Sunday, April 28, 2024

Q&A with Christina Bacilieri




Christina Bacilieri is the author of the new young adult novel The Last Refuge. She lives in Texas.


Q: What inspired you to write The Last Refuge, and how did you create your character Kiera?


A: Stories have always helped me make sense of the world. I began writing this one at a particularly tumultuous time in my life. I’d recently found out my grandmother’s cancer had returned. She is the one who gifted me with my love of story, and without her support, I wouldn’t have had the courage to pick up a pen.


I often believe that our darkest times are when we need magic the most. I was inspired by a dream I had where I watched Kiera cross over the border into Etabon and transform into her magical form. It sparked the concept of a world where the beings were many different types of creatures cut off from their magic.


At its core, The Last Refuge explores the idea of who we would become if we gave ourselves a chance to look.


I wrote Kiera for my younger self; she is the type of protagonist I wish I’d read more of growing up. Much of her personality is fictitious, but I did borrow pieces from the heroes in my life to instill in her. She is a character that holds space for both fierceness and compassion.


I wanted to portray a protagonist who is dealing with the struggle of masking who she is to fit into a broken system. Kiera embodies the idea of coming home to your authentic self.


Q: How did you come up with the idea for the world of Etabon?


A: The genres that influenced me the most growing up were dystopian and fantasy, so it felt natural to create my own dystopian fantasy world with forbidden magic.


As a kid, I was captivated by narratives like The Chronicles of Narnia. The idea of crossing into a magical realm is so compelling to me. I wanted the festival grounds of Etabon to hold all of that magic and wonder but with a transformational component.


A person’s connection to their magic is unique, meaning when they cross the border into Etabon and transform their magical form speaks to their character on a deeper level.

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it a “suspenseful adventure that will engage readers to the final page.” What do you think of that description, and did you know how the story would end before you started writing it?


A: I was incredibly honored by Kirkus’s assessment of The Last Refuge. It perfectly encapsulates the experience I set out to create for the reader: a thrilling journey alongside Kiera into a magical world full of high-stakes bargains and supernatural danger.


Regarding the ending, I’d had the image of elks and a harrowing race through a moonlit forest in my mind since the beginning, but many aspects of how the characters end up there developed as I wrote the story.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: The Last Refuge speaks to the universal quest for belonging that we all go on. I hope my readers take away a sense of connection from the book. My goal is to transport them to a world where they can escape into the intricate worldbuilding and twists and turns of Kiera's journey.


Books have always provided a safe place for me to find myself, and I want to create a similar space for readers where they’re free to dream and feel seen in these characters and their adventures.


Q: This is the first in a series--can you tell us what’s next?


A: Yes, I’m working on book two in the trilogy now. It will focus on the choices Kiera will be forced to make and the internal battle of light and dark within herself. She’ll unravel secrets about her past and her future.


To save the ones she loves, Kiera will not only have to call upon her magic like never before, but she must rely on the bonds that she'll forge throughout her upcoming trials.


There’s a darkness growing within the borders of Etabon, and if it's unleashed upon Kiera's world... not even the deepest love or strongest magic will set the scales of light and dark to rights again.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: For updates on my writing journey and upcoming books, you can find me on Instagram @christinabacilieri, TikTok @christinabacilieriauthor, and at my website


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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