THROUGH THE WRINGER WITH GILDED RUINS' CHANTAL GADOURY
Following her release of Gilded Ruins (Blinding Night, #2) yesterday, Chantal was gracious enough to chat with me about all things Summer, Darce, a whole new cast of Gods and Goddesses, and a possible Morpheus spinoff—read on below to find out more!
Your sequel to BLINDING NIGHT, entitled GILDED RUINS, was released yesterday with The Parliament House Press. Congratulations on book two! What's your literary journey like while writing sequels? How is this different from writing book one? I’ll admit, writing sequels hasn’t been something I have a lot of practice in. The only other time I’ve ever sat down and wrote out a sequel naturally was “The Songs We Remember,” my Young Adult Contemporary duology. The story naturally continued into a second book for Micah and Charlie. Whereas, Gilded Ruins really took some coaxing of the characters. It was something I spent a good deal of time working on. As soon as Blinding Night released, I began the first few chapters of Gilded Ruins, without any real road map. But as 2019 progressed, it started to take shape. Writing Blinding Night was much different from Gilded Ruins. First, Blinding Night was originally a novel called “Seven Seeds of Summer,” – which was ultimately, completely rewritten. It was an exciting venture to go back to characters I had created in college, and breathing a new, more mature life into them. So, everything was really uncharted, and I could create the story I think I always wanted it to be – but at the time, didn’t know how to tell. Gilded Ruins took the story a step further. I knew I needed to tie up the loose ends of Summer and Darce’s story, and also answer some really important questions in regard to Summer’s past lives. In Gilded Ruins, there was more of a “lane” I had to keep myself in. I will admit, both books were amazingly fun to write.
Is there a scene in either Blinding Night or Gilded Ruins that made you cry while writing it? How about the scene that made you laugh the hardest? For obvious reasons, the Dad scenes really got to me. There’s a scene in Blinding Night when Summer is seeing her Dad in a dream, and he’s in their family home, and he’s just talking to her. I can still remember sitting outside in the twilight of a summer’s evening, near my family’s pool, thinking of my own Dad, and the things that I wish I could say to him. That scene always hits me the hardest because of just how personal it is for me. I know in Gilded Ruins, there were several scenes that made me laugh – the one that’s sticking out to me the most is when Summer meets Eros for the first time, and he admits to being a sucky aim with his love arrows. I just really loved Eros; the way he just blossomed in my mind. He’s this slick and smooth guy, who’s kind of like the Hollywood star of all the Gods and Goddesses, but he’s quirky, and imperfect – just like love.
Would you consider your protagonist, Summer, a good person? Be honest. Yes, Summer is a good person. She’s not entirely mature at the beginning of Blinding Night. But I wrote her that way on purpose. Young Adults at her age, going to college, focusing on friends and the things that we want to do, are rarely in the mind-frame of deep commitment, and making life-long decisions. We’re not thinking about rare opportunities (like going to Greece with our family.) We want the simple – hanging out with our friends. Swimming by the pool. Especially when they’re things we’ve been denied our whole lives. Summer is really thrust into a whole other way of life and thinking when she meets Darce and starts to unravel some well-hidden secrets. I think some of Summer’s immaturity follows her into Gilded Ruins – but again, she’s still growing up. She’s learning how to navigate the waters of adulthood, the best way that she can.
How does a big ego help writers? How can it hinder writers, if at all? It’s hard to see how a big ego could help a writer. In my own experience, I find that writers who have egos, learn the least about their craft, and their audience. Writing, with the intent of publishing, is a give & take relationship. You give your audience what they want, but you also give portions of yourself in your work. You take their feedback, learn from it, grow with it – use it to help your career. When someone has a big ego, they’re less likely to take criticism, and ultimately blame the audience. I almost imagine them like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Gaston never blamed himself for the reason why Belle wouldn’t marry him. It was her. It was the village. It was her father. It was the Beast. Big-Ego-Authors can be the same way, to their own determent. Long story short – having a big ego helps no one.
What is the darkest thing you’ve ever written—presuming there might be pieces darker than Blinding Night or Gilded Ruins. I wouldn’t say that Blinding Night or Gilded Ruins are really dark. There are some heavy scenes, thrilling scenes – but certainly a far cry from anything really dark. The darkest novel I’ve ever written was actually with my Blinding Night/Gilded Ruins Editor, A.M Wright! We wrote a very dark retelling of Hansel and Gretel called “The Shrike & the Shadows” that just came out earlier this year.
If you could tell your writing-self ten years ago anything, what would it be? To follow my heart. Sometimes, I wish I could have told myself to be patient, but I know that if I had. . . I wouldn’t have become as impatient as I did, forcing myself to make the choices that led me to where I am today. So, I’d tell myself to not worry; writing is in the cards. And to follow my heart.
How did publishing your first book change your artistic process to what it is today? A lot has changed for me since I first published my very first book – ever. “Seven Seeds of Summer” was signed onto a company that was very new, and did very little in making my book succeed. (Lack of real editing, marketing, and cover appeal.) But it drove me to challenge publishing the way I imagined it. I took risks in self publishing, I signed myself to a small indie press for my contemporary novels, and I started a company with my best friend. My first publication really gave me insight on making wiser decisions, as an author and as a professional. I also learned how to write a book, I learned to surround myself with writers, editors – people of the writing world. It also pushed me to write more books. Now with several titles under my belt, I’m also thinking about “that next story.”
When did you first learn that language wielded power? What did that moment look like? That’s a really interesting question. I think I learned about the power of words when I was in high school. At the age of 14, I was writing story after story, after story. There was a summer that I spent entirely on the computer, every single night – typing and typing. I knew that words had an impact on me when I read a book. And I knew that I wanted to create a novel that made others feel the way novels made me feel. I think language had wielded it’s power over me at a very young age. My mom spent hours with me, reading book after book. So I’ve always had the love of words and books since I was a very little girl. I’m not sure where this love began, but a part of me thinks I was just born with that. The moment happened probably very subtly, and it just never left.
We base many characters on celebrities; are there any characters in this novel inspired by real people? Do you have a dream cast? Who are they? Actually yes! I have a whole dream cast for the Blinding Night series. Kim Woo- Bin, a famous K-Drama star is my Darce. Lilly Collins is my Summer. Emil Andersson – a model – is my inspiration for Morpheus. Jeffree Star is actually my Aphrodite, Lee Jong-Suk (another K-Drama star) is my Eros, and Leonardo Dicaprio is my Zeus! If you go to my Instagram ‘Gilded Ruins’ highlight, you can find the entire cast!
What did you edit out of this novel that you regret nixing?
I don’t really regret nixing anything out of Gilded Ruins. Originally, I had wanted a little bit more of a love triangle in Blinding Night – and I did have to nix out a kissing scene at that time. Gilded Ruins gave me some room to explore a bit more of a love triangle, as painful as it became. But I’m really happy with the way it all turned out. What you have today, is exactly as it should be.
Do you read your own book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones, if any?
Of course I read book reviews. I don’t check them often, as I used to, but whenever I sent out E-arcs, right before a book is being released, I read reviews. I want to know if people are going to love this book, or hate it. And I find that the early reviews, really do pave the way of what to expect for the life of the novel. In dealing with bad ones, I either avoid them – I just don’t look at 1 Star Reviews if I can help it – or I take them and try to learn on how I can improve on my next writing attempt. Usually, I tend to agree with the reviews that give me criticism. I’ll grimace and go “Yup, they’re right! Why didn’t I see that?!” And then I pour myself a small glass of wine, and keep going.
Do you hide any pop culture “Easter eggs” in GILDED RUINS that only a few people will find? I think the most obvious “Easter Egg” is Jeffree Star. I’m sure I’ve scattered references of Pop Culture throughout the book – as it is told in Summer’s point of view, and they’re definitely not a secret.
What was the hardest scene to write into this novel? The hardest scene(s) are actually scenes I can’t talk about, as it’ll spoil the story. But the huge twists – they were hard to write, because I wanted them to be perfect. There’s one in particular that’s found on the Yacht, and there’s one that’s found towards the end. Aside from them, I think the scenes with Morpheus, who is in so much inner turmoil, unbeknownst to Summer – were hard to write too. Because I knew the pain he was suffering from, but I couldn’t really write about it.
Google yourself. What’s the first thing that pops up? My website, which is exciting! Then my Amazon site, and my Twitter!
What is your favorite childhood book? Did any of your childhood reads inspire your writing style/voice in The Blinding Night Series? My favorite childhood book was “There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom” by Louis Sachar. There was a real emotional connection that I had with that book as a child; I think it was probably one of the first times that I ever felt heartbroken over a character. That lingering emotion that I felt has never truly left me, and inspires me to write with the same impact – if I can. I progressed to Fear Street Saga books (One Last Kiss, in particular) – the romance in that book just stuck with me. And then of course, Sarah Dessen, Twilight, Danielle Steel – as I became a teenager. They all have inspired me in one way or another – many of my books. Lastly, Sarah J. Maas really captivated me as I was just beginning to re-write “Blinding Night.” I think that is very evident to anyone who reads my novel.
What / who first inspired you to start writing? To be honest, when I first saw the movie “Harriet the Spy,” as a kid, I wanted to be her. I wanted to carry around a notebook and just write. Write everything that I saw, heard, experienced – etc. I just found her to be so captivating. She was curious about the world, like I was. And sometimes the only way we could emotionally connect with someone else, was with our words. So I started to write my own stories. I don’t recall a time in my life that I wasn’t writing; I feel as though it’s become my air – and I have no idea what my life would be like without it.
What made you want to specifically write for younger audiences? I never came into writing with the intent of just writing for younger audiences. At the time, I was just writing things that I wanted to read. As a young teenager, I didn’t know how to write “adult romances,” – as I hadn’t really experienced much romance personally. . . so it was easier to write about the things that I knew. (Just as Harriet the Spy had taught me!) What came naturally to me, was content for a younger audience. I’ve certainly taken notice that my age group in characters have matured; they’re not 16 and 17 anymore, but 20, 25 … etc. And I’m comfortable staying there for a while.
Your stories seem to tackle subject and content that is based mostly on classic fairytales or variations of them. What made you select this genre / lane? I’ve always loved fairytales. I grew up with Disney movies, fairytale books, Princess dolls. You name it, I loved it. I recall discovering the book “Beauty” by Robin McKinley when I was in high school, and learned that there were actual fairytale retellings… and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to write one someday. I’ve always just loved the historical romance; the dresses, the Princes, the intrigue … there’s so much to unravel in a fairytale, and there’s always something to be learned by the story. I think it’s what we do with those lessons – how we take them, and shape them to apply to our own everyday lives,.. that’s what makes a fairytale retelling even more impactful.
You’ve mentioned that you work for a university during the day! What do your students think of your stories? Have a lot of your students read either of your PH books? To be honest, I rarely share the fact that I’m an author with my students. I sort of feel weird exposing such a vulnerable part of my life. I’m used to needing to maintain a professional boundary with them, and by exposing that I write books, they’ll be reading a piece of me that I don’t freely give face- to-face. At times, it’s mentioned at my University that I write books, and I don’t mind sharing my experiences in writing and life after graduation; I answer questions if someone finds out and they’re curious, but I try very much to keep my two lives separate from each other.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out? I always say to just write. Write for yourself. Don’t write for anyone else. Write what you love. Write what you know. Write a book that you’d love to find on the shelf. And keep an open mind to criticism – it’s a great way to learn about yourself, your writing, and your characters.
How do you handle writer’s block? I really try to push through it. It always seems to find me as I’m facing a deadline and needing to finish a story. I’ll try to take a few day’s break from writing. I’ll watch a show, a drama, listen to music – watch random videos on YouTube that might be helpful. But I’ll push myself right back into it. It’s rough, and most of the time my writing is just awful. I’ll call my best friend and tell her what’s going on in my story, and she usually tends to save the day!
What comes first, the plot or characters? Usually the characters are first. I’ll have a rough idea of a story, but the characters are really who tell the story. Without some strong characters, great names and thought-out backstories… a novel can really suffer. (As I’ve learned!) I like to look for actors and actresses on Pinterest, and just start building ideas of what they look like, what sort of things they’d wear. What the world looks like, and the story really starts to build itself!
How do you come up with the titles to your books? Titles are usually the first thing I really try to make. It makes the manuscript feel “real.” If I have a title, then I have a book. Blinding Night was actually given to me by Shayne Leighton. She’s the one who created that beautiful title for me. Gilded Ruins came to me as an idea; I knew I wanted something golden and specular, but also something to describe the ruins in Greece. . . and the relationships that were dissolving. For my other titles, they’re created between friends and family and sentences that I write in my manuscripts!
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Finishing a novel is the hardest part. I don’t know why I struggle so much with endings (it might be that I want it to be perfect!) – but I really struggle in making sure I’ve wrapped up everything in a nice, pretty bow for the reader!
What’s next for you? What do you hope to accomplish in the coming months? I hope to finish the sequel to “Between the Sea and Stars,” and possibly start writing a new novel! I have a few ideas on the back burner – a Moulin Rouge x Phantom of the Opera idea, or a Never Ending Story Mashup of fairytales. I’ve even begun to consider writing a Morpheus book (because he deserves one!)
The Story Continues...
Summer and Darce are summoned by the order of Zeus himself to travel to the home of the Gods: Mount Olympus, where they're to face even more ancient Gods and Goddesses.
Summer braces to confront her mother again, illuminating secrets about the truth of her tragic pasts, while also persuading Zeus to allow her to stay with the God of the Underworld, her true love - Darce.
Aboard Poseidon's luxury yacht, Summer meets her mythological family, while also uncovering what exactly happened to her past lives - and the true roles her mother and Darce played.
When Darce and Summer suddenly find themselves separated, Summer must find her inner power and unite them together, before her mortal time runs out.