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Melissa Eskue Ousley

Melissa Eskue Ousley

Today, we have a real treat in store. To mark the upcoming release of the Young Adult novel, Sign of the Throne, we have an exclusive interview with the author, Melissa Eskue Ousley.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is the author of The Solas Beir Trilogy. Sign of the Throne, the first book of this young adult fantasy series, will be released this September by Castle Garden Publications, the young adult division of Gazebo Gardens Publishing. She is currently working on the second and third novels in the trilogy, The Rabbit and the Raven and The Sower Comes.

Melissa has also published numerous academic articles in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of College and Character and The College Student Affairs Journal. Having received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from The University of Arizona, she has taught psychology courses and worked within higher education on diversity issues, serving underrepresented students and conducting research. She has presented her research at professional conferences throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association. Her expertise in psychology and interest in culture and mythology have heavily influenced the themes and character development in Sign of the Throne. Melissa lives in Oregon.

Now, let’s get on with the interview!

Large Q How did you get started as an author?
Large A I always loved reading and writing, and have a BA in English Education, but it took me a long time to become a writer. My background is in education and psychology (I have an MA in Counseling and a PhD in Higher Education). I enjoyed working in those fields, conducting research and teaching college classes in Arizona. Eventually though, I realized writing was something I had to do. When my husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest for an opportunity with his career, I decided to focus on my writing. I jumped in with no plan B, but lucky for me, doors opened and I was able to connect with a wonderful press.
Large Q What led you to write Sign of the Throne?
Large A The book was inspired by Jung’s collective unconscious and the idea that many of the bogeymen from various human societies have similar characteristics. I imagined these creatures had a common origin in a world parallel to our own, and had crossed over to Earth, inspiring our myths. I love mythology and psychology, so this book is brimming over with concepts and references from both of those fields. Some of the characters’ names have symbolic meanings. For example, Tynan Tierney means dark lord.
Large Q Was there any particular literary inspiration for your “world-building”?
Large A Great question. When I was 13, I read The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. It was unlike anything I’d read before-a story set in two worlds: ours, and The Territories, a parallel medieval world with magic and monsters. I also love Stephen King’s Dark Tower series because he’s created a rich fantasy world with its own culture, language, and monsters (not unlike Tolkien). Sign of the Throne is also influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia, although Cai Terenmare may be a darker and more dangerous place than Narnia. We’ll get to travel quite a bit in the second book, and meet new monsters.
Large Q Are there any real people or fictional characters that influenced the development of your own characters for Sign of the Throne?
Large A None of the characters are autobiographical, although some of them share similar traits with me or other people I know. There is one character, however, that is based on a real person. Cassandra Buchan is modeled after a very dear friend who is a force of nature. My friend is a brilliant statistics professor, and is every bit as fun, caring, and charismatic as Cassandra. I always love it when her eyes sparkle and she grins and says, “Okay. Are you ready?” I never know what I’m supposed to be ready for, but it never fails to be interesting.
Large Q Let’s talk about the main characters. What can you tell us about Abby – both outside and inside?
Large A Abby is attractive but she can’t see it-she sees herself as average, if not boring. Her eyes are on the future-working hard to save up for college so she can build a more exciting life for herself. She admires her parents, who are also hard-working, but she doesn’t want their life. She finds herself drawn to Newcastle Beach because it is so different from her middle-class neighborhood. To her Newcastle Beach has magic, even without the actual magic hidden within its circular border. Newcastle Beach represents a life she can only dream about, but that motivates her to work hard at her job and in school.
Large Q Abby has these strange dreams, doesn’t she?
Large A That she does. Because she is empathic, she can also connect with others through dreams. Some of the dreams are prophetic, but sometimes the dreams are more symbolic than literal, and it is difficult for her to make sense of them. My own dreams can be pretty crazy, so some of them have inspired Abby’s dreams. In one of her dreams, a shadowed creature emerges from her closet-that was actually one of mine.
Large Q
Large A David is kind of like Sleeping Beauty, except that he’s a dude. He’s not literally asleep, but he’s walking through a scripted life in a blissful daze. He’s let his parents make choices for him, and it hasn’t occurred to him that he might not want the life they’ve planned for him. Why would it? He has everything he could ever want, materially at least. He is wealthy, educated, and is about to move to an exciting city for a promising career. His girlfriend, Amelia, is kind and beautiful, and both sets of parents have high hopes for their relationship. Emotionally though, something is lacking. It is not until he meets Abby that he realizes he is missing a crucial part of himself.
Large Q How do you think his character will develop over the course of the series?
Large A First, David is going to have to figure out who he is, and who he wants to be. Then he’s going to have to figure out how to be a good leader for his people. He is going to have to make some hard choices and some sacrifices.
Large Q The troika of central characters is rounded out by Jon, Abby’s former boyfriend. What should we know about him?
Large A Jon works hard to keep up his reputation as a loveable rogue who doesn’t take things seriously, but in truth, he is serious about several things. He values friendship and loyalty. He adores his mother and Abby and would do anything for either of them. He acts like he doesn’t care about school, but he’s intelligent and takes college classes on the sly. He masks a lot of his feelings with humor.
Large Q In many ways, Jon is a sort of sidekick to Abby. What do you think will happen with this arrangement going forward?
Large A Abby and Jon are opposites. He’s more extroverted and she’s more introverted. Abby helps Jon stay grounded, and Jon keeps Abby from being a stick in the mud. They’ve been friends forever and balance each other out. It will be hard for Jon to let go of Abby as she enters into a more mature relationship with David, and this causes some conflict. However, Jon values his friendship with Abby too much to risk pushing the boundaries she’s drawn for him. He is mature enough to set his feelings aside and find common ground with David, and as he finds his own love interest, he will find more balance. He’ll still keep his sense of humor though.

Read Part II of our Interview with Melissa.

Read the review of Sign of the Throne.

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