Today I have something that I’m super excited about – a guest post from Breeana Shields, author of The Bone Charmer! The Bone Charmer is a story about a world where bones are the power of everything, but when Saskia is chosen to be a bone charmer & is partnered with someone who Saskia doesn’t like, leaving her with two life paths to choose between…
Authors are often asked where the ideas for our stories come from, and with previous books, it was an easy answer. I had a specific origin story—one singular moment when the idea was born, when it took hold and wouldn’t let go. But the concept for bone magic and the genesis of The Bone Charmer was completely different. The idea didn’t come in a flash, but came together over months and years, bit by bit. It was more like a carefully created recipe than a burst of creativity. So, I thought that I’d share some of the ingredients that inspired the book.
1. I’ve always been obsessed with the ways in which our decisions shape us. When my son was little, he was seriously involved in martial arts and was quickly moving up through the ranks in his karate studio. He watched as the older students helped teach the younger ones, and even though he was only in third grade, he knew that’s what he wanted to do someday. He planned to be a black belt by high school and work to train up-and-coming students. But then we moved across the country to a new city and everything changed. We signed him up for martial arts again, but it wasn’t the same. The forms he had to master were different. The atmosphere was different. He lost some of his joy for the practice and eventually decided to quit. But at the same time, his new elementary school had something the old one didn’t—an orchestra. My son signed up to play violin. He loved it, and so we got him private lessons. Music became his life. I often wonder what would have happened if we’d never moved? Would my son have been teaching at a karate studio after school instead of going to rehearsals? Would his personality be slightly different if he’d been on that path? Would he have developed different traits as a black belt than as a violinist? Or would he have given up martial arts and discovered violin regardless of the move? I think about (one might even say obsess about) this kind of thing a lot. Because truly, the people we meet, and the places we live change us. And I always wish I could see a glimpse of the paths not taken, see what things would have been like if I’d made another choice. This book gave me the chance to live out that fantasy.
2. Why build a magic system around bones? This piece of the book came from a chat with my husband, who is a physician. I don’t really remember the context of the conversation, or why we were discussing such a thing, but he made an offhand comment about how cool bones are. I pressed him a little, and he pointed out that bones can heal themselves, that they survive when everything else is gone, that the marrow within them can ward off evil. He said it all in a more medical way…the marrow in bones contains white blood cells that fight disease, blah, blah…but what I heard is this: BONES ARE MAGIC. The conversation sent my mind spinning in a thousand different directions, and before I knew it, I was considering what a world would look like if bones were the source of all power and used as a currency of sorts.
3. Mothers and daughters. After I had a daughter—and especially after she grew old enough to have opinions—it changed the way I saw my own mother. Suddenly, in small mother/daughter conflicts, I was on the opposite end of the struggle. I was seeing the interactions in a way I never had before. Hearing my mother’s voice in my head as her words came out of my mouth and realizing that maybe I hadn’t fully understood her intentions when I was growing up, even though I was certain that I did. I really wanted to explore a healthy mother daughter relationship in fiction—all the messiness and misunderstanding and love. I wanted to paint a nuanced, but ultimately loving, portrait of two women finally coming to understand one another.
Those are just some of the ingredients that went into The Bone Charmer. There are dozens more—magical tattoos that appear for all the world to see during emotionally charged experiences, class differences and privilege, female friendships. Eventually all of these ideas bumped against one another and started to meld. And once I felt like I had enough for a meal, I started writing and completely fell in love with this world and these characters. I hope you will too!
In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.
On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.
Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.
Breeana Shields is an author of fantasy novels for teens including THE BONE CHARMER, POISON’S KISS, and POISON’S CAGE. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in English.
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