During a recent interview, I was put in contact with Author Kim Love Stump. Originally from Asheboro, Kim is a Charlotte-based author who has written a wonderful YA book ‘A Clearing in the Forest’. The story explores Kingdom Ayrden where the heroine of the story, Princess Adriana, must go on a journey following her 16th birthday to prove herself worthy of ascending the throne. Through the course of her journey, she goes through three very different kingdoms never knowing if she will ever make it back home.
This story is woven together with rich, detailed descriptions that really help the reader visualize the worlds and characters that Adriana encounters during her journey. While geared towards YA, adults can thoroughly enjoy this book.
Before I’d even started reading the book, I was already thinking up questions that I wanted to ask Kim, and as a fellow writer, I was inspired by her story and process.
When did you first become interested in writing?
Forever. The first time, 3rd grade in Ms. Dorset’s class in Asheboro, she had a picture of dates. So I wrote the story ‘I am a date’. It’s all about a date-making journey to the store and ends with a girl eating it. I always loved to write, and had random notebooks filled with stories, nothing completed. Writing is something I’ve always done when I get stressed or am working through something.
What drew you to the young adult genre in particular?
The story itself. I had the idea in 1996, my kids were young and I wrote a rough idea of it in my journal. It was right after we’d come back from a trip, wrote the prologue which I tweaked for years. I knew it would be a children’s book. The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe was a critical book for me, and I planned it to be for older elementary. When I got into writing the main character (Princess Adriana) I knew there would be a romantic element and I wanted her to be old enough for it to play out. So I knew it was meant to be YA. I really like YA lit and I love to read it aloud to both of my children. When my daughter was in high school I’d read what she would be reading so we could discuss it.
I love the title of your book, how did you come up with it?
I couldn’t decide on the title and my husband and children read the book, I asked my husband what the title should be and he said, “A Clearing in the Forest”.
In your story you’ve created an entire world, what sort of process did you go through to create it? Create as you go? Or did you plan it all out in advance?
The story always started in this idyllic perfect kingdom (Ayrden) and a lot of the imagery is out of scripture and the emerald floor is from Revelation and the green rainbow that circles the throne. I always knew she was going through the forest and the second one the things like the floating food pods (I was writing that scene from a prompt in my writing class and trying to think about how she’s going to find her food) and I saw a poster in my writing class and went from there. The idea for Paktos, the young tree, who cuts Adriana loose (in Chehalem) came from Italy from a garden on Lake Como. Redbud I kept seeing a face in the oak tree in my yard. That’s how I thought of a tree creature. Shahar is basically the Bahamas. the last kingdom just came to my mind.
Authors often feel a strong connection to their main characters. The main character in your book, Princess Adriana, goes on a journey to prove herself worthy of ascending the throne. Do you feel that during the course of writing the book that you developed a connection to her and looked forward to how she would accomplish her goal?
Yes, interestingly she’s a little bit me and a little bit my daughter and some of the things she encounters and similar to some of mine and my daughters. Shahar (or the ‘land of the bad boyfriend’ as I like to call it) comes from experiences both my daughter and I had, and that’s what that land is all about. After I finished the book and was into the publication process and I was working on the second one and I was seeing how long she was in there. She’s only there 72 hours. I felt very protective of her, so I didn’t want her to stay there long.
I love archery and have always been interested in learning the art of fencing. Before going on her journey, Princess Adriana learns both archery and fencing. How did you research these sports?
Online. I did a lot of Googling. There was a parking lot attendant at Reid’s who taught fencing so I talked to him about it. Archery was mostly online and a medieval book. I also had some photos that I took when we were in Europe. We visited a place that had a display with archery equipment.
What was your favorite character to write about aside from Adriana?
I really enjoyed writing about Theo, but I had the most fun writing about his sister Elissa and her love of life. I have a lot of her internal properties but I don’t live them out loud as she does.
What was your favorite part about writing this book?
When I would get to a place where I didn’t quite know what was going to happen and I would have an idea and I would start writing and it would be obvious that was what needed to happen. For instance… How the paths in the clearings opened up… I wrote her into a corner and there was no exit and I wasn’t sure how that was going to work and then about having the paths opened up. I remember laughing after I finished the scene and how it worked and I liked it. It was a fun thing. When you don’t know where it’s going is my favorite… you know needs to happen but not how it’s going to get there.
Is there a message you hope readers will get out of reading A Clearing in the Forest?
Leave bad boyfriends early and once and for all… There are also some philosophical thoughts of mine… I think we can be held back by our families of origin and we have to be willing to strike out on our own. Kalek is an example of that…. we need to get away from that which is not good for us. It isn’t until Adriana reaches the third land and stands up for Elissa when she thinks Theo is going to harm her, that she really decides to be who she really is. It’s at that point where she really comes into her own.
Will the second book pick up where the last story left off?
It’s Alexander’s story and what you don’t know is that Alexander and Adriana’s stories cross and some of the second book will have Adrianna before she gets back from her journey.