The Phantom’s Curse: A Cosy Chat with YA Author Shelley Wilson

Martha Dunlop Book Chat, Fiction Leave a Comment

Shelley Wilson is an English author of young adult fantasy fiction and motivational self-help titles.

Her playful side writes young adult fiction to remind you that magic exists, and her sensible side writes non-fiction books to inspire you to be the best you can be.

Shelley is a single mum of three young adults, has a crazy black cat called Luna and is obsessed with vampires, Tudor and Viking history, and exploring castles.

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Welcome to the Story Cave, Shelley! 

Hi Martha, thank you so much for inviting me to join you on your fabulous blog. I’m excited to share The Phantom’s Curse with you and your readers.

At the heart of the Phantom’s curse is this mysterious and unseen creature who terrorised our characters in the past.  In the Prologue, you talk about how leaders thought they could control the Phantom and use it to increase their power, but every time it was too big and powerful to control and it ripped through the country causing chaos and destruction.  Does this image have something to say about our current political situation? 

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I’d be lying if I said the political landscape didn’t influence me. When I was writing TPC, my newsfeed was flooded with stories from Syria and how certain factions were turning away those in need. The divisions in society (and life) have travelled through the centuries with us. Some changes are being made, but on the whole, we all find our ‘place’ and get on with it. I saw this in the characters who live in the Link. The inner city elite ignores them, but they are stronger than anyone realises – if they can only learn to work together for the greater good

Marianne, our heroine, is both a compassionate healer and a badass warrior, and female strength is really at the heart of this story.  What does Marianne have to tell us about the nature of strength and of how women, or fictional heroines, are perceived?

As someone who has given her power away far too often, I aim to bestow all my main characters with more common sense than I ever possessed as a teen! Teaching my daughter to stand up for what she believes in has been a parenting goal of mine since the nurse handed her over in the delivery room. I want my books to share that same message. We all suffer from self-doubt but dig a little deeper, and we ALL have an inner strength waiting to shine through.

There seems to be a contrast between actual strength and perceived strength in the book.  The old King is described as weak when he was compassionate and pure, the Queen was perceived to have been weak when she acted bravely in order to stop the Phantom using her.  What do these characters tell us about how sensitivity is seen?

I think that’s what’s wrong with the world today. Empathy, kindness, and female strength are still seen as something to hide. If you shout about your achievements, then it’s all about ego, if you’re kind-hearted, then you must be weak. Those contrasts are seen every single day. I hope that Marianne can step out of that bubble and teach my young readers that being kind is just as important as being a badass warrior.

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When Marianne escapes the city she goes to stay with a nymph, Halia, who helps Marianne to initiate her innate powers.  Halia says: ‘Start believing in yourself and soon enough others will follow.’ This seems to tie in perfectly with the motivational side to your work and I wondered how it fits with your own experience?

Well spotted! When I’m not writing my YA novels, I write non-fiction for the self-help and personal development genre. You would think these two themes are as far apart as you could get – werewolves and meditation! However, the overlap between coming-of-age stories and personal development is crucial. For seven years, I ran a holistic health spa where I offered Reiki, reflexology, massage, meditation groups, and more. My clients were mostly middle-aged ladies with self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression, and highly stressed. Once upon a time, these ladies were young adults themselves. If they had access to the motivational side of life back then, their issues and limiting beliefs would be significantly reduced.

I never preach in my YA novels. Years of training has taught me that you can’t force anyone to make self-care a priority. Instead, I like to sprinkle a little positivity and self-worth through my characters actions and dialogue in the hope that the reader receives the message and they act on their own accord to make changes.

Community is very important in the story. At the beginning this is seen only from the point of view of one group of people, but by the end we see that a sense of community is felt across the social groups, even those we didn’t understand at the beginning.  What does the book have to tell us about our perceptions of community, for ourselves and others?

Way, way, waaaaay back in history, we huddled together in groups. If you weren’t part of a community, you rarely survived. Over the years, villages turned into towns, which then evolved to become cities and that sense of community was lost.

During the recent pandemic, we’ve all hopefully realised the benefits of that community interaction. Unfortunately, we can’t turn the clock back to these days as I’m relatively sure the mental health issues we face would be significantly reduced.

Friendships for young adults are an essential part of growing up. Friends come and go, and we sometimes gravitate towards the wrong relationships, but that sense of community and understanding is a strong theme, and one I hope to promote.

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Do you have any more YA and/or fantasy books on the way?

My next release (January 2021) is a non-fiction book. Hopefully, later next year we’ll be releasing my upcoming YA novel, The Last Princess. I adored writing that book as it’s something I’ve never tried before. TLP is a historical fiction YA novel based in AD 866 when the Vikings invaded. Researching that novel took me all over the North Coast of the UK. It’s set in Northumberland (Bamburgh) and follows the story of Edith, the last princess of Northumbria. Prepare yourself; it’s packed full of axe fights, severed limbs, battles, and betrayal!

At the moment I am working on book sixteen, another YA novel which will be book one of The Immortal Series. Blood Born is a vampire novel set in the present day. Watch this space for a future release date.

Thank you, Martha. It’s always a joy to visit your blog and chat about my books. I hope you enjoyed reading The Phantom’s Curse, despite it being aimed at the younger end of YA (11 -14 yrs)!

SPOILER ALERT!!! 

If you've read the book, scroll all the way down past the buttons and the final picture for one more question about The Phantom's Curse. If you haven't read it yet and want to keep the mystery, check out the links but don't go any further.

Author Links:

Visit my Linktree to find my author site, publisher’s website, Twitter, and Facebook links.

Images from www.123rf.com, numbers: 30989551 , 57835742 , 43020146 and 46781449.

Book cover and head shot from Shelley Wilson. 

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I was interested in the choice of the Holy Man as leader at the end of the book.  Why was Marianne not chosen to take the people into the future?

Sometimes our path takes us only part of the way, but our impact on the journey is still powerful. Marianne has a lot of life to live. She’s a young girl with incredible inner strength, kindness, and loyalty. She was the catalyst that brought about change, and she’ll be one of the driving forces to ensure that peace continues. She knows that handing over the fate of the world to the Holy Man is the right decision, and while she’ll always stand by him, she also gets to be a teenager – albeit an extraordinary one!

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