The Glass Puzzle Blog Tour - Guest Post by Christine Brodien-Jones

Today we welcome Christine Brodien-Jones as we kick off the blog tour for her new book, The Glass Puzzle! Make sure you read all the way to the end to see the trailer and enter to win her novels, including The Owl Keeper and The Scorpions of Zahir! (Giveway open to US only - ends 7/15)

Be sure to visit the other stops on Christine Brodien-Jones’s The Glass Puzzle blog tour in the coming days.

Mon, July 8: Read Now, Sleep Later -
Tues, July 9: Sharpread -
Wed, July 10: Once Upon a Story -
Thurs, July 11: The Book Monsters -
Fri, July 12: I Read Banned Books -
Mon, Jul 15: Children's Book Review -
Tues, July 16: The Book Smugglers -
Wed, July 17: Cracking the Cover -
Thurs, July 18: Mother Daughter Book Club -
Fri, July 19: Hobbitsies -

Fantasy and the Power of Place
by Christine Brodien-Jones

When I first open a book I always want to know right away where I am. It’s the same when I’m writing a novel: place has power. Place is crucial to the story because it grounds the characters and conveys the mood of the book. With the exception of Max and Rose in The Owl Keeper, all my characters start out in the “real world.” Then something unexpected happens—a puzzle acts as a portal to a drowned island or an ancient stone conjures up an extinct oryx—and they slip into a fantastical world they never dreamed existed.

Actual places and real-life experiences have inspired my middle-grade fantasy novels; I like to ground my world in as much reality as possible while weaving magical elements into the narrative, balancing the ordinary with the extraordinary, the supernatural with the natural. Of course, the illusory world I create has to be believable: I can’t just make things up without considering rules and consequences. Readers are willing to suspend belief and accept that this world follows these new fantasy rules—as long as the rules are consistent. 

While doing research for The Glass Puzzle and The Scorpions of Zahir, I made all kinds of surprising discoveries. I set these two books in places where I’d spent time in the past.

I’ve visited the Welsh seaside town of Tenby three or four times. With its medieval history and maritime roots, Tenby turned out to be the perfect setting for the The Glass Puzzle. Pirates, many of them Welsh, plundered the coast in the eighteenth century and reputedly used the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the town for smuggling—the same tunnels where Zoé and her cousin Ian fear the monsters are hiding. 

Wales is myth-haunted and steeped in folk and fairy lore; some contend that ancient wild magic still holds sway. For The Glass Puzzle I read fairy tales and myths and studied old maps. Borrowing from the country’s rich mythology, I used the Welsh dragon in my story, and also Arianrhod, a goddess from the ancient tales of The Mabinogion. I collected photographs, articles, illustrations and long lists of names. The website for the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery was a treasure-trove of information. I also read about nearby Caldey Island, with its Viking past and dark legends and ties to infamous pirates; I watched an interview with the monks who live there. My husband Peter, who grew up in Wales, helped me get the Welsh phrases and idioms right.

Sometimes I’d find that fact and fiction overlapped. For instance, after I created The Retreat for the Rescued, the Lost and the Shipwrecked, located on the imaginary island of Wythernsea, I discovered that there actually is a Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society in Britain! Like my retreat, the society helps former merchant seamen, fishermen and their widows and dependents who are in need. 

The impetus for The Scorpions of Zahir goes back to a journey Peter and I made with our two sons through Morocco, renting a car in Marrakech and driving over the High Atlas, the highest mountain range in Northern Africa. We stopped at a cafe in the Tizi n' Tiki Pass and met Mohammed, a Moroccan boy who invited us to his house in a dusty town called Agdz, where we dined with his family. The next day we drove to the edge of the Sahara, to a somewhat stark oasis where we bartered for camels and headed into the desert, sleeping outside under the stars. Zagora in The Scorpions of Zahir, along with her father and brother Duncan, makes a similar journey. Like us, they encounter a Moroccan boy along the way and dine with a Moroccan family and camp out in the desert.

This book required a ton of research: I gathered details on archaeology; Arab customs, language and food; Moroccan architecture (my wonderful editors at Random House sent me a book on Moroccan courtyards and gardens!). I needed to know about camels, deserts, caves, sinkholes, jackals, sandstorms and... scorpions. I read many books, including The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp, which describes the search for the fabled Arabian city of Ubar, and Paul Bowles’ Under the Sheltering Sky, the story of three American travelers adrift in North Africa after World War II. J. M. G. Le Clézio’s novel Desert creates a hypnotic sense of place: in it he relates the last days of the Tuareg, driven from their ancestral lands in North Africa. All three books explore the seemingly infinite emptiness of the desert and convey its impassive cruelty. I started thinking about my own experience in the desert and began wondering whether the desert changes those who go there—a concept that became intrinsic to The Scorpions of Zahir.

As I write this I’m still savoring my last trip, a five-week walk across northern Spain last October with Peter. Perusing through my photos, I think about my next fantasy novel. Dripping Galician forests, crates of red peppers left in the sun, abandoned towns, rolling fields of wheat, gargoyles. Hmm. I flick through the pages of a small notebook, reliving it all: the medieval path through ancient villages; hooded figures stepping out of the mist; a goat herder waving her staff and cursing us. And, oh yeah, what about the time I was attacked by fire ants?  

You never know what might end up in a book...

About the author

CHRISTINE BRODIEN-JONES is the author of three middle-grade fantasy adventure novels, The Glass Puzzle (Delacorte, 2013), The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte, 2012) and The Owl Keeper (Delacorte, 2010).

Booklist magazine praised her writing, saying “Brodien-Jones mixes fantasy and adventure in a way that would make Indiana Jones feel right at home.” Ms. Brodien-Jones studied writing at Emerson College in Boston and has worked as a reporter, an editor, and a teacher. She divides her time between Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine. 

Learn more about her life and work and download additional free discussion guides for her novels at her website:

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