Title: Cast in Firelight
Author: Dana Swift
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.
Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.
Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.
Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.
Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.
Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.
Dana Swift started making up fantasy worlds when she was eleven years old and hasn’t stopped since. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned degrees in English and Advertising. While in college, Dana competed as a saber fencer and learned a thing or two about fighting, parrying and how it feels to fall in love with your sparring partner. She currently lives with said husband in Miami, Florida. To learn more about Dana, visit her website or follow Dana on Twitter and Instagram.
My Interview with Dana Swift, author of Cast in Firelight
Hi, Dana! Thank you so much for stopping by and I’m excited to welcome you to A Court of Coffee and Books and introduce people to you and your amazing debut!
Congratulations on your debut! What was your inspiration for Cast in Firelight?
Thank you for having me!
Many of my inspirations came from different places. In my authors note (which you can find on Goodreads) I explain why I created the world the way I did. Other than that, many of my inspirations came from beloved childhood movies, like the Swan Princess. At the beginning of that movie there is a song called ‘This Is My Idea’ and I wanted a whole book that encompassed it, with character rivalry, arranged marriage, and family. I infused that idea with crime fighting, an elaborate and colorful magic system and a You’ve Got Mail kind of mistaken identities plot. In summary I wanted to create a book that was rom com in tone and tropes and fantasy action in plot and pacing.
Did the story of Cast in Firelight come naturally to you?
I’d say the first few chapters poured out of me, but I since I am a pantser (aka, I don’t outline) like most books I’ve written, the middle came extremely hard for me. I seem to always hit a wall around 20% and 60% into the book and instead of breaking through it I write out of order and around it until an idea comes in an aha moment.
For Cast in Firelight in particular I grappled with when these characters should find out the truth about their identities. At first conception I wanted it to happen during the climax, but while writing I realized my characters were too smart for that and it left the middle dragging if I revealed both mysteries all in a few condensed end chapters. So, I spread it out and wrote various iterations on how they each found out until I settled on what it is today. Fun Fact: A majority of my deleted scenes have to do with these different reveal scenarios.
What can you tell us about your two main characters, Adraa and Jatin?
Sure, I love talking about my two main characters! Adraa Belwar is an inventive witch with red forte magic, which means she can conjure and control fire. Jatin is a powerful white forte wizard, which means he can create and control ice, snow and other winter precipitation. At the start of the story, Adraa is dealing with her fast-approaching royal ceremony, a ritual to test if she can control all nine types of magic and thus lead. But she’s struggling with white magic and the possibility of failing. Jatin, on the other hand is talented and after years away studying magic, he’s coming back home. But no matter how powerful he might be, he has his own anxieties about being enough of a leader to run his country and follow his father’s footsteps. Then the two meet and everything gets mixed up and goes off from there.
I love the magic system in Cast in Firelight and how it’s structured. Nine different cast colors based on the deities is really unique and interesting. How did the development of the magic system come to you? Was it difficult to map out?
From the start I really wanted a pantheon of Gods, but I wrestled with the idea if they were going to be real or not. Then I wrote a scene thinking about the God’s personality and perspective and I loved it too much to leave it out. So, a lot of it was just finding my way through the writing itself and following the most interesting path. It’s easy to say now that it wasn’t difficult because it came to me so long ago, but one of the hardest things for me was wondering how many Gods and powers there should be. I struggled with limiting myself so the characters wouldn’t be too powerful, but the world would still have that pantheon of Gods I wanted. Fun fact: I almost choose to write the Gods commenting and talking about the world before every chapter, but it seemed to take the focus off Adraa and Jatin, and their conflicts. I also I wanted a more character driven book instead of a world building one so there is a lot more information in my head that hasn’t gotten onto the page… yet. J
What has been your favorite part of being a debut author so far?
My favorite and most exciting thing for me personally, was finding out who would illustrate my cover and then seeing it for the first time. I’ve loved Charlie Bowater’s art for a long time. She was my dream choice, even though I never mentioned that to my publisher, which made it feel meant to be. I think along with Charlie Bowater’s extreme talent for details she depicts light like no other artist I’ve ever seen, which is so important to the story of Cast in Firelight since Adraa has created an invention called Firelight, (like a magical lightbulb and the catalyst for the series). It’s what Adraa is holding on the cover. Thus, knowing Charlie was doing the cover and seeing it produced happy sobs. Really, I cried for a long time! I still stare at my cover and can’t believe it.
What are you hoping readers take away from your story?
Above all I really believe stories should entertain so I want people to have fun and escape into the world of Wickery. But underneath the fun, romantic adventure I’ve explored themes of identity, self-discovery, and what to do in the face of failure. Overall, I want Cast in Firelight to be hopeful, inspiring and showcase how anyone can be a hero.
What was your favorite part of writing Cast in Firelight?
My favorite parts to write were the romantic scenes, especially in the moments where the reader knows exactly what is going on and yet the characters are oblivious. I really got into their heads and their insecurities and it was fun to explore the dilemma of falling for someone when you think you betrothed to someone else.
If you could spend one day with Adraa and Jatin, what would you do? Are there any places you all would visit?
Oh wow, I don’t know if they’d like me much. Do they know I’m the author and have ruined/complicated their lives? If not, then I’d love to fly with them on a skyglider and get a full tour of their cities. Going into the Underground, a magic fighting ring, would be fun too, but only if they had my back. There’s a lot of dangerous places in Wickery and I think I would need an escort.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The most common advice I see for young writers is to always read and write a lot and so not to repeat that age old and quality advice I’d also add to examine the things you are reading and really stop and think about how an author paced and structured a book.
My other advice is to enjoy the process of creating a story and try to finish projects. Writing is hard. Getting published is hard. Everything about this process is difficult. So have fun, be kind to yourself and keep going. Humans live off stories. We truly can’t have too many and yours needs to be told too.
Is there anything else you would like to let the readers know about Cast in Firelight?
As much as I’m for going into a book not knowing anything, which can be fun. I also want to clear up misconceptions I’ve seen about my book, so no one is disappointed. Or at least disappointed because they thought my debut was something it’s not, haha. Cast in Firelight is not an enemies-to-lovers book. While I love enemy-to-lovers I think in fantasies we hear that term and assume the main characters will be trying to kill one another. Cast in Firelight is the opposite in many ways. Growing up the two have written letters where they compete and “hate” one another, but when they meet, they actually like each another and join forces. In many ways it’s the opposite of the You’ve Got Mail plot and other common plays on the mistaken identities’ trope.
I also would like to say how thank you I am for the support and interest people have shown my debut, especially with the curveballs and disappointments of 2020. I love everyone who reaches out to tell me what they thought or what they liked about Cast in Firelight. And a huge thank you to A Court of Coffee and Books as well for creating these great questions and helping me promote my debut!
I absolutely love the titles of each chapter in Cast in Firelight, especially Chapter One’s title. How did you decide what each chapter’s name would be?
Oh my gosh, I love them too, especially the first one. So that was the first line I ever wrote for the book and wanted to incorporate it into the first page and ended up using it as the chapter title when it didn’t fit. I then got stuck having to do fun, creative titles for all the chapters, haha. I mostly used alliterations for Jatin’s chapter headings and a more personal I statement for Adraa’s to mark the difference for myself and for the readers. I’m so glad you liked the first one since it’s one of my favorite line in the whole book and I love how it sets the tone and really gets to Adraa’s voice right away.
Adraa and Jatin wind up in a magical version of the Hunger Games, oh no! What would each character do? Who would win?
Oh man! Well, if it was tournament of other magic users like themselves, they probably would do really well, especially if the rules got bent for love like Katniss and Peeta and they could team up. They’d have a problem killing other kids though, since both Adraa and Jatin are empathic and fight for their people and countries.