Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Author Spotlight: The Queen Underneath by Stacey Filak + Interview

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 9:00 AM

Stacey Filak lives in Michigan with her husband and four children, as well as a menagerie of pop-culture-named pets. She can be found haunting Twitter (@staceyfilak) when she's not busy crafting worlds, daydreaming about recipes she'll never make, or plotting her enemies' demise. The Queen Underneath is her first book.

Title: The Queen Underneath
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Author: Stacey Filak
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication: May 8th 2018
Cover Rating: 5/5
Reading format: Provided ARC

The Queen Underneath by Stacey Filak is a Young Adult Fantasy novel about a king from Above and a Queen from Under. This arrangement was made to protect the people of both kingdoms. Above is a clean place, a normal kingdom you would think of while reading any normal fantasy book. Under is a dirty place with sex-workers and lots of other questionable things. Two places that couldn't be more different but they will rely on each other to survive.

Gemma is one of our main characters. She was a street urchin, stealing to survive, until one day she stole from the wrong person. This actually ended up being a godsend for her because she became an apprentice to the Queen of Under which means she will be queen when the other one dies. Which might end up happening a lot sooner than was hoped for. I have read a few other reviews before sitting down to write mine and the general consensus is that we all like Gemma as a character. She is very strong and fun character.

Tollan is our other main character. He is the son of the king of Above. Gemma and Tollan end up on this adventure together because both the king and queen have fallen ill. The king has died which makes Tollan the new king. But... someone thinks Tollan is actually responsible for the kings death so things aren't going so smoothly. And thus, the adventure begins.

In the end, this book was such a shockingly amazing read. I am not saying I was expecting a bad book. I am just saying that I never expected this level of awesome from a DEBUT NOVEL! I think the only thing I will warn people on with this book is it is marketed as Young Adult but it definitely boarders on New Adult with some of the scenes. Other than that? I loved this book and highly recommend it to fantasy lovers. 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.






1) When did you first realize that you wanted to be an author?

When I was in 5th grade, my teacher spent a lot of time focusing on creative writing. I don't remember most of what I wrote that year, but I do remember that one of the stories I wrote was a thinly veiled fanfic based on Back to the Future. It was absurd, with appearances by Muammar Gaddafi, who was on the news constantly in 1987, with a cast of mad scientists made up of my friends. I don't remember my teacher's response, or even my friends', but I do remember that it felt good to write it. It felt like I'd made something amazing. So I guess that's when I caught the bug. I wrote a lot of poetry through late elementary school, junior high, and high school. I was the girl who would wander away from the Ouija board at a sleepover in order to write a poem about her grandfather's lunchbox. (True, awkward story.) But I'm not sure that I ever really envisioned myself as an author until much, much later. I devoured books, absorbed stories like air, but I didn't have any confidence in my own ability to create them until my mid-thirties. I was invited to attend a poetry class at a nearby museum, and there I was reminded how fantastic it felt to use words to create something completely unique. After months of poetry, stories began to pop up in my mind. I found it harder and harder to finish my poetry homework because my mind was busy focusing on characters that wanted to be born. So I gave in, and began to write the story.

I guess, I didn't really know that I wanted to be an author until I typed THE END on my first manuscript. But once I had done that, I realized that I was willing to do the work, to hear the 'no's,' and to wait, and work, and wait some more. And it was totally worth it.

2) Did any special music help inspire you while you were writing The Queen Underneath?

There wasn't any particular music that inspired me while writing THE QUEEN UNDERNEATH, but there were songs that I used to put me in the right frame of mind, especially while editing. There are a few songs, in particular, that have come to draw me back into those scenes, even years after I first wrote them. One of these songs was Take Me to Church, by Hozier. One of the main couples in THE QUEEN UNDERNEATH fit this song perfectly, and I used it to put myself into their scenes quite frequently.

Another song that I will always associate with this book is Team by Lorde. This could be the theme song of Under, and especially of the relationship between Gemma, Devery and Elam. When I hear this song, I'm pulled into their apartment on Thieve's Row, long before the events of TQU, when they were younger and figuring out their world. There are some "deleted scenes" that take place during that time/place, and in my mind, Lorde is playing in the background.

A third song that will always put me back in Yigris is The Scientist by Coldplay. The lyrics always put me near the end of the book, when some of the characters would gladly go backward, going back to the start.

There are many songs that I listened to on repeat, when I was writing TQU, but these are by far the most evocative for me.

3) If you could pick anyone to play the main characters in The Queen Underneath who would you pick and why?

 Not that I've ever considered it (*wink, wink) but if I was to cast my main characters, I would start by begging Frankie Adams (of SyFy's The Expanse) to play Gemma. She is exactly the type of woman I envisioned, when I first put Gemma on the page -- charismatic and confident, physically powerful as well as a big personality. She is the kind of woman who takes up space in a scene, and that is exactly who Gemma is.

After I had coerced Ms. Adams into joining the cast, I'd turn to John Boyega for the role of Tollan. I think he has the perfect blend of humor and serious acting chops to play a part like Tollan's. Grow his hair out a little and add some stubble and he'd look exactly like I imagined Tollan. Plus, maybe giving Boyega the love story between Tollan and Elam would satisfy some of those that are still waiting for a Finn/Poe romance.

Speaking of Elam, I've always known exactly who I wanted to play his role. Elam is the emotional heart of the story, linking Above and Under through his relationships with both Tollan and Gemma. The actor that would play him needs to be a little bit more experienced, and have a little more gravitas, and so the actor I would cast is Dev Patel, who I believe is capable of the depth within Elam, the kindness as well as the loyalty, the priest and the lover.

Finishing out my quadrangle would be Jaime Bell as Devery. He looks the part -- wiry, graceful, with a smart-ass smile and the ability to turn his gaze hard on a dime. Going all the way back to Billy Elliot, it is obvious that Bell has incredible range, and I would love to see him in the part of Devery, who is part unmatched assassin and part soft-hearted boyfriend.

4) If you have to choose between never eating chocolate again or never being able to write again which would you choose?

Oh, man. That's an easy one. I'd give up chocolate in a minute. First, I couldn't possibly give up writing, and second, maybe I'd finally lose those pounds I've been meaning to lose.

5) Are you currently working on anything new?

 I have a Middle Grade fantasy out on submission at the moment, currently called THE CROSSROADS INN, about a girl who finds herself living in motel populated by displaced magical creatures from other worlds. I'm currently working on a couple of different books -- another Middle Grade about a pre-teen Grim Reaper in training and a near-future YA dystopia that examines gender, class, and the current state of our health care system in a world ruled by extreme wealth where the working class must "sell skin" (have advertisements tattooed on their body as a way to pay their bills). I also have a Viking time-travel thing percolating in the back of my mind, though not much has been put to paper, yet.

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