Pascale Lacelle’s debut novel, “Curious Tides,” is a dark academia fantasy book following a teen mage, a person who uses magic, who must unravel the truth behind a secret society that may have been involved in her classmates’ deaths.
Emory might be a student at the prestigious Aldryn College for Lunar Magics, but her healing abilities have always been mediocre at best—until a treacherous night in the Dovermere sea caves leaves a group of her classmates dead and her as the only survivor. Now, Emory is plagued by strange powers that no healer is able to possess.
To gain control of these new abilities, Emory enlists the help of the school’s most reclusive student, Baz: a boy already well-versed in the deadly nature of darker magic, whose sister happened to be one of the drowned students and Emory’s best friend. Determined to find the truth behind the drownings and the secret society she’s convinced her classmates were involved in, Emory is faced with even more questions when the supposedly drowned students start washing ashore alive, only for them each to immediately die horrible magic deaths.
Emory is not the only one seeking answers. When her new magic captures the society’s attention, she finds herself drawn into their world of privilege and power, all while wondering if the truth she’s searching for might lead her right back to Dovermere…to face the fate she was never meant to escape.
*Please be advised that “Curious Tides” does include some content that may be sensitive to readers which include but are not limited to death, grief, self-harm, etc.*
Pascale Lacelle is a French-Canadian author from Ottawa, Ontario. A long time devourer of books, she started writing at age thirteen and quickly became enthralled by the magic of words. After earning her bachelor’s degree in French literature, she realized the English language is where her literary heart lies. When not lost in stories, she’s most likely daydreaming about food and travel, playing with her dog Roscoe, or trying to curate the perfect playlist for every mood.
For this Author Spotlight, I wanted to focus on the intricate world-building inspiration that occurs in “Curious Tides” and ask more about Pascale’s writing.
What was the writing process like when intermingling two different stories at once with “Song of the Drowned Gods,” which is the book your characters use to solve a mystery, in addition to your debut book?
I only had the vaguest idea of what ‘Song of the Drowned Gods’ would be when writing the first few drafts of ‘Curious Tides.’ I knew I wanted a story within a story element that could guide the characters along as they tried to solve the mystery of the sea caves and the drowned students, but it wasn’t until later drafts that I wrote the ‘Song of the Drowned Gods’ excerpts found in the book. Trying to nail down this other author’s voice so that these excerpts could stand out from the rest of the book—as well as figuring out all the clues and imagery that needed to be woven in there—was really challenging, but a whole lot of fun.
When reading this book, I thought the tidal alignments and houses depending on the moon concepts were really unique. Could you elaborate a bit more on this and what inspired you?
Thank you so much! I wanted to create something that was akin to the zodiac signs, with different magical “houses” dictated by when a person is born, and thought the moon and tides lent themselves well to this concept. Depending on what moon phase a person is born on (new, waxing, full or waning) and the tide level at the time of their birth (low tide or high tide), they get a magical ability specific to that lunar/tidal alignment. They can only practice that ability when the moon is in the proper position—unless they were born on an eclipse, in which case they can use their rare strain of magic any time they want, a freedom that comes at a dangerous price.
If you had to choose, what house and tidal alignment would you be, and why? How would this choice compare to the house and tidal alignment when you were Emory’s age?
I think I’d love to be a Dreamer from House Waning Moon! Who wouldn’t want to walk into people’s dreams and explore the otherworldly realm known as the sleepscape? When I was Emory’s age, my answer would probably have been Tidecaller—which is the rarest form of magic out there, tied to House Eclipse. Just like Emory, I would have wanted to be unique, to have magic that gave me the kind of value I wasn’t seeing in myself at the time. I think Tidecaller magic would have given me a much-needed boost of confidence.
How do you think your experience as a bilingual speaker of English and French contributes to your experience and journey as an author?
I started writing in French, which is my mother tongue, so that’s the language that helped me refine my prose and develop my skills as a storyteller. As a reader, though, I always found myself gravitating towards English books and eventually realized that’s the language I prefer to tell stories with, too. I love both languages and all their intricacies, and I’m grateful I got to dabble in both French and English literature classes in university.
I found the start of the book really interesting since you thank three different versions of yourself on the Dedication Page. Could you tell the audience more about the hope you abandoned as a young adult and then found again now? How does “Curious Tides” contribute to this hope that you never would have thought before?
As a teen writer, I had big dreams that nearly came true when a small French Ontarian publisher offered to publish the first fantasy series I’d ever written. I was so excited, but ultimately, I don’t think I was prepared for the amount of work that goes into publishing a book. I remember the first edit letter I got—I must have been 16 or 17—and found it absolutely soul-crushing to realize that this story I thought was nearly perfect was in fact so far from it. And then suddenly I was in university taking literature and writing classes, which only accentuated my imposter syndrome. By then I’d outgrown that first book, and I didn’t believe in myself enough to try again with another. So I completely abandoned creative writing. It took nearly a decade to find my way back to it. ‘Curious Tides’ wasn’t the book that brought me back to writing, nor the one that made me believe in myself again, but it was the one that made me think my dream might actually be within reach.
Thanks so much Pascale for answering my questions! I was so intrigued by the dark academia genre in“Curious Tides” when I received a lovely book box filled with a temporary tattoo with a house alignment (I am House Eclipse), a letter of admission to Aldryn College and a hand-drawn map of the university.
I’d also like to thank Nicole Valdez from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me the box which involved an ARC of “Curious Tides.” As someone who knows how hard world-building can be, I loved diving into Pascale’s novel and seeing her world come to life.