Today we invite Caighlan Smith to our blog to talk about her recently released novel, Children of Icarus. This coming-of-age adventure has a haunting premise inspired by Greek mythology. With danger around every turn and fast-paced action, readers have found this book hard to put down!
It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn means a certain dead end.
We were excited to hear more about the compelling plot straight from the source. We were almost as excited to learn that Caighlan is passionate about bad puns and dessert, like the entire trade editorial team (with a couple of notable exceptions).
I’ve been a huge fan of Greek mythology since before I even knew how to spell “mythology.” Children of Icarus is heavily inspired by Greek myths, especially in its labyrinthine setting and the creatures inhabiting said setting. I’m also a lover of survival books, shows, video games, comics, etc. That genre definitely had a hand to play in the story-crafting process. Oh, as did my love of (bad) puns, but that comes up later.
We are HUGE fans of bad puns here, so you fit in well. We’re curious: what books and/or authors inspired you most as you wrote Children of Icarus?
Classical books and classical authors (Aeschylus, Ovid, Homer, etc). Also maybe a little bit of Shakespeare? I’m talking strictly plot inspiration here, not writing style. You won’t find “thou” or “thee” in the book—and you have my sincerest apologies for this oversight on my part. As for a more modern inspiration, that would be Lord of the Flies.
Do you have a favorite character in Children of Icarus. If so, who is it and why?
As clichéd as it might be, the protagonist is my favorite. She may not be of the Instant YA Badass breed (and I adore those characters as much as the next YA reader), but she’s dear to me. In writing COI, I wanted to really delve into the mind of my protagonist, to get into that raw, private way we interpret the world on a day to day basis—except her thoughts would revolve a little less around “what should I wear today?” and more “what awful horrific monstrosity will I encounter today?”. In endeavoring to write a novel with a nightmarish setting, I really wanted to do justice to how an everyday teenager might react in that nightmare. I also wanted to explore the development of a young person forced into that situation. Does she shut down, does she push through, or does she do something else entirely? What will it cost her, specifically, to survive? The protagonist is my favorite character not just because she answered those questions, but because of the way she answered them. And the way she continues to answer them. (Book 2 is in the works!!)
Without giving anything away, do you have a favorite scene?
Can the cover be my favorite scene? I really love the cover. Seriously though, I have a bunch of favorites, but three stand above the rest. The first comes near the beginning of the book, the second near the end. They’re similar, and they might not seem that significant, but they mean a lot to the protagonist so they mean a lot to me (and those are the only hints you’re getting!). My other favorite isn’t really a scene, but I think it still counts, and it literally comes at the very end of the book.
You describe yourself as a YA fantasy author. What appeals to you about the fantasy genre?
The thing that appeals to me most about writing fantasy is that I can basically do whatever I want in a story and my excuse can be: magic. That dead character just came back to life? Magic. That cat just grew wings and is now your favorite flying familiar? Magic. That villain sporadically combusted just before she was supposed to destroy the world? Magic. None of this is to say there’s magic in Children of Icarus . . . or is there?
Have you considered exploring other genres in your writing?
Totally! For instance, I love psychological stuff—because I can do whatever I want in a story and my excuse can be: it’s all in their head.
When and where do you most enjoy writing?
I used to write in coffee shops, even though I don’t like coffee or crowded shops. The former makes me nauseous, the latter distracts me. So when it eventually occurred to me that hey, I could be waaaaay more productive at home, that is where I went. To sum it up, I like writing at my desk (or any surface susceptible to laptops) in a room with a lot of light, usually in the morning when I get up—so, afternoon—and I keep writing until I pass out from exhaustion, Coronation Street comes on, or somebody offers me dessert.
Speaking of exhaustion or when someone offers you a dessert . . . do you have any tips or tricks for what to do when you hit a writer’s block?
Power up the mental bulldozer (I’ve heard others refer to this as a “television”). In other words, procrastinate. Clear your head, or fill it up with something else. Sleep, hang out with friends, read, go for a walk, sleep, play video games, sleep, or even sleep. When you return to the story, perhaps it’ll turn out that writer’s block was made of ice, and it’s since melted.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sleep, hang out with friends, read, go for a walk, sleep, play video games, sleep, or even sleep. The other 80% of the time I think about writing.
— Eliza Leahy, Associate Editor