Sketching his crooked smile had become a habit for Halen, not easily tamed. Flipping through her notebook, the boy’s gray eyes flashed back from the pages—almost one hundred drawings in three months. She turned to a blank page, not caring if the teacher noticed, and set the tip of her pencil on the paper. Closing her eyes, she knew the boy would be there. He never kept her waiting. His face flashed into view. His forehead was creased in the center, and his usually full lips were pressed with a tight line. Her fingertips sparked, and when she opened her eyes, her hand was already penciling in the edges of his jawline. Halen sketched him quickly; she was familiar with the hallow of his cheeks which dimpled when he smiled, and how one side of his jaw was a little more round than square, and how his nose hooked ever so slightly as if it had been broken at one time and had not been set properly. His imperfections were perfection.
As she shaded the rims of his eyes with deep charcoal halos, she longed to climb into the page, and asked him what was bothering him. She had a lot of questions for him. Finding a page filled with his broad smile, she smiled inside. As her fingertips brushed his lips, she bit back her own. If only—if only you were real.
Halen first drew the mystery boy the morning of the move. Coming back to Rockaway Beach was a nightmare, so when she had woken from a dream with the boy's face etched inside her eyelids, and her fingertips igniting with sparks, she feared the worse. She knew the sparks were a warning; she had fought the flickering flames her whole life. There was more to this boy, more than she cared to admit. There was more to Rockaway Beach than she cared to face.
The boy smiled knowingly. Like you care. With a sweep of her hand she drew a long handlebar moustache under his nose. Then tearing the page from her book, she crumpled it in her fist. Instantly, her palm warmed as if she were holding a hot stone. Only she knew the heat was coming from inside her. She quickly scanned the classroom. Most of her classmates were still filling in the test answers, with penciled circles. A few students were reading. Her fingertips flickered with heat, and she dropped the paper, fearful it might combust in her hand. She hadn't set anything on fire, not in a long time, and she wasn't about to start. She shook her hands by her side, and as she did, a jolt of pain gripped her wrists.
Halen. A whispered voice brushed her ear.
She spun around. Toby Creston shot her an annoyed glare as he shielded his score sheet with his arm. As if she would copy his answers. She sucked at algebra, but she had studied; Toby Creston would be lucky if he figured out how to fill the circles in.
A searing pain spread up her arms, and she inhaled a sharp breath. She whipped around to face the front of the class. Mr. Ajax sat with his long nose wedged between the pages of his book. He peered over the rim of his catlike glasses when she let out a gasp.
Beating like the thunderous wings of a thousand birds, the whispers swarmed her thoughts. Her fingertips pressed the squishy foam nestled in her ears. No way. She couldn't take her earplugs out. Her earplugs were her salvation, the only things keeping her from blacking out. Besides the sparks, sound had become her enemy since moving back to Rockaway. Her mom's diagnosis—stress. "You're suppressing your grief," she had said. "You have to let yourself have a good cry." Her mom overestimated the power of tears. Halen's father's bones lay in a bed of sand—tears would never bring him back—tears would never drown the fire raging inside her. Tears would not save her now.
The chants grew louder, now drilling into every crevice of her mind. She pounded the sides of her head. The blond girl beside her scooted her desk away from her, shooting her an evil glare.
Stop! Halen begged as the whispers hammered her brain. She didn't have a choice, she had to… She tore the earplugs from her ears. At once the chanting ceased, only now to be replaced with the chaotic clatter of the classroom. The blond girl now tapped her pencil on her desk. The metal eraser band hitting the desktop sounded like a jackhammer. She could hear the click clack of some other student's gum, and the strike of a pointed heal on the linoleum floor. Toby Creston's heavy breath was a rush of howling wind. The sounds united with the next student, and then the next, until the whole classroom exploded with a deafening cry. Halen fought to hold on as the classroom blackened around her. She caught the word freak, someone calling for Mr. Ajax, and the blond girl shrieking. The last sound Halen heard was the thud of her skull as her forehead slammed against the desktop.
Can you tell me a little bit about your book and what inspired it?
I love mermaids and magick, so I thought why not bring them together. Of course I couldn't leave out shape shifters and sirens. I love fantasy realms and worlds. Heck my husband says I live in one, so why not write about one. Coral & Bone is set in the Earth realm and the underwater realm of Elosia. Coral & Bone is a meld of all my years of watching Disney movies and thrillers.
Coral & Bone is filled with magick and spells. If you could cast magick what would your first spell be?
I could have a lot of fun with magick. First, I would make sure no kids ever went to school hungry. So many kids start their day without breakfast because they can't afford it. I don't know how they can enjoy the school day with a rumbly tummy. I would cast a feast spell, so whenever they got up in the morning there would always be food on the table.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light. ~ Albus Dumbledore
When did you know that you wanted to write professionally and how did you take the leap to get into the business?
I started writing with the intent of publishing five years ago. I faced a lot of rejection letters, but I kept submitting and writing, until I received my first contract for Surface. Unfortunately, my publisher closed, and I had to start over. So, instead of resubmitting Surface, I wrote Coral & Bone and decided to self-publish.
Your first book SURFACE was published with a traditional publisher and CORAL & BONE was self-published, did you enjoy self-publishing and would you do it again?
There are pros and cons to both methods. A lot of writers are choosing a blended method and I think that's a great way to go. I loved every bit of the process, but it was a lot of work. I was fortunate to have a great team of women working on Coral & Bone. I was blessed to have Alix Reid as an editor. She worked for Harper Collins for 12 years, and then the very talented Nathalia Suellen created the cover. Lastly, Tamara Cribley designed the inside. With this team, I would definitely do it again.
Halen ~ Halie Steinfeld
I write stories about magick, love and dark creatures lurking in the shadows. When I'm not lost in Edit Land you can find me reading a book from my towering TBR pile or at the movie theater nibbling licorice. I don't have a lucky number, but my favorite time is 11:11. I completely believe that the fortunes found inside cookies will come true and that you must be careful when wishing on stars. I live on an island, so if you want to visit you'll need a boat, and if you want to survive the passage, be sure to bring candy for the mermaids.