Sure to be a book club favorite among Young Adult readers, Pascale Lacelle concocts a tasty story of celestial seafaring in Curious Tides. A French-Canadian writer with a fascination for fantasy, astrology, and dark academia, Pascale graciously tells us more about her new book, her "portal" influences, the Save The Cat! writing process, and recent books she's read and loved!
1. For people first hearing about your books, tell us about Curious Tides and The Drowned Gods duology.
Curious Tides is a dark academia fantasy that takes place in a magical college by the sea, rife with secret societies and murder-mystery elements. The core of the story, though, revolves around a children’s book called Song of the Drowned Gods, which follows a scholar who travels through impossible worlds in search of the eponymous drowned gods. The question the duology poses is: How much of that story is real?
2. What inspiration and influences did you draw from to create the story?
I wanted to try my hand at a dark academia novel after reading Ninth House and The Atlas Six, and binge-watching all seasons of "The Magicians" multiple times over. I was specifically drawn to the portal fantasy aspect of "The Magicians," and that’s why I think the first sparks of inspiration for Curious Tides came from reading portal fantasies such as The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Every Heart a Doorway. Then I found The Starless Sea and became obsessed with the concept of books and stories that might be more real than they seem—which is central to the storyline in Curious Tides.
3. What research went into the magic system you created?
The magic system revolves around moon phases and tide levels, so those were the two main topics my research focused on. I wanted something that feels a bit like the zodiac, with different magical “houses” one could belong to depending on the moon phase they were born under.
I had loads of fun coming up with all those magical abilities! Reading up on the symbolism and spiritual meaning of every moon phase helped me make a list of abilities that embody each phase in some way. For example, the waning moon is the last phase of the lunar cycle. That’s why House Waning Moon has magical abilities tied to sleep, death, memory, and secrets.
4. Can you share your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a plotter. Drafting to me often feels like pulling teeth, so having an outline—the more detailed the better—makes my life a whole lot easier. Having that guideline to follow means less time staring blankly at the wall trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B, and more time getting a feel for the story, the characters, the voice, etc.
For Curious Tides, I used the Save the Cat! three-act structure to create my outline, then wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I like fast-drafting that first iteration of a story without sweating the details, because I know this draft is for my eyes only. So I try sticking to my outline as closely as possible just to get it done. Whatever’s not working can be fixed in revisions.
For revising, I use the reverse outline method, reading through that first draft and making notes of what I like and don’t like, what needs to be changed or scrapped entirely. Those notes essentially become my new outline for the next draft—which is usually the one I’ll share with beta readers, or now that I’m writing under contract, my editor.
5. Which character was the easiest to write? Which was the hardest?
The easiest was Baz, one of the two main characters. There’s something about the soft, quiet, awkward, timid characters that always gets me, and it was so satisfying to write him slowly coming out of his shell and shedding his fears. His point of view was actually a late addition; the very first draft of Curious Tides was told exclusively from the point of view of Emory, the other main character. But Baz’s voice came to me begging to be explored, and it ended up being the most natural thing to write.
The hardest character to pin down was Romie. Romie is Baz’s sister and Emory’s best friend and is one of the students who drowns in the mysterious Dovermere sea caves before the events of Curious Tides. I had to do a lot of digging into who she was and what she meant to Baz and Emory. I wanted her absence to be deeply felt not only by the characters who mourn her throughout the book, but by the readers as well. Trying to accomplish that without Romie having any real scenes, though, was harder than anticipated!
(You can read all about Romie in “Uncharted Dreams,” a short story prequel that explores her final moments before she drowns. Available for free on SimonTeen.com!)
6. If you were put into one of the houses, which is the house you would want to belong to, and which is the house you’d actually be in?
I would want to be in House Eclipse, no question about it! I mean, who doesn’t want to have rare (albeit potentially deadly) magic? The lunar house I’d actually be in, though, is either House Full Moon or House Waning Moon. I somehow keep getting varying results depending on where I look up the moon phase that was present on my birthday. (If I could choose, I’d go with House Waning Moon!)
7. What books are you reading right now?
I’m on deadline, which means I’m not reading much at the moment, but some favorites I’ve read lately are Their Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington, Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White, and The Six Deaths of the Saint by Alix E. Harrow. I was also lucky to get my hands on an advance reader copy of So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole, and it’s taking everything in me not to read it while I’m on deadline!
Pascale Lacelle is a French Canadian author from Ottawa, Ontario. A longtime devourer of books, she started writing her own at age thirteen and quickly became enthralled by the magic of words. After earning her bachelor’s degree in French literature, she realized the English language is where her literary heart lies (but don’t tell any of her French professors that). When not lost in stories, she’s most likely daydreaming about food and travel, playing with her dog Roscoe, or trying to curate the perfect playlist for every mood. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @PascaleLacelle