Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Samantha-Ellen Bound!

What an absolute honour to welcome an award-winning author and podcast host to our blog to talk about the third book in her incredibly epic, portal fantasy series! Samantha-Ellen Bound is a folklore, fairytales and mythology enthusiast, and the Seven Wherewithal Way books for middle grade readers are immersed with these elements of fiery and perilous escapades into otherworldly Realms. Over the Mountains and Through the Desert whips readers on a heroic, magical and dangerous adventure, inspired by the wonders of Japanese and African folklore, sure to keep them intrepidly dashing to the end. A wildly popular series, and for good reason!

Thanks so much, Samantha-Ellen, for taking us on this exciting journey with you! 🙂

About the Author

Samantha-Ellen Bound is a writer, children’s author, and podcast host. She has many years’ experience working with books and publishing and hosts KidLit Classics, a podcast that celebrates classic children’s literature.

Her books – including her latest, the Wherewithal series – are inspired by folklore, fairytales, mythology and gothic horror.

Visit Samantha-Ellen Bound at her website: Home | Samantha-Ellen Bound (samanthaellenbound.com), and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Over the Mountains and Through the Desert and the Wherewithal series can be purchased via Affirm Press and at Samantha-Ellen Bound’s website.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

I, Samantha-Ellen Bound, wrote this book – it’s my twelfth published children’s novel! The gorgeous cover was illustrated and designed by Flavia Sorrentino, an illustrator based in Italy whose gorgeous fairytale style matches the Wherewithal aesthetic perfectly. The Wherewithal series is published by Affirm Press.

WHAT is it about?

First, I’ll give you a brief rundown of the Seven Wherewithal Way series. It’s inspired my love of folktales, fairytales, and portal fantasies. Our main characters, sisters Celeste and Esme, have a cousin, Ferd, who lives at Seven Wherewithal Way, a big, bustling, magical house with six portals that go through to other Realms. Each is inspired by a different world folklore. (I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s quite a handy cousin to have). Celeste and Esme get drawn into the world of the Realms, which is currently in the middle of an uprising – our big baddie, Red Cap, wants to take power from the Realms’ governing body, The Order of the Golden Quills. The books so far follow Wherewithal’s efforts to prevent Red Cap and his minions from getting their mitts on the hagstones, (powerful magical artefacts tied up in the creation of the Realms), and save the various creatures who are getting caught up in the chaos.

The third book, Over the Mountains and Through the Desert, takes us to the Realm of Mountains, inspired by Japanese folklore (especially the Yokai tradition) and then the Realm of Desert, inspired by African folklore.

There is loads of action and creepy beasties as the Wherewithal gang are taken captive in the Order prison, are pursued across rice fields, volcanic mountains, waterfalls, sea caves, lost at sea in the middle of ningyo territory (ningyo are Japanese mermaids), have to rescue people and creatures they love, and are plagued by a vampiric shapeshifter called Adze, who is spreading terror and disease all throughout the Realm of Desert.

So there is fantasy and folklore and action galore, but at their heart, the Wherewithal books are a coming-of-age story told through the wonderful, powerful tool of fantasy. Celeste’s journey is at the heart of these books.

What is your favourite part of this book?

My favourite part of writing the Wherewithal books is always research – taking the folklore stories, creatures, and lessons I know and love, and the natural wonders of the real world that fill me with so much awe I could cry – and making these two things dance across the pages of my own story.

The third book is very action-packed, and I love writing action scenes, not only for the excitement but also for the way these situations shape the main characters. There is an escape through a thorn tunnel that I thoroughly enjoyed crafting.

I LOVE mermaids, so finally getting to write about the ningyo was perfection.

I am also a horror fan, so some of the creepier moments that find their way into the Realm of Desert were a real macabre delight.

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

The official date listed for when I started the first book in the series, is 15th March, 2017. But it had been milling about in my head for years and years before that as I have always wanted to write an epic middle grade fantasy series.

I began writing the third book probably in mid-2022. This is a series, so the turnaround times are fast, and I’m always writing them in-between edits and marketing of other books in the series. It’s an epic undertaking in itself!

When is its release / launch date?

The third book comes out in April 2024.

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

My deep love of folklore, fairytales, and epic fantasy series. Ever since I was a young child I have read and absorbed folklore – both for the fantastical elements but for the deep reverence it gives to the natural world.

Whether it’s through study or purely out of my own interest, I’d read academic papers, essays, and theory on folklore, fairytales, mythology, spirituality, and the history they are intertwined with. This information doesn’t make its way directly into a children’s book, but it’s always there, informing decisions I make when writing.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

I think I answered that in the question above! I just adore fantasy. Folklore, specifically, is a great example of how we use our imaginations to make sense of reality, especially when that reality is tragic, or inaccessible, or unexplainable to us (for eg, the strange disappearance of a traveller in the wood, a harvest going bad, a child mysteriously struck down by disease).

My imagination is my superpower – I have always felt more at home in imaginative worlds than I do in reality, and this is a trait Celeste shares. It’s a book/series that gives itself whole-heartedly to the idea of what if

Why would its message resonate with readers?

Once again, for a lot of the above reasons. The Wherewithal House itself is a place many creatures retreat to when they have been displaced or outcast from their homes, or are just a little ‘lost’. It is a sanctuary, a place of diversity, a place for found family, a place of expression and acceptance, a place for the dreamers. This is what I want the Wherewithal books to be for readers.

I also think it’s important that when Celeste gets to live the life of her dreams, she doesn’t suddenly become ‘heroic’. She doesn’t get special powers or discover that she is a long-lost faerie princess. All the worries and fears that bug her in the human world follow her into the Realms – she over-thinks, she has anxiety, she doubts herself, she is confused, she gets hurt, she makes mistakes, she lives in fear that Ferd will find her ‘not worthy’. But, of course, her journey is to discover all the ways she is worthy. And her found family are integral to this. Found family is one of the most beautiful things, to me.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

GORGEOUS! Flavia Sorrentino’s character illustrations, design and colour schemes perfectly match the whimsical, folksy, fairytale quality of the books. It makes me wish there were more black and white illustrations inside. I adore her style.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

I will be touring bookshops in Melbourne, the Surf Coast (VIC), Queensland and the Gold Coast in April. There will be a small launch with my writer’s group, Geelong Writers, at the end of April.

You can find it in all bricks and mortar and online bookshops, and if it’s not there, you can order it in. You can also buy through my website.

I will continue doing podcasts, interviews, school talks and hopefully some festival and event appearances up until the release of the final Wherewithal book next year, and then I will do it all again!

Thanks so much, Samantha-Ellen! Very much looking forward to another epic adventure with Celeste, Esme, Logan and Ferd! Congratulations! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #sevenwherewithalway #overthemountainsandthroughthedesert #folklore #fairytales #adventure #middlegrade #justkidslit

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