Get ready to read your next fantasy obsession with the release of Gina Chen’s debut novel, Violet Made of Thorns.
Violet from a young age was named the Seer to the kingdom of Auveny. This prominent position at the right hand of the King has elevated her to a status she could only dream of when she was an orphan running around the streets of the capital. Violet likes the power she’s amassed, and she’ll do and say just about anything the King demands to keep it.
Violet’s favorite nemesis is Prince Cyrus, someone she is tied to for better or for worse. Years ago, she defied fate to saved his life, unfortunately the Prince has a pretty nasty prophecy hanging over his head that affects the whole kingdom. Violet’s lies are the only thing keeping the rabid mob at bay, and this push-and-pull of power between Violet and Cyrus make for some delightfully tense scenes.
Violet must dodge court politics and angry gods to keep her place of power, but when everything starts crashing down around her, will she be able to put her trust in others or will she cling to her influence and status to save herself?
Gina Chen’s Violet Made of Thorns is a vicious fairytale with an ending that will leave you frantic for the next installment. She crafts a world in which the stakes are high, the curses are a bitch, and where the heroine actually gets to worry about herself for once.
Gina graciously agreed to allow us to pick her brain over the story and characters we’ve fallen in love with. Keep reading for more insight into the world of Violet Made of Thorns.
Q&A with Gina Chen
At GateCrashers, we start every interview with the same hard-hitting question: What is your favorite sandwich?
When I’m making my own: a peanut butter sandwich with fruit in the middle. Crunchy PB enthusiasts should try this with pomegranate seeds!
Congratulations on the publication of your first book! What made you want to be a writer and why the fantasy genre?
Thank you! The funny thing is, I didn’t want to be a writer for most of my life. My sister is the writer of the family, and it’s hilarious to anyone who knows us that I am the one publishing a book. But I’ve always had stories to tell and characters to explore. They lived in my brain day in and day out, with nowhere to go but on a page—and I wrote them, despite my supposed feelings about writing. I feel like that’s the greatest proof I can have of being doomed to this task.
Fiction helps me make sense of the world. Fantasy helps me imagine beyond it. I don’t think I’m attached to the fantasy genre, but I always need a kind of magic in my stories or something larger than life. I like to believe our world is stranger than it is; maybe the realist in me doesn’t always believe in fairies and magic spells, but I think it’s more fun to try to.
Where did your idea for Violet Made of Thorns come from? Any inciting incident that made this the story you had to tell?
Violet is a character that has existed for a long time in that I’ve always been writing about heroines like her—heroines who are cynical and practical and struggle with their emotions. When I decided to write this book, I threw the character who became Violet into different settings, and the fairytale one is the one that finally stuck, and not by coincidence. The story I wanted to write with her required a touch of genre savviness and was always along the lines of subverting the most commercialized bits of the “happily ever after” (in other words, the Disneyfied ever after). So I thought, why not skip the metaphor and just write the story as a fairy tale?
As a reader, I am especially drawn to main characters who are allowed to be multifaceted representations of humanity. No one alive is perfectly good, even when we’re trying our best. While reading about Violet, I appreciated that you allowed her to lean into the selfish and self-conscious thoughts we all have (though others rarely know about). Why was it important for you to write a character like Violet?
Everyone has selfish thoughts and the urge to indulge in them. If it weren’t a little fun to be petty and nosy, social media would have failed on day one. And I think it’s important to recognize that rather than deny that, because that’s the only way to confront the source of these desires and decide what to do with them. Violet has a lot of frustration regarding people who don’t recognize that. She herself doesn’t feel brave or kind, and she feels a bit (well, a lot) of resentment toward those who don’t share the same angst, especially if it’s due to a lack of self-awareness.
Also, I love antiheroes precisely because it’s more difficult for them to choose heroic acts. Clark Kent was always going to make the self-sacrificing choice, but how would you convince someone like Violet to? I’ve seen a lot of coming-of-age stories where the protagonist has to find the courage within themselves in order to overcome their conflict, but I want to hear from more reluctant protagonists who have to scrape together hope they never had in the first place.
Violet Made of Thorns shares some themes with classic fairy tales. Do you have a favorite fairy tale or folktale?
It’s so tough for me to play favorites! “Beauty and the Beast” is probably the most formative tale for me. I read Beauty by Robin McKinley once a year when I was kid, and it’s probably shaped my imagination the most. More recently, I enjoyed the interactive fiction game “Bronze” by Emily Short, in which you play as Beauty returning to the castle after visiting her sisters; I love storytelling in different mediums.
Is there anything that makes your writing process a little easier – like a snack or playlist that keeps your creativity buzzing?
I never say no to a snack. I’m currently interested in trying every flavor of Turtle Chips. I also like to flip through anthologies and online magazines when I want to spend twenty minutes reading something and I’m not in the space for reading a novel.
Thanks so much for chatting with GateCrashers, Gina. We truly enjoyed Violet Made of Thorns and can’t wait to find out more about Violet & Prince Cyrus’ journey. For our final question, can you tell us what’s up next for you?
Mostly, I’d just like to see what it’ll be like to have a book out! But I also have many fantasy worlds I’d like to explore after I’m done with Violet’s story, all very different from each other (some more contemporary-leaning, too), and I hope readers get to know about those one day.