In January, I had the privilege of interviewing author Leslie Vedder for YA Fantasy Magazine about her debut novel, The Bone Spindle.
Below is the full transcript from that conversation. For more author interviews, checkout the latest edition of our magazine.
Leslie Vedder Interview
Hi Leslie! Thank you for taking the time to answering a few questions so that our readers can get to know you better.
T.L.: First, let me say congrats on the release of your first novel, The Bone Spindle. That’s a huge accomplishment and we want to celebrate that with you. Can you tell us a little bit more about the book?
Leslie: The Bone Spindle is a genderflipped Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones starring two girl treasure hunters: Fi, a no-nonsense, bookish historian destined to wake the sleeping prince; and Shane, a queer ax-wielding huntswoman with a hot temper and a weakness for pretty girls—especially witches!
There’s traps, ruins, riddles, dark curses, bad exes, spiders, and a whole lot of snark!
T.L.: Awesome. Thank you, I look forward to reading it. I always love a good retelling. It’s familiar yet with a unique spin. What drew you to write a retelling as opposed to something completely new?
Leslie: I’ve always loved fairytales, but to me, there’s nothing more magical than a retelling! As a writer, it gives you a chance to play with all of these familiar elements that have so much emotion and power packed into them—the glass slipper, the magic mirror, the tragic figure sleeping for a hundred years—and do something totally new with them. Once I got the idea of genderflipping the Sleeping Beauty story and centering the book on these two fierce girl treasure hunters, I was hooked!
T.L.: What would you say was the hardest part about writing your book? Was it the characters? The worldbuilding? Stringing the plot together? The actual writing itself?
Leslie: I think the hardest part of this book for me was balancing the world building and the plot. Since it’s a fantasy book, I was creating entire kingdoms and a system of magic that needed to work together, and I really wanted to make sure I did enough world building to create rich scenes and history—especially for the treasure hunting. But I also wanted to make sure I didn’t end up with pages and pages of exposition and no action.
In the end, there was a lot of information I ended up adding or moving around—or in some cases, taking out altogether—to make sure I had a good balance.
T.L.: On the other side of the same question, what part of writing came the most naturally to you? Or what was the most enjoyable?
Leslie: I’ve always loved characters! When I read, it’s the characters of a book that I most fall in love with. So, right from the start, I had this really strong vision for these two girl treasure hunters who would be total opposites and have this reluctant partnership where they knocked heads and bantered and just had so much fun.
T.L.: While we’re talking about characters, I always find it fascinating to learn how authors craft their characters. What was your inspiration or do you have any fun stories on how you came up with their names or personalities?
Leslie: For me, I feel like I really have to find a character’s voice before I can write them. I went on so many walks around the local park with my wife, just speaking aloud lines of dialogue and trying to get into these characters’ heads before I ever started writing. I would know I was finally on the right track when I could make us both laugh.
For Fi and Shane, I also took a lot of inspiration from some of my favorite characters. Fi is definitely an Indiana Jones type, but with a really strong bookish-brainy bent, like Belle or the incredible Raven Reyes (if you’re a The 100 fan!). And there’s definitely some Xena: Warrior Princess vibes to Shane, with her carefree spirit and warrior swagger!
T.L.: Let’s backup a little bit now and let’s talk about you. Tell us about yourself. When did you know when you wanted to write a book? How long did it take to finish? What’s your story?
Leslie: It’s a little cliché, but I really am one of those kids who always wanted to be an author. I wrote original stories and fanfiction and just devoured fantasy books! I cringe (fondly) when I think of some of my oldest writing now, but I think I really learned something from each and every project, even the ones that didn’t make it.
Like so many authors, I have many books that didn’t go the distance before this one. But with The Bone Spindle, right from the start I really fell in love with these characters and this world.
As far as the actual writing process went, I do a lot of brainstorming before I write, finding character voices, outlining, and world-building. Once I get started, I like to write a first draft as fast as possible—it doesn’t matter how messy or incomplete. Once I have something on the page, I can edit for as long as it takes.
T.L.: Our readers always love to know, who is your favorite author? And if you can narrow it down, I’m sure our members would love to know your favorite book as well.
Leslie: I’ve been inspired by so many amazing books and authors over the course of my life! When I was very young, I read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series, and it’s not an exaggeration to say those are the books that made me a lifelong reader. They also set the bar for me for fierce heroines!
I’ll also never forget discovering Ash by Malinda Lo and falling in love with this gorgeous Sapphic Cinderella retelling.
Margaret Rogerson is one of my absolute all-time favorite authors! Sorcery of Thorns is so fun and lighthearted, with a love story that just whisks you away!
T.L.: So, what’s next on the horizon? Is The Bone Spindle part of a series? Is it a standalone? And what do you plan to write next?
Leslie: The Bone Spindle is the first book in a trilogy, so I’ve been working on the second book—more fairytales, more love stories, more traps, and way more stakes!
T.L.: If our members wanted to keep in touch with you and stay up to date on your latest news, where can they follow you?
Leslie: My website is leslievedder.com. You can also find me on Twitter: @leslievedder and on IG @leslie.vedder, where I post lots of pictures of my lazy house cats!
T.L.: Thank you, Leslie, once again for taking the time to answer our questions.
To our readers: The Bone Spindle released Tuesday, January 11th. Order your copy today from wherever you buy your books. You won’t want to miss it.
Looking for more author interviews?
Check out this interview with Meg Long, author of Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves.