Angie Grigaliunas (grig-ah-LOO-nahs) is a part-time normal person and full-time author of fantasy/dystopian young adult books. And also some romance. (“She admits it! Murderer!”) She loves Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and has always wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity.
She has completed four books: one about elves that needs a massive revision before it ever sees the light of day, one that is part of her current story but also needs a massive revision to fit a new storyline, and the actual first and second books (Sowing and Quelling) in her dystopian fantasy series (The Purification Era). When she’s not writing, she’s usually Facebooking – ack! – or thinking about story stuff. Or exercising. Or eating ice cream, because life is short and ice cream is delicious. Despite several of her writing friends claiming she’s Canadian, she is not; she lives in Ohio with her dear husband, their goofy dog, and their crazy cats.
Angie, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Like so many of your friends I thought you were from Canada, too, instead of Ohio. Have you ever even been to Canada? Do you enjoy traveling and do your adventurous experiences make their way into your writing?
Of course! I love answering questions, ha!
You thought I was from Canada too? Ah, that’s great! I have been to Canada. Years ago, my family took a trip to Niagara Falls and journeyed briefly across the border. We thought it was so cool to say we “walked” to Canada. Getting in was pretty easy, but getting back to the USA, we didn’t have the proper identification for my younger siblings, and the people at the border gave us some trouble about it. We had to leave my little brother behind for a while. … Haha, kidding! At least on that part. There really was some sort of issue, but I don’t remember exactly what it was. I think it was that, though, because they were just little kids and didn’t have any ID at all.
Your book series, The Purification Era, begins with Sowing, which became a top 10 finalist in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO 2018 contest. Tell us a bit about the series. Who are your main characters and why are they the ones who must tell this story?
So, the series itself is more or less a dystopian story (oppressive government, brewing rebellion, teen girls) set in a medieval-ish world. The Hulcondans (soldier regime; think Nazis) control the known lands and protect the citizens from a humanoid creature race called itzalin, who they claim will wipe out humanity if given the chance. Obviously, this is propaganda so they can stay in power and oppress the people, because it is a dystopian world and they’re clearly evil since they wear black and are brutal. Or maybe they’re right and any successful rebellion would open them up to an itzalin invasion and result in a lot of needless suffering and death. Or maybe everyone is both right and wrong about basically everything and no one has any idea what is actually going on even though a lot of people know a lot of things… (Just throwing stuff out there… *cackles*)
I write the series in dual first person, and it follows two sisters – Rabreah, who is a rebel against the Hulcondans; and Ariliah, who trusts the Hulcondans with her life and has no idea how deep her sister’s dislike for them actually goes. While the girls share some similarities just from being sisters and being raised in the same environment, they’re very different personality-wise: Rab is a fighter, often abrasive, and doesn’t trust people easily; Ariliah is sweet, timid, and believes the best in people. They love each other dearly and would do anything for each other.
The other main characters would probably be Sorek (rebel leader) and Masrekah (second in command Hulcondan in the city). Neither guy gets a POV, but they’re both…um, I can’t really say what I want to about them without spoilers. They’re both vital to the story. I can say that.
I chose Rab and Ari as POV characters because I wanted the story to feel sort of…confining? That’s not the right word. (Suffocating? No…) Like, there are a ton of things going on behind the scenes – a TON; gosh, if you only knew… – and the girls don’t see much of it at all, so the reader doesn’t see it either. We know only what Rab and Ari know – and Rab and Ari don’t know much. Oh, and they are both biased. (Especially Rab, Miss Angrypants-All-Men-Are-Evil-And-Out-To-Hurt-Me.) Their world is changing, they’re not aware of why or who the enemy even is, and they’re doing the best they can to understand and adapt. The more things in their city spiral out of control and flip upside down, the more they’ll have to confront their beliefs, prejudices, and fears. Such fun.
It’s not really an action-focused story, nor is it meant to be (at least at this point). It is far more psychological, a gradual eroding of what the girls have always believed – and what their society as a whole believes and teaches. Some readers have said it’s slow, and while I might have missed the mark on showing things properly, it’s meant to be somewhat slow – because when you’re dealing with racism and indoctrination, it’s more of an unraveling than a flipped switch. And beyond all of the world craziness, it’s a story of the bond between two sisters.
The Purification Series does not shy away from the hardships we experience in everyday life. One reader captured the essence stating that the series includes references to “rape/sexual assault, infanticide, torture, abusive relationships/parents, forced marriages, or child marriages”. By including these aspects into your novel, what were you hoping to communicate to your readers?
Ha, sounds about right! A lot of that stuff came naturally as I started creating the world/society – it was kind of a thing of, “Well, if they are ___, then ___ would likely be going on…if they believe ___, then ___ would happen…” Some came from documentaries I watched – like one about how in certain countries, baby girls are pretty much discarded. Or things I read about child soldiers (the Hulcondans start training at age eight) or forced marriages. If someone has been raised to believe that certain things are okay – even desirable – and everyone around them is doing it and encouraging it…it will become part of them too. I sometimes feel like I have to defend the society I created, but I haven’t made anything up, really. I’ve pulled from history, from the present… I’ve tried to capture human nature: the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the downright evil. But on the opposite side of that, I hope I manage to capture the hope too – that most “bad” people don’t think they’re bad, that struggles and pain can make us stronger and more compassionate, and that people (even the ones we least expect) can change.
Underneath all of the darkness, the story is ultimately one of redemption. Some may argue with me on this, but I will stand by this truth with my dying breath: anyone, no matter what they’ve done or what has been done to them, can be redeemed and brought back to the light.
The second book, Quelling, continues the journey in this dystopian world. How do we see the two sisters grow/change compared to the first book? Should we expect a greater transition in book three?
In Sowing, the changes are mostly subtle, more in the girls than anything else (though the tension is mounting in the city). In Quelling, things really start crumbling. Both girls have to face things in themselves – and choose what they are going to do with what they see. Rab has to trust people that she otherwise would recoil from, and Ariliah needs to learn how to step out and stand up for herself. The rift between them grows wider (though they don’t really realize), with each girl taking her side.
In book three? Things will shatter. So many things. Muhahaha.
Of course, you have published a handful of short stories as well, included in anthologies like Forgotten Places and Nightmares: In Writers Retreat. Do you have a favorite among them? What is it about?
The story in Forgotten Places is “Well of the Beloved”…
Deep in the forest, there is a magic Well with the power to grant wishes – for a price. When Vidar, one of the guardians of the Well, encounters Princess Charis traveling to the sacred site, he accompanies her. But Charis bears a secret. For Vidar, getting Charis to and from the Well is a chore he grudgingly accepts. For Charis, it’s life and death.
And the one in Nightmares is “Travel at Night”…
Princess Aisha is terrified – not of the dark, but of dawn. Daybreak brings out the mythical gry, creatures that feed on human flesh. With her kingdom besieged, her father dead, and her mother dying, Aisha and a courageous guard are the only hope of aid. But going for help means walking *through* the very monsters that will eat them alive…
Both of those will end up being their own actual books…eventually…
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
I had planned to finish writing a prequel duology (and move toward publishing it), though that has been slightly postponed for the time being as I am actually revising Sowing a bit. SPFBO has brought to light some of its weaker aspects, and I realized that a lot of the criticisms were things I could fix. So, to the best of my ability, I am fixing those things. Sowing will be re-released soon, and then I’ll be back to writing the duology. I’m still hoping to finish writing it by the end of this year.
It has been a pleasure, Angie! Please tell us where fans can find you online.
Thank you!! I’m in the slow process of getting my website ready, so the best places right now are…