By Cariad Wooster.
We are very happy to welcome Adalyn Grace to The Reading Corner to discuss her upcoming release “Belladonna”, out August 23rd!
Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being – and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy.
Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger, and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.
Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer, though, is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful – and more irresistible – than she ever dared imagine
Hello Adalyn, and thank you for agreeing to talk to me. I found Belladonna an incredibly charming story full of characters who the reader ends up caring about, no matter who they are. Most of all this is evident in Signa, whose actions throughout the book are not always good, but you find it hard to disagree with her.
Where did the character of Signa originate from? Did you write a story around her character, or write her to fit into the story?
First, thank you very much for those kind words! I’m glad that you enjoyed Signa; in a sense, I suppose that I came up with her before the story itself was formed. I didn’t know much about her, other than that she was a girl who could see the dead but could not die. As I was trying to figure her out, I saw a scene very clearly in my head that I immediately had to write out of Death sweeping through a ballroom and reaping everyone in it except for a baby. The scene later became the prologue for the book, and realizing that Signa was that baby helped me further conceptualize her character. From there, I started to flesh out her character and build the story around her.
What inspired the time period and setting over a different one?
I’ve always loved stories about the Victorian era from a young age. I’d watch films like Sweeney Todd, Jane Eyre, and Dracula and remember falling in love with the outfits and the dark and dreary setting that people so often associate with this era. I certainly took creative liberties and didn’t follow true history, though I drew a lot of inspiration from this period. It helps that the Victoria era is also so heavily associated with poison as well as people having a grim fascination with death throughout this time. It really fit so perfectly with the story I wanted to tell.
Why did you pick belladonna for the poison and berries used throughout the story?
Arsenic was the poison of choice during the Victorian era, but Belladonna tends to be very well known for being as beautiful as it is deadly, which truly encapsulates the story so perfectly. The book is full of romance and ballgowns and tea parties and dances, while simultaneously being entrenched with death and the macabre. It’s a murder mystery while also being a romance with Death as a love interest, so using belladonna really felt like the perfect fit.
Death is usually personified a figure in dark robes wielding a scythe, yet you depict death as the shadows themselves. What inspired you to make this choice?
I wanted my version of Death to feel familiar enough to the reader, which is why he does still has his robes and cowl, just as he still can use a scythe. However, he pulls all these things from the shadows and the night, because I wanted Death to feel like the true depiction of darkness in the world. When he laughs, the stars wink out. He is the epitome of night and darkness, and has control over all of those things. I wanted Death familiar enough physically to how he’s typically portrayed across media, while really diving deep into his personality and his relationship with the dead and dying to create his nuance.
Signa’s fate seems set in stone at the beginning of the book, and she is dedicated to debuting in high society, with the lingering presence of death around her. However, as more begins to unfold about Thorn Grove, she grows less and less serious about her imagined future. Was this always the plan for her?
It was! Signa was very much my exploration of what it means to be a woman and have the pressure of so many expectations put upon you. Expectations to look a certain way, behave a certain way, to be soft and demure, to smile, to put aside your own wants for the benefit of others as to not be seen as selfish . . . The list goes on and on. This book may be set over 200 years ago, and yet these problems are still very much things that we’re dealing with today. It was really rewarding and admittedly cathartic to get to explore that through Signa’s character.
The ending of the book is left as a cliff-hanger, can we look forward to more in store for Signa in the future?
Yes! I’m so excited to announced that I’m making progress right now on edits to the sequel, Foxglove. It’ll be out in a year, and I’m having a blast working on it. There’s a ton of romance, shenanigans, and mysteries afoot! There’s also a new character who I’m really enjoying cracking into. I could truly spend ages writing in this world, I love it so much.
What messages do you hope your readers will take from this book?
I get this question a lot, and while there certainly are messages and themes in the book, I consider it a bonus if a reader takes any of them away after reading. For me, this book was pure escapism and full of all the things I love in stories. I wrote Belladonna hoping to create a world and a story that would allow other to join me in shutting off our brains for a while and just having fun. There’s so much going on in the world right now, snd I don’t want to give anyone else the work of having to decipher messages. I wanted to run away and escape into a different world, and I hope that others find the same solace.
What books would you recommend to fans of this one? Were there any books or authors you were inspired by?
If you enjoyed Belladonna, I’d recommend: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Serpent & Dove, The Inheritence Games, and Kingdom of the Wicked! In terms of inspiration, Twilight inspired me to be an author. I grew up in Arizona and went to Stephenie Meyere’s earliest signings when I was in elementary school, and realized that telling stories could be a job as I watched her career take off. Beyond that, I tend to be more inspired by music and shows than other books. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading and the right story can certainly make me want to dive back into my own projects. But for the most part, I feel most inspired when I can let my brain roam without staring at words on a page.
Finally, where can readers get their hands on your book?
Everywhere! If you’d like to purchase the book then you can order it online or pick it up from Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, or your local indie. It’s also being translated into many different languages across the globe, so I really hope to get it to as many readers as possible!
Adalyn Grace is a New York Times bestselling author of All the Stars and Teeth, which was called “2020’s biggest YA fantasy” by Entertainment Weekly.
Prior to becoming an author, Adalyn spent four years working in live theatre, acted as the managing editor of a nonprofit newspaper, and studied storytelling as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s popular series The Legend of Korra.
Local to San Diego, Adalyn spends her non-writing days by watching too much anime, and by playing video games with her two dorky dogs
Adalyn’s Instagram: @authoradalyngrace
Adalyn’s Website: http://www.adalyngraceauthor.com
Discover more interviews here.