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Interview: Erika Johansen, Author of ‘The Queen of the Tearling’ trilogy

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When we first met Erika Johansen’s heroine Kelsea Glynn in The Queen of the Tearling, she was an insecure teenager who is suddenly named Queen of the Tearling after the rather unexplained death of her estranged mother. Raised far away from court by two people close to the deceased Queen for Kelsey’s own protection, she is suddenly thrown into a world of court intrigues and assassination attempts on her person. Simultaneously she battles the very real threat of the deadly Red Queen, whose real identity is a mystery, but it’s no secret that she wants Kelsea dead. By the end of The Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea Glynn is on her way to becoming the regent that her people and all of Tearling need her to be.

In Johansen’s second installment, The Invasion of the Tearling, Kelsea not only begins to morph from teenager to woman and fully-formed sovereign, but the Tearling is under the savage attack of the Red Queen and her conspirators. Additionally, Kelsea must also battle with powerful visions which begin to plague her about an unknown woman named Lily who lived in the era known as “pre-crossing.” While Kelsea doesn’t know for certain who Lily is, she is sure that this woman holds the key to the future of the Tearling.

The Fate of the Tearling is the awaited conclusion of  Erika Johansen’s trilogy, showing a Kelsea Glynn who knows that as Queen of the Tearling, she has a heavy responsibility on her shoulders. But Kelsea becomes a prisoner of her deadly enemy the Red Queen, and the chances of securing the safety of her people and her own, begin to grow slimmer.

I spoke to Erika Johansen via email, and asked her how it felt to bring the trilogy to its conclusion, rumors of a movie adaptation, and if she believes readers will be happy with Kelsea’s choices and future.

Were you ready to part with Kelsea Glynn and the Tearling, or were you reluctant to see the story end?

Let’s just say I was relieved to be able to take a break from the lot of them. That said, I’m not sure the story’s over…

What initially prompted you to write the Queen of the Tearling?

I wanted to write about a better class of leader than we generally see today, and how she might deal with such pertinent issues as socioeconomic inequality and a migrant crisis. President Obama was definitely an inspiration.

The Fate of the Tearling reveals many secrets about Kelsea, the Crossing, William Tear and the Red Queen. How challenging was it to tie everything together, particularly because you use multiple points of view?

Very challenging. I’m still not entirely satisfied with the results—which is, admittedly, par for the course with me. Some characters received shorter shrift than they deserved, but I suppose that’s the great danger of writing under deadline.

Kelsea has quite a few similarities to Queen Elizabeth I, the most significant ones being her desire to never marry and her love for her land and her subjects. Was Elizabeth I an inspiration when you created the character of Kelsea Glynn?

Yes—good catch! I’m constantly impressed by Elizabeth Tudor, not least because she deliberately sacrificed her own personal life for the good of the kingdom. That’s the decision of a good monarch and a strong woman, and I don’t see it echoed nearly enough in fiction nowadays, when everything for female characters seems to turn on romance. For Kelsea, it’s all about the job, and I wish there were more such heroines out there.

Erika Johansen, author of The Queen of the Tearling trilogy. Photo by Victoria Webb.

Erika Johansen, author of The Queen of the Tearling trilogy. Photo by Victoria Webb.

The ending was quite surprising, at least it wasn’t at all how I imagined the story was going to end. Did you have the ending planned since the first book, or did it develop as you were writing The Fate of the Tearling?

I had a different ending planned until I finished the second book. Then I came up with the ending you see on the page. It broke my heart, but I had to do it.

How do you think readers will feel about the choices Kelsea makes in the end about the Tearling and herself?

I understand that many readers long for an unequivocally happy ending with everything neatly tied up, but I felt that to do so would underserve the story. I am prepared for some readers to object to the ending, but I also hope that an equal number will be pleased.

How true are the rumors of a Queen of the Tearling movie adaptation with Emma Watson as Kelsea? If true, is there a tentative release date for the film?

When The Queen of the Tearling was published, Emma Watson, David Heyman and Warner Brothers optioned the rights to the film. But there is no release date that I’m aware of.

Now that The Queen of the Tearling trilogy is over, what future projects are in the works for you?

More Tearling, actually. I have so much more story to tell!

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About Adriana Delgado

Adriana Delgado is a freelance journalist, with published reviews on independent and foreign films in publications such as Cineaction magazine and on Artfilmfile.com. She also works as an Editorial News Assistant for the Palm Beach Daily News (A.K.A. The Shiny Sheet) and contributes with book reviews for the well-known publication, Library Journal.