Welcome back to the blog! I’m here with another installment of From the Drafts to Published! If you’re new here or aren’t familiar with the series, I invite Debut authors onto the blog to chat with me about their upcoming book, writing process, and so much more! I invited Tessa Barbosa to join to me on the blog to talk a little about her upcoming book, The Moonlight Blade and her writing process behind it!
Without Further Ado, Let’s Get Started!
I promised my mother I would never come to Bato-Ko…and yet here I am.
Narra Jal is one of the cursed, cast aside her whole life, considered unlucky. But with her mother’s life on the line, she will return to the city where she was born to face the trials: a grueling, bloodthirsty series of challenges designed to weed out the weak, the greedy, and the foolish. Trials to select the next ruler of Tigang.
Narra has nothing. No weapons. No training. No magic. No real chance of leaving with her life. Just her fierce grit and a refusal to accept the destiny she’s been handed. Even the intense, dark-eyed Guardian she feels a strangely electric connection with cannot help her. Narra is on her own. But she’ll show everyone what the unlucky can do.
Release Date: March 21st, 2023
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Buy Links: Barnes & Noble // Amazon US // Kobo US // Target //Apple iBooks // Indiebound // Bookshop // Book Depository
Welcome, Tessa! I appreciate you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today on Inking & Thinking! To begin, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your debut novel, The Moonlight Blade?
Thanks so much for inviting me, Maddie!
Hi everyone, I’m Tessa Barbosa, author of The Moonlight Blade. The book is a YA fantasy romance which will be out March 21, 2023.
I’m a writer twice over. I write software help for my day job, and squeeze fantasy novels into every free moment I manage to find. I started working on The Moonlight Blade in 2016, but honestly, while I was decent at drafting at the time, I really didn’t understand how to edit. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but I’ve learned so much along the way. The book finally coming out is truly a dream come true.
The Moonlight Blade takes place in Bato-Ko, a world filled with magic and the place Narra’s mother told her never to go. To save her mother, Narra enters the Sundo, a bloodthirsty competition filled with violence, lies, and deceit that may lead to the very end of Narra. With worldbuilding being such an essential part of fantasies, How did you go about crafting the world featured in The Moonlight Blade?
I tend to work backwards when it comes to worldbuilding. The characters and plot come first, and I leave a lot of notes in my early drafts to indicate things I need to research before I start on a second draft. I did historical research on pre-colonial life in the Philippines, but I mixed in contemporary items (especially food) into the world as well. There are furniture items and clothing pieces in the book that my mom or I actually own. I think our culture has so many things worth exploring and celebrating.
One of the core elements of The Moonlight Blade has to do with Narra exploring her past lives and the strange connection she has with an intense, dark-eyed guardian named Teloh. How did you use Narra’s past lives to develop her relationship with Teloh?
At first she’s just confused by the memories that show up at inconvenient times. She doesn’t understand what they mean, so she’s suspicious of Teloh and unsure what he wants from her.
There are really two story threads going through the book at the same time. In the present, Narra is trying to figure out who Teloh is. And their past lives together are revealed backwards, from the end to the beginning.
A core theme of The Moonlight Blade has to do with change as Narra starts off feeling cursed and casted aside to finally find her own footing as she learns the truth about herself. What was the most difficult aspect to explore as part of this theme: her past lives, a mysterious and blossoming romance, or her relationship with her sister and mother?
The romance was probably the easiest part, because I LOVE romance. Writing those scenes are like candy to me so I’d rush through the draft to get to the next one.
The most difficult part was unpicking her family relationships, because they are complicated. She loves her family, but to keep her safe they’ve lied to her her whole life. While she loves her mother, she’s angry at her too. And her sister is her best friend, but she doesn’t understand Narra’s inner turmoil or worry about her curse. So Narra has conflicting emotions, but I still wanted to convey that she still loves both deeply.
One of my favorite elements in The Moonlight Blade was the implementation of familial relationships, which aren’t often featured in young adult fantasies. What was your process for creating Narra’s familial relationships?
In Filipino culture, family is one of the most important things in your world, and I wanted to reflect that in the story. I looked at the relationships in my gigantic extended family, my immediate family, and what my friends went through growing up. While nothing in the book is directly from my life, the characters and relationships still feel familiar to me.
Since this is your debut novel, What piece of advice would you give to writers out there working through their own stories they hope to share?
This is a hard business whether you self-publish, or sell to a publisher, but other writers are not your competition: they’re your colleagues. Do you ever look at the acknowledgements at the back of the book, and wonder why authors seem to know each other? It’s because they come up together.
If you find people at the same stage in your journey as you are, and with the same professional goals, you’ll be able to share the lessons you’ve learned with each other, and have people to vent to when you need to. The longer you stay in the business, you’re guaranteed to see some of them start to succeed (which is one of my favorite things). Friends who understand the writing business can make all the failures and rejections a lot easier to handle.
Writing has brought a lot of good people and real friends into my life, and I’m so grateful for that.
With The Moonlight Blade releasing on March 21st 2023, what do you hope that readers will take away from your incredibly heartfelt and well-written debut novel?
If anyone comes out of reading the book feeling a little more seen, and a little less alone, or like Narra, that they deserve love no matter what the world says, then I’ve done my job.
The Moonlight Blade is a fast action packed fantasy filled with well developed worldbuilding, complex characters, and past lives as Narra works to save her mother while unraveling the truth about herself. What future works should readers look forward to? As they wait for your next book, what should they read after The Moonlight Blade?
I can’t tell you right now, but I do have several things in the works. Cross your fingers that there will be more books in the Moonlight Blade world, because I’d really love to write them for you!
Tessa Barbosa loved books so much that after spending one to many late nights up reading, and eating distractedly at the table, her parents banned her from reading. It didn’t work. Tessa stuffed books under her mattress, hid them in her sweaters, and many poor paperbacks met their ruin in a hot bath.
But writing novels didn’t happen for a long time. She majored in computer science, and minored in the fine and performing arts. After graduation, she switched from a career in software development to technical writing, because words were always her first love. Now she writes software help by day, and fantasy novels by night. Her debut YA Fantasy novel THE MOONLIGHT BLADE will be out in 2023 from Entangled Teen. What better way to live in stories than to write them?
Her short fiction (as T.S. Bazelli) has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, as well as multiple anthologies.
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