October 6, 2023

Interview with N.P. Thompson, author of 'River of Crows'


Hi friends! 

I'm pleased to be featuring author N.P. Thompson and her debut novel River of Crows on the blog today. It was a blast getting to chat and get to know them a bit more. Their book is available now, so be sure to add the book to your TBR today!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Nathalie! 

About the Book


“Fantastically paced… a smart, funny, exciting fantasy novel for younger readers who love all things magical.” — Kirkus Reviews

"One heck of an adventure...a jam-packed story complete with twists and turns!" — BookReviewsByMrsC (Bookstagram)

Ty Baxter just wants to survive seventh grade without dying of boredom or getting flattened by the school bully. But when he tries to help an injured crow, his ordinary life is suddenly upended. Now trapped in a secret, magical world, Ty finds himself at the center of a cryptic prophecy, and the target of a brutal emperor who will stop at nothing to protect his power.

In a desperate gamble, Ty struggles to control his emerging magical Talent so he can help his friends rescue their kidnapped family members before the emperor uses his dark sorcery to transform them into birds and enslaves them forever as soldiers in his enchanted avian army.

Q & A with the Author

How did you come up with the phrase ‘River of Crows’ as the title for your first book?

In the part of town I used to live in, we used to see long lines of crows snaking across the sky throughout fall and winter. Every evening they'd head in one direction, and every morning they'd come flying back. Always in long, waving lines. I always found them mesmerizing. I thought they looked just like a black river flowing through the sky, and it occurred to me one day that "river of crows" would make a great book title. And that sat in the back of my mind for years before I actually began writing the first book. And when I finally did start writing it, I knew that would be the title, and I knew that crows were going to play a big part in the story.

Besides writing, what is one thing you do for fun?

I like to experiment in the kitchen, and I do a fair bit of baking. Many years ago, I even considered writing a cookbook with my own recipes. I also moved to a new place in May, and it has a yard big enough to have gardens, so I've rediscovered a passion for gardening that I used to have when I was a kid. One of the first things I did after moving in was to dig up the back part of the yard and turn it into a big veggie garden, and I'm about to put in a flower garden at the front. I definitely have to rethink my veggie garden plans for next year though--my tomato and cucumber plants have pretty much taken over and turned that part of the yard into an impenetrable jungle.

What is your favorite part about writing fantasy books for a middle-grade audience?

I love middle grade as a genre because these books tackle big ideas in accessible ways. And while they can take some dark or scary turns, there is always a thread of hope that runs through them—a belief that no matter how scary or overwhelming a situation may seem to us, we always have a chance and choice to do something to make it better. And I think that's something everyone needs.

I always love learning more about an author’s writing process. What is one way that your book has changed from the first draft to the final one?

There have been so many changes since the first draft! I'm not a linear writer, so my books get written in random bits and pieces. I always start with an outline, but the stories inevitably take me in new directions I hadn't planned when I start writing them down. So, the end product ends up being a combination of what I had charted out and what spontaneously evolved during the process of fleshing the outline out. Sometimes that completely changes the remaining trajectory of my "vision". The Arcanium Saga was originally going to be a trilogy, and then that expanded after I had created notes for book three and realized the story wasn't actually done yet.

What are some fun quirks your characters have that readers can look forward to learning about in your book?

So, I'm laughing about this question because I recently created a set of printable character cards people can get on my website that feature awesome chibi anime versions of each of the kids in the book, along with info about them that isn't in the books, like their favorite foods and school subjects and their pet peeves. There are also three mystery bonus cards that come with that set. I actually did character sheets early on in my writing process so that I could be sure that I really understood them all and what made them tick. So, yeah. All the characters definitely have their own personality quirks.

And yet, what I really love about my characters is how they keep surprising me with who they are—despite all that early character work. They are each so different, and they each change and grow a lot as the series progresses. In book one, Sasha is the gregarious, outgoing one. Simon is the shy one. Shea is the serious one. Ayslenne is the prickly, determined one. And Ty is the more trepidatious, should-we-really-be-doing-this one. As the series has progressed, Sasha starts to slow down and think a bit more, Simon starts to stand up for himself more, Ayslenne starts making real friends, and Ty is turning out to be the leaps-before-he-looks kind of guy. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how much more they evolve as the series goes on.

Without any spoilers, share your favorite scene that you’ve written.

Oh, I can't tell you that because it would definitely be a spoiler. Let's just say that book four really sets things up for the rest of the series and it is going to change everything for our intrepid Team Arcania kids. There are a couple of scenes in that one that I really had fun with.

What was your hardest scene to write and why?

The first chapter in book two has been the hardest to write so far. The final, published version changed radically from what it originally was. It was the very last chapter to be finalized before the manuscript went to the editor and it took forever, because I just couldn't get it right. And it wasn't even until after the last round of editing that I finally figured how to fix it. We had to do an additional round of last-minute editing at the end, just for that chapter because I changed it so much. But I'm really happy with the changes and I think it gives a much clearer picture of where Ty is, mentally, at the start of the story and what his motivations are for this new quest.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

In terms of themes? At the macro level there's political oppression and outright tyranny, and that's contrasted with Ty's personal experiences with the school bully. There's an environmental theme that is hinted at in the first book, and which becomes more prominent as the series progresses. There are themes of family and friendship and how those bonds can form and be tested and how our life experiences can shape who we become. There's a running theme about courage and determination and how the willingness to take action on something that matters to you is the catalyst that allows you to change your circumstances, and another one about how big things get accomplished when we work together and use everyone's different skills and abilities to achieve a common goal.

So, there are a lot of big themes happening. And this, of course, is usually the case with middle grade books—we put the Big Things that kids are starting to become aware of outside of themselves and their own families into a format that helps kids process and understand these things in a non-threatening way. And we show them that they can have agency in their lives. And that there is always hope, no matter how unfair or how scary life sometimes gets. There is always hope that things can get better and, more importantly perhaps, we all can do something to help make things better, both for ourselves and for our wider communities. And, as writers, we have to weave all these Big Things in without sounding preachy or pedantic—all of that stuff has to be such a natural part of the story that it's not even something people realize is there until they actually stop to think about it.

So, I guess that's the Important Literary Takeaways bit. But at the heart of it all, what I really want is for my readers to be entertained. To be swept away with these kids on their action-packed adventures. To empathize with these kids so much that they can't help feeling what they feel and wanting them to achieve what they set out to do. I want readers to be rooting for these characters so much that they absolutely have to find out what happens next in their magic-filled saga of vanquishing villains and untangling the mystery about why their world is the way it is.

About the Author

N.P. Thompson once had a goal of reading every single book in her elementary school library. She was the kid who never went anywhere without at least one paperback tucked away in her bag and she wrote her first story, a fanfic based on The Black Cauldron, in third grade. She is the author of River of Crows (a 2023 Canadian Book Club Awards finalist), Mirror of Wolves, and the forthcoming Stone of Serpents.

N.P. has degrees in Cognitive Science, Education, and Interactive Media Design, and when she is not creating worlds, or waging losing battles against the voracious pests that insist on eating her garden, she works as a web developer and UX/UI specialist. She lives in Ottawa, Canada with her two awesome kids and a very lazy cat. She enjoys talking to the neighborhood crows (most days) but wishes they would stop nagging her about not having finished their stories yet.

Website: https://NPTwrites.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/nptwrites
Instagram: https://instagram.com/npt_writes
Bluesky: https://bsky.app/profile/nptwrites.bsky.social

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the interview, Dusty! I had tons of fun answering all your questions. :)


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