Amber Argyle talks about her new book, Winter Queen
1. Where did you come up with the setting for Winter Queen?
Amber: I wanted something with abrupt mountains and alpine meadows. A rocky, cold environment that made surviving a challenge, but which also provided protection from any marauding forces. Basically, a landscape that made characters as tough as it was.
I also wanted a place where winter was a dark and deadly presence, signaling the end of warmth and light. All this so my character would hate winter and see it as a sort of evil. When she's presented with the opportunity to save her people from a war they cannot win, she must turn to this dark force to save them.
I even searched out old maps and Pinterest for such places and found Triglav National Park in Slovenia (there are lots of hints of this throughout the novel, but they are buried pretty deeply). Check out my Winter Queen Pinterest board to see some of the images that inspired me.
2. Is it true parts of the book were inspired by the movie The Last of the Mohicans?
Amber: Yes. I watched the movie as a young teenager and found myself much more fascinated with Alice's story as opposed to Cora's. Alice was portrayed as the weaker of the two sisters, but in reality, she was simply untried--very young, and very innocent.
The moment when she stood at the edge of the cliff, looking down the long drop below, still haunts me. She had a choice to marry and bear children for her captor, or end her life.
She chose to die, and I wanted to shout at that there was another choice. She could be strong, endure until she had a chance to change her life. To live.
But she didn't. She dropped, silently and suddenly. And I wondered how differently that story would have been if Alice had chosen to live.
That's the story I wanted to explore in Winter Queen. A girl faced with a similar choice: death or marriage to the murderer of those she loves. But . . . . well, I don't want to spoil it for you. But it's pretty intense.
3. You also explore themes of what it means to be a man and a woman in the book. Can you tell us a little about that?
Amber: I'm not sure when I realized that boys would, for the most part, outgrow rules like "stranger danger", "the buddy system", etc. While I never would.
That to be a woman meant I was and always would be vulnerable. How much worse then for a woman raised in a time when all that stood between her and those who meant her harm were her kith and kin.
So what would happen if her kith and kin were presented with a choice to save her--the daughter and girl they loved--or themselves? It's a choice that is replayed over and over again throughout the world's history.
In ancient times, men were fighters and protectors. So what does it do to them when they fail? When they aren't strong enough to defend what's theirs, despite everything they could do. I explore this as well with my hero, Rone.
4. This sounds like a pretty intense book, with some difficult themes. What age to you recommend reads it?
Amber: If you're okay with the violence level in Hunger Games and the steaminess in Twilight, you'll be fine with Winter Queen.