Interview with Callie Bates, Author of The Waking Land

We’re so excited today to be talking with Callie Bates about her upcoming debut novel, The Waking Land.

Please describe what your book is about.

THE WAKING LAND is about a young woman, raised as a hostage, who is pressured by the father she barely remembers to lead a rebellion against the king who virtually raised her, using a magic she’s spent her life repressing.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“The plants sit about me in their pots, a collision of greens; if I listen hard I can hear them breathing, hear the sturdy effort of drinking sunlight.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

That it has powerful, earthy, forbidden magic and daring escapes and ancient stone circles and revolution. That I was going to put it away, but the heroine’s voice kept me awake at night, demanding I write it again. So I did!

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I am very, very stubborn. OK, to be honest, that was not really a revelation…

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It’s going to be about four years, if you count it from the very first draft with no breaks in between. I actually wrote an initial version in 9 months in 2013, received an R&R from the agent I now work with, and eventually ended up doing a 2-3 month complete overhaul of the book (so, I didn’t work on it continuously). We accepted the publisher’s offer in spring 2015, and the book is slated to come out summer 2017.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I’ve learned to really love revision. I love clarifying my ideas and themes from the rough draft, but the most satisfying moments come from really digging into the characters’ emotional arcs and evolution. As a reader, I strongly connect to emotion, so I’m trying to be more “vulnerable” as a writer. But I also have lots of fun building a pacey plot and, particularly, developing a sense of place on the page. Of course, the best part of writing is when all these elements come together—that’s the magic!

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

In a very broad sense, the book emerged from the (perhaps unlikely) intersection of climate change, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, Jacobite rebellions, and Neolithic monuments—all united by a female narrator struggling to understand her own power and place in the world. Oh, and poisonous fungi…

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

I think best outside while hiking or running, or while taking a bath, or just before I fall asleep. Occasionally I have to talk aloud to myself like a crazy person. But sometimes ideas do come to me while I’m staring in mounting anxiety at my outline, thank goodness!

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I have the same birthday as Harry Potter. But I think I’m more of the Hermione sort of Gryffindor… Gryffinclaw, perhaps?

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” That Picasso quote kicked me out of my endless loop of rather self-indulgent perfectionism (which was really tedious, btw), and continually reminds me that I don’t have to wait for “the muse” to speak. She speaks once I start working.

What’s next?

The sequel!


In the lush and magical tradition of Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted comes this riveting debut from brilliant young writer Callie Bates—whose boundless imagination places her among the finest authors of fantasy fiction, including Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

Advance Praise:

“Callie Bates has written an exciting and involving first book, and she is clearly a writer of real talent.”—Terry Brooks

“A heartbreaking, enchanting, edge-of-the-seat read that held me captive from start to finish!”—Tamora Pierce

The Waking Land is all about rising to challenges, and it succeeds wonderfully.”—Charlaine Harris

“A simmering tale of magic that builds to a raging inferno, and hits like a cross between Brandon Sanderson and Pierce Brown.”—Scott Sigler

Available in June, 2017 from Del Rey.

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