Interview with Heidi Heilig, Author of For A Muse Of Fire

Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and sons. They do not own a cat.

Hi, Heidi. Welcome to YA SH3LF! First of all, tell us 3 random things about you.

I love donuts, I’m 5’4″, and my favorite color is dark pink!

What can you tell us about your new book FOR A MUSE OF FIRE?

It’s the first book of a new series about shadow players, necromancy, war, and mental illness, featuring multi-media scenes like telegrams, sheet music, and play scripts interspersed with chapters written in prose. Also, i turned in the first draft a week before the 2016 election and had to completely rewrite it in the month following!

What can you tell us about the series’ new main character, Jetta?

She’s a bipolar shadow player with the power to see and bind souls to her puppets. Her and her family are trying to use their skills as shadow players to escape their colonized country to the far off land where a healing spring is rumored to have a cure for her illness. Of course, this being a novel, nothing goes as planned, and Jetta is swept up in war, rebellion, her family history, and her own emotions along the way.

Why did you choose to tell this story from Jetta’s point of view?

I wanted to write a bipolar main character, first and foremost, so it seemed like a natural choice. Although, as I wrote, I also ended up with a soft spot for my burlesque girls at Le Perl. Perhaps I’ll end up writing a short story for one of them!

What do you hope readers will take away from For a Muse of Fire?

Well, mostly, I want people to have a great adventure and powerful emotions and a few deep questions that they can ponder later, but I want that from all my work! So on a more specific level, I want people to understand the varied impacts of colonialism and to sympathize with and root for a character who has bipolar disorder in a high fantasy that is not about mental illness.

Before For a Muse of Fire, you wrote other books ( The Girl From Everywhere duology ). What have you learned from your previous work? How have each of your books shaped you as a writer?

This is difficult to answer–I’ve only written three books and so I’m still very much learning about what my process even is! One thing I have learned through the years, though, is that no matter what I think I’m writing, all that changes when a reader gets their hands on the story. They will have an interaction with the book that I can’t always predict or imagine or understand, and that’s one of the beautiful things about getting to be an author.

Of course, our YA fans have a voracious appetite for books. What are some of your must-read recommendations?

I just recently read Julie Dao’s FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS and can’t wait for the next book, KINGDOM OF THE BLAZING PHOENIX!


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