Meet the Author of BRAVE and KINGFISHER AND CROW, Elisa A. Bonnin!
What inspired you to write Brave and Kingfisher and Crow?
Brave started with the world. When I came up with the concept of Brave, I was studying oceanography, and I was reading about the experiences of the pioneers in my field, who mapped the world’s oceans. I wondered what it must have been like to explore places where no one had gone before. I realized that I wanted to write more about this feeling. At the time, I was also very homesick for the Philippines, so I decided I wanted to set the story in a tropical environment. I wrote a short story called Unbroken first, which had Eshai as the main character. Unbroken was published in a short story anthology, but I wasn’t finished with the world yet and wanted to write a novel to explore it better. Since Eshai had her big hero moment in Unbroken, I decided I wanted to write from the POV of a more inexperienced character, and so Seri was born.
Kingfisher and Crow’s origins are a little more complicated to explain. When I was in high school, my best friend and I built this ongoing universe, with characters that had lives and personalities and arcs. Since we were high school students, a lot of those characters were based on pop culture that we were fans of at the time, but had evolved well beyond their origins (they were OCs back in 2005, 2006 and 2007, before we had places to talk about our OCs). Unfortunately, after I left the Philippines and moved to the U.S., the stories we were building stopped. One day, almost a decade later, the two of us started reminiscing about those characters. We realized that although we were adults now, it would be a shame for their stories to end, and so I asked my best friend if I could take those characters we built together, rework them to fit in an original universe, and then write an original novel about them. She gave me her enthusiastic support and that novel became Kingfisher and Crow.
Fun fact: all the POV characters retain their original first names, but we started our universe with the POV characters’ parents. When we decided we wanted them to have children, we waited for those children to be born in real time. We waited nine full months so that Reiva could have the baby that would become Cavar. We only started introducing time skips after that because we realized there weren’t that many adventures suitable for newborns.
What is your favorite moment in each of the books?
There’s a scene towards the beginning of Brave when Seri is in a watchtower being chased down by a beast. It looks bad, and she has to figure out how to get herself out of it. I love this scene, because I wrote her into that situation but I didn’t really have the resolution in mind while I was drafting. I was still getting to know Seri as a character, and I was a little uncertain about where I was going with her. The way that scene resolves itself, with Seri deciding not to give up on life but instead to set the entire tower on fire and leap out the window, was definitely not what I had planned in the outline. That moment, I think, was when Seri took on a life of her own for me, when I looked at the character and thought, “Okaaaay, I can work with this.”
My favorite moment in Kingfisher and Crow comes at the end, and describing it in full would be a major spoiler, so let me just say that it’s the scene where a certain someone decides to be everything she was meant to be.
What color do you think your armor would be, if you were a warrior in Brave? Why?
I love this question. If I had to pick, I’d give myself bluish-green armor, with a pattern that makes it look as if it were underwater. Imagine swimming underwater and looking up at the surface from below on a sunny day, and you have an idea of the kind of pattern I’m envisioning. As for why, I grew up in the Philippines and spent a lot of my time in my formative years underwater, looking up at that very view, or floating in the tropical ocean. I still retreat to those memories when I’m feeling stressed, and ultimately, I got a PhD in oceanography because I love the ocean.
Of course, the warriors in Brave have never seen an ocean (yet, I have ideas~), but water is still very central to their culture and their lives. And whether it’s a lake or an ocean, the sight of water has never failed to make me feel at ease.
What makes you swoon?
Unlikely heroes. My favorite types of characters are those who are motivated to do good, not because it’s their destiny or their family heritage or because they’ve been trained to be heroes all their lives, but just because it’s the right thing to do. These are the characters whose calls to adventure came because they were in the right place at the right time, or decided to rise to a challenge when others folded. Maybe they’re ordinary kids who wanted to be the very best and got dragged into something bigger, maybe they opened the right book in a library and stumbled headlong into adventure, maybe they were just trying to live ordinary lives. They aren’t perfect people and the world isn’t kind to them, but even in their darkest moments, they find the will to continue on and maybe give others a little bit of hope. Their stories don’t always have happy endings, but they always leave me inspired to do a bit better.
I like characters that are a light in the dark, characters that are good even when it isn’t easy, and characters that struggle but ultimately come out awesome in the end. And of course, as a fan of epic fantasy and anime, I’m always game for a big, dramatic showdown. Something to make me cheer, scream, cry, or jump around the room reenacting action scenes like a lunatic.
(Some examples: Frodo Baggins, Neville Longbottom, My Hero Academia’s Deku, Trails in the Sky’s Estelle Bright, Stormlight Archive’s Kaladin Stormblessed, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core’s Zack Fair (sorry, Cloud!)).