This article contains spoilers for The Fifth Doll
I am proud to present the fantastic Charlie N. Holmberg as my Author of the Month for December. This amazing fantasy author is best known for The Paper Magician series but the first book I read of hers and fell in love with was The Fifth Doll.
Let’s learn a bit about you!
What book would you say defines your childhood and which book would you say defines you now?
- My favorite books as a kid were the Goosebumps books and the American Girl books (even though I never owned an American Girl doll). As an adult, I was shaped a lot by epic fantasy. I think the most influential was Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
Which was the first book to make you cry and which was the first to make you laugh?
- I’m not sure which title first brought me to tears, but the first book to make me UGLY cry? Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. I was all snot and tears for that one. I’m not sure on laughter either, but it could have been Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
How long have you been writing?
- I started writing when I was 13, so… 18 years?
What’s the funniest typo you’ve ever written then caught yourself?
- I’ve accidentally dropped profanity into books where I didn’t mean to. I also have a weird thing where I type “back” when I mean “bag.” All. The. Time.
Do you have a writing mascot or ritual?
- Not particularly? I write in the mornings after my kids go to school, Monday through Friday. I’m very disciplined about it.
How do you handle deadlines and priorities?
- I just do them. I know that’s a weird answer, but it’s how I’m wired. I have never once missed a deadline.
Do you use any writer’s apps and if so are there any you would recommend?
- I don’t. Just me, my brain, and Microsoft Word.
The Fifth Doll is a favorite of mine, especially because I have an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and so many elements of the novel deal with issues that were in my course. I have been known to use the book as an illustration in arguments similar to The Matrix, red or blue pill. With that being said I’d like to quiz you about this novel.
How did the idea for the novel first come to you?
- So I was preparing a class on magic systems for a local conference, and I wanted to get the attendees to think outside the box and create a magic system of their own. I was walking around my house, writing down random things I saw—forks, thread, newspapers—so that I could have the class come up with magic revolving around them. I reached the shelf that had my matryoshka dolls on them and paused. Magical matryoshka dolls… that sparked something in me. Needless to say, I kept that one for myself!
What research did you do for the book?
- A lot of late 18th-century Russian research. Most of the book is quasi-Russia, so I had some leeway, but I had to research some stuff about relevant tzars and how marriage was handled, clothing, food, etc. I also revisited Freudian psychology, since that has some influence in the novel as well.
Did you edit anything out of the book?
- Nothing major. Not that I can recall.
A room of villager nesting dolls is a terrifying image, what would you do if you found a room filled with nesting dolls of people you know, would you open one?
- Oh, totally. That would be a true WTF moment. Though I would be terrified of getting caught.
In Matrona’s position would you fight being given stewardship?
- You know . . . I’m not totally sure I would. I would probably 100% play along until I figured out for sure what was going on, and then make a judgment and potentially a secret betrayal, ha.
At the end of the book, we are confronted with the concept of freedom and if it is truly desirable. Do you think true freedom is desirable?
- True freedom is always desirable. The freedom Matrona achieves, not so much.
Which would you choose, the world within the dolls or the real one?
- I would probably choose to stay in the dolls! (SPOILER>) The reality Matrona takes everyone into is a winter- and war-ridden one. They have literally nothing. It’s going to be CRAZY HARD to make a life and a living, especially in the throws of WWI. If I had to choose between those two worlds, I would choose the nice sunny one, thank you very much.
Have you considered writing a sequel or prequel to the novel? If so I wish to pre-order.
- Considered? Briefly. Will I write one? No. Sorry!
What are you working on at the moment?
- I am working on SO MANY THINGS. I’m finishing up my Spellbreaker duology, the first book of which will release in fall 2020. I also have a high fantasy duology I’m working on with Caitlyn McFarland (author of the Dragonsworn series). Then I have a book called STAR MOTHER that I’ll be doing my first round of edits on soon (from my alpha readers—haven’t sold that one yet!).
How can we follow you?
- Instagram: @cnholmberg
- Twitter: @cnholmberg
- Facebook: @cnholmberg
- Website: charlienholmberg.com
- Amazon: https://amzn.to/2CzffcW
- Goodreads: https://bit.ly/36Zfaxe