Hi Tessa and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Moonlight Blade!
Thank you so much for having me!
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
To save her condemned mother, 17 year old Narra Jal enters a competition to select Tigang’s newest ruler, and has seven days to unravel a mystery that spans past lives, before her feelings for an immortal enemy destroy them all – again.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
In a little over two weeks, the country of Tigang will crown its
new ruler. This means in three days’ time, people will start
Young people not much older than I am already mass
outside the gates of the glass fortress. I pass these bright-eyed,
confi dent soon-to-be bodies. I dare not linger, because I am here
for a different reason. They are simply in my way.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
1. It took 7 years to get from draft to publication. It feels like forever!
2. The culture is inspired by the pre-colonial Philippines,
3. But the city of Bato-Ko is loosely landscaped like Vancouver, Canada where I live.
4. I put all my favorite Filipino foods in it. You can’t save the world on an empty stomach!
5. If you understand Tagalog, a lot of the non-English place names are spoilers/puns.
What first attracts your main characters to each other?
The first time Narra see’s Teloh, she’s struck by a sudden sense of familiarity. Somehow she knows what the stubble of his jaw feels like, and the curve of his smile, even though she’s certain they’ve never met before, and he’s not smiling now.
Using just 5 words, how would you describe your main characters”love affair?
Fated. Opposites Attract. Disaster Awaits.
The First Kiss…
Teloh dares Narra to kiss him, because he can’t get her out of his head. He wants to change their fate by trying something different.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book?
There’s a scene where Narra and her friends go take a bath in this beautiful secret pool, bathed in light from stained glass windows:
“Are you coming?” Virian shouts, and I hear her splash into the pool with a shout.
It takes me a moment to realize that she’s inviting the both of us.
Teloh raises an eyebrow, and to my surprise, he removes his boots and walks into the baths ahead of me. He slides into the pool, clothes and all, hardly making a ripple. I watch them there, waiting for me.
Nothing can stay the same forever.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include?
All of the tests that Narra goes through. Here’s a bit from one of them:
Every instinct screams flee, but I have only one question left to answer.
I snatch a paper above my head and count breaths to calm myself as I wait. Three breaths, twelve breaths, and fi nally words spread across the length of paper in dark red, as if written with blood. My mouth dries.
Why do you fear me?
“Who are you?” I whisper. The red letters slide down to the edge of the paper and gather into a bead of red liquid. It drips to the dirt, leaving the paper blank. I wait for another question,
but none comes.
Readers should read this book …
If you want an action packed fantasy, with a side of romance, and an underdog hero that just won’t quit. There’s darkness, but there’s also ultimately hope.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m dreaming up ideas for the following books. My agent also has an unrelated stand-alone gothic fantasy I wrote almost ready to go.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: (1) One print copy of The Moonlight Blade by Tessa Barbosa, to the giveaway winner!
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Do you believe in past lives? What would you do if you met someone that somehow you felt like you knew, but never met in this life before?
Excerpt from The Moonlight Blade:
I turn around, dizzied, and catch a twitch of movement in the distance.
A lone Guardian walks down the hallway. He walks head down, with his shoulders hunched, as if he carries an invisible stone upon his back. A curved blade dips down from one hand, stained red. He slowly unwinds a dark cloth that obscures all but his eyes. His face is smudged, no…splattered with red.
Now my ghosts growl a warning that rattles my ribs. I do not know how to interpret the feeling, only that I have been here before, seen this before. Somehow all things seem believable in Bato-Ko, where all time loops endlessly. Teloh’s eyes lock onto mine as if they are magnets. He steps over the threshold and onto the windy outcropping. I am frozen as he draws near, close, so close.
“Have you really gone through all this trouble just to kill yourself? There are nicer places elsewhere in Tigang.” His words break the spell.
I turn again and lean over the railing to avoid his unsettling gaze, and I fiddle with my scarf. “The view is worth it.” I pretend lightness, when all my thoughts would drown me. A great wave sends a spray of water over us, and I shiver. “I have traveled the entire coast, and I find this one particularly lovely.”
“I’m not going to catch you if you jump or if you trip and fall by accident. And if you meant to bathe, I can show you where the facilities are. This is not the most efficient means to that end.” He wipes his sword upon the silk of his sash. The cloth merchant that I am winces at the ill treatment of such fine material.
“A bath actually does sound nice, though you need one more than I.”
“Would it be better if I lied and told you I butchered a cow?” He runs a hand through his errant curls. Damn him to the hells, his looks are unfair, and he knows it.
“You do not look remorseful.” I glance at his sword. So, he is Arisa’s personal assassin. No wonder everyone keeps their distance.
“Why should I be? I’m not here of my own free will, nor do I murder people unless ordered. Not all cages have doors.” He trembles slightly, fingers tapping against his trousers, as if it takes all the effort in the world to remain still as he waits for my answer.
He is not what I expect, but how could have I expected this? He is dangerous, but I am cursed. He knows it, yet he does not seem bothered by it. And what I feel when he is around is not as simple as either attraction or fear. I am tempted to pick at the feeling like a scab, even if it hurts.
“Lead on.” I ignore my better judgment and the quaking in my heart.
What a pretty pair of monsters we make.
He takes a convoluted route and makes small talk as we go. He explains that the fortress is divided into four palaces, named for each of Tigang’s seasons. The Spring Palace was where I ran from, where the greenhouse is located, and Baylan reside. The Summer Palace contains the great hall, the throne room, the kitchens, and it is where all the candidates lodge. The Winter Palace makes up the lower levels of the fortress. Though he doesn’t say it, I bet the dungeons are in the Winter Palace, but I haven’t yet stumbled on its entrance. I nod and make silent notes as I fight the warnings that would have me run from him. It takes every effort not to look cowed as we walk through the abandoned Autumn Palace together.
The halls here are leaf-littered and dark, but the sense that I have seen this, or dreamed this, lingers here the strongest, and the ghosts in me continue to scrape and tug in agitation. Their featherlight touches and bumps stir an aching in my heart, but I don’t understand their strange language.
Teloh leads me to an unimpressive door, but when he pushes it open, light pours out. Colors stream through a stained glass roof, and they fracture our bodies into firelight and autumn hues. Unlike the dusty rooms we passed, these baths are spotless. Pipes with hot and cold water wait ready to spill into deep wooden wash buckets. A pool lined with tiles waits in its center. There is no water in it now, but a small splash lingers in its bottom.
“Let me know when you’re done so I can have a turn.” Teloh walks out before I can ask any questions.
It feels as though I’m intruding in someone else’s private space, but I take off my slippers, and the marble is cold beneath my feet. I breathe in the sulfur smell of the spring water. It’s real. I have seen this room in my dreams, and I don’t understand why. But I’d be a fool to deny any small pleasure I can take from the fortress, so I fill a bucket, then take the longest bath of my life. I crouch on the floor and pour endless scoops of steaming water over my head with a tabo. I want it to wash the tension from my limbs and the dirt from my clothes, but no matter how hard I scrub, I don’t feel clean or in control.
Teloh is waiting, leaning against the opposite wall when I push the door open a crack. Though I spot a wrinkle of impatience on his face, he says nothing. He holds a clean malong between outstretched palms. I try not to flinch when I take the fine cloth from him. I don’t buy his innocent expression, because he hasn’t brought me a clean tunic to wear with it. My old tunic is still dripping wet.
I close the door, and I sling my damp hair over one shoulder. I knot the cloth over my chest like Kuran would and leave my shoulders bare. It would be unthinkable if I were not alone, and I dare to look boldly at my reflection in a mirror. I look small and unsure. Virian’s spell is a small splotchy design beneath my collarbone, and birthmarks mar the column of my throat in an ugly way. I cannot hold my own stare. I retie my malong over one shoulder and wind my filthy scarf back on. It can’t be helped.
I open the door and find Teloh waiting there still. He pushes off the wall and reaches out for me—no, for my scarf. He adjusts the tails of it over the parts of my marks that a tunic usually hides. There’s a look in his eyes I can’t read, and as the tip of his finger lightly brushes my skin, I prickle all over. I recall every vision I’ve had of him, and they remain sharper than my mother’s face. I should be ashamed, but instead I wish for more. He makes me feel as though my curse doesn’t matter; as though I matter.
I take a step back, suddenly aware of how close we are standing. I feel the heat of him, even though we aren’t touching. Though I still can’t meet his eyes, I keep my gaze on his dark, glossy hair, my fingers itching to tuck a few stray curls behind his ears. Somehow, I know he hates his hair in his face. I also know, beyond a doubt, that he is mad at me. I can think of no explanation other than that we have met in lives before this one, and that the visions I’ve seen are true. Perhaps this is why my ghosts have rattled to life now, why he is so familiar, but I still don’t understand what it means or if it is important.
“Who are you?” I whisper.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
I promised my mother I would never come to Bato-Ko…and yet here I am.
Narra Jal is one of the cursed, cast aside her whole life, considered unlucky. But with her mother’s life on the line, she will return to the city where she was born to face the trials: a grueling, bloodthirsty series of challenges designed to weed out the weak, the greedy, and the foolish. Trials to select the next ruler of Tigang.
Narra has nothing. No weapons. No training. No magic. No real chance of leaving with her life. Just her fierce grit and a refusal to accept the destiny she’s been handed. Even the intense, dark-eyed Guardian she feels a strangely electric connection with cannot help her. Narra is on her own. But she’ll show everyone what the unlucky can do.
Meet the Author:
Tessa Barbosa is a Filipina-Canadian author who writes fantasy novels by night, and software help by day. Her debut YA Fantasy novel THE MOONLIGHT BLADE will be out in March 2023 from Entangled Teen. Tessa lives in Vancouver, Canada and when she’s not at the keyboard, you’re likely to find her covered in paint, or making things.
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