The Last Shadow Warrior was one that I included on my most anticipated middle grade books of 2021 and I was super excited to be able to read it early. Sam Subity also allowed me to interview him and I’m very excited to share it with you!
Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you! How has the publication experience for The Last Shadow Warrior been for you?
Glad to be here! Since this is my first book, the whole publication experience has been completely overwhelming but also amazing! I was fortunate enough to connect with a debut author group called The 21ders who all have their first books publishing this year, and they have been an awesome support through the process as we’ve all figured things out together from getting an author account set up on Goodreads to the best ring lights to use for virtual launches since we’re all releasing books during a pandemic. Also my editor at Scholastic, Mallory Kass, has been so helpful and gracious in answering all my newbie questions.
How would you describe The Last Shadow Warrior in one sentence?
Ha ha, it’s dangerous to give a writer that much leeway! With enough commas and semicolons, I could write a sentence long enough to earn my fourth grade teacher’s famous over-the-glasses death stare. But how about this:
A Percy Jackson-infused Beowulf retelling where a fierce twelve-year-old Viking has to save her school from monsters out of Norse mythology.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of The Last Shadow Warrior?
Absolutely! Abby Beckett is from an impressive line of Viking warriors, but she deals with a lot of the same things many modern kids do, from homework to bad hair days. She also struggles with wondering if she’s up to the challenges she finds herself confronting in the story, but she never quits even when things look impossible. Her mom died several years ago, so she and her dad have formed a close bond that plays a central role in the story even while Abby is trying her best to learn how to become a Grendel hunter like her mom. In her journey Abby befriends a fellow sixth grader named Gwynn who turns out to be a Valkyrie and a boy named Grimsby who provides comic relief when things are looking grim.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
When I start to visualize a book, I’ll often have a pretty clear picture of where I want to start and where I want to end, and maybe a few things in the middle. I once heard another author describe writing as like planning a road trip where you know where you want to go and maybe a few stops along the way, but you leave the journey open to discovering new interesting things as you go, and I think my writing process is a lot like that. To me, that’s what keeps writing fun and fresh. You never know when some new piece of research or brainstorm will offer an interesting detour you hadn’t considered before.
Was there anything that was cut from the book that you were sad to see go?
My editor’s process is to let the story grow organically however it needs to grow over multiple revisions. Then, as she calls it, we “put it on a diet.” I found it worked really well in freeing me up to find the final version of the book. But by the almost final draft, I needed to cut almost 10,000 words. That part was…hard. One thing I ended up cutting was a scene where Abby and her friends have to create contraptions in science class to protect an egg dropped off the roof of the school. It was a lot of fun but ultimately didn’t drive the narrative forward, so I chopped it. But maybe we’ll see it in a future book.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
Probably my favorite scene is the battle with the sea monster in the school swimming pool. All of the three friends who are my main characters — Abby, Gwynn, and Grimsby — get their small heroic moments in this one, so I think it really shows them coming together as a team and how each of their unique strengths and personalities contribute to their success. And I hope kids might giggle a little at the surprise of a sea monster that likes Ping-Pong.
The Last Shadow Warrior is inspired by Norse mythology. Did you research or read Norse mythology for the writing process? If so, what’s something interesting that you were able to include in the book? Was there anything you found interesting that you weren’t able to include?
It’s funny because back in school I remember research being probably my least favorite part of the writing process. But now it’s become one of my main sources of new ideas, and I love spending hours digging through obscure texts for little nuggets of inspiration. For The Last Shadow Warrior, I ended up reading all sorts of books and other materials on Vikings, Norse mythology, and Beowulf. The last name of Abby’s nemesis, Chase Lodbrok, comes from the famous Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok, whose last name translates to something like “fuzzy pants.” We’re not completely sure how Ragnar earned that name, but I’ve collected a number of interesting items like these into a “Fact vs Fiction” appendix on my website for kids and teachers who want to learn more about the research that went into creating the book.
What books would you recommend if someone enjoyed The Last Shadow Warrior?
Here are a few great recent middle grade picks that are based on mythology and folklore like mine:
- Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi (Indian folklore)
- Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne (Caribbean mythology)
- Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera (Mexican folklore)
What can we look forward to from you in the future? Anything you can share?
Currently I’m hard at work on book 2 in what I’m envisioning as a trilogy to match the three-part structure of the original Beowulf epic. So stay tuned for more adventures with Abby and her friends hopefully next summer!
ABOUT THE BOOK
TITLE: The Last Shadow Warrior
AUTHOR: Sam Subity
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy
RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2021
Content Warnings: Main characters’s mother has died four years earlier and her father is critically injured and hospitalized for most of the book
Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. She’s spent her entire life training to hunt the horrific creatures known as Grendels – the ancient foe of the Aesir – just like her mother did before she died. But there’s just one, small problem: No one has seen a Grendel in centuries, and the Viking Council wants to disband the Aesir . . . forever.
When her father is injured in an attack that leaves him in a coma, Abby is forced to take refuge at Vale Hall, a mysterious school in Minnesota where nothing is quite as it seems. She soon discovers the tables have turned and a Grendel is hunting her, but when she tries to alert the Viking Council, they accuse her of making up stories for attention . . . just like her mother did.
Desperate to protect her father and clear her mother’s name, Abby goes on a dangerous quest to discover the truth–a journey that brings her face-to-face with some unlikely foes, including a Ping-Pong-playing sea monster with a wicked backhand, and a dark Valkyrie with a fondness for bingo. Abby quickly realizes that someone at the school is trying to stop her progress and destroy the Aesir for good. And only she can unravel the sinister plot before it’s too late.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sam Subity loves writing stories that explore the magic and wonder of being a kid and is thrilled to share his writing with readers everywhere—both the young in age and the young at heart.
When he’s not writing, you might find him running the trails of northern California where the endless, winding miles past fog and ocean inspire stories of adventure and mystery.
Or he might be mowing his lawn. Because that’s what adults sometimes have to do.
But in either case, Sam Subity is very likely imagining himself fighting mythical creatures or at the prow of a dragon ship feeling the wind and sea spray on his face alongside his own Viking queen and their two Vikelets. His greatest hope is that in reading his books, you too may be transported to another place where, for a little while, you can exchange the ordinary for the extraordinary.