Author Interview: Tricia Levenseller, Author of “Warrior of the Wild”

April 15, 2019

Warrior of the Wild, a thrilling tale that finds its female hero slaying monsters in the darkest parts of the forest as she fights to earn back her place in her village, was released at the end of February from Fierce Reads. MuggleNet had the opportunity to read the book and even give a few copies away to five lucky readers, but we also were so excited to be able to ask author Tricia Levenseller all of our burning questions about her book, her writing process, and even about fan reactions to important relationships in the book. Keep reading to get all the details from the author herself (but don’t worry, we made sure to keep all the spoilery things a secret for those of you who haven’t read the book yet)!

What was your inspiration for Warrior of the Wild? Were you influenced by your Pacific Northwest roots?

After finishing my Daughter of the Pirate King duology, I knew one thing for certain: I did not want to write any more sword fights. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love a good tale of swashbuckling adventure, but I had written so many sword fight scenes that the idea of doing just one more in that moment felt like torture. I knew I needed to pitch a new idea to my editor, and I struggled for a moment to think of how my next idea could be different.

That’s when Gimli from The Lord of the Rings popped into my head, holding his giant battle ax. And just like that, I knew how this next book would be different: battle axes. Honestly, the entire book stemmed from there! In order to make battle axes a believable weapon of choice, I needed a reason for a society to use them. These weapons are, after all, very impractical. They’re heavy, difficult to swing, and difficult to aim. In order to make them work, I decided to create a world in which everything is hardened. The monsters in the wild have thick exoskeletons that can only be pierced with the heavy swing of a battle ax. Even the vegetation is hardened. The trees have extra-thick bark. The fruits and vegetables have tough husks and skins. Everything needs a battle ax to break through it. From there, I needed a plot worthy of this hardened world. So I thought, “Why not put my character up against a god?”

As for my Pacific Northwest upbringing, I’m quite fond of forests, having grown up around them. And after seeing Quest for Camelot as a child, I’ve been fascinated with magical forests. That setting seemed perfect for this kind of book.

How did you come up with the names of your monsters and some of the rituals or ceremonies in the book? For example, “mattugr” – that is a word we have never come across before, even in Norse mythology. Did you consult with linguists to assist you?

A lot of them are actually from ancient Norse! I did not consult linguists but rather used my dear friend Mr. Google. “Mattugr” is the Norse word for “might.” I liked the sound of the word and the way it rolled off my tongue. And the idea of might, of strength and proving your mettle, just seemed to fit the concept of the mattugr in the book! The idea of the mattugr itself is entirely made up, born of my brain.

Some of the monster names are made up, but a few of them aren’t. “Hyggja,” for example, has many meanings, but the one I intended for the book is “anxiety.” Anxiety is something I’ve struggled with my whole life, and I thought it would be fun to have my characters literally attempt to kill it in the novel.

Similarly, “otti” is the word for “fear.” Given what poor Iric and Soren have to go through, it only seemed right to have them face their fears, both linguistically and literally. (My background is in linguistics and English language, so I’ve always been fascinated with words!)

World-building can be scary – what advice would you give to authors looking to build unique worlds for their stories? What is your process, and how do you work through problems that arise?

World-building can be tricky when you look at it as a whole. I recommend tackling it one bit at a time so the task doesn’t seem so daunting. I explained earlier how I came up with the wild and some of the vegetation in it, but when it came to the monsters themselves, I tried to think of the best way to make them feel scary. So I used my own fears in creating them. For example, I’m terrified of dark, enclosed spaces. The gunda is a beast in the novel that captures its prey, completely enfolds it within its mouth, and then slowly absorbs it through its skin. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than dying this way. Thus, the monster was born. I’m also scared of open, murky water. That’s how I came up with the hyggja.

The best advice I can give for world-building is to examine each individual element of it (religion, economy, culture, setting, etc.) and do things one step at a time. Think of different elements you like. I enjoy dark, magical forests, girls disrupting patriarchal societies, and corrupt deities. I put these elements together to create my own world. It’s a matter of examining different elements you enjoy to read, to explore, and putting them together in new ways. When problems arise, I go back to the beginning and try to rework the individual elements to find a better way to bring them all together.

There are many different settings in the wild that Rasmira and her friends must use to survive or overcome. Without giving too much away for our readers who have yet to enjoy this book, how much research did you have to do to understand the world that Rasmira inhabits, including all the trades of the many people that live in the surrounding villages?

For the final battle scene, you can imagine just how much research I had to do to make something like that work (I won’t say more for the sake of spoilers). For other scenes, like the underwater scene, I actually had to look up quite a bit as well. I learned that there is a point in the water where your body will naturally sink instead of float because the weight of the water is forcing you down, and men reach that point faster than women, due to the composition of their bodies. That was very helpful to note while writing the scene!

I didn’t have to look too much into the economy because it doesn’t play a huge part in the narrative. I just tried to think of what a society like this would rely on and how it would work. In a hardened world, it made sense that they would mine for precious stones and gems! And due to the dangers of the wild, there is little to no interaction between the individual villages, save when they come together to pay tribute to the god once a year.

What has been the best/worst reaction to the Torrin/Rasmira relationship?

I’ve heard a couple people say they threw the book! I’ve heard I shattered a few hearts (which makes my author heart so happy). It seems like most people didn’t see it coming, which was my goal, but I think even if you do see it coming, you can enjoy how the rest plays out!

This isn’t your first book, but we are very interested in learning about your experience getting published for the first time. What was it like for you – can you share your journey for those readers who may be aspiring authors and offer them any advice?

Sure! Daughter of the Pirate King is my first published book, but it was the fourth book I’d ever written. By the time it went on submission, I’d already been rejected by every publishing house in New York twice (through my previous novels) and gone through two agents. Pirate King was by no means a big book that had received a lot of hype. It didn’t go to auction or anything. In fact, it, too, had been rejected by every major publishing house save one, which eventually decided to offer! So my biggest advice for those wanting to publish is to never give up, no matter how many rejections you receive, because you never know which one will be your last!

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Thanks so much to Tricia for taking the time out of her busy book-touring schedule to answer our questions!

Now that you’ve heard from Tricia and learned more about Rasmira’s world, we know you want to get your hands on a copy of Warrior of the Wild. Enter our giveaway here, which is open through 11:59 p.m. on April 24. You can also purchase a copy of Warrior of the Wild here!

Tricia will also be at a few events during April and May, so check out the current schedule below or via her website to see if she’ll be at an event near you!

April 19–20
FanX
Salt Lake City, UT
Details TBA

April 27
Spring Authorpalooza
Orem Barnes and Noble
2:00–4:00 p.m.

May 10–11
Storymakers Conference
Provo, UT
Teaching a class on how to make your characters more proactive!

May 31–June 2
Denver Pop Culture Con
Details TBA