Interview: Elisa A. Bonnin, Author of Dauntless

Hello book nerds! It has been a while since I joined a blog tour, I know. But today, I’m sharing something I am pretty excited about! Today, I’m sharing my interview with Elisa A. Bonnin, as part of the Dauntless Blog Tour by Xpresso Tours!

Dauntless is one of my most anticipated releases for this year. I found out about this YA fantasy novel with Filipino sapphics and I was immediately sold. Now I’m happy to be spreading more information about Dauntless!

I had the chance to chat with the author, Elisa A. Bonnin for my tour stop! So read on to know more about the inspiration of Dauntless, the world-building, the characters, and what the story can mean for Filipino readers of today.

For our readers, can you quickly describe Dauntless or give them a rundown of what they can expect from it?
Sure! Dauntless is a sapphic YA fantasy set in a Filipino-inspired world, meaning that it’s set in a fantasy world with Filipino rather than European influences. It tells the story of Seri, a young girl who has to stop a war from breaking out so that she can be with the world she loves. It’s got a lot of action and adventure in it, and it has three POV characters: Seri, her love interest Tsana, and her mentor Eshai.

Did you have a specific goal or inspiration for writing Dauntless?
Oddly enough, I was inspired by my studies. I was finishing up an oceanography PhD while writing Dauntless, and while the world of Dauntless doesn’t have an ocean, I was reflecting on the reasons that I had for studying oceanography in the first place. The ocean is surprisingly unexplored for something that takes up three-quarters of our planet, and it was that curiosity about the unknown that drove me to start studying oceanography in the first place.

When I wrote Dauntless, I wanted to write a society whose world was still unexplored, and who were driven by the desire to go beyond the boundaries of what they knew to find what was out there. But I also recognized that the more they did this, the more likely it was that they would run into other people. I wanted to write that moment of first contact, with another society, so that I could explore the conflict that would arise and have the characters come to a solution that was not (as is so prevalent in our history) colonization or war.

Dauntless features Filipino sapphics in a Filipino-inspired world (and I love it!). What do you think this can mean for Filipino readers of today?
When I was writing Dauntless, I really wanted to write a book where Filipino teenagers, especially queer Filipino teens, could see themselves in a heroic role. I grew up reading a lot of epic fantasy, and while I loved those stories, I was always disappointed that I could never find main characters that looked like me.
Female protagonists were rare, and Filipino protagonists were virtually nonexistent outside of Filipino media. Nowadays, while we still have a long way to go, there’s much more representation than there was, and I’m happy that Dauntless can be a part of that.

How did you go about creating and building the world in Dauntless?
I knew that I wanted to set Dauntless in a world that had the same climate as the Philippines, so I started there, with climate and setting. Food, building materials and resources came from that, because I already had some experience of what materials and resources would be available in an environment like the Philippines.

But from there, I started to build in the fantastical elements. I knew that I wanted the characters to fight magical beasts, which means I needed to make those beasts a threat. And because they were such a threat, I needed to make their presence affect the characters’ daily lives. So they started living in spreading trees, the giant trees that house their cities, to keep them safe from the beasts. That meant that spreading trees would be valuable resources, ones that Seri’s People would try to claim, so one of the important duties of valiants became searching for more spreading trees, and so on and so forth.

Did Seri and Tsana’s characters go through a lot of changes from when you first had the idea for the book and when you finally finished it?
Seri didn’t go through too many changes. I had an idea for her character from the start, and things with her went more or less according to plan. Tsana, on the other hand, was a little trickier to write. For a lot of reasons, Tsana is very guarded and closed off, so it took me a while to figure out how to write her as a
sympathetic love interest and how to develop her character, even when she and Seri start off on opposite sides. I had to balance Tsana’s inner conflict with the needs of the story, and I was basically tweaking Tsana’s character up until the very last draft.

And there you have it! I was so so happy to do this interview for an up and coming YA Filipino author like Elisa! Dauntless is out now and I know I’m not the only one excited to read it!

Make sure to follow the Dauntless blog tour to see more reviews and content from other bloggers.

Dauntless Blog Tour Banner

Buy Dauntless

Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin cover

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Author: Elisa A. Bonnin
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 2nd 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQ+

A teen girl must bring together two broken worlds in order to save her nation in this lush, Filipino-inspired young adult fantasy novel from debut author Elisa A. Bonnin.

“Be dauntless, for the hopes of the People rest in you.”

Seri’s world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.

Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she’s ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.

“Dauntless captures the best parts of every action-packed fantasy—breathtaking scenes of power and victory that push the limits of human tenacity. This is a triumphant tale of courage and self discovery that will make you believe in your own strength.” —Kyllie Lee Baker, author of The Keeper of Night

Join the Giveaway

One (1) US participant will receive a paperback copy of Dauntless! Click here to join! This ends August 11th!

About the Author

Elisa A. Bonnin was born and raised in the Philippines, after which she moved to the United States to study chemistry and later oceanography. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Germany to work as a postdoctoral scientist. A lifelong learner, Elisa is always convinced that she should “maybe take a class in something” and as a result, has amassed an eclectic collection of hobbies. But writing will always be her true love. Publishing a book has been her dream since she was eight years old, and she is thrilled to finally be able to share her stories. Dauntless is her first novel.

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