Saturday, August 24, 2019

Book Spotlight: The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi

Title: The Weight of a Soul
Author: Elizabeth Tammi
Publisher: North Star Editions
Publication Date: December 3rd 2019
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
When Lena's younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should've lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.

But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.

Still, with her sister's life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She's even willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?

Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at rehearsal for one of her vocal ensembles, or at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. Outrun the Wind is her debut novel.

My Journey Through “Second Book Syndrome”
By Elizabeth Tammi
Dreams are ever-shifting goal posts.

If I had known just a few years ago that I would end up getting two book deals before I graduated college, I would have straight up passed out. And when I got that first contract in late 2017 for my debut novel, Outrun the Wind, staggering happiness certainly slammed into me, but with it, so did many other unexpected worries—and lots of new dreams, too.

Though I celebrated the accomplishment of this seemingly insurmountable goal of mine that I’d clung to for years, I was shocked at just how quickly it became my new normal. My life didn’t really change. I still went to class. The words certainly didn’t come any easier for me. Though high school Elizabeth would’ve been thrilled at the sole fact that I had a book deal, author Elizabeth soon realized that publication was not the “finish line” I’d once believed it would be.

There’s a line in my second, forthcoming novel, The Weight of a Soul, that I think defined the situation for me: “The path she’d been following this whole time, black and cold and lonely, hadn’t come to an end—it was merely the first bend in the road.

Well, that’s a little bleak—but it was a struggle for me to get published, as it is for basically every author. Then, no matter how astoundingly grateful we feel, there’s still new stressors and objectives that come to replace the old ones. For me, I was really concerned that I would only ever have one book deal. I was petrified that Outrun the Wind would come out, and then I would sink back into oblivion and never be heard from again.

I had another book idea come to me almost as soon as I turned in OtW for the last time. It was technically one that had been brewing for years in detached, vague fragments, but it started to come together in a few shockingly swift plotting sessions—something that had never happened before, and has woefully not happened since.

Long story short, I managed to sell this book on proposal to my same editor and publishing house a couple months before Outrun the Wind came out. I’d spent a few months perfecting an elaborate synopsis and the first few chapters, then negotiating the deal—and then, bam! I had the deal. I was so excited to write the full story, so thankful to get the opportunity to bring this new cast of characters to life, and…relieved. I clung to that second contract as proof of my fortitude and willingness to stick with this author thing. Here was something tangible to say that I had more than one book in me.

Then it was time to write the damn thing. The Weight of a Soul was the third book I’d written, and will be the second to be published. Everything was different, though, for a lot of reasons. Every story is different, obviously, because of varying themes, perspectives, and settings. For me, this was the first book (or fanfiction, for that matter) I wrote that wasn’t directly steeped in Greek mythology. It was also the first that was from only one character’s POV. Above all, it was the first one I’d written on proposal—two words that change everything for an author, I think.

There was no option to toss it if things went south. This was going to be a real live book, no matter what happened—my name and my words were going to be bound and printed and on shelves in December 2019. At times, this was a relief. It’s hard to embark on long-form projects with uncertain futures—what if it’s not worth it? What if you invest all this time and energy into something that never sees the light of day? I had the security of knowing that my efforts would result in something tangible that would be held, and read, and real.

Unfortunately, this fact was mostly anxiety-inducing for me. Never before had I drafted on a legitimate deadline, nor had I written anything knowing that it would be published. There was plenty of second-guessing, doubt, and mildly panicked calls with my editor. Through it all, I was navigating the most demanding year of coursework at my university yet. I tried to balance this book with my mounting schoolwork and, you know, trying to see my friends once in a while!

In the end, I was happy with the final product and felt profoundly bittersweet when I hit send after revisions were finished. And by some miracle, my GPA didn’t tank either.

Almost nothing about my writing journey with The Weight of a Soul was easy or simple, but it was always so worth it. If I were an athlete, I would say I “left it all on the field”. I put everything into this story—and it took a lot out of me in return, but also left me with an incredible sense of purpose and fulfilment. I really did have a wonderful time with Lena, Amal, and Fressa, as well as learning more about Norse mythology. In hindsight, I know this story was the perfect challenge for me—it tested both my craft as a writer and my grit as an author taking those scary first steps after a debut novel. It’s been really fun and exciting to see advance copies out in the world, and to hear early reader’s thoughts.

A few lessons learned for me: I realized how fortunate I was to have a solid outline going into the drafting process, though things definitely changed from the rough draft to the end version. I don’t regret anything, but I also don’t know why I was in such a rush to get this second deal finalized. I’m glad I have it, and so fulfilled and excited by The Weight of a Soul’s impending release, but I kind of have to shake my head at myself early last year. I would’ve sold this book at some point—I didn’t have to run and hustle quite so fast, even if it all worked out in the end.

A lot of great things happened because of this second book, no matter how hard it got at times. I ended up connecting with my now-agent, Renee Nyen. I’ll get to graduate in May with two books under my belt, and I get to share this story that’s been living inside of me for so long with the world. I got the chance to work with my incredible editor and publishing team at Flux again, which has been an absolute pleasure.

The best thing is that now I know a few more things about myself and my place in the publishing world. I’ve learned to keep my eyes on my own paper, how to draft under deadline, and how to keep my head above the water in this wild industry.

And, writing this story allowed me to tackle my biggest fears and questions head-on. How far can someone go to get what they want without fundamentally changing who they are? Can you come back from the most destructive, impossible grief imaginable? What does it mean to be a good sister, or daughter, or person?

In Norse mythology, there are nine worlds. This book means the world to me, nine times over. Nine times the love, and nine times the pain. I’m excited for The Weight of a Soul to officially release on December 3rd. The journey was hard, but I made this crazy dream come true a second time…and just like that, the goal post shifts again.

I’m not sure what will come next, but I know I will face it stronger and braver than I would have before this story.

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