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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cauldron’s Bubble by Amber Elby - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Alda's grandmother leaves her something curious, a cauldron's bubble. This artefact gives Alda the chance to travel through time and takes her to different realms. On her travels Alda keeps meeting a boy named Dreng. She first stumbles upon him on a ship when he's still quite young and thinks she'll never see him again. She has no idea who he is, but somehow their fates keep being merged.

Alda has to deal with evil witches, spells and old and new conflicts. She never knows where she'll end up and how she'll survive when she's there. Will she be able to navigate the strange and dangerous world she's now a part of? Alda has a lot to learn and she will make mistakes. How can she rescue herself and others if she doesn't know what she's capable of yet. Will she be able to find out who she is and what she can do?

Amber Elby skillfully combines the characters from Shakespeare's plays with a story about time traveling. I absolutely loved that combination. Alda runs into several different Shakespearian characters and I loved the role they play in the story. There are pirates, evil hags, dryads, bespelled women and much more. Every character is interesting and has something fascinating to contribute to the story, which captivated me from beginning to end.

The Shakespeare element of Cauldron's Bubble is amazing. I love Amber Elby's knowledge of his world and his characters. She takes their personalities and transforms them into something different, but she's keeping them authentic in a beautiful skillful way. That makes her story incredibly special. I loved being taken on a journey to different times and places, while still having a familiar element to hold on to. That combination really works. I highly recommend Cauldron's Bubble, it's entertaining, spellbinding and very well written.

Advice

If you love stories inspired by Shakespeare's tales you should definitely read Cauldron's Bubble.

About Amber Elby


Amber Elby was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan but spent much of her childhood in the United Kingdom. She began writing when she was three years old and created miniature books by asking her family how to spell every, single, word. Several years later, she saw her first Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, in London. Many years later, she studied Creative Writing at Michigan State University’s Honors College before earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting at the University of Texas at Austin. She currently resides in Texas with her husband and two daughters and spends her time teaching, traveling, and getting lost in imaginary worlds.

Links


Interview

1) Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

My name is Amber Elby – please call me Amber – and I am the author of Cauldron’s Bubble. I grew up in Grand Ledge, Michigan, but spent much of my childhood in Great Britain. I now live in Texas with my high school sweetheart, our two feisty daughters, and our many pets. In addition to writing, I teach rhetoric and British Literature at a local college, and I enjoy drinking tea, and traveling, and drinking tea while traveling.

2) How did you get the idea to write a Shakespeare inspired story?


I used to teach ninth grade English at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin, Texas. My students had to read The Odyssey, Beowulf, and Macbeth in my class, and they had previously read the Percy Jackson series as an introduction to The Odyssey, and Grendel in preparation for Beowulf, but they had no prior readings for Macbeth. I realized quite quickly that the students could benefit from a novel to bridge them into Shakespeare’s plays. I have always been a fan of the Bard, too, so it was relatively easy to arrange my own questions about his plays – what did Macbeth’s witches do offstage? how did Hamlet escape from pirates? what happened before The Tempest began? – into a new adventure.

3) What do you like the most about Shakespeare’s work?

Shakespeare’s plays are all living literature. We do not fully understand them because they lack so much description and context, so we keep reworking them to fit our current needs and interpretations. Since Shakespeare’s death, they have been used to incite rebellions, challenge the status quo, empower women, question the standards of love and society, and provide commentary on our world in a thousand other ways. It is impossible to perform, or even read, any of his plays the same way twice because they derive from our experiences and take on lives of their own. I could draw inspiration from his work for eternity and never run out of ideas.   

4) What is a Cauldron’s Bubble and where does it come from?

In my novel, a cauldron’s bubble is a small sphere, like a marble, that transports its owner through time and place. It has to do with witches, but I can’t explain further without spoilers. The term itself is from Macbeth’s famous lines, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

5) Your story is filled with magic, what does magic mean to you?

Magic, simply put, is imagination. It’s the ability to create what did not previously exist, even if that creation is only on the page. All authors and artists use magic, in a way, and everyone has the potential to use this kind of magic. If you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and envision a garden filled with yellow flowers and butterflies, then you have created magic, too.  

6) If you could travel to a different time and place where would you go?

I have so many answers to this lovely question! Logically, I would not want to go to the distant past because history has not been friendly to women and because there were so many problems with sanitation and contagions. Emotionally, I would love to meet Joan of Arc or Lord Byron or some of my other historical and literary heroes. I posed this question to my daughters, and they both agreed that they would want to stay in the present time and travel to Haworth in Yorkshire,

which is an enchanting little village that was once the home of the Brontë family, so I suppose I would follow their lead and just travel across the pond. 

7) You lived in both England and America, in what way does that influence your writing?

When I was a child, America felt real, and England felt magical. I understood that America was devoid of fairies and witches and portals to other worlds, but those things all still existed for me in Britain. I often searched for fairies in gardens in London, but I never wasted my time looking for them in Michigan because I knew fairies were not there. As I wrote Cauldron’s Bubble, I consciously tried to bring magic back to America. I utilized myths from my hometown of Grand Ledge, as well as the its interesting history, to create a world like my childhood Britain because I want my daughters to understand that magic is universal. 

8) What’s the most fascinating thing about dictionaries?

I love the Oxford English Dictionary because it’s interesting to see how words evolve. We take for granted that words are static, but they change drastically from one time and place to another. Many of Shakespeare’s words, especially the dirty ones, have lost their original meanings and innuendos, so it’s important to look at their evolution in order to fully understand the Bard’s intention. For example, “doubt” commonly means “to be undecided or uncertain,” but it used to also mean “to suspect or tentatively believe” and “to fear or to be afraid of,” which is problematic when we read something like Hamlet’s love poem to Ophelia: “Doubt truth to be a liar,/ But never doubt I love.” Without a dictionary – and even with one – it is difficult to understand the play’s meaning.    

9) You love to travel, what’s your best or most special experience so far?

I have many wonderful travel experiences, but one in particular relates directly to my book. Several years ago, between when I first thought of Cauldron’s Bubble and when I started to actually write it, my family and I camped in a National Park called Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. We pitched our tent at a site near some ancient cliff dwellings, and my young daughters climbed and played on boulders near the base of the tall cliffs. Near sunset, as we prepared our fire, two ravens flew down from the clifftops and started circling about forty feet above my daughters. The ravens called, and my daughters cawed back; they talked to each other. Then my daughters started drawing images in the sand for the ravens to see: shapes and spirals and, finally, they drew the ravens. The birds continued to circle above until my daughters finished drawing them, and then they retreated into the cliffs. This is why there is a talking raven in my novel – because my daughters met them in the real world.

10) You write about love that goes very deep, what does true love mean to you?

In Shakespeare’s plays, love is often driven by fate; it is sudden and overpowering. In my own life, love was slow. My husband and I were born two days apart at the same hospital and met when we were ten years old. We had all of our classes together when we were twelve and often exchanged books that we enjoyed. Even though we were friends for many years, we did not start dating until we were seventeen and married five years later. Our love was and is fateful and overpowering. I don’t pretend to understand love, but I know that when it exists, it is everything.   

11) What are your plans for the future?

In terms of writing, I will release Double Double Toil, which is the sequel to Cauldron’s Bubble, on October 1, 2018. The final novel of the trilogy, Trouble Fires Burn, will be released sometime in 2019. In my personal life, I hope to travel more with my family and take my daughters to discover new lands. My parents always said that traveling is the best way to learn, that you experience more during an hour in a different country than you would in a week at home, so I make it a priority to explore as often as possible; this in turn helps me create new worlds in my fiction.


Giveaway

One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Cauldron’s Bubble by Amber Elby.


The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.

47 comments:

  1. Such a fun interview. Thanks for sharing. And this book sounds right up my alley. Love the cover too.

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    1. Thank you! I actually drew a rough sketch of the front cover, and then my friend Brandi at TypeJar Studio made it beautiful. (We designed the cover electronically, so she can work with clients from anywhere in the world.)

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  2. Great interview, thanks for sharing it.

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  3. I'm intrigued by the premise!

    --Trix

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    1. Thank you! I did quite a bit of research before I wrote this to see if something similar already exists, and I could only find retellings of single plays, along the lines of "Othello in a boarding school." I don't know of any mash-up type stories with the exception of a 1970s fantasy novel called Midsummer Tempest, in which Shakespeare is a character and historian in a steampunk world (much different than mine), and I only discovered that one last month.

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  4. Cauldron’s Bubble sounds like a magical time travel tale which uses stories and characters from Shakespeare to tell a new, fast-paced, coming-of-age story.

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    1. I made it fast-paced to appeal to overworked high school students who most likely have little time to read for pleasure. :)

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  5. This sounds like a wonderful magical book, looking forward to reading it.

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  6. I love Shakespeare and I love that people are making new twists on his stories. Looking forward to reading this novel!

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    1. Several of my teacher friends have started teaching students to write Shakespearean fan fiction as part of their curriculum, so hopefully there will be a new generation of Shakespeare spin-offs in the near future!

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  7. Sounds wonderful. I will fall in love easily with this book. Awesome interview.

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    1. Thank you! I enjoyed these interview questions, too. :)

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  8. Time travel, hmm not sure I'd want to do that but it's an interesting concept for a novel. I like the idea of meeting up with some of Shakespeare's character along the way. This sound like a great and interesting novel to read.

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    1. It's funny, but I actually don't think of this as a time travel book. I think of it as dropping characters into different stories, which happen to be set in different times. It's not like Back to the Future or even Hermione Granger's time turner, so it doesn't follow time travel stereotypes.

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  9. Sounds like you are a wonderful writer!! The book sounds wonderful!

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    1. Awww, thank you! I tell my friends that I pretend to be a good writer, but my readers don't see the dozens of failed attempts at writing something decent.

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    1. Thank you! It's available for Kindle for $1.99 or whatever that equates to at current exchange rates.

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  11. Definitely a book that I would read, looks like a good story line!!

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    1. Thank you! I hope you read and enjoy it. :)

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  12. Replies
    1. Thank you! I enjoyed writing it, so I hope that shows. :)

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  13. This sounds like a great story.
    Theresa N
    weceno(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  14. I love the sound of this, only problem is that I never wanna mark signed books so reading it would be a task in not spilling coffee lol!!

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    1. I feel the same! I often store my books in plastic bags to keep them safe in my handbag. :)

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  15. Many thanks for the review and giveaway!

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    1. Thank you for reading the review and entering the giveaway!

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  16. This book sounds right up my daughters street. One to add to her list.

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    1. I have two little girls and wrote this with them in mind. I of course tried to make it entertaining for everyone, but my oldest daughter wanted a book with "a girl who does stuff," so that's what I wrote!

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  17. Great interview. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read the interview!

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  18. I would so love to read this. I love Sheakespear so much, I even have a tattoo of his quote on my arm.

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    1. That sounds lovely! I have a tattoo of a drawing by Charlotte Bronte (author of Jane Eyre) on my leg. Literary tattoos are the best because they never go out of style!

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  19. Time travel books, when done well, are so great!

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    1. It's still so funny to call this a time travel book! Yes, there is time travel, and it works without a paradox or anything, but my focus was so much more on the stories and characters that I never thought too much about the time travel aspect. You'll have to decide if that's good or bad...

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  20. My mom has been to Chaco Canyon. I remember how pretty & amazing she said it is.

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    1. It's incredibly beautiful but also remote. There is no water available in the camping area, so you have to get it at the ranger station at the park entrance. There are beautiful ruins and petroglyphs that take more than a day to fully explore.
      I hope you can visit sometime!

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  21. I love the idea of bringing Shakespeare's characters into a more modern book, sounds great!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it is fun to look at his characters with a more modern perspective. They have all aged well, too, so they adapt easily to our current sensibilities.

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  22. Thank you for the great book prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

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    1. Good luck, everyone! Even if you don't win this signed copy, you can request Cauldron's Bubble at your local library or purchase it online.

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  23. Oh, Amber, I can't imagine growing up without a tradition of fairies, elves, hobgoblins and other kinds of 'little people'!

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