Today, I’m very excited to interview new author, Mary-Jean Harris whose YA novel, Aizai the Forgotten, was released today! Happy book birthday, Mary-Jean! Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Mary-Jean’s novel.
Mary-Jean. Welcome. Your novel looks intriguing. Is this your very first novel ever to be published?
Yes, it’s my first novel in a series called The Soul Wanderers. It’s been really exciting going through the process of publishing, getting cover art, and seeing what editors have to say about my book, though I never imagined that my book would be edited so much! I’m amazed at how many things editors can catch, which was especially helpful for me, since my novel takes place in the seventeenth century, and life then was obviously quite different to how we live now. So when I unknowingly had my characters marching about in nineteenth century clothing, we caught and fixed it. I’m planning to have a more books in the series after Aizai the Forgotten, which will take place in different times and places, but will still be related.
Please tell us what it’s about.
Aizai the Forgotten follows Wolfdon, a seventeen-year old boy who lives in seventeenth century France as he goes on a journey through France and Spain to find a lost world called Aizai. He is a voracious reader of esoteric books and learns about Aizai in an old book by a philosopher. The story also follows Wolfdon’s discovery of an undercurrent magic that has always existed in secret societies around the world, and as he finds out, culminates in the land of Aizai. Wolfdon later finds out that his mysterious yearning for Aizai was not just coincidental, and that there is an evil that he must face that is placing the future in danger.
Where did you get the idea for such a story?
When I first started writing this story, I hadn’t intended for it to be a novel. It was a few summers ago and I had just finished writing an extremely long fantasy novel (unpublished) and hadn’t written for a few weeks. I really hated not having written for such a long time, but I was at a loss of where to go next (except typing up my other novel), so I just took a piece of paper and started to write (I write everything first by hand, since it’s easier to think that way). It started with me just speculating about a lost world that had come into existence and then had vanished. But I needed a character, so voila! there was a boy who had read about this world and was trying to discover what it was and if he could get to it. I too was trying to discover what Aizai was, but after a while, I figured it out, and at that point, I started plotting the story as opposed to just writing it.
For the material later in the book, I was also inspired a lot by ancient esoteric philosophies and secret societies, which I have read quite a lot about. The idea of a “New Atlantis” or future idealistic world mentioned by Francis Bacon and others also inspired my later ideas about the land of Aizai, how it had formed, and the force that threatens to destroy it. Wolfdon’s longing to go to Aizai and find where he belongs is a yearning for a higher place that I’ve noticed as a thread through many ancient philosophies. It is knowing that there is infinity above you and that you can only catch glimpses of it, but that you feel your soul belong there. This is one thing I am trying to convey in the book, a sort of sad but glowing and invigorating feeling as Wolfdon discovers the mysteries of a world higher and more magical than his own.
I especially love the name Aizai since it bears a strong resemblance to a character in my first novel, The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy. I named my main character Azaria. Where do you find your names?
I find a lot of my names from either the Old Testament, lists of old Persian or Greek names, or simply from the names of children we know. Everyone from nieces in Australia to girls my son liked in grade one.
I either make up names randomly (though I try to make them sound like they fit with the story) or base them off of words from another language or some ancient esoteric term. It’s really fun to make up names, but if can certainly take a lot of time! I have a nice baby name book that is really helpful for this. Sometimes I make names up from simple words, like “Lunora” from the Latin word Luna for moon. I also like to base names off of old names from other languages, especially Scottish ones. One time, I had made up a beautiful name, “Serafina”, but years later, I found out that it already was a name (and was used in The Golden Compass, no less!), and now I always check.
For the name “Aizai”, I have to admit that it was entirely random. It was originally “Aizei”, but I was told that this sounded like “Aye-zee” as opposed to the “Aye-zay” that I imagined. So I changed it to Aizai.
Where can we buy your book?
Thank you, Mary-Jean, for a wonderful interview. Readers, here’s your chance to win an e-book copy. Just leave a comment below.