Episode 81: Blue Shadows Fall with Lenore Stutznegger

In this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, our Library Laura Podcast guest is Lenore Stutznegger. Lenore is the author of Blue Shadows Fall, a debut YA dark fantasy novel set in post-apocalyptic Appalachia. We have a great conversation today about her book, being a reader, artist, and writer, geeky easter eggs, her love of fantasy books, underground libraries, and so much more. There's (of course) lots of great book recommendations, too. 

Find Lenore online on Instagram or her website, and pick up a copy of her book from BookshopAmazon, or your favorite indie bookstore. 

Books from today's episode are on the Library Laura storefront on bookshop.org

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 Lenore came by her love of art and reading honestly and from a very young age. She grew up in Virginia as the third of six kids. Her mom is a poet, Star Trek lover, and avid romance book reader. Meanwhile, her dad is a storyboard artist. Her siblings all grew up to pursue the arts as well, whether music, toy design, painting, and more.  Lenore is an artist and now young adult author! She lives in CA with her husband, their 4 kids, a pug, 2 cats, and lots of backyard chickens. 

She's the author of Blue Shadows Fall, a YA dark fantasy novel that released November 9th from Immortal Works Press. 

We talked about how long the road to writing and publishing has been for her. The first seed of the idea for Blue Shadows Fall came to her when she travelled back home for a week and a half in 2017 to VA to care for her mother who had a heart attack. It was while walking the trails in the Smoky Mountains with her highly-energetic 6-year-old. 

"It was like you were transported back 1000 years. Untouched, beautiful wilderness. As we were walking along and I was dealing with all the emotion, I started getting these ideas." ~ Lenore

I loved the setting of Blue Shadows Fall, because I could totally visualize it based on the visits to Virginia to see my husband's extended family. Here's a photo from our trip out there this summer: 

Lenore did a great job of capturing both the natural setting and the family-focused nature of the Appalachian environment in which Blue Shadows Fall is set. Yes, this is a dark and creepy tale that I had to read in the daylight, but it's also a tale of family and first love and friendship. It's a fascinating book and I'm so glad that Lenore brought this story into the world.

Blue, her main character, was the first part of the story to come alive in Lenore's mind. One of the characteristics of several main characters in Blue Shadows Fall is that they have enhanced senses. For example, Blue has enhanced vision, while Kaleo has enhanced smell. 

Lenore typically reads to escape, and she loves "super geeky, dorky stuff," like Star Wars. But especially during this stressful time, she was having a really hard time connecting to fictional characters....especially YA protagonists with no families, no backstories, no connections. Lenore's reality is family and connection, and it was weird to her to have characters without that. She wanted a post-apocalyptic town that you might actually want to live in, with characters that had families and connections. 

Once she got inspired, she just couldn't stop writing. Her first draft was 130,000 words! Through a childhood friend, she ended up joining a writer's group, which "was the best thing I ever did." That helped refine the novel and whittle down the word count to more like 100,000 words. 

She queried for over a year, ending up with about 80 rejections. Feeling discouraged, depressed and worn down, she stopped. She still had her writing group and writer friends on Twitter who were in the trenches with her. She had found her people. 

About a year later, after spending time with her family and refocusing on things that also mattered to her, she felt the pull toward creativity again. She needed to be making something!! She decided to "try the book thing" again. She made more revisions and changes, the word count changed again, she refined her characters more. 

Here's Lenore's advice for young or new writers. "Write what's in your mind. Because then your voice shines through. Write the way you want to write. Because isn't what what make sus all unique, right? we all have our own ways of telling a story. And not two people tell the same story." 

After reading Blue Shadows Fall, I really needed to know if there will be a sequel (ahem, cliffhanger!!) ...and there will be! YAY!! Lenore is working on the second book currently. The writing process has been very different for this second book. This one she's been plotting it more carefully in advance, rather than flying by the seat of her pants. It's going a lot more smoothly because she's got more experience writing. 
There's some fun pre-order bonuses that Lenore has put together. If you've preordered the book or requested it at your library, fill out this form to get them!

As an artist, Lenore still has hard time portraying her own characters exactly as she sees them in her mind's eye. She did make the vinyl sticker pictured in the photo above. She also has commissioned some amazing art that goes with the book of her two main characters. Check these out!! 

Kaleo - created by the incredibly talented @winterofherdiscontent

Blue - art by the most talented @winterofherdiscontent

Books Mentioned on Episode 81 

(Links to books are affiliate links for Bookshop and Amazon and as an affiliate I may earn from purchases made through these links. Thanks!) 

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Bookshop | Amazon) - Lenore read Jurassic Park at age 11 (before seeing the movie) and, although she would not advise reading the book that young, she really wanted to include a quote in Blue Shadows Fall. While the quote got cut from the final manuscript, she described the scene for us on the podcast. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Bookshop | Amazon) - THIS IS A PANDEMIC NOVEL, so do with that what you will. I recommended this book to Lenore for a few reasons. Lenore's post-apocalyptic  world shares some similarities with Mandel's and are both set further away from the apocalyptic event than most novels of the genre. They also both feature curated collections of  things leftover from the way they used to be--the cavern full of books and memorabilia in Blue Shadows Fall, and the museum in the airport in Station Eleven. 

Harry Potter series (Bookshop | Amazon) - Lenore and her husband bonded over these books when they were dating in college. They would go on release day and both by a copy (so they could read at the same time) and saw the movies together. These books really sparked her love of reading. 

Twilight series (Bookshop | Amazon) - After Harry Potter, Lenore was on the Twilight bandwagon. "It's like remembering a greasy old boyfriend sometimes....like, oh my gosh, cringe!" but she enjoyed those books when they were super popular. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Bookshop | Amazon) - One of Lenore's all-time favorites. I personally see some parallels between Kaleo and Blue and Darcy and Elizabeth.  

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson - Another of Lenore's all-time favorites. It's a super cute romance for fans of Austen's work. 

 Sarah J Maas's books, especially A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury, which she enjoys reading for escapism and comfort. "This one is not for the children!" she was quick to say. 

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard - One of Lenore's favorites (Bookshop | Amazon). 

Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse -  Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows series- I still need to read these! I did the thing that I never do and watched the Netflix series before I read the books. The Stutznegger household is very committed to reading the books before they watch the movies. Lenore says I need to remedy this immediately :) Lenore loves her writing and way with description. 

Lenore also loves small doses of Edgar Allan Poe, especially because his poetry is the first time she ever saw her name in print in The Raven

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Bookshop | Amazon)  - more escapist fantasy fiction 

On Episode 16, I talked to my friend Leigh Ann Porter, and she and I talked about the books she enjoys. I'm seeing a lot of overlap in their reading tastes... they would be "book friends" I think!  

Leigh Ann told me to read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which I ended up really enjoying. I think Lenore would like it too! It's long (over 600 pages) and beautifully written. (Bookshop | Amazon) Lenore said she just made it through Dune, so that length of book doesn't scare her! 

Speaking of beautiful writing, Lenore recommends Kate Morton's books. I've read The Forgotten Garden and The Clockmaker's Daughter. 

I recommended AJ Vanderhorst's Casey Grimes series of books (Interview with AJ on Episode 24!), as I think both Lenore and her kids might enjoy them. They have that magic school vibe with some great fantasy and monster fighting elements thrown in.  Second book in the series is Trickery School. I just got The Crooked Castle for my birthday! 

Lenore's kids have been very into the Wings of Fire books by Tui Sutherland, and Lenore enjoyed swiping them from her kids and reading them too. (Bookshop | Amazon)

I recommended The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. It's incredibly imaginative, vividly described, beautiful, multilayered...and has an underground library! (Bookshop | Amazon)

 Lenore recommended Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone. The author is a friend of Lenore's and is in her writers group! It's a lush gothic romance. (Bookshop | Amazon)

I'd love to hear from you! Let me know in the blog comments, on social media, or via email the answer to any of these questions: 

  • What fiction universe do you want to escape to? 

  •  If you had to pick one sense to be enhanced, what would you pick and why? (Lenore would pick enhanced vision, while Laura would pick enhanced hearing)

  • What book that we talked about today sparked your interest or got added to your to-be-read list? 
With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 



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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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