Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Madness Inklings Book Giveaway: The Revenant

This week's giveaway is Sonia Gensler's debut novel The Revenant

It is a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Hooray for Sonia!

This young adult paranormal is set in the late 19th century at a real Cherokee girl's school right here in Oklahoma. It is now known as Seminary Hall at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

Read below for a little chat Sonia and I had recently.

Congratulations on being a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award.  The setting of your book in the Cherokee Seminary is unique.  The Revenant truly could not happen against any other backdrop.  What is it about the place that spoke to you? 

Thank you, Brandi! This is fun to talk about because it involves you. (Note: I did not ask this question for her to mention me, but...I'll take the attention.) I'd always wanted to write a book set in a girls' boarding school. Boarding school settings offer potential for drama and conflict in any era, but I was particularly drawn to the mid to late 19th century because it was during this time that educators finally started taking female intellectual capacity seriously.

But no particular setting or school called out to me until YOU gave me a tour of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

When you (and your mom) pointed out Seminary Hall and told me it used to be a school for Cherokee girls, I knew I had to set a story there. I'd always thought of 19th century Indian schools as oppressive institutions where agents of the church or government forced students to assimilate. This school, on the contrary, was funded and operated by the Cherokee Tribe. To me, that was very exciting, and I had to know more. My research gave rise to the plot of THE REVENANT.

And though this is more superficial, I have to say that the Seminary building itself absolutely captivated me. I love Victorian architecture and this building seemed particularly Gothic and imposing. It really just begged me to write a story! How lucky was I that the history of the building turned out to be so fascinating?

What is it about ghost stories that makes you want to write them? Did you set out to be a writer of ghost stories?

I actually didn't set out to be a writer of ghost stories. In fact, spooky/ghostly things used to scare the crap out of me. (Aren't I eloquent?) At some point during the last decade, however, I began to appreciate the story value of hauntings. Actually, it turned into an obsession. I don't particularly like films or books in which ghosts jump out of corners -- cheap scares like that annoy me. What I love is the idea of an emotion or action so powerful and/or transgressive that it transcends death, lingering in a place or clinging to a particular person. I also like the idea of there being people who are especially sensitive to these remnants or echoes. Great stuff for stories!
What part of the writing process do you enjoy most? Least?

This is an easy one. I love researching and planning a novel. Outlining is great fun for me because everything is shiny and brimming with potential at that stage. I actively dislike the drafting process because of the disconnect between my shiny fantasy of what the novel should be and what actually appears on the page. But I've given myself permission to write very rough first drafts. Things can always be smoothed out during the revision process. 

Did you write with a particular audience in mind? If so, please describe.

Honestly, I write for the teen reader inside me. Of course I want to write something that's sufficiently marketable, and that is appropriate and appealing for today's teens, but I'm writing the sorts of stories I'd like to see on the YA shelves in bookstores and libraries -- gothic tales full of mystery, dark secrets, forbidden romance and struggles for independence.
What book are your recommending to others right now?

My favorite YA novel of 2011 was Franny Billingsley's CHIME. I read it months and months ago, but it's still on my mind -- such a gorgeously written book with a very unique sister relationship and an amazing love interest for the heroine. If you want to read a more detailed slobberfest over this novel, please read my Book End Babes review! :) 
Isn't she fabulous? Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Sonia!
To win your very own autographed copy, simply...
1. comment on this entry.
If you'd like TWO entries, then...
1.  follow my blog. (Click that little follow button at the top of the page and follow the instructions.)
2.  comment on this entry.

Contest will end on Sunday at midnight. Winner will be announced on Wednesday--as well as a new contest.


  1. Oh nice competition, and excellent interview! Count me in!

  2. This sounds extremely interesting. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity! :)

    1. Chime was one of my favorites too! But I haven't read The Revenant yet! Thanks for the contest, and I followed your blog.

  3. Ooo...I've been wanting to read this!

  4. I've been an avid Sonia follower for months. She's brilliant!! Can't wait to read The Revenant.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  5. I would like to read this one too!

  6. Great interview, terrific book. So terrific in fact that I loaned it out months ago and have yet to get it back it keeps getting passed with great enthusiasm to another reader (hope they buy a copy Son1a!).

  7. My Daughter just did her book report for freshman English on the is book. She had to put together a bag of symbolic items to represent the book. Here is what she wrote about the items. I thought they did give a good overview of the book. I don't think there are any spoilers in it.

    "The mask represents how she is covering up her true identity. Willie hides her identity because she actually stole the job from her roommate in attempt of not having to go back home. The “I love Dad” stone shows how she really loved her papa and that his death is what drove her away from home. The Oklahoma flag is for how she did not expect people to be as civilized as they were. Willie is shocked at how polished and proper Cherokee’s are. The blue bow represents Ella. It is tied in a bow because she was young, and it is blue because she drowned. The tangled string represents how messy Willie’s life is. "

    Great book! Looking forward to the sequel.

  8. I've been out of town and got behind on my "blog" reading. I know I'm too late for the contest but wanted to say what a great read Sonia's book is. What a fun way to learn Oklahoma history--a historical novel. The fact that a ghost is involved is just icing on the cake!