Elayne Audrey Becker is joining us today to talk about her novel, Wildbound. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The thrilling follow-up to Elayne Audrey Becker’s debut YA epic fantasy, Forestborn, full of forest magic and a kingdom on the brink of war.
With the assassination of Telyan’s king, the time for peace has passed.
Determined to make up for his failure to procure the stardust, Helos finds work as a healer at Fendolyn’s Keep, the military garrison to which Telyan’s exiled royals–and half its civilians–have fled. Racing against the Fallow Throes’ ticking clock, he endeavors to repair his relationship with Prince Finley and fight off the gathering shadows in his head, as the base around him prepares for war.
Half a continent away, his sister Rora is doing everything she can to reawaken the land and end Eradain’s slaughter of magical beings. Still reeling from the revelation that Eradain’s violent monarch is her half-brother, she journeys to the kingdom determined to infiltrate his court in disguise–and finds the seeds of rebellion are already stirring.
With a magical illness running rampant and the continent arming for battle, the three realms’ long-feared destruction seems inevitable. But the two shifters they believed would bring about Alemara’s ruin may in fact hold the key to its survival.
What’s Elayne’s favorite bit?
ELAYNE AUDREY BECKER
I think of myself as a character writer. Characters are my first priority in any book I write—the most exciting part of a project, my main entry point into new stories and new worlds. As a result, over time, these fictional individuals become real people to me. They feel like friends.
This may sound strange to anyone who is not a writer. But to me, it makes sense. When you walk in another person’s shoes for months or years, you develop a bond woven from empathy, vulnerability, understanding.
Writing, I think, is like a form of acting. Every time I sit down to do it, I have to immerse myself in the POV’s headspace as thoroughly as possible. I have to see the world—their world—through their eyes and ears, temporarily take on their past as my own, their aims and desires as goals I’m here to chase alongside them. Characters share their deepest secrets with their authors; it would be difficult to come away from that unaffected.
Perhaps it’s no great surprise, then, that my favorite bit of the Forestborn duology has been the four main characters: Rora, Helos, Finley, and Weslyn. When writing the series finale, Wildbound, I loved getting to spend more time with them, to develop an even deeper understanding of who they are as people, inside and out. Each of them has struggled with a very difficult experience or set of experiences in their past or present. Each has developed their own strategies for coping with this heaviness. Really, though, what each of them needs is healing, and that is where Wildbound was always headed. While the road from start to finish changed along the way as the story shifted and expanded over the years, the ending was what I envisioned from the start. So getting to walk these four over that finish line felt like the best kind of reward.
Still, just as you can’t have light without the dark, this favoritism held a flipside when it came to tying up the series: After journeying with these characters for so long, how was I supposed to say goodbye?
I wrestled with this for a while. I’m happy with where I left the four of them, and for the most part, I feel ready to close the door and move on to something new. Other characters are beckoning, now, asking that their stories be told. Even so, sometimes I miss the familiarity of writing Rora, Helos, Finley, and Weslyn, the comfort that came from stepping into their shoes.
Upon reflection, then, maybe my favorite bit of the duology isn’t limited to the characters themselves. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that the part of Forestborn and Wildbound I’ve loved the most is what writing those characters for years offered me: exploration, processing, catharsis, growth. It was getting to unpack a set of emotions on the page that I needed to examine for a long time. It’s that I can look back on these books with pride and continue to feel their impact long after I put down the pen.
I don’t know if it’s special to form that deep of a connection with one’s own books or simply commonplace among authors. Either way, I feel lucky to be walking away with it.
ELAYNE AUDREY BECKER (she/her) is a storyteller with a passion for history, myth, mountains, and magic. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College and a master of science from the University of Aberdeen, and she has worked as an editor at a New York publisher. Born and raised in Georgia, she grew up with a lake and woods as her backyard, spending long days outside and visiting national parks with her family. Forestborn and Wildbound are two installments in a fantasy duology that tells a story of danger, damage, and hardship, but also friendship, growth, and hope.