When Bree Despain was in the eighth grade, she discovered a book called “Jackaroo” by Cynthia Voigt, and it captured her imagination. “I think this is the book that made me want to be a writer,” Bree told Cracking the Cover, “and its strong female heroine inspired me to want to be strong like her.”
Now Bree, the author of The Dark Divine series, has come full circle, writing her own novels with a strong female heroine taking the lead.
Bree’s new book, “The Savage Grace,” is the final book in the Dark Divine series, which follows a pastor’s teenage daughter who discovers the paranormal underworld that exists within our own world. She is forced to confront and balance her own morals and beliefs with her paranormal duties and destiny.
“I like to call my series ‘a modern interpretation of the parable of the Prodigal Son with a paranormal twist,’” Bree said. “Actually, each book in the trilogy explores the themes of a different biblical parable, but in an unexpected way. However, the themes of the Prodigal Son story — redemption, family, sacrifice, and what might happen to the brother who can’t forgive — are at the core of the entire series. …I think it’s the exploration of these themes of faith, sacrifice, and redemption that set it apart from more traditional paranormal romance stories.”
Writing for a young adult audience came naturally for Bree, who says her characters are usually close to the age of 17 because that’s the age she began to figure out who she wanted to be as a person and started really coming into herself.
“What I love about writing YA is re-exploring all those firsts in life,” she said. “First love, first kisses, first time behind the wheel, maybe the first time getting to travel without your parents, the first time you really start to think about who you want to be and what kind of impact you want to have on the world. The ‘firsts’ are always so intense and often life-changing — why would I want to write about anything else?”
However, that doesn’t mean young adults are the only ones who find Bree’s books worth reading. Adults love them, too. Not that that comes as a surprise to Bree, though. She’s read YA for her entire adult life. “They are just realizing what the rest of us YA-lovers have known all along —YA is awesome! I think adults enjoy YA for the same reason I love to write it — it’s all about reliving those ‘firsts’ in life. Everything is so much more intense to teenagers and that makes for a really fun book.”
As far as people liking her books specifically, Bree says it’s a bit mindboggling. “At the time I started writing the first book in the trilogy, I knew there was a possibility that it would never be published because I was combining religious themes with a paranormal book, but I felt like it was a story that I had to write — even if it was just for myself. So the fact that it’s now been published in over seventeen countries, and that so many people have read it, just blows me away. I feel extremely grateful for every person who picks up one of my books and gives it a chance.”
Bree is hoping people will take a chance on “The Savage Grace,” which she says is a lot more exciting and action-packed than originally planned. There were also a couple of characters who surprised the author with decisions that they made, and they ended up taking different paths than Bree had originally anticipated at the end of the second book.
“I’ve found that you can’t force a character to react the way you want them to as opposed to how they would organically react based on who they are,” Bree said. “This can end up taking different story elements and characters to places I didn’t see coming — but it always ends up being a better story because of it.”
Completing an entire series has a monumental feel to it, and, of course, it feels really good, Bree says. “I am so happy that I got to write this third book because it allowed me to develop the characters so much more fully than before. They really get a chance to become who they are meant to be. I just hope readers enjoy the book as much as I do. I always have a lot trepidation over disappointing readers, so I hope this book lives up to their expectations.”
**Bree took a lot of time and care answering Cracking the Cover’s questions. Read a complete transcript of the interview.
*Bree will be at The King’s English this Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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