Emergent Realms is a brand new, baby publisher. But just because we’re the new kid with the awkward smile, doesn’t mean we can’t kick off our launch with a book that will suck you into a deep and rich story world.
And that’s where A H Serrano comes in. Her forthcoming debut, VILE & BLESSED, is a dark fantasy full of mystery and magic. Personally, I’d describe it as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Hereditary. But here’s the official synopsis:
A Cursed Existence. An Insidious Spirit. A Hidden Land.
There has never been an Anmerilian born without ability.
Never, until River Kennry.
River has no place in a world where worth is measured by the power of one’s ability. He is an anomaly and an outcast, afflicted by an ailment no one can see or explain. Caught in the unrelenting hold of his government, he falls further into the pit of hopelessness as he wrestles with the mysteries of his past.
After a fated meeting with a cryptic stranger, River realizes the only way to uncover his past is to return to the Institute—the very place that scarred and violated him. And if he goes back, it could mean forfeiting his life.
But could everyone be wrong about him? Though he remains untouched by power, there is something inside him. Something alive and entangled with secrets that could upset the balance of everything his generation has ever known to be true.
I don’t know about you, but I’m 100% down for this kind of story.
Even though A H Serrano is busy prepping for her release, I pulled her away from all that for a few minutes so I could pick her brain about how the story was developed and what the writing process was like.
Do you remember when you first had the idea for VILE & BLESSED? Did the story come to you fully formed, or did it come to you in pieces or developed in multiple iterations?
The story came to me when I was fifteen, a sophomore in high school, and it started with just two things—a boy and a name. Back then, the story was a semi-modern hot mess, but there are certain elements that have remained the same through every iteration. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewritten and changed things, but it’s been so many that I can’t even trust myself to remember current details anymore.
The worldbuilding of the Eszailha universe goes deep. But what I love about the novel is that it’s accessible to novice fantasy readers while realized enough to capture the imaginations of seasoned readers as well. Was it difficult to manage this balance? Can we expect to learn even more of your world’s secrets in the sequels to come?
Bold of you to assume I did any of that on purpose! Really, building Eszailha has been one of the hardest aspects of writing this story. Most of it has come together with much help from my friends, especially one in particular (I’m looking at you, Mel). But yes, you can expect to learn so much more about Eszailha’s secrets if you stick around for the long haul. I’ll get your passport ready for you.
Your protagonist, River, isn’t exactly the conventional lead that you see in a lot of fantasy. What compelled you to tell his story?
I couldn’t tell you why I had to tell this story. I just knew that I did. I’ve written so many things since my first draft of River’s story, but I have always gone back to him. As for him not being a conventional lead, I just wanted to go against the status quo, to write against what irks me when I read. River isn’t particularly brave or heroic or decisive. He has real flaws that I think are often missing in fictional characters.
What was your biggest challenge during the writing process for this novel?
This question is a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. I guess my biggest challenge was finding a balance in how much information I could give about characters and situations without overwhelming the story.
Word on the street is that your firstborn is due soon! When can we expect the newest Emergent Realms team member to arrive?
The rumors are true! I’ll be delivering both my babies to the world in late October—book baby and little man. This is the best picture we got at my last ultrasound.
If that says anything about his personality, we’re in for a fun ride!
And there you have it!