Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Blog Tour + Interview + Giveaway - Circle of Nine by Valerie Biel

Find the tour schedule here.

Release date: September 24th 2b014
Publisher: Lost Lake Press

Purchase: Amazon 

Synopsis via Goodreads:

“Since I was a little girl I’ve been labeled a freak in my small town. There’s no blending in when your mom practices an ancient pagan religion and everyone believes she’s a witch. On my 15th birthday my secret wish is the same as always – to just be normal. But that’s not what I get. Not even close.” 

– Brigit Quinn

Instead, Brigit is shocked to learn she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe - powerful people who serve as guardians of the stone circles of Ireland. A spellbound book of family history reveals the magical powers of her ancestors. Powers that could be hers - if only she wanted them. 

And when someone sinister and evil returns to steal her family’s strength, Brigit has to make a decision. Fight to keep her unique heritage or reject it for the normal life she’s always wanted.


A story can get started a thousand different ways. Circle of Nine started when I visited standing stone circles in Ireland and England. The most famous of these is Stonehenge. Most people don’t know that there are hundreds of stone circles and ancient monuments dotting the countryside in Great Britain and northern France. I began to think about the people who built them, and I wondered what they were really used for. (There’s a lot of debate about this.) Then, I began my internal “what if” questions. What if there were people alive today who were descendants of the circle builders? What if they kept their heritage a secret? What if they could tell us what these circles were all about, but they’re sworn to secrecy? And, what if there was a modern-day girl who really wasn’t sure that she liked this extra-special heritage so much? What then... ? (You can find out if you read the book!)

When did you start writing? 
I’ve written stories since middle school. I was fortunate enough to have the most encouraging teacher who fostered my love of both reading and writing. These early writing efforts ebbed and flowed and eventually got tucked away. I decided that I needed a career where it’d be possible to earn money by writing and received a journalism degree, but I missed creative writing. I still had all these stories in my head, but never made them a priority until I was spurred into action by family tragedy.
In 2003 our family lost one of my sisters to cancer and then in 2008 we were devastated when the same terminal cancer was diagnosed in a second sister. During this terrible time, I reflected on my priorities and decided that my writing dream couldn’t wait any longer. The rough draft of Circle of Nine was complete within a year.

What makes you want to write? 
Pinpointing where I get my overall inspiration to write is a difficult thing. I just know that I have to write. (Well, at least, I’m a much nicer person when I have time to write, according to my family.) I am in awe of other creative, artistic people. I couldn’t write a song or paint a picture or sculpt or make anything remotely useful with my hands, but I am in my element when I’m creating a fictional world and the people in it.

Do you ever get writer's block and what do you do to get over it? 
Yes, definitely! Usually it is at a point where I’m not sure which direction I should go with a story. I find it’s best to give the story some breathing space and do something else for a little while. If the “block” persists, I will start writing whatever comes to mind and not worry that it’s not perfect. Most of that is garbage writing and needs to be discarded—but eventually it helps to get me back in the groove.  
Do you have a special way of going about writing? 
I tend to begin my writing day by editing what I wrote the previous day. It helps to get back into the story and find the voice of the main character. (Of course, this is after I’ve procrastinated on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, other people’s blogs etc….)
Do you have any works in progress?
I’ve just completed the rough draft of a middle-grade novel that I’m beginning to edit. I’m at the jumping off point for the sequel to Circle of Nine and have my notes ready to go. I can’t wait to immerse myself in Brigit Quinn’s world again!
What are your hobbies?  
I love to travel! When I’m not traveling and the ground isn’t frozen solid in Wisconsin, I enjoy gardening—which is kind of funny given how much effort I put into getting out of gardening chores when I was a teen.  I also love to read. I try to read about 100 books a year but don’t always get to that total with writing and editing my own stories. I am also a bit of a TV show fanatic.  

How did you choose the character names for Circle of Nine? 
I spent a lot of time with Irish name charts because I wanted everything to be authentic, but for the modern or American names I just picked names I liked that didn’t remind me of any mean kids I’ve ever known. 

Who is your favourite character in Circle of Nine? 
Brigit is my favorite of the modern characters, but her mom, Celeste is a close second. Of the historical characters Dervla is my favorite for sure. I’m actually planning to write a novella that gives readers Dervla’s entire story.  

How did you get the idea for Circle of Nine? 
The inspiration for Circle of Nine came from my fascination with standing stone circles. I have been fortunate to travel to the UK and Ireland a number of times and couldn’t believe that there were all these Neolithic stone circles and other monuments dotting the countryside. There’s something so eerie and beautiful about these circles which rise up out of the greenest grass you’ve ever seen. (Beltany, an actual stone circle in County Donegal, Ireland, plays an important part in my novel.) While we know when these were built, we only have theories on exactly why they were built and what they were used for. I began to think of a culture of people who made these circles the center of the world, and then I began to wonder what would happen if their ancestors were still alive today quietly keeping this culture alive.
At the same time I began to think about writing a story that incorporated the stone circles, I was reading a book about the transition from pagan religion to Christianity and the pagan rituals that became part of Christian tradition.  Mix all that with some Celtic mythology and a love for all things witchy and you get a nearly 100,000 word tale. Circle of Nine follows the story of modern Brigit Quinn who learns on her 15th birthday that she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe that serves as guardians of these stone circles. 

What was your favourite part of writing Circle of Nine? 
I loved doing the research for the historical sections and the pagan/magical spells and incorporating that information into the story. The best part of writing in general are the days when you know you’ve gotten it just right and had an amazingly productive day. 

What are you currently reading? 
I’m reading the third novel in Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy.  My waiting to be read stack on my nightstand includes: Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall, Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, and Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon.

What is your favourite book? 
It is difficult to choose just one book but one that I’ve reread a number of times is Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.  That series is fabulous.

Who is your favourite author? 
I absolutely adore Lois Lowry and Ellen Hopkins. (If you’ve never read an Ellen Hopkins novel, please put one on your 2015 list.  Her ability to write in verse is unsurpassed, and she doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects.)

What is your favourite film? 
I would love to put something down that’s wonderfully intellectual—but to be honest I’ve rewatched Ever After with Drew Barrymore about a 100 times, so I guess that qualifies. I also love movies based on Jane Austen’s novels. My favorite movie this year was Interstellar.
What is your favourite TV show? 
I know these two don’t go together at ALL, but I love Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.   (It confuses my husband when he walks through the room and there’s a lot of zombie head bashing going on and then he walks back through and it’s all tea and proper etiquette.)

Quick-fire questions:

Chocolate or ice cream? Chocolate.
Paperback or ebook? Paperback.
Dogs or cats? Cats.
Go out or stay in? Depends on the weather.
Summer or winter?  Summer for sure.


Valerie Biel's love for travel inspires her books for teens and tweens. Circle of Nine - Beltany is set partially in Ireland where Valerie was inspired by the ancient stone circles which dot the countryside. Beltany, an actual stone circle in County Donegal, Ireland, plays an important part in this novel. "There's something eerie and beautiful about these circles which rise up out of the greenest grass you've ever seen. Who built them? Why did they build them? If that's not enough to start a story, nothing is."
This young adult novel was a top six finalist (out of 1000) in the Gotham Writers' YA Novel Discovery Contest.
When Valerie's not writing, she's working on freelance public relations projects, wrangling her overgrown garden, traveling the world, and reading everything she can get her hands on. Once upon a time, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and political science. More recently, she moved back to small-town Wisconsin, happily violating her teenage vow that she would never do so. Valerie's husband and three children are always providing her with new story ideas whether they mean to or not.

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