I am so so excited to bring you not just one, but two interviews this week as I talk with Joanna Ruth Meyer about Echo North, her magical sophomore novel!
If you love fairytales and enchanting, atmospheric novels, and MAGICAL LIBRARIES (!!!), then you have to check out Echo North. It’s all of this and more.
Almost like a Beauty & the Beast, but not quite, Echo North revolves around a girl whisked away to an enchanted house beneath a mountain, where she learns secrets about this magical mansion.
It’s so epic, and I had an awesome time reading, which you can hear more about in my review. But first, there’s an interview with Joanna herself where you can hear more about Echo North straight from the source, and after we have a giveaway (ooh, exciting!).
So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and happy reading!
Hi Joanna! I’m so excited to have you on my blog today! Echo North is such an awesome read and I can’t wait for more readers to pick it up this Tuesday! Could you tell us a little bit about Echo North and some of the folklore that inspired the novel?
Thanks so much for having me, Vicky! Echo North is a retelling of the Norwegian fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which, for those unfamiliar with it, is essentially Beauty and the Beast with a quest at the end! I also draw on elements from the myth of Cupid and Psyche—the original Beauty and the Beast—as well as the Scottish Ballad Tam Lin.
My version is about a girl called Echo who is an outcast in her village because of the facial scars she suffered as a child. In order to save her father, she promises a mysterious white wolf to live with him in his house for a year. But there’s more to the wolf than she realizes… As the year ticks away, Echo races to figure out what’s really going on and keep the wolf’s magical house—and the enchanted library inside of it—from unraveling. When her actions propel her on an impossible journey into the frozen north, Echo must call on the old magic—and her newfound inner strength—to confront an ancient evil.
I love picking up untraditional retellings, and Echo North did not disappoint! You mentioned some of the stories you took inspiration from, most notably East of the Sun and West of the Moon–how did you take elements from the fairytales so their influence was still recognizable, yet still leave Echo North a completely unique piece in itself?
One of the things I did when I started writing the first draft was to purposely not reread the original source material to kind of allow myself to follow the threads of the story where they wanted to go. This led to my misremembering details about East of the Sun, like using a lamp (which is from Cupid and Psyche) instead of the fairytale’s actual candle. But I liked the lamp, so I left it. 😀 East of the Sun stars a white bear, but in Echo he’s a white wolf. Perhaps the biggest non-spoilery change from the fairytale is my purposeful borrowing of a huge element from Tam Lin. The original ending felt like it needed something more, and the ending of Tam Lin just seemed to fit, so in it went!
When I was about to start the third draft of Echo, I still wasn’t quite happy with the ending, so I asked myself what would happen if [SPOILERS REDACTED], and exploring that question resulted in a conclusion to Echo’s journey that was neither in the original fairytale nor in my initial vision. I think it adds a unique flavor to the book (I hope you agree!).
But in any case, I hope I’ve succeeded in capturing the spirit of East of the Sun, West of the Moon—it honestly did begin as a strict retelling; everything else just kind of crept in there while I was writing. 😀
Echo herself is a really interesting character–especially her journey in accepting herself and her appearance as she is scarred on her face and goes through some childhood trauma because of it. In what ways did you craft Echo’s emotional ARC to let her have this journey and acceptance and pride in her scars?
It was important to me to have a heroine who didn’t adhere to the traditional definition of “beauty.” Echo struggles a lot with her appearance. She spends much of the beginning of the novel thinking that she can’t do or attain certain things in life because of her scars. These thoughts are reinforced by the people in her village, who say she’s been marked by the Devil and refuse to have anything to do with her. Even her father and brother’s constant encouragement can’t make Echo change her mind.
In the enchanted book-mirrors inside the wolf’s library, Echo gets a taste of what her life would be like without the scars, what it would be like to be “beautiful.” But she has the realization that this version of her isn’t real, which sparks the beginning of her journey to accepting her appearance.
By the end of the novel, Echo sees her scars—and herself—in a different way, but I can’t say more than that without spoilers!
The magic and setting of Echo North was so enthralling and I loved reading the lush descriptions, as well as the magical library! (Yes, you heard that right! MAGICAL. LIBRARY.) You talk a little bit about this in the author’s note at the end, but what inspired you to create some of the engaging and lush settings and magic system in Echo North?
As I mention in the author’s note, a lot of the landscapes in the latter part of the book are inspired by Siberian Russia. Much of Echo’s journey takes place in a winter environment, and Siberia was the coldest place I could think of. 😀 When I looked up pictures of Siberia online, I was blown away by how beautiful and magical it is, and wound up writing whole sections of the novel because of that!
I had a lot of fun inventing the various landscapes accessible through the magical library (WHY DOESN’T IT ACTUALLY EXIST??). It was great to get a break from the wolf’s house, and I essentially let my imagination run wild. Creating little slices of story without having to craft a whole novel out of them was immensely satisfying and enjoyable!
Journeys are a common theme in literature, and Echo goes through multiple different types of journeys in Echo North–emotional ones and physical ones. What would you say is Echo’s largest struggle in the text and what are some of the ways (without spoilers!) does she work to overcome it?
I already talked a bit about what I think Echo’s largest struggle is—coming to terms with her facial scars. She has a lot to learn in the novel, and through different choices she makes, like applying to the university, going to live with the wolf, deciding to [SPOILERS REDACTED], and embarking on her journey, she gets closer to accepting herself for who she is, and gaining confidence despite those scars—maybe even because of them.
Wow! That was so awesome and Joanna’s responses were so interesting (and the [SPOILERS REDACTED] were scream worthy!) I so loved reading Echo North, so read on to find out about what I thought of this novel and its magical tale!
This was so magical, I totally fell in love with the enchanted house under the mountain and all of the lush settings in Echo North! (This was definitely my favorite part of reading, 100%.)
The settings and way Meyer built this world was so magical and absorbing and I couldn’t get enough of it. From Echo’s hometown and its almost provincial feeling to the sweeping and somewhat menacing enchanted house under the mountain to the icy cold landscapes she travels to at the end of the book, Echo North was as magical as it was lush!
And even more than that, I totally thought Echo herself was such a cool character, and dynamic not necessarily in the way that she changes her outlook on life–but that she changes the way she looks at herself.
I thought one of the most important part of Echo’s character arc was the way she looked at herself and her facial scarring and learned to accept that part of herself instead of hate it.
And of course, there’s so much more to the plot than that, and the enchanted house is actually disappearing and parts of it (the rooms are there but not there) are breaking away due to the enchantment wearing out.
This is where the magic comes in a lot, and I loved seeing Meyer not only develop something enchanting, but also something a little bit sinister and scary and dark as what was happening in the house.
And the journey Echo takes–from her village to the house to the more physical quest–was really interesting, although the reason I took off a star was because of the last part, the physical quest.
For the first two parts–the village and the enchanted house–I’d give this book a five stars, but for the physical journey to the “final battle” of sorts, I would dock the stars a bit because it wasn’t perfect, in my opinion. (Still really good, though.)
The journey was good and I think it was important to the storyline, but also the last bit felt a little rushed and I wish Meyer dedicated more page time to that and took some away from the house? Because a lot of things were being compacted into this section, and there was so much going on I was a little overwhelmed.
The ending fight scene though was top notch, and I loved reading that (as well as THAT TWIST OH MY GOSH!!!). That part blew me away!
I also felt like, as a result of the lack of page time, the villain in person seemed a bit less AHH than I expected or wanted. I wanted her to be a little more shocking and stark and villainous (not in a caricature way) than we got, but it was still very interesting.
Despite my criticism, I still really enjoyed reading Echo North and would totally recommend you pick this up! If you like magic and enchanted libraries and sweeping tales with lush landscapes, do not hesitate to check this one out!
Thank you so much to Page Street YA and Joanna Ruth Meyer for providing me with an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!
More About the Book
Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer
Hardcover, 400 pages
January 15th 2019 by Page Street Kids
Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart after her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an offer: for her to come and live with him for a year. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.
In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, Echo discovers centuries-old secrets, a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up—otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.
Preorder from Joanna’s local indie, Changing Hands, to receive a signed and personalized copy! You can buy it here!
More About the Author
Joanna Ruth Meyer is a writer of Young Adult fantasy. She lives with her dear husband and son in Arizona, where it never rains (or at least not often enough for her!). When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching piano lessons, drinking copious amounts of tea, reading thick books, and dreaming of winter.
She is the author of Beneath the Haunting Sea, Echo North (1.15.19), and Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Fall 2019), with Page Street YA.
Also, did you know that there’s still time to preorder and receive a bunch of cool goodies? You can find more information here, but it’s also open to library requests and has a teen specific option, if you’re supporting and would still love goodies!
But hurry, Echo North publishes Tuesday, the 15th, so go go go! You can receive a bookmark, a sticker, a magnet, a postcard, and a signed bookplate!
Excited for Echo North, now?! Well, here’s your chance to read!
Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below where one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Echo North! (US Only). Or, if you’re not willing to risk it, you can always buy through one of the buy links in the “More About the Book” section.
For official rules, please check the Rafflecopter. Open until January 19th, 2018 at 12 AM EST.