1. What kinds of things did you have to research for Bound by Blood and Sand?
Most of my research focused on the desert world – I’m from the northeast, so it wasn’t something I was too familiar with. I started with the basics of what I wanted the temperature to be, then looked at real world deserts to start figuring out what kinds of plants and animals they’d have, which led to deciding what kind of food they’d eat, the crops they’d grow, etc.
2. Where did the concept for the plot come from? Did it just hit you one day, or was it slowly developed?
It was definitely a slow process. It started with a conversation with my sister, who’s a global history teacher. She was putting together flashcards for her students to prepare them for multiple choice questions on the state test, and one of the things she told me was that her students should always link together the concepts of civilization and irrigation – irrigation was what allowed agriculture to develop and civilizations to begin to form.
Because I love fantasy, I started to wonder: if irrigation is one of the building blocks of civilization, then would a society with magic use that magic to create irrigation? The most interesting place to play with that idea would be a desert, so I knew it would be a story about a desert world that used magic to control its water. And of course, if you rely on magic, the most interesting story will be found in what happens when that magic vanishes. So that gave me the first seed of the plot.
But figuring out the rest of it – who the characters were, why the magic was vanishing, what they were going to do about it – came much, much more slowly. I toyed around with a ton of ideas and wrote and rewrote the book several times before it all finally came together.
3. How did you develop the depth of your world? How did you keep track of all of it?!
The depth of the world came from writing the story itself. I would draft a scene where the characters were eating and make an all-caps note to myself that said [WHAT FOOD?], or a scene where they were getting dressed and I’d note [WHAT DO THEY WEAR?]. After I finished drafting, I went through and started looking at those details and filling them out. It was based largely on the research I’d done already – what they eat is based on what kinds of plants and animals they have, which was based on what kind of plants and animals can survive in a harsh desert. Developing a stronger sense of their world’s culture came later, with a lot of help from my editor. She asked questions about what kind of art they’d have, how the different castes view one another, etc. She showed me a lot of places I could expand on what I’d started with. It was a huge learning process.
As for organizing, I wish I had a good system to keep track of it! But I don’t. I’m constantly scrolling up and down in the text looking for details I’m sure I included to make sure everything lines up.
4. Did you add a part of yourself or personal experiences to your characters/ in the book?
Yes and no – mostly no, honestly. I do think that any book is going to be shaped by the writer’s experiences. In my case, it came from a lot of eye-opening political events that happened during my 20s, which made me a lot more aware of inequalities in the real world. But none of the characters or events in BBB&S are based directly on anything that happened in the real world.
5. Was there any particular book that sparked your interest in writing, or interest in Bound by Blood and Sand in particular?
I’ve always been interested in writing – it’s been my hobby since middle school or earlier. So there wasn’t a specific influence. I’ve just always loved reading and writing.
6. Do you read outside your genre while writing?
Yep. I don’t read as widely as I probably should – most of what I read is concentrated in YA, especially Sci-Fiction/ Fantasy. But I do sometimes read books for grown ups, too. I also enjoy romance as a category, and science-related non-fiction. (For example, Jared Diamond’s non-fiction was actually pretty helpful when I was world building!)
7. Were you able to give any input to the cover design of Bound by Blood and Sand?
Only a little bit – but that’s okay with me. I’m not a very visual person or any kind of designer. The first version my editor shared with me was very close to the final, in a lot of ways – it had the desert, and Jae. (I was thrilled to see Jae on the cover! She looks just like I picture her.) The title was in a standard font and my editor let me know they wanted to have it hand-lettered, which was pretty cool – it’s definitely unique. I gave some minor feedback but overall loved it and think they did a fantastic job, and really couldn’t be more thrilled.
Becky Allen grew up in a tiny town outside Ithaca, New York, and graduated from Brandeis University with a major in American studies and a minor in journalism. She is the website director of TheBody.com, an online HIV resource, and loves New York, brunch, and feminism. Becky lives in New York City.
Bound by Blood and Sand
Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.
Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.
Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.
But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.
Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.