with New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Oliver. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter and their very skinny orange tree.

You can visit Lexa around the Web here:  Website | Twitter

Facebook | Instagram

Want to read more from Lexa Hillyer?



Spindle Fire

Available April 11, 2017 by HarperCollins

About this Book:

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.


It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

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One Response to “Across the Worlds Event: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

  1. Penny OlsonNo Gravatar

    Beautiful cover!

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