Genres: Children, Fantasy
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Toad thought it’d be easy to steal from Mr. Edward P. Owl. Unfortunately for Toad, he isn’t the best of thieves. Caught in the act, he’s in more trouble than ever before. Now to save his hide, Toad must track down five rare potion ingredients for Mr. Owl. Or else.
All Melena Snead wants is her family back, but after the Miggens Street Fire, that isn’t very likely. Orphaned and miserable, forced to work in an apothecary, she’s determined to find Milo, her missing brother. No matter what.
When Melena finds Toad ransacking her apothecary, Toad gets a nasty shock: apothecaries don’t carry Mr. Owl’s ingredients. Luckily, Melena’s willing to help, for a price.
With Melena’s pet Spit-Fire dragon and Toad’s enchanted talking beer mug, they embark on a fantastical journey, traveling the country in search of the potion ingredients. But can they gather all of them in time, what with monsters, pirates, and axe-wielding thieves? And if they do, is there an even greater danger waiting for them at the end?
Interview With Author M.L. Legette
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
The Orphan and the Thief is my fun, quirky, adventure book. Mostly, it’s a mad potions hunt where two young children embark on a journey to find the rare ingredients to an ancient potion known as the Seeking Solution.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I got it while playing a board game. The Amazing Labyrinth, to be specific. It’s an old childhood favorite of mine and one Christmas, we got it out of storage and the idea for a potions hunt sprang into being … though I should probably thank a few glasses of wine for their assistance as well.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
If something that I write touches a reader so deeply that it speaks to them, I would be humbled and flattered beyond measure. That’s really the best compliment that a writer can get. Something that I’ve created in my own little corner has reached out and affected someone who’s halfway across the world – that’s incredible. Having said that, I’m not the sort of writer who writes with a deeper purpose. I don’t sit down and say, all right, what’s the message for today. I write because I love to write. I tell the story that’s in my head. It’s that simple.
How long did it take to write the book?
The Orphan and the Thief took me a little over three years.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
I love so many of the characters in this one, but if I’m going to have to narrow it down to just one I’m going to go with Toad. Or Hazel. Gosh, I love Hazel.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
This has been the hardest for me to write mostly because it took me a very long time to pin down the plot. I had lots of fun characters and an exciting adventure, but there wasn’t a point to any of it. I was missing the big WHY. Why are the characters doing what they’re doing? Answering that question nearly killed me. At one point I seriously considered throwing in the towel and never writing again. I’m very happy I decided not to do that.
I don’t do much in the form of outlining. I do enough to give me a vague idea of where the story is headed. I don’t do chapter by chapter outlining – that sounds like torture to me. My method is much more scattered and chaotic.
There were a couple of times when the story tried to pull me into a different direction. That was really the big problem I was facing half way through the writing. My original beginning was completely different and, though I loved it, I couldn’t ever get it to fit with the rest of the book no matter how hard I tried. It was like pulling teeth. So I eventually decided that it had to go and once I did that the pieces fell into place.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
Ask me that question again next year and I’ll probably have a whole list.
How did you come up with the cover?
For a long time I thought I’d just have to do the title because I couldn’t find an artist whose style matched the story. But then I miraculously stumbled upon Abigail Larson while browsing Pinterest. Now that I had an artist, I could integrate the three coolest characters of the book: the talking beer mug, the spit-fire dragon, and the web-traveling spider. It turned out fantastic.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was sixteen.
What was the first story that you ever wrote?
A fantasy involving a dragon and a unicorn. I very cleverly titled it The Dragon and the Unicorn. But looking at my current novel, I haven’t come very far in creativity when it comes to naming my books…
What are you favorite books and authors?
My absolute favorite (by a lot) is the Harry Potter series, and I think some people look down on those of us who name it as our favorite, for some odd reason. Maybe they don’t think we’re serious enough? It’s my personal favorite because it was the very first book that made me love reading. They showed me what a book can truly do and be and that’s what I want to do with my writing. There’s so much to sink your teeth into and that just made my twelve year old self swoon. If I can write a book that opens a person’s eyes—especially a kid’s eyes … if my book can make a kid go, ‘Oh, that’s what all the fuss is about! I want to do this more often! Reading is fantastic!’ then I’ve done my job.
What are you working on next?
Right now I’m taking a well-deserved break from writing. But I’m starting to get some ideas for the next project. It’s always this stage when I’m getting ready to do the whole thing over again that’s the hardest. I think Steven King was the one who said the hardest part is starting, and he’s exactly right. There’s always giddiness and excitement about a new project, but lots of absolute terror.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Always write the story in your heart, not the one people tell you you should write. Get serious editing help. Keep it fun.
How do you juggle writing with family time?
Writing can so easily get pushed aside. I work at home, so there’s always people about, which means I’ve gotten very good at blocking out distractions, but I am still a very slow writer. My family’s very supportive and understanding and when they see me on my laptop, they try (generally) to leave me be. I think by starting to learn to write a novel when I was a teenager, while juggling family and school, helped me a lot. I feel like I can now slip back and forth between my two worlds. I’m able to write while being in the midst of the family, both physically and mentally, but I’m making it sound easier than it is.
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“Ya know ’bout the stuff on my list, don’t ya?” demanded the boy.
Melena couldn’t bring herself to lie.
“Yes,” she said, grudgingly.
“Then why don’t you be my guide?” he asked, excitedly.
“Because I’m not going to troop around Calendula, risking my life, for half a dozen potion ingredients, that’s why.”
“What d’ya mean, riskin’ your life?” said the boy. He actually laughed. “This won’t be any trouble.”
“Any—” Melena’s voice died in her throat at the ridiculousness of his statement. She snatched the list back from his hand and thrust it under his nose.
“Springs of Mirg. Located in the very northern tip of Calendula, practically crawling with slinkwing dragons. Elfin Gold—only found in the Caves of Dunthur, caves so complex that only an expert can safely travel them. Unicorns are nearly impossible to find and try yanking some hair from their tails and see what they do with that horn. Not to mention how foolish and dangerous it is to mix ingredients at random—it can be deadly. Need I continue?”
The boy’s dark eyes were round.
“So it’ll be difficult—what else is new?”