An interview with Breeana Shields
Breeana Shields' debut young adult fantasy, Poison's Kiss, was released from Random House in 2017. The sequel will follow in 2018. When she’s not writing, Breeana loves reading, playing board games and spending time with her husband, three children and an extremely spoiled miniature poodle. Snjezana Bobic caught up with her in April 2017 to discuss her debut novel.
Before Poison’s Kiss was released, did you have any idea that it would generate such a mass following?
I’m so thrilled that Poison’s Kiss has found readers who love it! Hearing that my writing has connected with an audience always makes me so happy!
What makes you want to write? What inspires you?
I’ve wanted to write books since I was very young, so becoming an author is a dream come true. I find I’m often inspired by books that I love. Reading something beautiful makes me anxious to get to the computer and write.
What stories are the strongest in your mind? What do you think makes a good story?
I love stories with unforgettable characters and beautiful prose. If I truly love a character, I’ll follow her anywhere.
How did the idea of Poison’s Kiss arise?
A few years ago, I was listening to a lecture series on espionage and covert operations when the instructor mentioned a legendary figure in Indian folklore—the poison damsel, a woman fed poisons from childhood so that she gradually becomes immune but is toxic to any man she lures as her lover.
It was just one sentence in an eighteen-hour course, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What a terrible choice to make for a child—sentencing her to a life that she’s powerless to leave and isolating her forever from true human connection. I wondered what would happen to a girl who was turned into an assassin, but wasn’t cut out to be a killer. How would that life affect her? How would it break her?
When I was still thinking about it several months later, I knew I had to write the story.
What went through your mind as you wrote the story?
As I wrote, I was just trying to tell the best story I possibly could. I love when the words are flowing and I lose track of time. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s magical when it does.
The characters are so relatable, do you think people/readers will be able to identify with them easily?
I really hope so!
Is there are particular message you are trying to send, or get readers to think about?
I don’t really worry about sending a message to readers, but there are different ideas I’m exploring for myself as I write. In this book, it was what would happen to a girl who was turned into an assassin, but wasn’t cut out for a life as a killer. I also wanted to explore the power of love—especially love between siblings—and how that can be an even stronger force than something as powerful as poison. I know readers will bring their own perspectives and each will bring a different viewpoint to the book. The writer is only one half of a conversation, and I’m always so fascinated to see how different readers can come away with completely different experiences.
The tale is new; something that hasn’t been presented on the YA scene, what do you think sets your work apart from other authors?
Thank you so much! I hope I have a unique voice that sets my work apart. There are so many wonderful, talented writers working in YA right now, and reading their work pushes me to do better.
Your work has been compared to Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard, are these authors someone you look up to?
Yes! They are both amazing authors and I’m incredibly flattered to be compared to either of them.
How would you describe your writing?
It’s so hard to see my own writing objectively! But I’m always striving for prose that disappears and immerses the reader in the world I’ve created.
What advice do you have for struggling writers?
Read, read, read! Reading widely is another form of writing practice---it teaches story structure in a way nothing else can. Also, be confident that the more you write, the better you’ll get, so be persistent if you don’t succeed right away.
When is the second book coming out?
The second book comes out in January of 2018 and I can’t wait to share it with readers!
Breeana was interviewed by Snjezana Bobic.