October 2, 2017

The Inspiration Behind Forest of a Thousand Lanterns | Blog Tour

I'm absolutely thrilled to have the honor of kicking off the blog tour for Julie C. Dao's upcoming release Forest of A Thousand Lanterns! I had the chance to read this one early, and I absolutely loved it. Immersive setting? Check. Complicated character? Check. Compelling story? Check. I was so happy that it lived up to my own expectations of it (check out my review for my full thoughts!), and certainly cannot wait for its publication date so that everyone else can read it too! Anyway, I'm honored to welcome Julie to the blog today to share her inspiration for the novel.

I’ve had the idea for Forest of A Thousand Lanterns for a long time! Technically the seed of the story was planted when I was 13, playing a game I’d downloaded onto my old computer. It was just plain Solitaire, but the graphics were wonderfully moody and atmospheric, with creepy classical music and images of shadowed thrones and moonlit forests in the background. The artwork on the cards showed these grim, beautiful queens whose oddly bitter expressions made me think: “There’s a story here.” Maybe they looked like that because they were enemies battling over the ultimate crown!

I waited years and years to write Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, scribbling only a few pages here and there, because I never felt ready. It has always been a dark story, with undertones of the adult fantasies I read when I was probably too young to fully understand everything (hello, MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley!).

To add to this, I’ve always been a huge fairy tale fan. Many of my original stories are built upon a foundation of classic fairy tales and mythology. I like taking a story everyone knows and flipping it on its head, weaving in my own new ideas with the more familiar elements. Snow White was actually my least favorite princess as a kid because she seemed so helpless! But I was drawn to her stepmother, the Evil Queen, because she made active decisions and went after what she wanted, even if it was super morally shady.

When I got older and felt more capable of handling this book, I decided it would be a version of Snow White in which the princess has grit and substance and fights to reclaim the throne her stepmother seized. I knew I wanted to include the Evil Queen’s perspective, too, because I’ve always found her to be fierce, driven, and compelling. And her story became Book 1 of the Rise of the Empress series!

Another source of inspiration for Forest of A Thousand Lanterns was music by the Silk Road Ensemble, a talented and diverse group of musicians led by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The group features instruments from countries along the historic Silk Road, a vast trade route stretching from Europe to Asia, which inspired the different kingdoms in my fictional world of Feng Lu. For the central kingdom of Book 1, I chose an Imperial Chinese-inspired land as a tribute to the lavish costume dramas my mom loved to watch when I was growing up! The book was written for her, so I wanted to choose a setting I knew she’d love. Also, I loved the idea of having the intrigue and power struggles of the Imperial Court serve as the backdrop for Forest of A Thousand Lanterns.

Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is a combination of all of the stories that have shaped me as a writer and a person, and I truly hope it will be a worthy addition to your bookshelves if you are also a fairy tale lover!

I got the chance to hear Julie talk a bit about her inspiration in person during a breakfast I attended during BEA/BookCon week this year. Once I heard the glimmers of her inspiration story, I knew I had to ask her to share it with my readers - and I hope it inspired you to want to pick up Forest of a Thousand Lanterns! Before we move on to the giveaway, here's a little bit about the book and about Julie too.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.

Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute. 

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanternspossesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance. Fans of Heartless, Stealing Snow, and Red Queen will devour this stunning debut.

Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

And now, for the moment you've probably been waiting for the longest - the giveaway! Enter for a chance to be one (1) of three (3) winners to receive a hardcover copy of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao. (ARV: $18.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on October 2, 2017 and 12:00 AM on October 27, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about October 30, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

October 2 – Alexa Loves Books – Author Guest Post | Inspiration Behind FOATL
October 3 – No BS Book Reviews – Review
October 4 – The Young Folks – 10 Reasons to Read FOATL
October 5 – Chasing Faerytales – Author Guest Post | On Villains & Backstories: What Makes Them So Interesting?
October 6 – Arctic Books – Favorite Villains & Anti-Heroes
October 9 – NovelKnight – Review
October 10 – The Book’s Buzz – Author Q&A
October 11 – Across the Words – Author Q&A
October 12 – What Sarah Read – FOATL Mood Board
October 13 – One Way or an Author – Tour of the World of FOATL
October 17 – Twirling Pages – Author Guest Post | Julie’s Writing Starter Pack (aka items that got her through writing FOREST)
October 18 – Mundie Moms – Review
October 19 – Book Nerd Addicts – Author Q&A
October 20 – Little Lillie Reads – Review & Playlist
October 23 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Author Guest Post | Julie’s Dream Cast 
October 24 – The Eater of Books! – Favorite FOATL Quotes
October 25 – A Page With a View – Author Q&A
October 26 – A Perfection Called Books – Review & Mood Board
October 27 – Xpresso Reads – Author Guest Post | Talk about anything fun/bizarre she discovered while writing the book.


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