Today, co-host Wendy is excited to be bringing you a Q&A with Julie Abe for the release of her second middle grade book Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch – the sequel to Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch! If you love stories involving friendship and adventure, set in a magical world, be sure to pick this book up.
About the Book:
The thrilling sequel to Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch in which Eva must put a stop to the violent Culling or risk the fate of Rivelle Realm forever — perfect for fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
From this day forward, we will believe in the impossible.
Eva Evergreen has fulfilled her dream of earning the rank of Novice Witch, and discovered the chilling truth behind the mysterious Culling — the violent magical storm wreaking havoc across Rivelle Realm.
Revealing the truth, however, proves to be a difficult task and soon the culprit is at large. To make matters worse Eva learns what might be the horrible truth behind her pinch of magic and her mother’s own mysterious connection to the Culling and rogue magic.
With her spirits at an all-time low, Eva must muster up the courage to prove her mother’s innocence and learn to believe in her own magic, if she wishes to put a stop to the Culling once and for all.
Buy Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch:
About the Author:
Julie Abe is the author of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (a NYPL and Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book), its sequel, Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch (August 2021), and Alliana, Girl of Dragons (2022), set in the same world as Eva Evergreen. She also has a forthcoming Young Adult novel, The Charmed List (2022). She has lived in Silicon Valley, spent many humid summers in Japan, and currently basks in the sunshine of Southern California with never enough books or tea. Sign up for Julie’s newsletter and find out more about her at https://julieabebooks.com/newsletter, on Instagram at www.instagram.com/julieabebooks, and on TikTok at http://tiktok.com/@julieabebooks
Hi Julie! Congratulations on the release of Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch, and thank you so much for joining us.
Hi Wendy! Thanks so much for having me at Lit CelebrAsian.
Q: One aspect of the Eva books which I really enjoyed was how it subverted ideas of power and powerlessness, and examined the extents and limits of power through magic. Could you speak to what inspired this and how you went about developing these themes?
Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch mirrored my personal journey. I was going through a difficult patch in life where so much felt impossible. Among so many other things going on, I didn’t know if anyone would ever read my stories or connect to a character like Eva, and my morale was low. I wrote Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch as I worked through that time in my life, and I learned to believe in the impossible.
Q: An important part of the Eva series is the Culling (a phenomenon bringing natural disaster in the books), and the exploration of its causes and consequences. What struck me about this was how it reminded me of various other Japanese media where characters have been confronted by the forces of nature and have to grapple with its consequences — something which is linked to recent history in Japan. Was this something you consciously drew upon, or was this influenced by anything about your own connection to/ experiences in Japan?
The Culling was based on the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake, a 9.0 earthquake that wiped entire cities off the map. It was a terrifying disaster. My family and I were on a train in Yokohama, Japan when it hit. That was one of the toughest days I have ever experienced. I couldn’t fight off a tsunami, I couldn’t stop an earthquake.
But, that day, I did what I could with what I had, and I took care of my family as best as I could. Though the trains were stopped, I was able to find a place for my family to stay for the night, guiding my grandma and mom through hordes of frightened, confused people to a safe spot. That terrible earthquake and the subsequent tsunami was what formed into the Culling for Eva’s stories, and for me, was a reminder to do anything and everything I can to help.
Q: Parent-child relationships and friendships are really important in Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch. How do you approach writing such relationships, and the conflicts that arise in them, for a middle grade audience?
Parent-child relationships are very complex and fascinating to explore, especially in middle grade. I wanted to create a dynamic where Eva’s parents truly believe in her. They don’t try to limit her or say her dreams are impossible, or that she has to do things a certain way to live up to their expectations—or, worse yet, try to fix things or pave the way for her. It was a difficult, fine line, and something that I had to adjust constantly while writing Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch. Eva’s parents encouraged her as much as they could, so that Eva would be able to accomplish her dreams, but they did not overly help her nor push her into a different direction from her dreams. I love Eva’s parents for how they encourage her and help her grow naturally, and it was so important for me to try to create that complex yet beautiful relationship between them.
Davy, Charlotte, and Ember are Eva’s found family, and they mean so much to me. I heard the advice once that secondary characters should feel like they’re the protagonists of their own adventures, and that was what I aimed for with each of their appearances on-page. Davy’s love for adventure; Charlotte’s painfully shy yet standoffish demeanor; Ember’s need for someone to care for him—I can really imagine each of them having amazing adventures of their own, even when they’re not in Eva’s books. 😉
Q Another theme in Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch is dreams, impossibilities, and how we can create change. What’s a dream you’ve had that’s come true for you, and what’s something you wish you could change about the world?
I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to publish another book after Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch, but I wrote and wrote, even though my dreams felt more fragile than glass. I even went on submission with a young adult book that was so incredibly fun to write, but I wasn’t sure if publishers would want it, because there wasn’t exactly a place on YA bookstore shelves for sweet, charming contemporary romances with a dash of magic. Luckily, amazingly, one of my dream publishers picked up The Charmed List and it’s going to be on bookshelves in Summer 2022!
Something I wish I could change—oh, there is so much! Environmental awareness, human rights, healthcare access… But here’s something close to my heart: I want works by BIPOC creators to be mainstream. I want works by Asian authors to be celebrated not just during May’s “AAPI month” (which is also an erasure of Asian diaspora across the world), but during all the other months of the year, too. So I’m thankful for Lit CelebrAsian for supporting and promoting voices like mine, year round.
Q: I’d love to hear more about your writing process. Are there any aspects of writing craft which you learned more about and can share insights into, from your journey writing Eva Evergreen?
While writing the first book, I had a major writing revelation thanks to a dear writing friend, Jessica Kim (Author of Stand Up, Yumi Chung!). She read one of the early chapters of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, and helped me understand how to create a dynamic scene where things are in motion all around the character, and weaving those details into the background. It’s a writing tool that I’ve kept in my craft box to this day, but you can see it in action in the boat scene of Book One as Eva starts her journey and watches her parents’ faces disappear behind her.
Q; Specifically, how did you go about developing the world in the Eva series? With your upcoming Alliana book also being set in this world, how much did you know before you started writing the subsequent books, or left aside to develop along the way?
Developing Rivelle Realm drew a lot upon my life and travels throughout Japan. For example, Auteri (the town Eva goes to for her quest) is based on the Izu Peninsula, where I had visited on the morning of the Great Tohoku Earthquake. The north (which is featured a lot in Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch) is based a bit on Okinawa, but also the forests of mainland Japan, which I’ve been able to spend beautiful times hiking in.
For Alliana, which is also set in the world of Eva Evergreen, it was a LOT of fun. There’s a significant time gap between Alliana’s story and then Eva’s, so I got to take a lot of liberty in showing the differences between their times, and the reader can get a glimpse into the changes that Alliana enacted on her journey to become the queen of Rivelle Realm.
Q: I’m excited to hear about your upcoming YA contemporary romance, The Charmed List! Could you share a bit more about what to expect from the book, and the inspirations behind it?
I can’t wait for readers to meet Ellie and Jack from The Charmed List! I describe it as: Two childhood best friends turned rivals who are stuck together on a road trip through California. It’s set in the real world… but with a hidden side to it. The Charmed List was inspired by a little corner of Palo Alto (in northern California) that I’d always imagined was a hidden spot full of magic… the idea of rival magic shops was just something I couldn’t turn down, but I added some magical cupcakes, enchanted tea, and magical cottages for travelers.
If you’re interested in The Charmed List, I hope you’ll give it an add on Goodreads! And look out for preorder campaign details coming soon in my newsletter/Instagram—I’ll be trying something exciting and new.
I’m so excited for the launch of Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch! Thank you for joining me on this magical adventure with Eva and her friends, and I hope you’ll pick up a copy to celebrate!
Thank you so much for joining us, Julie!
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Fly into the magical world of Rivelle Realm: