Sunday, May 12, 2024

Q&A with Mary Pascual




Mary Pascual is the author of the new young adult novel Walk the Web Lightly. She also has written the YA novel The Byways. She lives in San Jose, California.


Q: What inspired you to write Walk the Web Lightly, and how did you create your character Naya?


A: Walk the Web Lightly was actually inspired by a character from my first book, The Byways. I had this character pop into my head, out of nowhere.


I called him Gideon the Spider and I knew he could see potential futures. I really hadn’t planned this character but he worked his way into the story. And then I couldn’t let the idea go. I wanted to write a YA character who had Gideon’s gift and could see time.


At the same time, I was looking up spider myths and folktales online, and I ran across a myth about a spider and a snake. In the myth, the spider was creative and the snake was relentless, and they were both tricky and sort of natural enemies.


That’s when the idea for Walk the Web Lightly really started to unfold, and I decided to write about Naya, who is Gideon’s daughter but out in the regular world instead of the byways.


I also wanted to write a story that incorporated the snake aspect and those power dynamics. Because I think we can all agree that if we’re looking at a spider and a snake, the spider is the one at a disadvantage.


So I used the framework of that myth to also explore certain aspects of male entitlement and how that affects female agency. 


Q: What do you think the story says about the relationship between science and magic?


A: I personally feel like there’s a lot of magic in nature and science, just as there is magic in art, and I wanted to convey that. I think that when we allow ourselves to see the intricacies and beauty of nature, we can open ourselves up to a different kind of magic, one that let us see and experience the world with curiosity and wonder.


This story’s magic sets up a system that’s bigger, unknown and greater than the characters, and explores that on a macro level through walking the lines. Then Naya’s love of science also explores the complexity of science and the awe of discovery at a micro, individual level.


But by the end, I hope, the story conveys that both the magic and science are complex, beautiful, and intertwined. They are mirrors of each other. Maybe science is a little magical, and magic has a bit of science, and there’s a wonderful mystery to both!


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title comes from a poem that popped into my head while I was developing the story. I wrote two poems while I was writing and they are both included in the book. I was writing very lyrically with this novel and that tends to inspire my poetry side.


To me, the title speaks to the responsibility of the main character’s power, but it’s also about the responsibility of knowledge in general and the awareness of consequences that knowledge might bring. The title, Walk the Web Lightly, is a sort of a gentle warning to be mindful about how we move about in the world. 


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


A: I hope this story will encourage readers to look a little more closely at the world around them, to discover aspects of beauty they hadn’t noticed before. I hope readers will be encouraged to discover and follow their own path. I would love if this book inspired some questions, so that readers think about the consequences of both knowledge and the choices we make.


And since assumptions are a big theme in this book, I would also love readers to challenge themselves about their own knowledge: What might be preconceptions or stereotypes? Can we question our own assumptions to gain better understanding? What do we truly know and what are we just passing along without really thinking about it? Sometimes the biggest step is just to have more awareness.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently working on another novel that is set in the same universe as Walk the Web Lightly and The Byways, but with different characters. That story involves a cursed circus and a young man who can talk to wind. I’m pretty excited by where it’s going but it might be a while before I can give more details.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The magic in this story is pretty fun! It’s not a straight “psychic” story, but it isn’t a “time traveling” story either, it’s in between but I think it could appeal to fans of both.


It’s set in the real world, with real world concerns, but it goes in some unexpected directions and it has magic. It’s a lyrical, heartful story, that then takes a turn toward the dramatic.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Mary Pascual.

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