Retrieve by Sarah Addison-Fox is a short little adventurous read that was very easy to whip through in a handful of days. It features two main characters with alternating POVs, one being Kade, a young Stormer / retriever who is sent across the border into enemy territory on regular missions to “retrieve” things like food and supplies to bring back to his own kingdom which is dying of plague and famine. Hadley, his counterpart main character, is a young girl orphaned by the plague, who disguises herself as a boy so that she can join the order of Stormers as a way to survive the starvation sweeping across the kingdom. The head Stormer sends Kade across enemy lines for the most important retrieval yet — a rescue of the kidnapped princess — and for reasons Kade isn’t told, sends a skinny, sickly, unskilled Hadley along with him to act as his scout. Trouble meets Kade and Hadley at every turn of the page as they head across the poisoned river onto enemy lands, and when Hadley’s secret is discovered by Kade, she has to make the choice whether to continue to trust him to hold up his promise of helping her find her missing brother, or whether to revert to what she’s always done best under confrontation — run away.
I had the privilege of of interviewing Sarah Addison-Fox on her book and her writing life in general — check out our conversation below! And head to Amazon to nab your own copy of Retrieve!
Q. In Kade and Hadley’s kingdom, the setting is forested, grassy, and medieval, almost, with taverns and villages and military camps, ruled by a mysterious king. The enemy territory is much different by contrast, a hot, blistering desert landscape, with warriors that feel Aztec or Native American, with colorful cities made out of stone, and whose warrior clans wear warpaint. These two different worlds were such a unique contrast, I thought; what drew you into the two settings individually, and what prompted you to bring them both together into one story?
A. I wrote the series after watching Prince of Persia and immediately knew I wanted to put Hadley into a setting she’s be completely out of her depth in. But since I don’t plan anything out, and just wing it, the contrast wasn’t something I really noticed until well after completing the third book.
Q. Hadley really faced some unique challenges as a girl masquerading as a boy, and I liked that you were really realistic with her day-to-day struggles. What inspired you to write a character like her, a girl disguised as a boy?
A. I think Jill Williamson’s series Blood of Kings may have sparked the idea for Hadley. I loved Vrell dressing as a boy to protect her identity and for a girl like Hadley who is alone, and starving, it fits the story.
Q. How does Hadley compare with other female characters from your other books? Are there any similarities between them? Do you think she would become close friends with any of them if they were to cross paths?
A. Out of all the female characters I’ve written, Celeste is probably the best fit for friendship with Hadley.
They share a few common traits. Hadley is resourceful, and brave like Celeste from The Allegiance Series, but she has a much greater sense of self worth than Celeste does.
Q. Is there a female character (in movies or in writing) that was really inspirational for you in writing Hadley? What are some traits of that female character you admire?
A. Not so much inspirational as I tend to learn about my characters, their motivations, their weakness etc. as I write them.
Q. Alternatively, is there a male movie or book character that really inspired you for Kade’s character development? What elements and character traits did you really try to use to shape Kade?
A. Kade’s full character wasn’t fully formed until the end of the first draft, but his love for his sister, all come from what I witnessed in my husband’s relationship with his sister when his parents divorced around three decades ago. Yes, we’ve been together for donkey’s years…
I describe Kade as being a smouldering marshmellow, and that’s precisely what he is.
Q. On the writing front, what’s one thing you do to re-inspire yourself when you’re feeling blocked or stuck?
A. Music is always a great way to kick start myself into writing. That and watching fight scenes from Mission Impossible on YouTube.
Q. Are you a fast writer, someone who can churn out several hundred words in an hour, or do you prefer to go slow and take your time? How many words do you usually write in a day on average?
A. I type reasonably fast. I draft fast because when I have a story burning inside, I get it out as fast as I can. The quickest draft I’ve written is the first book in my current WIP series. It’s 48,500 words and took me two weeks to write.
I have a 1000 word a day minimum that I rarely break. Even if I have to stay up till 11:30pm, even if I have a headache, even if I don’t want to, I get it done.
I also write on and off all day around my kids, starting at 6.30am if I have to. You don’t write as many books as I have (15 completed novels) without a serious commitment to word count.
Q. If you had the opportunity to take your laptop and write from any place in the world, where would you write from?
A. Honestly, I’d settle for being left alone with my laptop to write! Give me a bag of peanut m&m’s, epic music to listen to, icy cold coke, and I’m happy as Larry.
Q. If you could spend the day with one fantasy character (from your own books or someone else’s) who would it be and what would you do?
A. I’d probably settle for spending a day with the Haynes family in Macetown. I think I’d like to visit the monastery, wear antique armour and spar with one of the old knights.
Q. If you could spend the day chatting with one author (living or otherwise) and asking them for writing advice, who would it be?
A. A wonderful part of being a part of the Indie author community, is that I have the opportunity to work with authors I respect and admire. So, I’m kind of doing that on a daily basis already.
Thank you so much, Sarah! I’m really looking forward to reading the sequels in your Stormer’s Trilogy and see where Kade and Hadley end up!
To grab a copy of Retrieve and browse Sarah’s other books for yourself, head to Amazon and check her out!