Erika Johansen dazzled readers last year with her debut novel, The Queen of the Tearling. Set in a distant future where technology is extinct and sword fighting is commonplace, Tearling introduced us to Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, the 19-year-old heir to the Tearling throne. After growing up in hiding, Kelsea fought to claim her role as Queen and to end the brutal slave trade to a rival kingdom.
Now Johansen has released a sequel even more stunning than her debut. The Invasion of the Tearling picks up with war on the horizon and treachery in the kingdom, while Kelsea uncovers the events that created a world so different from our own.
Paste caught up with Johansen to learn more about writing the sequel, introducing new characters and surviving in the harsh world of the Tearling.
Paste: With a successful debut novel under your belt, fans clamoring for the sequel and a movie starring Emma Watson in the works, how did your writing process change for The Invasion of the Tearling?
Erika Johansen: Not at all. If I thought about the outside world while I wrote, I’d drive myself crazy. The only thing that’s changed is the number of words I need to produce each day, since I’m under deadline.
Paste: We followed Kelsea’s transition to her role as Queen in the first novel, as you were transitioning to your role as a published author. Has Kelsea’s need to adapt to her new role in the sequel mirrored your journey to this new stage in your career?
Johansen: That’s an interesting observation, but I don’t really think so. Kelsea is handling things much better than I am! The transition to published author has been a rocky one for me in some ways, because as grateful as I am to be able to do this for a living, and to have my books read, I’m much more comfortable in obscurity.
Paste: We’re introduced to some new faces in the sequel. Who was your favorite new character to write?
Johansen: Ewen, the jailor at the Keep. He’s one of the kindest people I ever hope to create.
Paste: You’ve created an entirely new world in the novels, despite them taking place on our planet in a “distant future.” If you were living during the events in The Invasion of the Tearling, what do you think your life would look like?
Johansen: Truthfully, I think I would be dead, because I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut and play nice, even in such a dangerous time.
Paste: And now we have to ask: Can you divulge any details about the final book in the trilogy?