Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Interview with Lena Goldfinch and Review of Aire

AIRE book cover
Available now on KINDLE
Paperback April 22, 2013

"Danger, magic, romance, and royal intrigue, AIRE is a must read!"
—NYT Bestselling Author JESSICA ANDERSEN

A tale of Legends reborn, royal intrigue, and an unforgettable, heart-melting romance that will sweep you away.

Annalisia is a seer, a princess with a courageous spirit—and a soft spot for Legends.

Jovanni is a Legend, a commoner with no patience for pampered royals.

Principessa Annalisia is stunned and conscience-stricken when an unknown enemy mistakenly abducts her maidservant. Determined to find the girl, Annalisia disguises herself as plain Anna and slips away from the palace. She tracks down Jovanni, her maidservant's daring older brother, and they soon begin to search together. As they uncover clues, Anna also discovers a kindred spirit in Jovanni. But would he be so free with her if he knew who she really was? Doubtful. Even so, she reveals her secret gift of visions to him, and in so doing disobeys the orders of her beloved grandmother, the queen.

With Jovanni, Anna can almost imagine she’s like any other seventeen year old girl, free to pursue the longings of her heart. When she learns that he also has a secret—he's a sentinel, an ancient shapeshifter who can take the form of a falcon—it seems as if they were destined to be together, as in the legends of il Sentiro. Though Anna is tempted to wish otherwise, she can’t forget that she’s a princess and it's her duty to marry another. Meanwhile, their hunt leads Anna ever closer to danger, for she herself is being hunted.

A princess and a commoner.

They never should have fallen in love...but they did.


A brief Review of Aire:
I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of AIRE, so here is my review.
Lena has woven a beautiful and heartfelt tale of suspense and romance in the sun-drenched land of Isalla. Her lyrical language evokes Annalisa's deeply sensuous longing for her love, Jovanni, while still retaining her regal restraint and self-control. The world Lena has created is so vivid you can almost breathe in the sea breeze rolling off the sea. It's no wonder I wanted to help Lena with her cover. After reading a few chapters, the land she created popped into my head fully formed. I'm happy to have played my part in this, and I totally enjoyed and gobbled up this book!

Now, let's visit a little with Lena and peek behind the curtain at her world. And also a disclaimer--Lena sneaked in her little ditty about me and the cover design! Oh dear---so imagine me blushing. She begged me to keep it in and just "look away". I enjoy brainstorming with Lena about her covers. She works like a she-demon and will try just about anything. And it's not like it's a one way street. I learn from Lena, too!

I am extremely proud of Lena and this book. So, without further adieu, here's Lena!

LISA: What inspired you to write Aire?

LENA: The initial idea was a sliver of a scene, a shadowy snapshot of a young woman who has
a gift of visions and wants to use it to find a missing person. But she has this gift in a time and place when it's not accepted and she's conflicted. She wants to use her gift for good, but she has to prevail against some obstacles to do so. I felt all this conflict and earnestness coming from her and it really drew me to her as a writer--that sense of what is my purpose?

And I could also see this young man who was personally invested in the search. He was driven too, but he had a suspicious bent--he'd been burned before perhaps?--and didn't initially trust her. I was confident she'd win him over with her sincerity. And they'd fall in love. (I'm a terrible romantic, I'm afraid. ;))

The story morphed and changed over many false starts and revisions, but everything fell into place when I decided to make it an out-and-out fantasy (and not a historical with some supernatural elements). It was like I was set free. I could do whatever I wanted. The guy could have a special, supernatural ability of his own! And so Jovanni became a sentinel, a being who could take the form of a falcon, which I thought was so cool.

As far as the era, my research zeroed in on ancient Italy and Turkey. I can't say precisely why except that I followed my fascinations and that's where I arrived. I loved the warm Mediterranean climate and the sea as a character, but also the sister cities that rose up as part of my world-building, the city-states of Isalla, Boroth, and Jeraan, the remote Mont Vineao, and the common enemy, Cardia, the birthplace of the heroine's  mother. I was also fascinated by the era of silence between the Old & New Testaments of the Bible. That sparked an idea: what would it be like to have a gift in a time when there were no more gifts (or special revelations)? This could be the obstacle my heroine was facing. Her gift has become a legend, something she could possibly be banished for if she claimed it before her people. So her grandmother, the queen, has forbidden her to reveal her gift, and she loves her grandmother very much and wants to please her, but then a girl is mistakenly abducted in Annalisia's place (her maidservant). This is when I felt Anna's conflicting emotions begin to boil.

LISA: How many other books have you written?

LENA: I published a fantasy novella with a small press a few years ago called The Language of Souls. When my contract came up, I got my rights back, rewrote the story as a straight-up YA, and self-published it. That experience gave me the confidence to tackle a full-length novel (AIRE), and I've been having a blast. There's also a lot of stress, I admit, but I kind of thrive off it.

I've written about ten novels over the years, many that will never see publication! I think about that...and all the time I spent writing them and revising them, but I don't consider any of those stories a waste of time. I feel each one taught me something. I was an apprentice of the writing craft and those were my practice works. Some have promise and I may go back to them at some point, but I also have works-in-
progress calling my name rather urgently. I only have so much time. ;-)

LISA: What are some authors who have inspired you?

LENA: I think everything I've ever read has inspired me to write. I was a voracious reader as a child and young adult, and that continued into my adulthood. After a while you get the story bug, you know? It's a part of who you are, and for some people, they just have to write.

I took a detour first though and majored in Math and Computer Science and was a Software Engineer and web designer before I decided one New Year's that "Hey, I think I'll write a book!" (Ah, the innocence of those days! ;)) It's been work and it's been a tortuous journey at times where my perseverance was tested, but I haven't regretted it.

LISA: You design your own book covers. On this book, you and I kind of collaborated. Can you
tell the readers what this process was like? (don't go gushy on me now. ;))

LENA: Oh, my. LOL I don't know where to start.

(Look away for a sec, Lisa, or your head is in danger of swelling to twice its natural size. ;))

Lisa is the most amazingly generous person and a born teacher. Seriously, I think she HAS to teach. If you don't know her, she's not only a talented writer, but teaches graphic design on the college level. And designs book covers professionally. We met here on the Inkpot and, when she discovered my love for designing mock covers for my books, she took me under her wing. This was a while ago and she helped me through the design process on several covers.

Flash-forward to this current book, AIRE, and getting it ready for publication. I had a cover I was really happy with. I mean, there was an issue with a dress that was a smidge too sexy for my character (i.e. it  showed A LOT of  leg), but I felt there was something about the model in the photo that captured the essence of AIRE. was a little too modern, and, well, yeah. THAT. It had some of the right things going for it, a lot of airy sky for instance, but it just didn't quite match up with the book or with Annalisia, my heroine.

A couple of my beta readers & my copy-editor chimed in and offered similar concerns. Lisa had also read the book by this time and she agreed.

Something had to be done about the cover.

Governments wouldn't collapse or anything like that. There were no fiscal cliffs to worry about--except perhaps my own--and life would go on. But...the cover.

By now, my planned publication date was looming. Picture me FREAKING OUT. If you don't know me, I'm pretty driven about certain things (not housework, alas) and I may be a teensy bit of a perfectionist. I had spent months of man-hours designing that cover. I'd spent good money on the stock images. And, well, panic is just not the best conductor of creativity, you know?

Lisa's origial comp sketch
Then, in the midst of this, Lisa shares a design concept with me, sort of a rough "comp" sketch. And I fell in love. (Oh, the relief! Angels sang. I swear.) I loved that design. It was perfect for AIRE. It had the same romantic Valentine's Day-esque frame I'd used in the original design, and the same hawk, and lots of airy sky, but it was just *better*. But there was also Isalla, as I envisioned it (actually, confession, the image is of Dubrovnik, Croatia, where I MUST go some day) right there incorporated into the design. Before this, I'd shipped her all of these research photos I'd collected while world building and she actually, without prompting from me, had chosen my favorite: the city on the sea image, with those red rooftops, that to me was Isalla.

From there it was a mad back and forth of design to get to the final version. We set up a Dropbox and I'd work on the file, laying in the high-res images, editing, trimming, color tweaking this and that. And then it would be Lisa's turn. She hand painted the hair, for instance, which I think is gorgeous and perfect. And after all this back-and-forthing, it was like, um, who exactly designed this? LOL It was such a satisfying collaborative effort. (And I learned soooo much. It was like attending a crash Master Class in Design, all with the help of the internet. But mostly it was Lisa. Like I said, she's amazingly generous with her time and her talent, and she SAVED me. Just like a knight-in-shining-armor, except I call her Sensei Lisa and she calls me Grasshopper. :)

(Okay, Lisa, you can look again.)

So, yeah, we worked on the cover design together and it was an amazing experience. I really like how it turned out. Look as those gorgeous colors! I always trust Lisa's input on color combinations.

LISA: Tell us a little about Lena and what makes you tick. What do you like to do when you are 
not writing and designing?

LENA: I'm here with my family, making dinner (I'm a terrible cook, really--sad but true--but I can make a mean Spaghetti sauce) and doing exotic things like folding laundry. Or I'm hanging with friends at Panera. I'm going to church or participating in a dog therapy program at a local rehab center with my teenage daughter and our very spoiled Black Lab. I go for walks with the family--and the dog, of course!--by the lake near where we live, because I love the lake and the birds, but also because when you write (or design) you sit a lot. And bad things happen to your rear-end if you don't move. ;)

I like to travel and have been to Italy once. It's super hard to leave! I like to listen to my music (I have pretty eclectic taste) and some nights I'm so tired I just want to veg out on the sectional & watch movies or my favorite TV shows. And I still love to read.

Random fact: my maiden name is truly Goldfinch. No, I didn't make that up. ;)



  1. That is an EPIC cover story and I'm so glad it worked out so well.

  2. Haha! We are a pretty awesome tag team. It's easy to help someone who is so utterly hard-working and capable. I'm flattered Lena thinks I have something to offer!

  3. Lisa is a wonder, without exaggeration. Thanks for the lovely review & interview! :)

  4. I agree that no writing is ever wasted, whether it gets published or not. Great interview ladies. And all of Lena's covers are gorgeous!

  5. I already thought you were both awesome, so where do I go from there? It's gorgeous and I can't wait to read it! I can attest firsthand to Lisa's amazingness when it comes to cover designs and reading your mind.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. (PS I love the cover for THE BINDING STONE! Those jewel-tones are so eye-catchingly beautiful.)

  6. Great interview! No writing is ever wasted, that's true. Good luck with everything!

  7. Loved learning more about you and your work, Lena. Thanks for the interview, Lisa.

  8. I love the idea of being able to turn into a falcon. Cool concept for sure.

    1. I wouldn't mind being able to fly...if I could do it well. ;)

  9. Great interview! It sounds like a terrific story, and I loved hearing about the cover process. I also was intrigued by Lena's comment about how freeing it was to make the book a true fantasy, as I had a similar experience. Congratulations on AIRE, Lena!

    1. Thanks, Amy! I love how freeing it is to write fantasy. It would be hard to go back at this point!

  10. wonderful interview. I agree, no writing is ever wasted and I loave your cover.

  11. What a fantastic interview! I adore you both all the more. :-) Aire is a wonderful read and the cover fits it so perfectly. :-) Well done on all counts!

  12. Awesome interview. I love that you design covers! I also love that you had Lisa in on this one. I can't wait to read this!

  13. Great interview! I love the cover, too :)


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