Author Spotlight #4

The Author: Andrea Fink

Andrea Fink was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She lives just north of Seattle, Washington with her husband and daughter. Throughout her years of teaching elementary school, she has encouraged her students to follow their dreams. Now, she is tackling her own, finally writing the series she has been sitting on for a decade. 

The Book: Mask (Four Regions Book One)

Emily thought magic only existed in the books she read as a child. When a handsome stranger enlists her help to uncover who tried to kill the princess of another world, she learns those books were more than just stories. She discovers the Four Regions – a realm where magical creatures fled to escape human persecution. It is there Emily finds the power, passion, and friendships she had always secretly craved.
The determined demon who guides her.
The irresistible vampire who entices her.
The excitable demoness who supports her.
The quiet elf who understands her.
Now Emily must unmask a murderer while wearing a mask herself, resisting a growing temptation that could ruin her newfound family.

The Review: 4/5 stars!

I was so intrigued and fascinated by the premise of Mask.

Andrea Fink has left nothing out while world-building for this book, which helps create a world rich with detail and history – it was so well thought out and interesting.

The writing style was easy to follow, building the further in you read. The story itself sucks you in, so much so that I read this book in one sitting.

It contains my favorite themes, tropes, and creatures – royalty, secrets and intrigue, drama, monsters and magic, love triangles. But they are done in a fresh way, going in directions that were definitely not predictable or ordinary.

I’m usually pretty good at picking plot twists before they hit – but in Mask, there were a few that hit me in the face, leaving me racing through the pages to discover just how wrong I had been.

I’m excited to read the rest of the series – which, I honestly hope, isn’t too far away. The ending of Mask is one of the biggest twists/cliffhangers that I have read in a long time!

The Interview:

 What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

I was shocked with how a good writing session warps your reality of time. I would be getting started at 9pm and one idea later it would be past midnight. That has only ever happened with good video game sessions. I did not think I would enjoy writing so much I would get that lost in it.

 Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

It has nothing to do with personal protective equipment and nothing to do with the current pandemic. Just want to set that straight right now. Terrible coincidence, but I came up with the title in December 2019 and it fit so well that I refused to change it.

 Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

I really like Daughter of Brawn. Quick to trust others, always up for something new, and a talker with no filter. She is a bit like me back in high school before the “real world” hit.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I had playful imaginings of a girl who had never seen green before, who had a wild assortment of magical powers, and whose sister was out to kill her. I kept thinking how they would have gotten there. What world would need to exist in order to have these characters in this place? So I back-wrote. I came up with three generations of this family and how their powers all converged into this girl. Why one sister hated the other, and why she would have to die. How the world’s structure worked and where it came from. And the start of that family’s story is now Mask. It has morphed and changed as time went on, even changing the plot of the original story which is now slated as the third book, but it will still be about those two sisters.

 What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

The struggle of choosing between obligations to family and one’s own destiny, which will carry throughout the series.

 What is the significance of the title?

On the surface level, Emily has to pretend to be someone else, masking her fear, inexperience, and true identity. When you get to the end there will be an even bigger, “Oh, I get it.” Think that Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the TV meme.

 What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

There is a sequel in the works! It takes place 50 years later and follows a character that did not exist in the first, but some characters from book one come back into play in big ways.

 What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book? What was the highlight of writing this book?

The key challenge was just freaking writing it, even if I felt like it sucked. I had never written a book before. My last English class was in high school since I was a science major in college. I had no idea if I was even on the right track and had no feedback to tell me if I was doing it wrong. For all I knew, this was the worst book ever written, but I had to keep pushing myself to finish so I could get someone else’s opinion.

The highlight was starting to get that feedback. One person liked it. Another person liked it. A third thought it was OK (but didn’t say her eyes were bleeding from terrible writing, so that was a win). I could write a story that someone liked. I could pass as an author.

 Where do you draw your inspiration from?

For the world of the Four Regions, I draw from my local landscape. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so we have water, mountains, summers of long days, and winters of darkness. I get to pull from all of those, then add whatever inspiration I can find from travels.

For the storylines, I am a huge “what if”er, so I play out a million scenarios in my head daily, some of which morph into daydreams about characters.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

Nonfiction, I love Malcolm Gladwell. He has a special place in my heart because Blink was the last audiobook I listened to with my dad before he died. I also love pop psychology.

Fiction, I am going to have a huge asterisk with this one, is JK Rowling. Not as a person. As an author. She created a huge, wonderful world that was so ingrained in my generation’s culture that you can ask anyone my age what Hogwarts house they are in and half will have a solid answer and the other half will at least know what you’re talking about.

 What are you reading now?

At the moment I am reading my cousin Ellyn Oaksmith’s book, Summer at Orchard House. I need some feel-good chick lit every so often. I am also listening to The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris off and on. I have checked it out twice from the library now and am not even half-way, but there are always holds on it, so I really should just buy it at this point…

 What is your favorite book/story you have read as an adult, and what was your favorite book when you were a kid?

As an adult: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield – Square astronaut, round hole.

As a high schooler: On the Beach by Nevil Shute – I bawl my eyes out every time.

As a kid: Avalon: Web of Magic Series by Rachel Roberts – Girls discovering a world of magic is kind of my jam.

 What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Zone out. I have so much going on that any free time is dedicated to mindless phone games and binge-watching streaming services.

 What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Write what you want to read. You are your first critic (and usually your harshest), so you will have to impress yourself before you can impress anyone else.

 How do you handle writer’s block?

I leave what I’m working on and write something else. At least one iron is always hot, so strike that one while your current one is cool. I like to go into future scenes that I have a better idea of, or if I am out of those I will brainstorm scenes in other projects (sequels, short stories, my other series idea).

 What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Key number one is a story you can’t stop thinking about. You could have the most well-thought-out characters, perfect grammar, and show not tell until your eyeballs fall out, but if there isn’t a good story behind it, one that you as a writer love and are excited to write, then the reader won’t buy in.

 What comes first, the plot or characters? How do you develop your plot and characters?

Plot first. I outline the story almost completely, then move on to develop the characters. Once I develop my characters, the plot will change based on their personality and decisions. 

 Describe a typical writing day.

On work days, it is hunching over my computer on the couch after putting our daughter to bed and watching an episode or two of something on Hulu or Netflix.

On non-work days, I get to write during nap time, too, so that’s cool.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Finding the time.

 Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

The ones who do get in touch are asking about progress on the sequel or wondering if they can get some more insight into the Four Regions – specific questions and “what about”s for their favorite magical creatures and scenarios.

 How do you do research for your books?

I love historical books, so creating the world I did allows me to pull from a lot of the nonfiction I read. Also, when actively writing, Google. So much Google. I have to clear my search history quite frequently so the strange things I google don’t pop up as suggested autocomplete.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining scene, how do you get in the mood? How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

I act the big scenes out. I will sit alone in the living room and say all of the dialogue out loud. I throw everything I can into it so I can hear and feel it myself and try to put that into my writing. When I finish those big scenes, I am usually either emotionally dead and just go straight to bed (I only write these scenes at night), or I am incredibly inspired and just keep writing off that high.

 How do you handle literary criticism?

I tear up. I know it is dumb. I know people are mostly supportive and want to tell me ways to improve. But my entire life if I’m told I did not do something right I get emotional. It is just reactionary. I do appreciate feedback, but I always need a moment to get over that knot in the throat.

How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

I thought it was a lot, but the world kept building itself as I wrote, so apparently about half.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book, and are you on social media?

You can find out more about Mask on its Amazon and Goodreads pages. One day I hope to have a website, but it is not in the budget just yet.

I am very active on Instagram as and make sure to post major updates on Facebook under Andrea Fink, Author.

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