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Interview: July 2, 2018

In Nadine Brandes' newest novel, FAWKES, seventeenth-century London is turned upside down in a tale of magic, corruption and faith. In a world where color power can make or break you, Thomas Fawkes is at a disadvantage: in addition to his lack of a color mask, he is also a victim of the Stone Plage, which has rendered him blind in one eye. Desperate to reclaim his future, he goes off in search of his father, the famous Guy Fawkes --- and soon finds himself part of a plot to kill the king and rid the world of color wars forever. FAWKES hits shelves on Tuesday, July 10th, but you can get a sneak peek into the world in this interview with Nadine, where she discusses the Gunpowder Plot, the fantasy-related elements of her book, and introduces us to her main character, Thomas.

1. What is the Gunpowder Plot and why did it inspire your story?
“Remember, remember, the 5th of November.” If you’ve ever heard that phrase, it comes from the Gunpowder plot when a group of men decided to try and blow up the king of England. I’ve always been fascinated by rebel stories because there are always two sides to a story. I wanted to dive into both sides of this one and try to understand the tension in 17th century London that prompted such actions.

2. Why did you choose to develop a fantasy element around the historical event?
Because fantasy makes everything better! Actually, I wanted to include fantasy elements to 1) bring my own twist to the world and 2) use it as a stand-in (of sorts) for the religious war happening at the time.

3. How can teens in today’s world relate to this historical story?
Sometimes we think history isn’t applicable today, but so many of the passions and concepts and decisions of the past are similar ones that we deal with today and will probably deal with in the future. But in short, this story is about Thomas and Emma --- two people on opposite sides of a war who are determined to figure out what’s truth and what’s not. It’s a journey of breaking out on your own and finding your voice. I think we can all relate to that desire and struggle.

4. Tell us about how you developed the concept for the color ceremony?
The color ceremony is when a boy becomes a man. He gets to test with all the different color magics and hope that one bonds with him. To me it’s almost like a parallel of graduating high school. We get that diploma and then hope that people will finally see us—and treat us—as adults. I wanted to capture that feeling of hope, dread, and expectation as Thomas goes to his ceremony, afraid that he might not pass the test.

5. If you could give the real Thomas advice about making difficult life choices, what would you tell him?
Probably everything Emma tells him, lol. She is such a voice of reason and passion in this book --- and she’s smarter than me. ;-) Okay, I would tell him that he has to make his own decisions, but before he does he needs to know where he stands. I would tell him not to allow his decisions to be by the external voices of others, but to instead listen to them and then dig for truth and answers until he emerges as his own person.

6. What’s your favorite two lines from each of the main characters in the book—and share a little context for them?
THOMAS: Perhaps bravery meant entering into a storm you already knew would destroy you. Thomas has this thought as he’s wrestling with hard decisions. It was profound to me and I hope it’s just as profound to my readers. :-)
EMMA: “You cannot judge an entire group of people by the actions of a few.” If I could get this saying engraved on my wall, I would. Emma is so passionate about having open eyes and not being blinded by opinions. This statement of hers very much captures her heart.

7. Tell us what’s special about Thomas and Emma’s romance.
What makes it special is that it doesn’t start as romance. Or even attraction. They come together because they have to. And then that blossoms into because they want to. They find a safe space with each other --- a space where they can share secrets and be vulnerable. And that is where true romance happens, in my opinion.