Today I am interviewing Edith Pawlicki, author of the new fantasy novel, Trials of Fire and Rebirth, latest installment in The Immortal Beings series.
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DJ: Hi Edith! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Edith Pawlicki: Thanks for having me! I always love talking about writing! Since 2016, I have been a full-time mother of twin boys. Honestly, that pretty much consumed my existence for two years, but I have always loved writing, and in 2018, I started again. My sons started school in 2020, and that’s given me a lot more time to write (Trials of Fire and Rebirth is my fourth book since I started writing again).Writing novels is wonderful for me because I am interested in everything! I double-majored in Japanese and Computer Science, and I minored in history; I taught English abroad and math and programming in the US before my sons were born. Throughout college, I was an assistant to the manuscript librarian at Rare Books and I spent my summers as a park ranger – so really, everything intrigues me, and books are a great way to use what I learn!
DJ: What is Trials of Fire and Rebirth and then The Immortal Beings about?
Edith: I created the Immortal Beings world for Vows of Gold and Laughter because I was fascinated by xuanhuan (western-influenced Chinese fantasy) and basically wanted to create an Asian-influenced western fantasy to explore. For Vows, I set myself the challenge of writing four very distinct characters with contrasting love stories but a shared quest. Their story was too complex for a single volume, so I split it into tales one and two of the Immortal Beings. For each story within the series, I choose an idea that I want to explore. For Trials of Fire and Rebirth, I was thinking about objective versus subjective reality. In the book, there’s a mortal cult that worships the God of Destruction. He thinks they’re crazy and does his best to ignore them, but as the atrocities that they commit in his name get worse, he realizes he has to face his past mistakes in order to understand and stop the cult. In the course of this, he meets a young god who is dealing with her own contradiction: she considers herself a woman, but she presents as male to the world. So the book explores both how truth can warp into delusion, and how belief can manifest a new reality, all while two gods fall in love and try to make the world a better place!
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Immortal Beings series?
Edith: I watched the Chinese epic Ashes of Love in 2019, and it blew my mind. The only Chinese fantasy I had encountered before that was the Monkey King as a child. I started researching the mythology in Ashes of Love only to realize it was based on a fantasy novel rather than mythology – Heavy Sweetness, Ash-Like Frost by Dian Xian. I started exploring xuanhuan, xianxia, and wuxia (subgenres of Chinese fantasy) and decided I really wanted to create my own Eastern-Western fantasy fusion. Most of the book is pure fantasy, but it draws on Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Hindu, and Thai influences. I think that Japan comes through the most strongly because I was exposed to Japanese culture since birth and lived there, but my grandfather grew up in India and my sister-in-law is Chinese, so a lot of stuff in my subconscious bubbles up and merges together.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
Edith: Karana, the God of Destruction, is a returning minor character from the first two books. I found him compelling as a side character because he was sensitive, artistic, and kind, yet he was the God of DESTRUCTION! He had burned an entire city to the ground and killed countless mortals. I wanted to understand how he could be so soft and so hard at the same time. An Ning, the Peace Bringer, is a new character in this book, who is struggling with gender and body dysphoria. (I like my deities to be as flawed as the rest of us!) She’s one of my favorite characters because she is optimistic and sweet, but she’s also really strong – she has survived a lot of trials and grown from them!
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Edith: I always get attached to my side characters – Karana, this book’s main character – started as a side character himself in the earlier books! Most of the main characters from books 1 and 2 do return as side characters in this one, and it was really fun to see them again, especially from Karana and An Ning’s points of view. But I think I have to go with Chika, who is An Ning’s disciple and a very strong-willed, somewhat snarky character. She’s a moody teenager in this book, but she’s very smart, hardworking, and brave. I really want to see her grow up, so she will be a main character in the fourth book, which I am plotting now!
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Immortal Beings series like?
Edith: The Immortal Beings world is all about wonder and beauty. There are three realms, the Heavens, Earth, and the Underworld. Mortals (humans) live on Earth while immortals can travel freely between the realms, as can immortal creatures. The immortal creatures are mostly figments of my imagination, but many are derived from Asian mythologies, such as the firedogs (Bulgae) featured in this book which come from a Korean myth. All immortals have magical powers, but only some are worshiped as gods. Now, becoming a god can inhibit an immortal’s powers – if mortals believe they can’t do something, they can’t – but it also makes them much more powerful because mortal belief accumulates like magic for them. The magic system itself is based on color, which is fun for creating visuals – i.e. a blue immortal has blue hair and eyes and surrounds themselves with their own color.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first two books of The Immortal Beings series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Edith: The reviews have been great! A lot of readers love the world and the descriptions; many want to know more about the immortal creatures and the Underworld. A little more about both is revealed in this book, but I’m really going to dive into both of those for book four and five.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Trials of Fire and Rebirth?
Edith: An Ning and her epiphanies about gender and becoming more herself. She has an amazing resilience that inspired me, and I felt like I became a more compassionate and open-minded person with her.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Edith: Ha, probably the twist at the end which sets up book four! I imagine some readers will curse me. But I hope they also reflect on Karana and An Ning’s journeys, and how it applies to their own lives.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing the The Immortal Beings series? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Edith: There’s a famous quote, called the Serenity prayer, that says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” This book isn’t about that God, but the core theme of the novel is figuring out what should be accepted and what should be changed, and doing that!
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a book, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
Edith: I have discovery-written every book in the Immortal Beings series so far. I do usually have some ideas about the end, such as which characters will end up together or what key issues need to be resolved, but I don’t usually know the details. For example, in this book, I knew Karana had to deal with the cult and An Ning had to deal with her gender-dysphoria. But for most of the book, I didn’t even know how the cult had started or how Karana was going to make amends, and I didn’t know if An Ning would transition or if she would embrace her male body. Around the halfway point, I had my answers, and actually the ending is incredibly close to what I came up with at that point. Which is interesting because my first draft had a slightly different ending, but feedback from beta readers helped make it the one I really wanted! However, I mentioned a twist that sets up book four, and I will say, that came out in the final edits – I didn’t know I was going to do it until the last second! I actually scared myself a bit with my ambition, but now I am pumped up for book four and trying to sort out the can of worms I created!
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Trials of Fire and Rebirth that you can share with us?
Edith: Oh, me too! I actually keep a list as I write, just as I do when I read! Some of my favorites from Trials of Fire and Rebirth are:
“The more you avoid your fears, the more frightening they become.”
“…the heavier the topic the more lightly one must speak.”
“Any being has the right to believe their own crazy, but it’s not right to put your crazy on others.”
“It wasn’t right to rob someone of their challenges for that was what made them stronger.”
DJ: Now that Trials of Fire and Rebirth is released, what is next for you?
Edith: I’m currently drafting the first book of a new series, an urban fantasy set in Nara, Japan. I’m also plotting the fourth and fifth books of The Immortal Beings, which I hope to start drafting this fall. I like to always have two projects in the works so that when I pass a draft off to readers, I can jump into another! I also have been brainstorming a spin-off of my first book, Minerva, because so many readers have requested it, but I don’t expect to start writing it for at least another year.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Edith-Pawlicki/e/B08P9ND9RB:
Author Newsletter: https://edithpawlicki.com/contact.html
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Trials of Fire and Rebirth and the Tales of the Immortal Beings series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Edith: Because I rarely have time these days to read a long series, I always try to make my books self-contained stories. The first book in this series got away from me and you should really read book one before book two, but Trials of Fire and Rebirth can be read alone, first, or even between the other two!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Edith: Thank you so much for your questions! It was a pleasure to answer them!
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***Trials of Fire and Rebirth is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
An immortal who can’t remember the past and a god who wants to forget it…
An Ning wakes in a male body with no memories. When she uses her immortal magic to feed refugees, they worship her as a god and call her Peace Bringer. Yet peace eludes An Ning.
Karana hates being the God of Destruction. He would happily abandon his role and leave ruling the universe to his relatives. Unfortunately, those relatives are insisting he deals with the Cult of Alag Karana and its new tendency to burn women alive.
When the cult leads Karana to An Ning’s village, he realizes his regrets are tied to An Ning’s mysteries.
But even if they face their dark history, can they build a brighter future?
About the Author:
Edith Pawlicki lives in Connecticut with her husband, twin sons, dog, and two rabbits. She fell in love with words in fourth grade and finds writing necessary to free the worlds and characters in her head. When she isn’t busy being a mom and author, she enjoys cooking and crafts. In addition to the Immortal Beings series, she has also written a YA science fiction novel, Minerva.