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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Interview and Giveaway: S.O. Thomas, author of The Slug Queen Chronicles


I'm so excited to have author S.O. Thomas here today to chat about and give away her new middle-grade book, The Slug Queen Chronicles...


The Slug Queen Chronicles 
By S.O. Thomas 
March 28, 2020 

Tooth fairies are real... And they now want children instead of teeth. 

Twelve-year-old Cricket Kane never believed in fairies, until one set its sights on her little brother. To get him back, she travels to a magical world full of cursed boogie men, female Santas, and living nightmares. She’ll stop at nothing to save her brother, especially after learning the sinister motives behind his kidnapping, but doing so might cost her life. 

Can she find him and the other children before it’s too late? 

Fans of Coraline and Nevermoor will fall in love with this dark magical adventure - a spellbinding tale of love, sacrifice, and the power of friendship for readers who aren’t afraid of the boogeyman. 


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Q1. What three words best describe your book, The Slug Queen Chronicles? 

 Magic, mystery, friendship 

 Q2. Grab a copy of The Slug Queen Chronicles and answer the following: 

Favorite chapter?  
I’d say Five, when Cricket meets Fenlick for the first time. He introduces himself with an insult to her sandwich-making skills instead of getting to the point and she runs away before he can tell her he’s there to help.  

He was such a fun character to write! I tried to personify my cat, Kyoko, when I created his character. She was bold, protective, unapologetic, totally judgemental (aren’t all cats?) and persistent in the most annoying and amazing ways. She’d say so much with just a quick glance. All the things I imagined her saying to me, I’m pretty sure Fenlick said to Cricket at one point or another.  

Even the idea of cattawisps laying eggs came from her. She had this egg-shaped catnip toy that she’d tuck under her chest and just lay on it like a chicken nesting. Needless to say, most of the scenes with Fenlick are high up there on my list of favorites because they all remind me of her. Kyoko actually passed away from cancer a few weeks ago, so even though rereading passages with Fenlick in them feels impossible right now, I take a small comfort in knowing that her quirky personality lives on in Fenlick 

 Favorite page?  
Page 21 (in the hardcover edition) after Penny wakes Cricket because she heard something rummaging around under the bed and in the closet. When Cricket sees the lingering green trails left by a tooth fairy, just as her mother described, she realizes that her mother was right, tooth fairies are real. Penny is freaked out, but Cricket jumps into action immediately. For me, this page shows Cricket at her baseline best, something that remains unchanged throughout her whole character arc.  

In the previous chapter when Cricket looks at her best friend, Penny, and sees all the things she feels she can’t be, she doesn’t realize that just because you aren’t one thing, it doesn’t mean that what you are or what you can be isn’t also valuable. We all have weaknesses, but we also all have our own unique strengths. That moment on page 21 is when Cricket’s strength is revealed. In tense moments or emergencies, she doesn’t hesitate. She has the ability to keep going even when fear should take over and freeze her in her tracks. When she has a clear goal in sight, there’s no stopping her.  

 Favorite setting?  
Maybe the Underwoods? I love both caves and forests, so combining the two, plus introducing the stone gargolems infused with magic was so much fun! Any setting with magic woven in is considered a favorite: The Reflecting Pool (a portal where everything that should be in the water is reflected directly above it), The Wandering Woods (a dark forest of twisted tree roots that works a little like a worm hole now that I think about it), The Red Hollows (filled with several species of man-eating plants, and covered in a toxic red mist that can make you forget everything that makes you who you are), and Polaris (the invisible mountain city carved out of stone and trees).  

 Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:  

“Cat got your tongue? I’ve heard they do that,” the door continued.  
Everything about Aeryland made my head hurt, but this was ridiculous. I was talking to a door!  

 Q3. What inspired The Slug Queen Chronicles? How did the story come to be?

So many things, where do I start? I think big picture wise, my love of both fantasy and horror are ultimately responsible for The Slug Queen Chronicles. My aunt gave me my first Dean Koontz novel at age 11 (Watchers). I read at least 10 more that year, adding John Saul and Stephen King shortly after. But I don’t think I ever stopped reading middle grade fantasies, even as an adult.  

And Alice in Wonderland.   

As for the story itself, I think it came to be thanks to a series of questions: 
What if tooth fairies are real and they start taking kids instead of teeth? What if they leave changelings in their places so no one knows the kids have been taken? But what if some people can see the changelings for what they really are? Why, what makes them special? What if the thing that made you different from most other people was actually a superpower?  

 Q4. Tell us a bit about your heroine, Cricket? What makes her special? What do you love about her? 

Cricket Kane is a twelve-year-old girl who has always known she wasn’t like other kids even though she looked the same on the outside. I wanted readers to get a sense of how different the world can be for people who experience it - well - differently. Cricket is on the autism spectrum. She absorbs so much sensory information, especially the stuff most neurotypical brains are able to filter out. This is essentially what allows her to see fairy dust. And to all the people who know fairy dust is real, this is what makes her special.  

(Her autism isn't stated in the text, nor is it necessarily something readers need to know, but I’m overcome with so much joy and stimmy happy dancing when other autistics recognize her as part of our tribe.)  

I’ve been told that parts of the book can cause some sensory overload at times and can be a bit stressful. And they’re absolutely right. Sensory overload can be extremely stressful, and Cricket experiences it several times throughout the book, but she doesn’t let it stop her. This is Cricket’s life outside of her well ordered bubble of routines and structure. When all that she knows is ripped away, she throws herself into a completely new world and spends a lot of it feeling overwhelmed. Her journey isn’t an easy task, yet she finds ways to support herself so she can keep going. And when she can’t, she surrounds herself with people who care enough to learn how they can help when she can’t help herself. That’s the kind of strength I imagine all of us strive to have. 

 Q5. In The Slug Queen Chronicles, magical and legendary beings are real...what magical creature/person do you wish was real? Why? 

Gremlins! I have a pekingese, which is close enough. If we get him wet or feed him after midnight, he definitely turns into a gremlin. He also hates bright lights, but thankfully sunlight isn’t fatal. ;)  

Google the breed and tell me they don’t look like Gizmo!  

 Q6. What do you hope readers learn and/or take away with after reading The Slug Queen Chronicles? 

I wanted to create a story that embodied the idea that people/things aren’t always what they seem.  

Cricket’s dust turns out to be completely different than what she’d thought. What she originally saw as only a weakness turned out to be one of her biggest assets.  
Her initial views of some of the people she meets along the way turn out to be the opposite of what she thought. Sometimes friends weren’t friends at all and enemies had been misjudged.  

Cricket learns that what we think we need isn’t always accurate. Not only can we misjudge others, we can misjudge ourselves and our needs as well.  

This theme is especially significant when you look at the characters with disabilities.  
Even though Cricket is kind, empathetic, and loyal, Bree just sees an outcast with strange obsessions and exaggerated reactions. Penny sees a great friend.  

Even though Nokomis built her own set of wings and teaches herself to be a fierce fighter, Sabi just sees a girl who can’t walk without forearm crutches. Cricket sees a brave and resourceful role model.  

Even though Kibben soaks up knowledge with ease and can recite almost anything he’s ever read word for word, his peers just see a boy with a speech disorder. Cricket sees a kind, intelligent friend.  

Because Redd is mostly non-verbal, most people don’t see him at all. He’s invisible (like I was through most of high school), as though if you don’t speak, you cease to exist. Cricket does struggle with learning how to communicate with him, but she doesn’t stop trying. He’s not invisible to her. She sees him as more than just the words he can’t share.  

I hope readers walk away with a deeper understanding that what we think we know and what is are not always the same thing. It’s our duty to see past our snap judgements and see the world around us from more than just one biased perspective. 

 Q7. Can you discuss your experience writing The Slug Queen Chronicles and the importance of #ownvoices 

A particular incident that happened when I was a senior in high school comes to mind. I was sitting at my usual table in our bio class, but the topic of discussion was the latest LOTR movie. The group of girls I sat with went around the table saying which character from the movie each of them would be and why they’d be perfect for the role. But then they got to me and everyone went silent. I don’t remember the exact words spoken next, but they were along the lines of, “I guess you can’t be included because no one really looks like you.” I remember saying nothing (like I often did back then) and I remember them all continuing on like everything was okay. Like my soul hadn’t been crushed. Representation matters. Let me say it again for the people who don’t know what experiences like what I described above feel like. 

REPRESENTATION MATTERS. Yes, all caps means I’m yelling because it’s that important. Kids should be able to reach for books and see that who they are, whoever that may be, is good enough to play the hero/heroine. That should matter to all of us.  

I want to go back and tell high-school-me that it wasn’t my fault that Hollywood rarely casted actresses or whole families who looked like me or my family to play major roles in mainstream media. It wasn’t my fault that popular books rarely described main characters who looked like me saving the day. It wasn’t my fault that those girls around the table didn’t see how much their acceptance of my exclusion hurt me.  

When I was younger, all I wanted was to pick up a fantasy novel and read about a kid saving the day that looked and thought like me. So I wrote the book I never got to read back then - The Slug Queen Chronicles. But no single book or movie or TV Show can represent all the intricacies of each race/religion/disability/sexuality/etc.. So we need all the voices! I hope this push for more diverse #ownvoices stories lasts as long as we continue being a diverse society. 

 Q8. Fill in the blanks: 

I’m really awesome at remembering useless information!  

I’m really embarrassed to admit I still love stuffed animals. I don’t think I ever stopped. 

The last great book I read was The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda. 

 Q9. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Slug Queen Chronicles, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it? 

If I was a tech wiz, I’d make cupcakes that allowed people to see fairy dust the way Cricket did if they wore special virtual reality goggles while eating the cupcakes. But I barely know how to use Twitter, so I’ll settle for ‘Wich cakes. They’d be inspired by Beaty’s sandwich shop. They’d have to be fish themed (because Beaty only makes fish sandwiches). The fish heads and octopus tentacles would be light and fluffy, creaming and sweet, tasting nothing at all like the real thing of course.  



With her infectious energy and a penchant for the peculiar, no one has ever accused S. O. Thomas of being mundane. She has a B.F.A. in Fashion Design. She spends her days designing creepy-cute clothes. At night, she dreams of magical places that end up spilling out of her brain and onto the page. She lives on the edge of a haunted forest in a small town in Massachusetts with her husband, their two cats, and a real life gremlin. 



Win a signed copy of 
The Slug Queen Chronicles!
S.O. Thomas has generously offered a signed copy for one winner.
-US only
-ends 4/4/20
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes

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2 comments:

Danielle H. said...

This book's premise is unique and sounds packed full of suspense and mystery.

Nancy Payette said...

Sounds intriguing