Updated: Feb 8, 2021
At the beginning of 2020, I was slowly finding my footing in the Writing Community on Twitter by joining thread after thread to reach more writers, while promoting my book. One day without looking for a new friend, S.V. Filice and I ended up in one of those threads together. Back and forth tweets led to Twitter messages to following each other on other social media platforms and mailing book goodies back and forth from Canada to the States. She's my Modern-Day Pen Pal, and I can't wait to tell you about her debut YA Fantasy as she's on the heels of releasing the sequel in two short months.
Young Adult Fantasy isn't a read that my heart draws near to instantly as it does with the general Young Adult genre, but Filice just might have changed that notion. As I was reading, I got a sense of nostalgia for magical stories I either read or watched the movie adaptations during my teenage years. In Filice's novel, The Summoning, she creates a whole new environment for her characters to wreak havoc in, and she doesn't disappoint. Her storytelling bares a strong resembles to the beloved series The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth. Although these novels don't fall under the Fantasy genre according to their placement, The Summoning creates an atmosphere where warriors are made under new rules and laws that they must follow to survive and train to their best abilities, which resembles both the popular series' plots.
S.V. Filice captures the harsh sides of battle while also shedding light on the emotion that stems from fighting for a purpose/person.
ISABELLE LOFFLIN lived an ordinary life until her mom mysteriously died four months ago. Now, with the help of her boyfriend, Jeremy, Isabelle is forced to take care of her younger sister, Brett. When Isabelle arranges to have Brett meet a psychic in the hopes of reuniting with their mother, everything goes wrong.
The round-trip turns one-way when the train drives further from Feathercoe. Separated from her family, Isabelle discovers the train has only one stop: a secluded camp that excels in teaching lessons of good and evil. What she doesn’t expect to find is a daring redhead, a spunky Hispanic and a pair of captivating eyes that are too black to pass as brown. Isabelle must decide which fight is more important—finding her sister or achieving moral balance to stay alive.
I have never really been into fantasy, but I love magic and things that don't fit into the real world such as learning how people become the warriors they are which is what The Summoning embodies as the story carries its readers to a different land via a psychic and a train. The magic aspect is what sparked my interest in reading further and further into Isabelle's journey. S.V. knew this wasn't my typical read, but we were both thrilled to see what I would come away with, although we never planned I would take so long to read it. Nonetheless, after an up and down August, I finished reading this insanely well-written Young Adult Fantasy by Canadiana Author, S.V. Filice, who I also have the honor of calling my friend. One of the amazing things about having author friends is getting to interview them. Not only are you hearing from me, as a reader and author, but also the woman of the hour, S.V. Filice. I am absolutely thrilled to share this with you!
Diving into this novel takes a lot of focus in the best way possible. Filice crafts an entire world around her characters giving them new challenges and problems to conquer at every turn. As you venture farther into this story, you'll become acquainted with more people than you started with and you'll see how Isabelle takes on these sudden changes in her life. From living life with her sister, Brett, best friend, Jeremy, and Aunt Jo to trying to find her affinity and meeting strangers on a remote camp; Isabelle faces a whole new world of information as she draws closer to her affinity.
Emily: Without giving away any spoilers, tell me about your world-building process. Although we share the love for fiction writing, your style is far different from mine. My fiction characters are based in the real world, whereas yours are in a world to fit their story. Along with creating unique characters, you also created a world (or camp) where they follow a specific way of life. Elaborate on the thought process behind the skeleton of Isabelle’s surroundings.
S.V: The word-building process — right. I do have to admit this was hard to balance. I wanted to explain all the Senses, how each one existed, and the reason for camp, but I couldn’t. We were learning with Isabelle. She didn’t know the extent of affinities until later on in the novel; I do get this complaint a lot, but it wasn’t natural for her to know their origin until she witnessed it for herself. The other Descendants on camp were not excelled to receive their affinity and the Preceptor’s kept theirs at bay.
I knew I wanted to have different Senses: Sight of Knowing, Touch of Force, Sound of Truth, Voice of Reason. Each Sense has its own purpose for balance. I wanted to combine our physical senses with our emotions and mentality. Ordnance is used to test the Senses hands-on and Doctrine is used to provide theory — kind of like college vs university. From this concept, I imagined lessons for training to further explain to readers how each Sense works. Again, glimpses of these lessons could only be taught through Isabelle when she followed her schedule and attended her training in each building.
Sometimes it feels as if the world of the story exists in camp and its neighbouring regional locations, but in The Prophecy, we learn more of how the outside world interacts with camps and our Summoned Descendants.
I love that the novel starts off with the main character, Isabelle, setting the scene. She introduces the other main characters with ease as if things aren't about to get nuts. Who's to say they aren't? But seeing how there is something driving them to an unknown place for answers, things are bound to get interesting. The events from here do not disappoint in how interesting and complicated things can get when Brett wants to visit Crystal who is a psychic. Isabelle and Jeremy are unsure about this shift, but we see how much they both love and want to protect Brett from any harm. But soon readers will discover that sometimes we have to find ourselves by being separated from those we love.
In the early chapters and towards the end, I loved seeing the strong bond between Isabelle and Brett. Although there are about eight years between them and after their parents are both gone, Isabelle takes on a motherly role concerning her younger sister. Even though they are separated for most of their journey, it allows both characters to grow as individuals. We see them as close-knit sisters, who want the best for each other. By the end of the book, we see them as strong independent warrior sisters, who would do anything to protect each other from harm. Even though there are hard times and disagreements on what to do, this bond stays true to how the family is stronger in the face of uncertainty.
E: In the early parts of the book (chapters 1 &2), readers will learn about Isabelle and how protective she is over Brett, what elements do you use to show that connection between them?
S: Being the youngest of four siblings, I really tried to capture what it felt like to have a sister. I thought of my relationships with my sisters and brother and wanted to demonstrate the annoying bickering mixed with admiration. In the first scene, Brett wipes her nose on Isabelle's sweater — my siblings and I wouldn't have handled that well, the arguments that would have erupted in that moment! — But instead, I used this situation to show that Isabelle is patient and willing to make sure Brett is taken care of because she feels more maternal towards her sister than the more common sibling relationship. Later on, when Isabelle is separated from her sister, she is constantly pushing off the thoughts of Brett because she knows the ache it will cause when she gives herself the chance to really think about it. In my writing, I wanted to make the communication feel as natural as possible.
While reading I remember wondering how Filice came up with such interesting names for her characters. Moving from a world without magic and weapon training to a warrior training camp, not only does the atmosphere change but also the names. Isabelle goes from being surrounded by common everyday names such as Jeremy and Brett to meeting people with names such as Calix and Onyx. By shifting the type of names, S.V. further sets the tone for her story. Once inside the camp, Isabelle rarely meets anyone with a name that would be common in the muggle world (as any Harry Potter fan would say). As an author, I really admired how S.V. approached her character names - unique, simple, and memorable.
E: Every author has a different approach to naming their characters. Some are easy to come by and others are unique by the way they look and sound within the story. I have noticed that in the beginning, the names are familiar and normal which is fitting to the real world. But as soon as readers are plunged into the main plot of the story the characters’ names shift to names you wouldn’t hear walking down a busy street in New York. We aren’t in the normal, everyday world anymore. The Ordinance is unique in all shapes and forms, but the names stick out to me the most (especially at first). I have never heard names such as Calix or Onyx before reading The Summoning. What was your process like while naming your cast of characters that Isabelle meets while trying to gain her affinity?
S: Names were given to characters to contrast the norm vs the fantasy. Common names such as Isabelle, Brett, Cattia, Rachelle, Lara, Julius, Peter, etc. are given to characters who were recruited from close towns and cities. Other names such as Calix, Onyx, Ash, Caradoc, etc. are names of those who grew up on a reserve with knowledge of balance. The difference between common names and the unconventional is to symbolize the ‘other’ to Isabelle. There is a mix of the recruited and those raised with knowledge existing in the same world now. A reminder that we are no longer part of a life where day runs its usual routine.
Creating a full cast of characters is never an easy task, sometimes it can be very challenging. So many storylines, trying to fit everyone in, and keeping who knows who straight, yet I found that Filice did this very well. She introduces characters with ease. The Summoning starts with only a handful of characters and personalities, but as the plot sets in along with Isabelle, readers are introduced to a full cast of people. Not only are they just mentioned, but they have their own troubles, backgrounds, and personalities that make them easily identifiable to the reader throughout the novel.
For example, one of my favorite interactions that Isabelle has is with her newly acquainted best friend, Onyx. She is a fiery redhead with a knack for fashion. Meaning she isn't someone you want to cross. Having met on the train to camp, Isabelle and Onyx strike up an unforgettable bond. I believe through their differences that arise once they are at camp, they remain one of the strongest connections in the story. Although Isabelle continues to meet more and more new friends, hers and Onyx's friendship continues to grow. Like any friendship, they have a shopping spree (you have to have at least one!), gossip about guys, and fight off evil girls. Overall, I admire how S.V. allowed Isabelle to make such interesting connections with confidence in an unfamiliar environment away from her family.
E: We meet new characters. We get more information on Isabelle and Onyx (their ages, 20 & 22). How do you go about introducing new characters while also forming bonds between your other existing characters?
S: In life when we meet someone new it's usually without plan. When Isabelle finds Onyx and Ash on the train, they are kind of intimidating, but that first interaction is what moulds their friendship. Of course, when arriving at camp the trio will be separated for lessons and dorms. Depending on personal balance, each Descendant is placed in a schedule. It wouldn't have made sense for Onyx, who arrived from a reserve with Sight, and Isabelle, a recruited Descendant with no prior knowledge, to have the same balance when entering Doctrine. Though, despite their separation in balance, the two seem to make their friendship work during meal times and in the evening. It is through Isabelle's roommate, Cattia, that we meet Lara and Rachelle. It seemed fitting to have a group of friends sit at a table bench, the way attending a camp would be.
I always try to imagine the moment if I were in it, to really decide how I would view someone new. Usually, something about that person sticks: "Oh yes, the guy with the grey car" or "She's the one with front bangs, right?". Character motifs are essential when pairing a new character with a role in your story. Slowly, when that character communicates with you more, you learn their backstory and that motif doesn't become as necessary. Rather than referring to Lara and Rachelle as twins, eventually, they are addressed by name and motions as small as "blinking her green eyes" (or something more complex) become the detail that relates the character in the readers mind back to who they were when they were originally introduced. And those who we do not get to know more than a small interaction, never receive a name at all.
As I think back to my favorite parts of The Summoning, another character comes to mind. A dashingly handsome and ever-frustrating male that Isabelle can't seem to figure out. He is frustrating to her but also interesting enough to keep her wanting to know more about him. He is one of the characters that isn't hard to fall in love with throughout the story. Growing up on the reserve campgrounds makes him mysterious and balanced. From the first look, Isabelle's interest is peaked on finding out just what makes Calix tick. He challenges Isabelle to be brave, to face her feelings, and to find her infinity in the face of danger. He embodies everything a reader would want in a strong male character - strength, real emotions, desirable, frustrating, and intelligent, plus easy on the eyes.
He stares at me, and the earlier glimmer returns to his eyes. The blackness fades, melting into the colour of liquid caramel. His pupils widen, his eyebrows lower, and his cheeks slump. releasing his usual tension. Light freckles line the bridge of his nose like constellations.
E: We briefly discussed your hopes for Calix’s character appeal to your readers, where we both agree he is frustratingly desirable. How did you craft his character? Were there any struggles weaving him into Isabelle’s life?
S: Oh, Calix, the angst creator with hair hiding his eyes and his infuriating resolve. Calix was one of my favourite characters to weave into the story because, like Isabelle, I wanted to know what his problem was and why he was constantly trying to help, but keeping his distance. What made him so detached and why can't we stay away?
There was a moment in writing where I didn't know how to transition Calix into a trusting character. In The Prophecy, we catch moments where Isabelle is still unsure if he is trusting enough. My aim for Calix was not to appeal to readers, but to appeal to Isabelle. She's thrown into a new life, a new camp, but eventually her focus turns to the boy she can't seem to figure out.
As an author, I am always v