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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | The Evolution of a Story: Interview with S.A. Larsen

The Evolution of a Story: Interview with S.A. Larsen

Happy Halloween! Today, Sheri Larsen is visiting us to talk about her new release, Motley Education, and how it evolved over time.

motleyedhighresForget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad’s moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world. Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

1. What was your inspiration for Motley Education?

I’d have to say my youngest child, twelve-year-old CJ, for two reasons. Firstly, he’s an avid reader and major mythology buff – two things we have in common. We could sit for hours chatting up mythological creatures and coming up with variations of our own. And secondly, once I knew the world I wanted to create and who my main character was going to be I knew ‘she’ had to hold a complexity of struggles vs. successes, self-doubt vs. confidence, and the outer self vs. the searching inner self.

2. I recall you talking about an MG project on your blog some years ago, and I believe it was this one. Can you tell us a little about the evolution of the story?

sa-larsenYes, Motley was one of those stories that had to sit on a shelf in my brain left to permeate until it was ready to be told. When I felt it was time, I actually began writing it as a young adult tale with Ebony, my main character, a male hero not a female heroine. Slowly but surely, the more the story tapped off my fingers and onto the screen of my laptop the more it felt middle grade and my main force in the story felt like a girl. I’d always had this image of a female middle schooler with dark funky hair, a quirky fixation with graveyards, and a unique sense that she was different but must fit in somewhere – kind of the tween I had wanted to be back in the day. Pondering elements that would accentuate this main character’s voice and posture, I decided to paint her world with psychic and celestial brush strokes mixed in with mythological elements. Once the name Ebony ‘Jade’ Charmed was born the rest of the story just flowed.

3. What surprises did you encounter in the writing of this book? (Characters who didn’t behave as planned, plot twists even you didn’t see coming, etc.)

Love this question! My main antagonist, who never set out to be a problem for Ebony – I can’t say much because I’ll give a twist away. He’s two in one and really not a villain…sort of. Also the real goal of the story’s main villain didn’t come to me until after my first draft. This is when I knew that this was going to be a series. We’re looking at three books, but hopefully a total of five to end the world journey.

4. Motley Education includes a little Norse mythology. What kind of research did you do on this topic, and how did you put your own spin on it?

I did a ton of research and I enjoyed every moment of it. I love history, any history at all that gives us pause and reason to look into my own evolution, communities, cultures, countries, etc… For a while when I was younger I looked into becoming a sociologist. Can you tell?

I definitely put my own spin on the Norse world, adding in a little steam & cyber punk, mechanics, and little known mythological characters/creatures. These elements will definitely grow in the next book.

5. What’s next for you?

Currently I’m working on book II for Motley Education, initially titled The Shifting Hollow. Think Sleepy Hollow creeping around the world of Sleeping Beauty. 😉 I’m also in the midst of edits for my young adult novel, Marked Beauty, which is set for release March 28, 2017. Lastly, I’m finally writing a YA contemporary novel that has plagued me for years. It’s pretty heavy – the subject dark about a teenage girl struggling to survive her life living with a parent suffering from severe depression/mental illness.

Congratulations, Sheri! Motley Education is available at:




20 Responses to The Evolution of a Story: Interview with S.A. Larsen

  1. mshatch says:

    Congratulations Sheri! I couldn’t be happier for you 🙂

  2. Interesting the hero began as a boy not a girl.
    I hope you get to do all five books, Sheri!

  3. Congrats to Sheri on becoming a debut author! That’s awesome that her son was the inspiration of the story. And so interesting how it started out as a YA story.

  4. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne and Sheri – nice to see you here … and learn more about Motley Education … good luck with the book, the series for Motley, and then your other books … have fun … Happy Halloween to you both – cheers Hilary

  5. Congratulations Sheri.Great interview. I love hearing how things developed and changed.

  6. It great to see Sheri’s new book out. Thanks for the wonderful interview! Love the title and cover.

    • Sheri Larsen says:

      Major hugs to you, C.Lee! Like Dianne, you were one of the first authors I met online, but also one of the first I bumped my ideas about Motley with. Thank you for the support and encouragement!

  7. I’ve been hearing so many good things about this one. Congrats, Sherri! I have it on my TBR list 🙂

  8. Sheri Larsen says:

    How did I miss this earlier?! Thank you so much for having me here, Dianne! You (as you already know) are the first author I met online and it was on Twitter. Since then I’ve considered you a treasured friend, author, and supporter. I’m so glad you were one of the first to help me bump my ideas about Motley around. Now, to get busy writing book II! “Get Schooled!”

  9. ChemistKen says:

    Congratulations, Sheri! I think the best part of writing fantasy stories like this is all the fun research and imaginings you get to do beforehand.

  10. Anna says:

    Nice interview, rather inspirational in fact. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  11. Woot! Hello Sheri! What a lovely interview. I love how Ebony’s character evolved–and that hair! Now that’s an image.

  12. Nice interview, ladies!

    Congratulations on the new release, Sheri! I hope the series is a big success for you.

  13. Sherry Ellis says:

    Great interview! And congratulations, Sheri! The book looks and sounds terrific!

  14. Congratulations, Sheri! Sorry I’m late to the party, but best of luck with your launch. The book sounds great.