Award-winning YA author, Laurel Anne Hill returns with her latest historical fantasy, A Plague of Flies: Revolt of the Spirits,1846. Needless to say, it’s going to be an unforgettable adventure you don’t want to miss out on. Laurel explores her family history and finds a fantasy-filled story of a brave sixteen-year-old, Catalina. Read more about her experience and your soon-to-be-favorite book, A Plague of Flies.
Hi Laurel, you released your latest historical fantasy last month, A Plague of Flies: Revolt of the Spirits, 1846. Could you tell us about it?
In 1846 Alta California, Catalina Delgado daydreams about her future: roping cattle, marrying Angelo Ortega, and raising children. But now, invaders from the United States—the Bear Flaggers—have declared war against Mexico, her country. Bear Flaggers have imprisoned one close friend of her family and murdered others. What fate might befall her parents, grandfather, and younger brothers? And what about her best friend, a Costanoan servant girl? How can Catalina, only sixteen, help protect all those she loves?
The spirits provide Catalina with answers, but not the ones she wants. Plus she fears the strange spirit man who rides a black Andalusian stallion through the sky. For the sake of all she holds dear, Catalina must risk her reputation as a chaste young woman, her future with Angelo, her life, and her very soul. When hopes and dreams clash with cold reality, Catalina finds the fortitude to accomplish what only she can do.
Why did you choose to write about 1846 Alta California?
At the time I made the choice, I still believed my paternal great-grandmother, Hipólita, had lived there during the 1840s. I thought my Mexican family had lost their land to the United States as a result of the Bear Flag Rebellion in 1846. Then I discovered they’d not come to California until the late 1850s or early 1860s. Once in California, they’d been taken advantage of in some other manner, possibly by one of the US railroads.
What is the one thing about Catalina Delgado that your readers are instantly going to fall in love with?
Catalina, a young mestiza, has ideas of her own about her personal future, including who she wants to marry. Without sisters, she competes with her four younger brothers for approval. She is not afraid to ride astride (instead of sidesaddle) and can rope longhorns almost as well as her father’s vaqueros do. Regardless, Catalina remains closer to being a sixteen-year-old woman of her time than to becoming some bigger-than-life kick-ass heroine. She wishes to honor members of her family—even when she doesn’t agree with them—and her Catholic faith. Yet she finds herself questioning aspects of both her faith and her family.
What can you share about the Spirit Man that your potential readers don’t know yet?
Spirit Man is a complicated being, far more than just a scary character. He has taken the shape of others in the past, and presumably, will do so in the future. Spirit Man has the capacity to serve as a loyal friend or become a terrifying opponent.
Is there a heart-warming review or comment you received for A Plague of Flies that you’d like to share with us?
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2021: In her second YA novel that’s set in a magical-realist 19th-century California, Hill gives readers a wonderfully imaginative, unsettling view of events leading up to the 1849 gold rush. Many narratives emphasize the excitement of this time and California’s newfound wealth, population growth, and influence, but this book foreshadows the disasters—starvation, slaughter, dispossession—inflicted on Indigenous people. It’s a theme that could become heavy-handed, but Catalina’s passionate teenage energy gives propulsion to the dramatic plot.
At what point during the research of A Plague of Flies did you have the sequence of the story plotted?
Not until I finished the first draft, over ten years after starting my project. Please understand, however, that the hiatus between finishing the first half of draft number one and starting the second half amounted to five of those ten years. I wrote the second half of the initial draft in three months.
What do you enjoy writing the most – historical fantasy or science fiction? Why?
Historical fantasy. I love to delve into the history of a setting, and fantasy gives me a fair amount of freedom in world-building. Besides, I worked most of my adult life in the field of science or science technology. Although I write occasional science fiction or science horror stories, doing fantasy returns me to a special place I loved as a child.
Rapid Fire time. Answer the following questions with the first thing that comes to your mind.
A preferred writing snack:
Morning: Coffee with caramel-flavored creamer.
Evening: A glass of wine.
What was the last soundtrack you heard?
The opera, “Mefistofele” (by Boito), with Luciano Pavarotti singing the role of Faust. “Mefistofele” is my go-to inspiration when I need “big sound” to deal with one hell of a challenge.
Countryside or the beach:
These days, the countryside. For most of my life, the beach.
Tea or coffee:
Coffee with caramel-flavored creamer.
Kittens or puppies:
Puppies. I love kittens, but cats interfere with my ability to breathe. (Ah-choo!)
Your biggest pet peeve is…:
Spam telephone calls.
Your favorite movie of all times:
The original “Star Wars!”