16th May 2018
Interview with Bree Lenehan
Good morning, Miss Lenehan. Thanks very much for giving up your time for an interview.
On your website, you talk about encountering a secret waterhole that fired your imagination, eventually inspiring you to write Pembrim. Could you tell us a little about that?
Throughout my teenage years, I’d adventure through the backwoods of my grandparents’ property, that’s when I found a private waterhole. It sounds magical, but really it was just a muddied riverbed. Still, my imagination went wild with impossible happenings, and before I knew it, Luka (one of the waterclan warriors) was pulling me inside and I just had to write about his world!
So that was your initial spark! What were your other inspirations for Pembrim?
I suppose I just wanted to write the story I knew I would’ve loved to find at my local bookstore or read growing up. Halia Bodine (my MC), who lives with a medically-baffling rare lung disease, was created by taking bits and pieces from everyone I loved. I was inspired to write a story that didn’t follow the usual ‘I can conquer anything!’ heroine.
I understand that you’ve constructed a language for the water tribe in Pembrim. Could you tell us about that?
I wanted to give my readers a real experience, to really feel like they’re in a new and unknown world. Don’t worry, the language is only sprinkled throughout the book and there’s a glossary at the end too. For example, this is the way the water tribe would say yes: Alawa. So if you were to ask me “Did you seriously create an entire language?” I would say, “Alawa, I did! Crazy right?”
It’s really impressive. How do you even start with something that big?
‘Alawa’ was actually exactly how it started, with one word. That then grew into two… ‘Chunta’, meaning to disagree or say no. From there, it all happened naturally I suppose. I noted the words down on a piece of paper and as the world grew, so did their language. I could attach the glossary below, if you’d like?
Yes please. How about your top ten favourite words?
I’d love to!
‘Anakai’ means ‘Enemy’
‘Azubiki’ means to say ‘The past is our strength’
‘Black aqueous’ is a healing nectar, which is what the guardian of the water clan uses on warriors who return injured from hunts to heal their wounds.
‘Che’wa’ means to call someone a ‘Friend of all’
‘Dantura’ means ‘death’
‘Ey’nu seaweed’ is a type of seaweed that forces sleep to whomever consumes it
‘Hytor’ is the name of the group of hunters
‘Kre’ora’ is a rare sea-dragon
‘Naawatihi’ is how the M’deian species say ‘Thank you’
The ‘T’riliu Trifecta’ is a perilous M’deian ritual
There we are! You’ll be speaking M’deian in no time!
I’ll start practising! More generally then, what do you think are the critical ingredients for a YA novel?
I think originality is a major necessity, we read to escape into worlds we’ve never explored before, so I believe each book has to feel entirely unique for it to be something special. Secondly: relatable characters. Because those we can relate to, we empathise with and we invest in, and we have to care about what happens to these characters in the end, don’t we? Lastly, the unexpected. This is crucial, sometimes we WANT what we expect to happen on the next page, but sometimes it’s better in the long run if we surprise you by killing off your book-boyfriend. (I’m sorry, that was mean...)
What authors do you take as your inspiration?
This is good one. While writing, I try to avoid reading completely because I want to keep my own voice. I find if I read another author’s work, I pick up on little things they do… But I will admit that Ransom Riggs inspires me. Adi Alsaid too, his book ‘Let’s Get Lost’ was the first I ever read twice, because I loved it so dang much. (Secretly also because one of his character’s shares my name.)
I understand that you’re also passionate about singing and some of your videos are available to watch on Youtube. Would you describe yourself as a creative person?
I’d like to think so… Creativity is a huge part of who I am in my everyday life. I work in radio, I sing all the time, I write, read, and I drew all of the illustrations found in my book. Creating makes me happy, sharing it is just as good :)
Wow - the illustrations on your site are really good. Did you start with a fixed idea of what each of the characters looked like or did they evolve over time?
The characters themselves always looked a particular way to me, drawing them just really brought them to life in my mind. As for the creatures, they’re ever-evolving! Throughout the writing process, their features would change slightly, with an additional horn or extra three tongues, I always thought to myself, “Could this creature be MORE?” and most of the time, if the answer was yes, the creature would evolve.
Did Pembrim evolve too over time or did you plan it all out before you started?
I thought I knew what I was writing at the start, but you can never really know what’s going to unfold at the very beginning. Now that the book is complete, I can say that I only knew about 10% of it was going to happen from the start, the rest unravelled over time. To answer your question, I was 100% a ‘panster’!
Did a favourite character emerge during writing?
Answering this question is like asking a mother to pick her favourite child! But if I had to narrow it down… Yes, I do have a soft(er) spot for two characters. First being: Tesumi, who is one of the more cruel and challenging characters in Pembrim, he comes across as though he has no heart… but as the story goes on, we soon see that this is very much not the case, and I suppose he’d just really warmed on me as I got to know him. Second being: Nanook, who is one of the many spirit companions in Pembrim, he’s a coral creature the size of an elephant, with a homely mellow smile and fear of slimy beasts. He’s just like an overgrown sea-dog, and who doesn’t like dogs?
You’ve written on your blog about writer’s block and how challenging it is to overcome sometimes (something I think all writers have experienced!) What motivates you to keep writing, even when it gets difficult?
I think the main motivation to keep writing would have to be the passion for it, I knew I wanted to share this story with other people, so on those slow days where the words just wouldn’t come out, I told myself that even one sentence brought me closer to that dream becoming a reality.
That’s a very positive way of looking at it: I may stop cursing the heavens on days when the ink runs dry. Do you try to stick to a routine then with your writing?
Oh don’t worry, even with the motivation I refer to, I still curse the heavens or eat a jar of Nutella in self-pity! But to answer your question honestly, I would have to say that for me, when the creative juices aren’t flowing, I simply have to find something in the real world that will inspire it before I write. Otherwise what I do write ends up being back-spaced. Once the creativity comes to me, my fingers can’t type as quickly as the thoughts fly through my mind! And I hold on to that for as long as I can, because I understand that it doesn’t always happen.
So aside from writing, drawing and singing, what else do you do for fun or inspiration?
Spending time with family is both of those things for me. Along with exploring new places: mountains, libraries, lakes, etc. And I won’t lie, I’m a sucker for a good Netflix binge, which can be good for finding inspiration sometimes, but unfortunately it’s the least productive of all three *wipes tears from eyes*
Netflix: the enemy of all productivity! I understand that Pembrim will be published soon. Could you give us a sneak peak of what’s going to happen?
All I’m going to say is, be ready for:
- Never-seen-before mythical creatures
- Badass sea-warriors
- A female lead who suffers from a lung disease, not your typical ‘I can conquer anything’ MC, but she’s just as strong
- Mysteries unravelling, histories entwining, truths unfolding, lies incoming
- A cursed timepiece in the hands of an ancient nemesis
- A hidden world of pristine untouched lands
- Underwater magic
- An unbreakable tribe
- Romance, heartbreak, and more romance…
Sound very cool! If people want to contact you online, where can they find you?
I try my best to respond to all emails at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website: www.breelenehan.com but essentially, my Instagram is where I stay most active: www.instagram.com/breeelenehan or www.instagram.com/pembrimthebook
Stop by any time! :)
Thanks very much for your time.