How surprised would you all be if I told you I’m a mess? Nothing could’ve ever prepared me for the masterpiece that is These feathered flames, and though I’m really trying not to sound dramatic, I just have to say wow. This beautiful queer retelling of a Russian folktale is worth all my keyboard smashes, but that’s not what we’re here for today! For this post I got to talk to the amazing person and storyteller behind it all: Alexandra Overy!
This was genuinely one of the best experiences I’ve had while being in the book community, so let’s just get into another author interview, shall we? Well, maybe take a look at the book that is releasing tomorrow first!
What is These feathered flames about?
These feathered flames by Alexandra Overy
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release date: April 20th, 2021
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Trigger warnings: death of a parent, on page emotional abuse, references to physical abuse, on page death, fantasy violence
A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale.
When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.
But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.
As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.
Let’s chat with the author!
Hi Alexandra! First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with me, I’m so excited to be talking to you! Could you introduce yourself and your debut a bit?
Thank you so much for doing the interview! I’m an avid YA fantasy fan and now writer (basically I managed to turn my obsession into a career!). These Feathered Flames is my debut novel, though I wrote three other finished manuscripts before it and a lot of unfinished ones. It’s a story about complicated sisters and dangerous magic, inspired by the Russian folktale “The Firebird”. It’s got some things I really love in it, from slow burn romance, to monsters trying to be human and bears you can ride. I’m so excited to share it with everyone!
These feathered flames is a sapphic (enemies to lovers, might I add!) retelling of a Russian folktale. I hadn’t heard of it before, but when did you discover the story?
I’d always known the story from things I’d read as a child, but when I was about 14 I went to see a performance of Stravinsky’s ballet version of “The Firebird”. That’s what really sparked (haha, pun unintended) my interest in the story. I loved the visuals and what really stuck with me was the way the Firebird was portrayed as a woman that, one way or another, a man wanted to kill or possess. That’s a common theme across different versions of this folktale: the Firebird portrayed as a feminine creature that the various male characters want to control. That was what made the story stick in my mind for so long, and wanting to subvert that—to give the Firebird her own agency—was really the core of what led to These Feathered Flames.
TFF’s sequel, This cursed crown, is planned for 2022, and so is your middle grade retelling of Hansel and Gretel! I assume you really like retellings, but why do they intrigue you so much?
I feel like I didn’t realise how many retelling-related things I had until it was laid out like that! I’ve always loved fairy tales, I think because it’s so interesting how many different versions they have and how so much can change based on the perspective. There’s a great challenge in taking a story everyone knows and putting a fresh spin on it or trying to make readers see it in a different light. A more specific thing that I think always drew me to retellings was the memory of seeing the musical Wicked for the first time. I remember being so enraptured in the story and, even as a child, I loved how it took a classically evil character and made us root for her. Although not a fairy tale retelling, I think that definitely informed a lot of the things I liked to go on to write.
What were your favourite types of scenes to write?
I loved writing the climax scenes, where everything finally came together and with all the painful emotions. Those are my favourite kind of scenes to read (I’m a masochistic reader I guess!) and writing it was a lot of fun. Especially in These Feathered Flames, I’d been building so much to the ending and had everything so planned out that it was really satisfying to get there and finally be able to write it. I always write strictly chronologically, so the end felt like a reward for getting through some of the slog of the middle. (I never like middles much, but that’s a whole other story!)
Which character from These feathered flames did you connect with the most? Why?
I think I definitely connected with different aspects of the two main sisters. I really relate to Asya’s feeling of not living up to expectations and her need to be enough, and on the other side I relate to Izaveta wanting to feel in control. That’s what made the two of them so fun to write: they each had pieces of me in them.
There’s a pre-order campaign going on for TFF where people can get metal trope bookmarks (among other things)! What is your personal favourite trope?
Ooh this is a tough choice! My first thought is always enemies-to-lovers, because any book pitched with that is an autobuy for me (I’m a predictable reader haha). But I also really love slow burn—give me hundreds of pages of pining (especially if you make it gay!).
This is your debut novel (congrats on getting published, by the way!). What’s something that surprised you about the publishing process?
Thanks so much! It was definitely a long process to get here. I’m someone who tends to over-research anything I do, meaning I spent a long time reading up on the publishing process and other authors talking about it. There’s a lot of waiting in the publishing industry, and that’s always when my anxiety comes out and researching is one of my solutions to that. So there weren’t many parts of the process itself that surprised me. But I think the overall thing that surprised me most so far is quite how amazing it is to send your book out into the world. That has been my dream for as long as I can remember, but I never really understood what it’d be like until ARCs started going out. It’s a kind of magic how a story that until then lived only in my head could suddenly take on a life of its own, and I love that. So much of it still feels really surreal, and getting to share this story with readers has been such an amazing experience.
You’ve already achieved a lot of things, of course, but what’s an author dream of yours that you’re still hoping will be fulfilled?
A big one I’d still love to be fulfilled is fan art! I’ve had some friends who’ve drawn amazing things for TFF, but I’d love to get art from a reader I don’t know and see their interpretation of these characters. I think that’s a dream for a lot of authors!
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
I’d tell her to write the things she loves and not be afraid of that. I spent a long time not leaning into things I loved to write (like monstrous girls and queer characters), and when I finally did that it made such a difference both to the process and the response to my writing. Sometimes it can be hard to hold onto that core spark of what you love about writing and storytelling, and I definitely (still!) need that reminder sometimes.
And lastly, what’s a book you’d recommend to the people reading this?
If you love sapphic fantasy, I’d recommend two of my favourite recent reads: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust and Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley. They’re both such beautiful reads with the best slow burn romances and prose that is just to die for.
Thank you so much for your answers, Alexandra! You are genuinely one of the most inspiring people I’ve met and I wish you all good things in the future!
About the author
Alexandra grew up in London and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her undergraduate degree in history at UCLA. She then went on to compete her MFA in screenwriting also at UCLA, and stuck around for the weather and great ice cream. She loves writing in all formats, from novels to screenplays to graphic novels, always centring on fierce women and morally grey characters, often with a bit of magic and murder. When she’s not writing, she can be found baking, fangirling over her favourite books, or cuddling her kittens.
About this tour!
If you’re interested in other fun content surrounding These feathered flames (from reviews to favourite quotes to even fanart!), be sure to click here for the tour schedule!
This tour was hosted by TBR and beyond tours! Thank you for letting me participate!
To end this post I just quickly want to mention the epic preorder campaign that is INTERNATIONAL! You have less than a day to preorder so…what are you waiting for? I sure as hell already placed mine because this book is an absolute new favourite! Since it’s a retelling though, I’m pretty curious to hear what you think of those…