How did you come up with the idea for PROPHECY?
I’d been doing research on ancient Korea for years and had written two novels, both which had been trunked. It was back in 2007, I was stuck in beltway traffic staring at the unmoving bumper of the car in front of me when the idea hit me. It was a bolt of lightning. What if there was a young prince who everyone believed was the hero of legend, but when it came time for the prophecy to come true, it turned out that the real hero was not him, but his despised girl cousin. At that moment, the whole outline of the story came pouring out of my head and I frantically had to search for loose pieces of paper to scribble out my answer as I inched along in traffic. I wrote this book quickly, in less than five months, but revision took a lot longer.
You have a map of the seven kingdoms. How difficult was it to build the world?
It’s based loosely on kingdoms and city states of the Three Kingdoms period of ancient Korea. So I was able to use some real locations and come up with my own for others.
What are some of your favorite details?
I loved using the myths and legends of Korea. Like the Nine Dragon Waterfall, which is an actual waterfall in North Korea and the legend of the eight heavenly maidens who were said to descend to earth and bathe in the jade green pools. The chance to incorporate these myths and legends were the best part about writing this book.
Is there time for love / romance / kissing while fighting demon lords?
Not in the first book! But there’s a reason for this. Traditional Korea was very puritan in its approach to relationships between girls and boys. If anyone watches K-dramas, they would see that kisses are fairly chaste and relationships tend to progress slowly. To be true to the feel of a book, even though it is fantasy, set in ancient Korea, I knew that the romance had to be very light, at least for now.
Kira is the only girl in the guard and not liked. How does she not cave or give up under pressure?
She’s very strong willed and stubborn. But she also has a strong connection to a tiger spirit (which will be explained in the book) that always helps her strengthen her mind and body.
What do you want readers to know about Kira?
Kira is a strong person, and yet she has been bullied and vilified her entire life. She has no real friends. I know that I could relate so strongly to this feeling of isolation and being shunned because I myself had to deal with being bullied and shunned when I was in middle school, and yet I was a fighter. We tend to think of people who are bullied as weak in some way and that’s simply not true. It’s because they are different. I wanted for Kira to be this strong female warrior that had to deal with much adversity, and even though she may not always be able to resolve the issue, she would constantly grow and become stronger because of it.
What do you have planned for your debut year?
More writing. I’m very fortunate to have two more books to write.
What book are you looking forward to in 2013?
There are so many! All of my mates at the Friday the Thirteeners have incredible books coming out and I can’t wait to grab every single one of them! And then there are 3 sequels that I simply MUST have! Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM, Robin LaFevers DARK TRIUMPH, and Marie Lu’s PRODIGY.
Where do you spend your time online?
I find myself spending too much time on tumblr now. It’s such a fun place!
Do you have a hidden talent and if so what is it?
I have a talent for belching very loudly. However, the family would like for me to keep it a hidden talent.
Can you tell us a fact about teen Ellen?
Teen Ellen was always in trouble for fighting. I had a terribly short temper and a notoriously sharp tongue for saying just the right insults to get myself in to a big old mess. Adult Ellen is much more mellow. The reason is simply that adult Ellen is too lazy and too tired to stay angry for too long.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on book 2 of my series called WARRIOR. I get to use even more Korean myths and legends. In this one, we get to meet a kumiho, a nine-tailed demon fox. She is, quite possibly, my new favorite character, next to Kira.
To learn more about Ellen visit www.ellenoh.com or follow her on twitter @elloecho.