Q&A With H.P. Waitt, Author of Band of Shadows: The Scarlet Onyx Saga on
Dreams, Doors, and Discovering Who You Really Are
Question: What served as your inspiration in writing Band of Shadows?
H.P. Waitt: With Band of Shadows, I wanted to create a world for readers to live in, a departure from reality that feels like escapism but is also a viable learning experience. If there is a message that I hope people of all ages take away from this book it’s that you truly are so much stronger than you realize. All of the courage in life lies within you, you just need the tools and confidence to utilize it.
In Band of Shadows, our protagonist, Scarlet, finds a door that she’s been dreaming about for months. When she finally dares to open it, she enters the world of Avalon, where she discovers she is actually a Faye gifted with three unworldly powers. It suddenly clicks for Scarlet, as she realizes the traits she thought were holding her back are actually the things that set her apart from the rest, and readers follow her journey in discovering how these powers allow her to turn her biggest weaknesses into her greatest strengths.
Q: Young Adult (YA) Fiction is arguably one of today’s most popular genres, especially fantasy and series books. What drew you to YA Fiction?
HW: What I love about Young Adult fiction is that it’s not just tailored to 17-year-old girls. I often find myself reading YA books at 29 years old, especially those with high praise from friends or those that remind me of some of my favorite reads at that age. YA can be thought-provoking and intelligent, while remaining relatable to a wide age demographic.
Also, fantasy fiction can be just as relatable as regular fiction. While the characters in Band of Shadows have powers beyond the scope of humanity, nearly every major hurdle, obstacle, or issue is completely human. The characters struggle with self-doubt, with trust, with friendships, with loss, with fitting in, with standing out, with facing the unknown, with fighting through challenges, with physical exertion, with mental exertion – the list is endless. I believe every reader of this book at any age can easily find someone or something in this book that they relate to.
Q: What are some further issues you wanted to bring attention to in Band of Shadows?
HW: Scarlet’s hectic life in the foster care system came from my family’s experience working with foster children in San Diego. Also, like Scarlet, I have lived with mental illness. In the book, I flipped the script of Scarlet’s diagnosis of depression and anxiety, as these illnesses become a part of her greatest power, and I hope readers who suffer from mental illness realize that like Scarlet, their diagnosis does not define them or hold them back in any way. I’m so passionate about destigmatizing mental illness and increasing the conversation about it.
Q: Throughout Band of Shadows, Scarlet is searching for a sense of belonging. Why do you think this is such a crucial theme for a young, coming-of-age book?
HW: Scarlet spent her life bouncing from foster family to foster family. Since she’s never had a place that felt like home, she’s never felt like she truly fit in anywhere. So many young people today, especially young girls, are growing up with this feeling of self-doubt, inadequacy, or just a simple lack of belonging. We all just want to feel comfortable and find our place in this world, just like Scarlet.
Throughout the book, what helps Scarlet find her place are her friendships. Friendship can truly get us through our darkest of times. If you have people that you can trust and who support you, then you can do anything and everything. Scarlet has been alone most of her life, but she realizes the importance of her foster brother Jensen’s friendship. It brings her this love and support she’s longed for. He’s her helping hand, a light in the dark, and provides endless encouragement when she needs it most. Friends, more than anything, make you feel that you belong, that you are right where you’re destined to be.
HAILEY “H.P.” WAITT currently serves as a board member of the Waitt Foundation, which supports government efforts to restore our neighboring oceans. Her passions lie in supporting families in the foster care system and raising awareness about mental illness, as both issues are addressed in the first book of her debut YA series, Band of Shadows: The Scarlet Onyx Saga. A South Dakota Native, Waitt now resides in San Diego after getting her degree in history and psychology at the University of Southern California. Connect with Waitt through Facebook and Instagram.
For more information about Band of Shadows, visit band-of-shadows.squarespace.com.
Band of Shadows will be available for purchase via Amazon and other booksellers on April 8, 2019.
ADVANCE READER COPIES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST