Finalist Spotlight

Sheena Boekweg

Sheena Boekweg grew up reading books with tree branches peeking over her shoulder. Her novels Glitch Kingdom and A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions, both from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, feature fat positive girls with ambitions, love stories, and sometimes battle axes. She’s a contributor to Every Body Shines, a fat-positive anthology publishing May 2021. Sheena believes that beauty is intrinsic and worth is unquestionable, and thinks you can’t solve all problems with food, but it will always help. She is well loved by a tall man with a great beard, her three kids, and the world’s most spoiled puppy. Visit her online at boekwegbooks.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SheenaBoekweg.

Sheena Boekweg on her Whitney Awards Finalist novel,

Glitch Kingdom

What was the inspiration for your Whitney Awards finalist novel?

I love videogames, especially games like Breathe of the Wild, Uncharted, and Assassin’s Creed, but to be honest, I mostly play Animal Crossing or games on my phone. I never planned on writing a story about a glitching fantasy world.

I was building a YA fantasy novel, and I had to figure out what doom filled prophecy could make a king turn over his kingdom to his enemies. Somehow the idea, well what if the whole world was a video game? popped into my head, and the story was born. I think I was inspired to write Glitch Kingdom by my kids, who have told me everything there was to know about Roblox and Mario and Pokémon. Like everything. There is. To know. All that knowledge had to go somewhere.

What was the tipping point that turned this novel from “just an idea” to a project you HAD to complete?

When I realized the main character Dagney, a plus-sized girl with ambitions and a battle axe, decided to claim her plus-sized body in game. It was the ultimate act of self acceptance, and I had to give her a happy ever after.

 How did this book evolve into the final story? Did it end up the way you thought it would, or did the plot or characters change along the way?

Writing this book was an adventure. I wrote at least five different endings, along with five full rewrites. I lost main characters, I shifted worldbuilding rules, changed my villain about four times. I went from a 125,000 word draft to a 70,000 word draft, which grew by another ten or twenty thousand words in revisions again. Each time I got to know my characters better, and each time I grew more honest, and heartfelt, and personal.

Who is your favorite secondary character, and why?

Bluebird was my favorite from the first draft. I love her big nerdy heart, and rambling voice. I love how strong and fierce she is, I love how much she loves Grigfen, and how much he loves her back. She is a fighter, in all ways, and it was a joy to write her.

If your book was made into a movie, which scene would you want to be a background extra in?

I would like to play the Savak trader woman with the small black and white dog in Dagney’s first chapter. I wrote it specifically so I could have a role to play in the eventual movie, lol. I also wrote a role for my dog, because he really is that spoiled. There are more exciting scenes, like the final battle on top of the castle, or fights on a ship, or devastating scenes inside the real world, but I’d prefer to be there in the setting up scene of the story. I’d like to see Dagney make her first trade, and offer assistance to push her storyline forward. But I also, would love to be in any scene where I could say, “I used to be a warrior like you, before I took an arrow to the knee.”