When my lovely + talented friend Emily Hayse asked for volunteers to help out in a blog tour for her debut YA portal fantasy novel, I jumped at the chance. Ever since I had the privilege to beta-read Crowning Heaven a year or so ago, the heroine Heaven (let’s just appreciate the unique beauty of that name for a moment) has been one of my favorite characters; shining out like a steady, sweet light amongst all the other book-people that have laid claim to my affections over the years.
Today we get to find out how Heaven came into existence and enjoy a glimpse of her journey into the world of Grown Up + Published Books.
Introducing Heaven (as written by Emily Hayse)
I distinctly remember: I met Heaven on a cold, gray afternoon in December. I stepped into a small, empty establishment called Madelyn’s for a hair cut with my younger sister. She went first, and I sat down to wait. “You can look at the magazines,” encouraged the stylist. “See if any styles in there strike your fancy.” I knew what I wanted, but I picked them up anyway. After a few minutes I realized that Carrie Mulligan, sporting a lovely blonde pixie was in almost every one of them. I had seen her in a couple things before. A friend had mentally casted her as a character in her book. I thought it was cute and set down the magazines to get my hair cut. But the vision of a smiling girl with dimples and a blonde pixie followed me around for the rest of the day.
fun fact: Heaven has no middle name, and her mother was originally a morally gray character who deliberately abandoned Heaven on Earth.
I was restless. I had just finished NaNoWriMo, I was working on a historical fiction tome set on a British Ship in the seventeenth century. But there was something, something big, lurking in the back of my mind.
That night it clicked into place in my mind. I never remember the clicks really–the moment where it turns from random floating pieces to a solid project that I can build on is usually a black hole of vagueness. But that night, the small blonde girl in the pixie with the dimples got a story. And I wrote, swiftly, in a beautiful blue notebook that had been gifted me for Christmas, before I forgot the words as they flew into my head: I write in feverish haste. The world is slipping away. I am greeted by the light of a million unknown stars…farewell, Earth! Farewell!
I wrote notes frantically on note-cards before church the next morning, after church I started a Pinterest board. When a book takes me, it really takes me. I kept the project secret for a while as I usually do, and slowly Heaven and her world took form.
fun facts: Heaven had a temporary foster brother named Chan, who was adopted from China. She loves books, especially fiction, and she does not like fake cheese.
Heaven is a cellist. She is an ex-foster child. She is a lover of vanilla lattes. From a very young age she’s had to fend for herself, even in the context of foster care, and so she’s quite independent by the time we meet her and she has come to terms with grief and regret. Her music is her refuge and a good deal of her income. I do not consider myself a cellist, but it is agreed on by many musicians I’ve met that if they could start over again, they would become cellists. Maybe in that way I made her the coolest thing I knew how to make. But it was not a conscious decision. She literally walked into the book with her cello over her shoulder and ordered a vanilla latte and I’ve been trying to keep up ever since. If you want something fun, most of the songs Heaven plays on her cello are on my Official Crowning Heaven Spotify playlist, so you can look them up as you read the book.
fun fact: Heaven came to love vanilla lattes because her foster father, Mr. DeKlyen would buy her one on the way home from cello lessons if she practiced every day that week.
It was February when the very first person besides myself met Heaven. I was going to a friend’s concert with my older sister, just the two of us, and she, being a clever sort of girl, could tell that I had been keeping a new project under wraps and had not been sharing it. She always figures it out. We were in a clunky van on a cold day, listening to Homecoming, because though I had heard it and fallen in love in the context of Crowning Heaven, everyone else liked it because it was pretty. We were listening to it on repeat when she asked. I had the notebook with me, I carried it everywhere. So I read the beginning, and she met Heaven. And she fell in love. “Emily, this is the book you should publish first, I’m serious.”
It was that simple. The real journey began.
Heaven’s birthday is on June 24th. After writing along (rather slowly at times) for a while, I decided in May that I was going to finish the book on her birthday, which I did. It was a beautiful, long day where I wrote 7K by hand and finished at one in the morning, crying over my manuscript. To me, Heaven personifies quiet and gentle courage. Not the sort that draws attention to itself, but that tries in its small way to do the right thing when given a choice, and I really wanted to show that and its ramifications on a large scale. She and many of the other characters are examples to me of what I would hope to do if I was in their situation. And I hope it is a similar inspiration to many others.
Heaven Cassidy has only ever wanted one thing: a family. But when she opens a letter from her long-lost mother, she finds herself running for her life. Swept into a world of proud queens and ancient feuds, Heaven must decide whether her dream is worth taking on the responsibility of two kingdoms, one of which wants to crown her and the other to kill her.
Meet the Author:
As long as she can remember, Emily Hayse has been avidly in love with story, a love that has only grown with time. A fascination with human nature and an ongoing quest for courage, hope, and beauty drive her writing passion.
When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with dogs or horses, studying historical tall ships, or trying a new recipe in the kitchen. Her hobbies include learning Maori and Gaelic, playing the bodhran, and trying to restore a classic car.
And don’t forget to check out an exciting giveaway soon to be announced on her website, www.emilyhayse.com!