Three teenage girls, three completely different lives. They come together in a hospital emergency room during a time in which they all hit rock bottom. Tonya Hurley, the New York Times best-selling author of the ghostgirl series, is at it again with a brand new YA trilogy. The first book, “The Blessed”(released Sept. 25), is inspired by the stories of three Catholic martyrs: Lucy, Agnes, and Cecelia. The stories of the girls draw on the earliest martyrdom legends of St. Lucy, St. Cecelia and St. Agnes. Lucy, Agnes, and Cecilia are forced to figure out who is good and who is evil in the battle for not only love, but for their own souls.
We’ve all had our fill of supernatural beings and the obstacles that they face trying to live among the humans, am I right? Tonya has introduced a completely new element to the supernatural tale. Saints. Specifically, a modern day twist on these three martyrs. I was thrilled to get the chance to speak with Tonya about her inspiration for the book, her high school days and her love of storytelling.
What inspired you to tell this story? I became fascinated with female martyr legends and began to see them as some of the earliest young adult stories. The fact that many were very young when they died, just teenagers, and the depth of their belief and their bravery and defiance in the face of death. They were powerful and revered at a time when few women were. It is no wonder that they’ve had such and influence for thousands of years. As I began to research the tales, I was blown away by the supernatural elements in the tales as well — the gruesomeness and the glory. I decided to bring all of that into a gritty, modern context. Real New York stories of struggle, fame and forbidden love.
Do you relate to Lucy, Cecilia or Agnes the most? I can relate to all of them but I’m probably most like the Cecilia character. She came to New York from the Midwest hoping to make it in the music industry against all odds. There’s a lot of me in her. A lot of the struggle of trying to make it alone in the big city.
Are there people from your real life that have popped up as characters in your book? Absolutely. You write what you know. All the characters in The Blessed have bits of myself or of people I know or have known in them. It forces you to invest yourself in each character in a way that you might not if the character was entirely made up.
What were you like in your high school days? High school was the best of times and the worst of times. I went out of my way to rebel against all of the nonsense during those years and express myself in outrageous ways. I had purple hair and was a drummer in a punk band. I grew up in a town where it was shocking to do such things. When I wasn’t playing my own music, I was driving long distances to see shows. Music got me through a lot then. Still does.
Do you have any YA authors that inspire you? If so, which ones? There are so many amazingly talented YA writers out there. Many of whom I count as friends and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, so I’ll just dodge this question!
What is the best part about being a writer? Being a storyteller. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspect of it all, but at the end of the day, there is nothing like writing a good, original story. Finding your own voice. There’s nothing like a reader telling you that they were inspired by something that you wrote or that they just couldn’t put the book down.
What advice would you give to those who dream of one day becoming a writer? Write. If you write, you are a writer. Believe in your work. If you believe wholeheartedly in your story, then eventually others will believe in it, too.
The Blessed is the first book in this series. Do you already know how this story will eventually end? Yes, there is a clear ending to this trilogy. No doubt about it. I actually knew how it would end before I figured out how it would begin.