Author Interview: Rosalyn Briar
"Death makes life beautiful."
Wanna know a secret? Fairy tale retellings are one of my guilty pleasures. Rosalyn Briar's works are the perfect blend of dark fantasy, romance, and a smidge of horror.
Kirkus called her debut novel, The Crown of Bones, a
well-executed adventure that riffs on the darker aspects of European fairy tales.
I've had the pleasure of reading The Crown of Bones and A Sea of Pearls and Leaves, and thoroughly enjoyed both. You can find full reviews of each here.
From a content warning standpoint, please note that A Sea of Pearls and Leaves contains violence, sexual situations, and adult language. That said, it is a fantastic novel. Here's the full blurb:
Princess Ingrid of Norella Isle does not want to get married. So, her priestess girlfriend, Lilura, devises a wicked plot to deter suitors with a nearly impossible marriage contract: should Ingrid die first, her husband must be buried at sea beside her.
The plan backfires when all seven suitors agree, and the king announces a competition for Ingrid’s hand. Ingrid must keep her head above water as she deals with the suitors, a jealous girlfriend, and the news of two murdered priestesses.
As the suitors are eliminated, one man stands out: the quirky and anxious Prince Soren who charms both Ingrid and Lilura.
When Lilura goes missing, Ingrid and Soren must piece together who has murdered the priestesses and why before it’s too late.
I'm grateful to Rosalyn for the opportunity to chat with her about some of her inspirations, what she's reading, and what's next for this outstanding author.
LQ: A Sea of Pearls and Leaves is an interpretation of the Grimm Brothers’ The Three Snake-Leaves. What drew you to the original source material?
RB: I have always enjoyed the Grimm’s fairy tales, especially some of the lesser-known stories. The Three Snake-Leaves has an eccentric princess and a unique premise that drew me in. It definitely has a dark premise and I love that about the Grimm’s fairy tales.
LQ: What research methods have been most fruitful to you?
RB: For me, reading the fairy tales and studying their origins has been very inspiring and helpful. I also enjoy reading other fairy tale retellings to see how other authors spin tales in fresh ways.
LQ: Can you share something with us about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
RB: There are some spooky scenes in the story that aren’t mentioned in the blurb. Ingrid, the main character, tries to avoid mirrors and water because she is haunted by a mermaid doppelganger. It is a creepy, undead mermaid who looks like Ingrid and keeps popping up at random. I especially loved writing those scenes.
LQ: I really loved your lush descriptions of Norella Isle and its surrounding seas. How did you go about developing the setting?
RB: Thank you! A big reason I wanted the setting to be on an island was from one small piece of world building I began with: boat graves. I just had it in my mind that I wanted this culture to use boat graves, so I went about developing the setting from there.
I based Norella Isle on two of my favorite places in the world: Sanibel Island in Florida and Paphos in Cyprus. Of course, Norella Isle is much colder than these locations, but I had fun drawing inspiration from them. Ingrid loves collecting seashells just like I love to do in Sanibel. She also enjoys the pebble beach which was inspired by the “birthplace of Aphrodite” in Paphos.
LQ: What part of the book was the most fun to write? The most difficult?
RB: For the most fun, I’d say it was a tie between the spooky scenes involving Ingrid’s doppelganger and scenes involving Lilura’s magic. The most difficult scenes to write were probably the suitor competitions only because there were so many moving parts and characters to keep track of. Also, Soren’s anxiety wasn’t necessarily difficult for me to write since it comes from my own experiences, but I was nervous about how he would be received by readers.
LQ: ASoPaL is told in first-person, multiple POV. In what ways do you prepare to get inside your characters’ heads?
RB: Some people might think it is silly, but I love answering questionnaires or filling out personality charts about my characters. It really helps me get to know them deep down if I know all the minor things about them. I find it very important to know what each character wants and to know their backgrounds before I write the story.
LQ: What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with this work?
RB: I believe I challenged the love triangle trope and what it means to be a strong character, whether male or female. Ingrid and Lilura are both extremely feminine (for example, they love makeup and clothes) but they are also fierce and brilliant. Soren suffers from anxiety and is the opposite of a typical hero in many ways, but he still can help save the day and get the girl(s).
LQ: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?
RB: I am working on a novel called The Mermaid & the Pearl which is set in the same world as A Sea of Pearls & Leaves. If readers enjoyed ASoPaL, then they will certain enjoy the epilogue of this book *wink wink* especially if they want to know what Ingrid, Lilura, and Soren have been up to! The Mermaid & the Pearl is a sapphic retelling of the Little Mermaid with an undersea circus setting! It will be out in October of 2022 in the Realm of Darkness Anthology.
LQ: What are some must-read titles in your genre?
RB: A few dark fantasy fairy tale retellings I’ve enjoyed are Uprooted and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, and House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig.
LQ: What book (or books) are you currently reading?
RB: I’m finishing up Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust and plan to begin The Whisperings in the Shadows by Bekah Berge next.
I'm so excited about The Mermaid and the Pearl! As a huge fan of the original story, I can't wait to see what twists and turns Briar has in store. Realm of Darkness is available for pre-order now for only .99. Order your copy here and let's buddy-read!
Stay up to date with Rosalyn by subscribing to her newsletter or following her on Instagram.