Interview: Alissa J. Zavalianos

I am excited to be able to share a short interview with Alissa J. Zavalianos about her upcoming YA Fantasy novel Endlewood, which releases on April 18, 2022 (that’s coming up!)

Let’s get a peek at Endlewood and insight the head and heart of the author…

Where did the inspiration for Endlewood come from?

I had written the very beginnings of this manuscript years ago, like only the first chapter, and it was titled Holland of the Forest. It wasn’t until I went back and reread what I wrote that the idea of Endlewood began to unfurl. I’ve always loved the woods and the mystery of its dark depths, so I wanted to explore that concept a bit more through the themes of love, loss, and hope. Oh, and fae. Lots of magic and fae.

Which character in Endlewood was the most challenging to write?

I think all of them bore their challenges. Characterization doesn’t come as easily to me as plot and setting, but once I started, it grew easier. I think nailing Markus’ character down was a bit of a challenge because he’s the schemer and trickster, but since losing his father in his late teens and growing up rather quickly, those antics were sort of tempered out of him. He’s probably my favorite character in Endlewood because of it. 

How do you think the theme of “belonging” in Endlewood relates to our modern, social media-obsessed world?

I think in some way, everyone is looking for a place to “belong” in this big world. We want connection and purpose, and identity plays a huge role in how we view ourselves and live our lives. For Holland in particular, she’s grown up most of her life as an orphan, never knowing her parents and yet yearning to know who she truly is. Whether we have biological parents or we are adopted, I think we can all relate to this concept of wanting to fit in and find our purpose.

In our social-media obsessed world, things like Instagram, TikTok, and yes, even old, crotchety Facebook can appear to give us the sense of “belonging” we crave through the amounts of likes or recognition we receive. Those things can be well and good on their own, but they will never leave long-lasting satisfaction.

Though I don’t come right out and say it explicitly in Endlewood, my hope is for people to realize that people and things can never buy happiness. You can search high and deep to find where you “belong,” but in the end, it will leave you empty. Jesus is the only true source of joy and satisfaction in this world. Chasing dreams, fame, identity, purpose, etc… it all fades with time and shifts with the passing shadows. 

What is your favorite quote from Endlewood and why?

My favorite quote is the conversation between Grismon Rook and Holland, during a time of deep despair: 

Grismon looked at her in a way that said he understood, but his eyes held a curious gleam. “And yet, the crocuses still bloom in early spring. The crops still push forth from the earth, taking its nutrients and transforming them into something good. I have to believe that a world that grows beauty can’t be all bad, can it? There is still some light left in Griskol, though it be just a spark. But maybe it’s enough.'”

It’s moments like these where I’m transported to my favorite scenes in Lord of the Rings. Tolkien always does such a fantastic job of juxtaposing light and darkness, hope and despair. And it was largely his influence that wove into the fibers of Endlewood.

How was writing Endlewood different from your previous works, The Earth-Treader and The Wishing Seed?

Writing Endlewood was different from The Earth-Treader in many ways. The characters were very different from Caz and Rylla. The whole plot was vastly different, and the themes were entirely new. I’d never written anything so dark and somber before, but to that same vein, I’d never written something so full of light and hope before, either. Endlewood deals a lot with grief, and it’s the rawest book I’ve ever written.

The Wishing Seed was vastly different from both Endlewood & The Earth-Treader because it’s a middle grade novel and takes place mostly in our modern world (with some made up locations and a lot of fairytale-esque folklore). Endlewood is a young adult fantasy, like The Earth-Treader, though its focus leans slightly more to the romantic route.

Did you learn anything about yourself from writing Endlewood?

I think I’ve rediscovered my love for deep, somber stories. It’s funny because I’m a goofball and lighthearted in person, but I prefer when novels leave me crying rather than laughing. I don’t mind feeling “hurt” after reading a really good book. Hence why Lord of the Rings hits me in all the feels every single time. In writing Endlewood, I’ve learned to appreciate the stars , claim my identity in Christ more, and grow my craft as a writer. I think I’ll always be learning no matter how many stories I create, and I’ll always leave bits and pieces of me in every story I write.

What do you hope readers take away from Endlewood?

I hope readers leave encouraged and inspired. What that looks like, I’m none too sure; it’s different for everyone. But I hope that readers walk away with a deeper sense of who they are in Christ and that hope is now for the taking, even when it seems far off and impossible. 

In Griskol, magic and deceit are forbidden.

And to practice any form of them could lead to death.

Holland doesn’t know who she is. For reasons she can’t explain, she’s drawn to the tragic story, The Tale of Endlewood, seeking to leave home and find where she belongs, even if it means disguising her identity—an action that could cost her everything.

Markus Fenn has always known his purpose: to farm the land his father left behind and to care for his aging mother and younger siblings. Unlike his best friend, Holland, he’s content with his lot in life.

But when a sinister plot rocks the country of Griskol, Holland finds herself in the middle of the chaos, and Markus’ familiar, rural life is upended in the midst of it. Griskol may have been right about magic all along.

In this epic tale of love and loss, accompanied by mermaids, fae, and dragons, will Holland find where she truly belongs? Or will she open her heart enough to realize her home has been with her this whole time?

Anything else you would like readers to know about Endlewood

1. Fae-Tongue is loosely derived from the Scott’s Gaelic dialect. 

2. Creating the laws and building the world of Griskol was my favorite. Name-branding was challenging since it limited my ability to name my characters, but it was still something I enjoyed. Fun fact: there’s a pronunciation guide at the end of Endlewood that tells you how to pronounce every location and what their names mean. Some of them I tried to keep as accurate as possible; others, I took some creative liberties. I thought adding the name meanings was a fun bonus since the world of Griskol deals a lot with belonging and identity. 

3. I formatted the interior of Endlewood all on my own! I’m probably more proud of that than writing the actual novel haha. (Not really, but it’s definitely a plus).

Lastly, thank you so much, Erin, for hosting this wonderful interview. I am so blessed to have friends like you who care and are interested in my work. You’re wonderful!

Thank you so much to Alissa for giving me (and all of you) to peek behind the pages of Endlwood! Be sure to pre-order this fanastic fantasy adventure story today!

More about Alissa J. Zavalianos

Alissa J. Zavalianos grew up in New Hampshire and currently lives there with her wonderful husband and their adorable cat Moo. As a child, she always had a love for nature, books, and fairy tales, and as she grew older, that love bloomed all the more. Alissa loves Jesus and is inspired by birds, mountains, castles, Tolkien, Lewis, and the way a cold breath of wind feels on her bare toes.

Follow her on Instagram: @authoralissajzavalianos.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. kimmisk says:

    I’ll be adding Endlewood to my reading list! Thanks, Erin for the informative and engaging interview.


  2. I am definitely looking forward to this one! That quote from the book is gorgeous. Very tolkien like. And I LOVE tolkien! haha


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s