Ask the Author: Emily Thiede
What would you like readers to know about you?
Oooh, that’s a tough question! I think I’d like readers to know that I do my best to fill my books with all of the story elements I love most, so they can expect high stakes, escapism, humor, banter, romance, fight scenes, and all the feelings. My favorite stories to write (and read) are those that leave audiences feeling like they’ve enjoyed a perfect meal, one that hits every taste bud and leaves them both satisfied and hungry for more.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
The Last Finestra is a romantic YA fantasy coming out in 2022 about 18-year-old Alessa, a divinely-chosen savior “blessed” by the gods with the power to magnify a partner’s magic who can’t quite get the hang of it and keeps accidentally killing everyone she touches instead. (Whoops!) Facing assassination, she recruits a cynical outcast marked as a killer to become her personal bodyguard, but Dante has dark secrets from his own—he might be the one who can help her master her gift… or destroy her once and for all.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
To start, TLF gave me the chance to play with a character dynamic I’d wanted to explore for a long time. I’ve always been fascinated by two characters in a well-known franchise (I won’t give it away by saying which one, but readers will find quite a few nods to it in my book!) who form a very unlikely duo despite being complete opposites in nearly every way. Then, I mixed everything I love about RomComs into a dark fantasy premise and set it on an island inspired by my favorite place on earth, Italy’s colorful Amalfi coast.
And while it wasn’t intentional, after writing The Last Finestra, I realized there were many parallels between my experience growing up with undiagnosed ADHD and Alessa’s struggle to understand her own strengths. Alessa craves human connection and needs to save her island home from a looming invasion, but the methods that work for everyone else are just not working for her, which leaves her isolated and desperate for just one person to believe in her. (Enter Dante, reluctant surly bodyguard.)
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I absolutely love writing banter, and there is one scene in particular where Alessa and Dante play a drinking game similar to truth or dare… I don’t want to give anything away, but it is my favorite thing that I’ve ever written and so far, early readers seem to love it, too!
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I grew up raiding my dad’s book collection—Science Fiction anthologies, Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, and other SciFi/Fantasy giants—but it wasn’t until the YA wave hit big around 2010 that I started thinking seriously about writing books of my own. Love them or not, breakouts like The Hunger Games and Twilight tapped into something special for many readers, including myself, and soon after that, I discovered Sabaa Tahir, Laini Taylor, Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo and others and I began to wonder if, too, could turn my ideas into something more than daydreams.
Then Victoria Schwab’s THIS SAVAGE SONG entered my life at exactly the right time and changed how I write forever. I had just started writing in earnest and I was studying craft but still finding my own voice, then I opened this book and a dozen things just clicked in my mind. Her opening chapter is so compelling, her prose flawless, and I was completely enthralled by the juxtaposition she created between her two main characters and how she pulled certain themes through every aspect of their story. It’s been a few years, but I could still read that book every day and discover something new.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
No one gets it perfect the first time. Or the second. Or the third—You get the idea. Every writer needs to discover their own creative process and also learn to be patient with themselves. As much as we all wish we could sit down and knock out a perfect draft that’s as beautiful as the books published by our favorite authors, even they didn’t write that book perfectly the first time. Writing is revising, and writing well requires trying and failing and learning from it.
Read as many books in your genre as you can, and try to figure out what works for you as a reader and what doesn’t, but when it comes time to write your own books, don’t try to be someone else. Write the books only you can write, whether that’s because it has your dry wit, your killer fight scenes, that glittering world that lives in your mind alone, or, even better, all of those things combined!
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Emily Thiede is the author of THE LAST FINESTRA, a young adult fantasy coming in 2022 from Wednesday Books/MacMillan USA and LYX in Germany. Before becoming a full-time author, she taught in Title 1 public schools, and she currently channels her passion for education and writing by serving as a PitchWars mentor and as co-host of the Basic Pitches podcast. As an alumna of both the PitchWars and Author Mentor Match programs, Emily is an active member of the YA community and a board member for a writing nonprofit. When she isn’t writing, she fosters kittens through an animal rescue organization and hosts social events for local writers.