Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today is my stop on the blog tour for Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom. You can find the schedule for the rest of the posts here. I’ll be sharing an interview with the author today; a big thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours, and to the author Nina Varela for her time.
A thrilling fantasy adventure from acclaimed author Nina Varela that explores friendship and queer identity, perfect for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers and Rick Riordan’s Trials of Apollo series!
When Juniper Harvey’s family moves to the middle of nowhere in Florida, her entire life is uprooted. As if that’s not bad enough, she keeps having dreams about an ancient-looking temple, a terrifying attack, and a mysterious girl who turns into an ivory statue. One night after a disastrous school dance, Juniper draws a portrait of the girl from her dreams and thinks, I wish you were here. The next morning, she wakes up to find the girl in her room…pointing a sword at her throat!
The unexpected visitor reveals herself as Galatea, a princess from a magical other world. One problem—her crown is missing, and she needs it in order to return home. Now, it’s up to Juniper to help find the crown, all while navigating a helpless crush on her new companion. And things go from bad to worse when a sinister force starts chasing after the crown too.
Packed with adventure and driven by a pitch-perfect voice, this middle grade debut from Nina Varela is about one tween forging new friendships, fighting nightmarish monsters, and importantly, figuring out who she is and who she ultimately wishes to be.
Content Warning: Violence (involving swords), blood, physical combat; Brief mentions of animal suffering; Discussions of anxiety, panic attacks
Hi Nina, thanks for talking to me today about Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
Thank you for having me! Juniper Harvey was loosely inspired by the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, or “Pygmalion and the Statue.” I was captivated by the idea of a lonely artist dreaming their ideal companion into being.
What drives you to write middle grade?
It’s just such a raw age. Even more than being a teen, being in middle school is when kids really start being aware of how they’re perceived by others, if they’re “weird” or doing things “right” or not. It’s so tumultuous, so rife with drama. It’s also the age when I really fell in love with reading fantasy, so I’ve always wanted to write fantasy adventure for children—especially queer/questioning children. Malinda Lo’s ASH was formative for me as a young queer person.
When you approach your writing, what is your starting point? What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I generally write chronologically. if only so I don’t forget what’s going on, at least for the first draft – after that I tend to start rewriting starting at the end first and going backward, reverse-engineering the plot. I used to write after work, from 7:00pm to midnight, and on weekends, but during the pandemic I started working from home so now I keep slightly more normal hours. I’m a relatively slow writer, so I set daily wordcount goals depending on my next deadline and do my best to stick to them!
Who was your favourite character to write in Juniper Harvey and why?
I loved writing the character of Dreamtender, for reasons that are a bit too spoilery to list. Let’s just say that everything is not as it seems, and Dreamtender was super fun to write.
What do you most hope readers take away from this story?
I hope it feels like hanging out with friends—and that it feels sufficiently magical! Also, especially for queer readers, I hope it makes them feel seen and heard.
What was your favourite part of the mythology to weave in with the fiction?
A lot of the magic in Juniper Harvey is based off dreams and the dreaming realm, so I had a lot of fun coming up with strange things that dream and nightmare magic would bring to life, such as a giant crocodile-toad monster.
Finally, how would you sum up Juniper Harvery and the Vanishing Kingdom in three words?
Earnest, dreamy, open.
About the Author
Nina Varela was born in New Orleans and raised in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood running around in the woods. These days, Nina lives in Los Angeles with her tiny, ill-behaved dog. She writes stories about queer kids, magic, and the magic of queer kids. You can find Nina on twitter (@ninavarelas) or at http://www.ninavarela.com.
Amazon US / Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
Thanks again to Nina for her time for this interview today. This middle grade adventure really isn’t one to miss.