FOUR DEAD QUEENS
Written by: Astrid Scholte
Four Queens. A divided nation. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington is one of Quadara's most skilled thieves, but when she steals an unexpectedly valuable package from a messenger she is soon entangled in a conspiracy that leads to all four of Quadara's queens being murdered.
With no other choices and on the run from her former employer, Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, and together they race to discover who has killed the queens. But when dark secrets threaten their reluctant partnership and put everything at stake, Keralie and Varin must use all their daring to stay alive and untangle the mysteries behind the nation's four dead queens.
An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.
Raised on a diet of Spielberg, Lucas and Disney, Astrid knew she wanted to be surrounded by all things fantastical from a young age. She’s spent the last 10 years working in film, animation and television as both an artist and manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tin Tin and Happy Feet 2 by George Miller. She’s a visual writer and aims to capture the vivid stories that play like movies in her head. When she’s not writing, she’s painting her favorite fictional characters and obliging her furry overlords, Lilo and Mickey.
Four Dead Queens is a Indie Bestseller and is available through Penguin Random House (USA & CA) and Allen & Unwin (ANZ). Numerous foreign territories have also been sold. For a full list click here.
What was the inspiration behind Four Dead Queens?
This might sound a little cliche, but I had a dream where I was sitting in a horse-drawn carriage when a futuristic silver car flew past. When I woke, I wondered what kind of world would exist with such contrasting technologies and how this would impact the people who lived there. I'm a huge fan of murder mysteries and wanted to write an Agatha Christie style murder mystery but set in a fantasy world. I also wanted to write a predominantly female cast, where the queens are supportive of each other, rather than tearing each other down.
Who is your favourite character and why?
Oh, that's tricky! I have a soft spot for Queen Corra because she's so kind and always puts others before herself. I also loved writing Mackiel, he's theatrical, charming, intelligent and a whole lot devious. I think readers will love to hate him!
What does an average writing day look like for you?
An average writing day would be checking my emails and social media in the morning and sending out any new posts before diving into my writing. I'm most creatively productive between 4pm-10pm, so I don't usually sit down and write until then. I'm a panster, so if I'm writing my first draft, I might listen to a song that sets the tone that I'm trying to achieve in the novel before starting. I usually just write whatever comes into my head and let the characters go where they want. However, if I'm revising then I usually have more of a "normal" work day of 9-6.
Can you describe your publishing process?
My road to publication was a long and winding one! I first attempted to get published back in 2012 with a YA paranormal romance I'd written. I submitted directly to publishers here in Australia and got close with one publishing house (or what felt like close as they gave a detailed, positive rejection). After that, I decided to query agents in the USA. Over 100 rejections later, with only one full request, I realized that like many of the characters in YA paranormal novels, the genre was dead.
That year, I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time and wrote 50K words of what would become my second completed YA novel, an elemental YA fantasy. This time, I went straight to agents in the USA, as I'd been told that speculative fiction was a difficult sell in Australia. I amassed around 80 rejections with that manuscript, but received 12 full requests and some positive feedback. A common response was that YA fantasy was over-saturated and my book wouldn't stand out in the market.
So I decided to try one more time. (In truth, I'm sure I would've kept going!) I wanted to combine all the things I loved about YA and fiction, including twists, morally gray characters, forbidden romance, secrets and murder mysteries. I also wanted to query as quickly as possible as I'd spent years on failed manuscripts. This book was Four Dead Queens. I signed with my agent through Pitch Wars and we went out on submission early in 2017. Under two weeks later, I received my offer from Penguin Random House. Luckily I didn't give up!
For writers trying to develop their craft, could you share some suggested courses and/or websites and/or opportunities that you feel have helped you on your journey?
The Australian Writers' Centre have many fabulous writing courses, which helped prepare me for publication. You can find out more about my journey with AWC here: https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/astrid-scholte-now-a-successful-author-of-young-adult-fiction/
Overall, the best thing you can do is a lot of reading and writing!