Welcome to our blog tour post for Lauren Skidmore’s recent work, What Is Lost. I got to read the book and I have a lot to say about it. After my review, I will share some questions that I got to ask Lauren, as well as her answers.
Here’s the official cover blurb for the novel:
Angry at his failure to exact vengeance on the prince, mask maker Joch flees Venesia to find his lost love. When a red-cloaked assassin promises answers, he has little choice but to trust her, though he may be walking into a trap. Unravel the deception in this dazzling story of second chances that will keep you guessing to the last page.
Instead of following the main characters from the first novel, Skidmore unfolds an interesting “retelling” of Little Red Riding Hood and follows her villain, Joch, into the bamboo forest. Don’t worry, you’ll get to meet characters that represent the grandma, the wolf, and the girl with the red cape.
Overall, the motif of this novel is trust. As you remember from the original tale, Little Red learns that she shouldn’t trust strangers and should just stick to the path. In this novel, Joch he doesn’t trust anyone. Because of that, you’ll go through most of the book not knowing very much about who’s trying to help and who’s out to get him—simply because he doesn’t ask himself. He immediately meets Kit who will spend a lot of time telling him that she’s trying to help, but she can’t say why. I could say that it’s the most frustrating thing, since you feel like you’re wandering and lost in the forest with Joch and you don’t know why he’s following her. We know that the main catch is that she can keep him alive and eventually help him find his lost love.
However, Skidmore ends each chapter very well, because I found myself doing the “just one more chapter!” justification in my head way too often. Her novel will take you to some interesting places and the ending will pretty much take you by surprise.
So here are some questions and answers!
1. Your decision to use your sequel to follow the villain is different and intriguing. What helped you decide to focus your sequel on the villain, rather than follow Evie and Aiden?
What is Hidden was Evie’s story, but it was also Joch’s, even though we didn’t get to see much of his side. He wasn’t the villain in his version of the story of course, and I thought it would be interesting to explore that story. It goes back to the saying that all villains are the heroes of their own stories—something I find really interesting and fun to explore.
2. Congrats on writing a sequel! What were some of the challenges that came with writing a sequel?
Thanks! The time crunch was a bit of a challenge, since I had years to spend on my first novel, but only months to spend on this one. I thought continuity and consistency might be a problem, but it actually wasn’t that bad since I switched main characters and went to a new location.
3. What inspired Joch’s trainings? The part where he goes through his “ritual” or stretches suggests that the movements were based on real martial arts.
I haven’t studied martial arts myself, but from what I’ve heard from people who have is that martial artists practice moves until they become natural parts of themselves, and as a result they’ll work through these forms over and over again until they’re ingrained.
In addition to showing his skill and training as a fighter, I also wanted to use these stretches as a sort of centering tool for Joch, since they’re the one true, familiar thing he knows in a situation where he can’t trust anything else.
4. In your acknowledgments, you mentioned that much about the Nishimi village and various characters were based on your interest in Japanese culture. What made you decide to put an Asian twist on a German tale?
I thought it would be interesting to put my Red Riding Hood in a different kind of forest, and bamboo seemed like it would be fun. From there it felt natural to me to mix in Japanese folklore and culture to give the German story something new.
5. Some of my followers are curious about your research methods. What is your approach to world building? Do you have to map things out, draw, or otherwise plan out locations/settings?
It’s a huge task, but basically I like to start with one key idea or feature that sort of inspires the rest of the world and go from there. For What Is Hidden, it was the masks. For What Is Lost, it was the bamboo forest. Once I have that key feature, I use it to define the feel of the world I’m trying to create, and then look for concrete ways to express the atmosphere I see in my mind.
From my own experience, I know Kyoto is surrounded by beautiful bamboo forests, so most of Nishima is influenced in one way or another by that. I researched different places in and around Kyoto and created my setting based on that. I keep track of a lot of these on my Pintrest boards, which you can check out here.
6. Are you continuing the series? If so, any hints on which fairytale you will use?
Yes, I have one more planned, and will pick up right after What Is Lost, just like this one picked up right after What Is Hidden. I’ll be switching main characters again, and you’ve met the new protagonist, though I won’t say much more. I will say you’ll see Evie and Aiden—and Joch—again. As for which fairy tale, I think there are already several hints in What Is Lost.
When reviewing a book, what usually makes or breaks your opinions? Plot, characters, the ending, or the writing style? Comment below!