Last Thursday I had the opportunity to interview the lovely ladies of the FIERCE READS tour. It as a great honor and I had the best time with all of them. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
1) How did the concept of Mermaids with OF POSEIDON come to you? Because everything else was beaten to death already and I didn't think that I could do any better than they did and I did not think the market was ready for a YA saskwatch romance.
2) Rayna is my favorite character to read about in OF POSEIDON, who is your favorite character to write about and why? I like Toraf because he can get into so much trouble without even trying. I can throw mostly anything at him, and he will remain good natured. I like people like that.
3) I had quite a few laughs while reading OF POSEIDON, and one of my favorite lines is "Princess cheater, cheater-whale-dung eater". Please tell me, where did that come from? We used to say that while growing up if we got caught cheating, my cousins and I would say "Cheater, cheater dog pooh eater!" So that is where I got it from.
4) What can your fans look forward to next? I am working on OF TRIDENT the sequel and after that I may or may not write a Saskwatch YA novel, I don't know. I haven't had the guts to fish that to my agent, but I have had good responses on this tour so I just might. I am also working on a TOP SECRET project on the Trojan war but I don't know if I can pull it off because I don't know if you notice but I am not serious all the time and this would be a very serious project. I probably would want to write snark to it, but I really want to write a story.
6) How much research went into OF POSEIDON? Did you go a lot into mermaid lore? I tried to stay away from mermaid lore and I tried to stay away from a lot of Greek mythology and I wanted to create my own spin on it. What I did research, because I wanted my mermaids to be scientifically feasible, so I did a lot of research on the ocean. I watched a lot of nerdy documentaries and things like that. I wanted to make sure to know where would they live? How would they hide? What skills would they have? How could they survive? So, I did my research on that.
7) While you have been on the FIERCE READS tour can you tell me about that and what is your favorite moment so far? Last night when Jennifer Bosworth was on bendryl and completely stopped talking and spaced out and I swear it was children's benedryl. Another favorite moment came while on a plane I noticed someone reading Beautiful Disaster and then we started talking about YA novels and I got the guts to say that I am a YA author and she had my sign her barf bag.
Leigh Bardugo: SHADOW AND BONE
1) What inspired you to write SHADOW and BONE? The Idea for Shadow and Bone came about one night when I was staying with some friends in the mountains. I got up in the middle of the night and I was at the end of this hallway and I was scrambling around for the light switch and all of a sudden I heard something breathing in the dark with me and I thought "Holy Crap!" there's somebody here and then I realized that it was actually me breathing. It all became clear and I had this moment that the fact that no matter how old you get that that fear always stays with you. Something is under the bed, something in the closet fear and I was lying in bed and started thinking what if you couldn't flip that light switch, what if you didn't know that you were safe and what if darkness were a place and everything you imagined lurking in the dark was real and that's what became the shadow fold. The more I thought about that and what would be in there and who would be on it and the questions just started piling up until I had to get up and put them down on paper.
2) The world of Ravka is sumptuous and exquisitely detailed, what kind of research went into setting up this new and amazing world? I spent about two months on research. I'm that kind of person that can stay away from a draft just getting distracted. So, I tried to put a specific cap and spent about two months researching predominately Russian history, culture, folklore, food but some other cultures as well. Russia is so massive that there are a lot of different ethnic groups under it's umbrella. That is how I gave texture to the world and it was really important to me that things felt grounded. I think with high fantasy that it is easy to not have a sense of place and it was really important to me for people to be able to smell, hear, taste everything and at the same time feel as if they are transported to some place magical. So, I'm hoping that since it is summer will people want to read about being on the icy tundra? wearing furs?
3) I have a mad crush with The Darkling, and I suspect that I am not the only one. Does it surprise you to hear this? being that he is so mysteriously dark and cryptic? No. I am delighted that readers have responded that way to him. I guess I am surprised, being that it is my first book out, that people are reacting to my characters and it's really exciting. But some people actually do hate him which has been interesting to. There are people who love him and people who hate him, but he is kind of a mash up of every gentleman of dubious ethics whom I have ever had a crush on from literature and film.
4) I am extremely interested in all things TSAR PUNK can you tell me about that it and how it influences the world of SHADOW and BONE? I think the thing to remember is a lot of people have gotten a little hung up on the fact that influence for the world was not from mid evil Europe. Is it alternate history? Is it Steampunk? Is it this? Is it that? So, kind of as a joke I started calling it Tsar Punk because people just wouldn't not call it high fantasy for whatever reason. Also, because there are guns and that seems to throw people for a loop. It's most definitely is a secondary world the kind of punk aspect that has a revolutionary spirit. This scrapper coming up
kind of feeling and if the third title RUIN and RISING which tells you what some of that direction is.
5) What can your fans look forward to next? I cannot tell you too much about SIEGE and STORM which is book two, but I can tell you that pretty much every character from book one will be back including The Darkling and they are going to through some rough times and I am also going to introduce some new characters including one of my favorite characters of the whole series. He is really fun to write, so I hope people like him. The weirdest part is having book two finished with book one has not even come out and you cannot say anything.
6) You have a few creative outlets for your talents. What motivated you to write stories for young adult readers? I always wanted to be a writer. That was always the dream. I had a lot of kind of false starts and distractions. I think that getting into make up and special effects was really good for me because instead of getting copy all day or working as a journalist I was flexing a different muscle. So, instead of feeling kind of written out at the end of the day I felt like putting my story down and putting ideas down. As, far as young adult I didn't think that much about it. I am sometimes a little embarrassed at how little I know about the market although I think if I had known I might not have written it because at the time no one wanted high fantasy in YA. No one. They wanted Dystopian, Science Fiction, Steam Punk but their were very few agents who would even look.
7) Your on tour this summer for the FIERCE READS what has been your favorite moment so far? Jen Bosworth has this piece of music by Rat a tat that we put on the other day and we were all exhausted because we had all flown into California. Nobody had had a good night's sleep and we were on our way to this event and we wanted to be psyched for the event and Jen put on her psych up song and we were all dancing in the car and I have horrible feeling that there is going to be a video of it that Kate took. It was fun and this is kind of what I pictured it would be like. It was really cool. The whole thing, being on tour...I keep having this sensation that I am going to wake up and it's going to be like Inception and I am asleep in a train somewhere. So, I am waiting for it to sink in. It seems trite to say it's a dream come true. Every moment I walk into a book store and see my book it is my favorite moment and also when someone comes up and says they like the book. I cry at the drop of a hat and it's totally embarrassing. I think I have wept at every event.
1) How did you come up with the Idea for struck? I got it about four years ago and it was around the time shortly after hurricane Katrina. The scientists were talking about how natural disasters were getting worse and more severe. So I started thinking what it would be like if a natural disaster as severe as Katrina hit Los Angeles? So, I had the setting in mind. Mia, my character is like a a piece of me so I gave her my cynicism. I've always love apocalypse -end of the world novels. I like to put characters in the most extreme circumstances possible and see what they will do and how they will survive. I took a lot of things that I love and things I was interested in and put them in there. Probably the most inspirational thing was learning that there are actual human lightening rods and that jump started everything. I had a character in mind. I had a set up in mind, but the knowledge of human lightening rods was the thing that brought it all together.
2) The very concept of getting hit by lightning even once is terrifying. How did you get the idea about Mia not only being hit by lightning several times but that she is addicted to it? There is a man that holds the world record for the most lightning strikes an had survived. He was struck by lightning seven times and he was a park ranger and he used to drive around with a bucket of water in his truck in case he lit on fire when he was struck and had to put himself out. People stopped wanting to be around him because they were afraid. So, people avoided him. He became really sad and a lonely person. When I read about him the question that stood out in my mind the most was just..."Why didn't you move? Get a different job? Stop being out in the open all day long?" Since he has since passed, I tried answering that question myself. I felt like what if he actually liked it? What if it was a drug to him? Makes him feel alive? That idea wouldn't let go and it was like jet fuel for my imagination.
3) Discussing religious cults can be quite controversial and unusual. What made you decide to address this subject in STRUCK, a YA novel? It seemed to fit because I feel like you can't have the end of the world scenario without some religious crazy involved. Just getting up in arms. That is what worked for me but I started to explore what that really means. What I was trying to say with these religious cults, if anything, if I could offer a subliminal message to the readers is don't let anyone else do your thinking for you. Because I felt like when I was a teenager I wish that somebody would have told me to do. Think for yourself, don't let other people do your thinking for you. So, that's what stands out with me when it comes with cults because I did a lot of research on them and they usually have a very charismatic leader and they are very convincing and they just attract a certain kind of person that is willing to listen and willing to be led. If these people who ended up in situations like Jonestown or the Mansion family who ended up doing some terrible things if they just not listened so closely to what was being said and thought for themselves, it could have turned out so differently. So, I think it was important for me to have that message included in the book.
5) What can fans look forward to next? I'm working on so many things right now I cannot keep these projects straight. I'm working on novel called THE HIVE, which compared to struck seem like it would be a quiet book because it takes place all in one cul-de-sac. Where STRUCK is all over L.A. and it's this grand scale epic novel, but it has similarities. It is about a very claustrophobic small town religious community and it has a supernatural element and my mash up for it is Big Love meets the Ring. So, It will be very scary. I am also working on a post apocalyptic fantasy western called the KNIVE SHARPENER'S DAUGHTER. I feel like there is so much goo stuff that has that western flare, like Justified (t.v. show) and Deadwood. I want to write something like Deadwood but put it in a post apocalyptic edge. I want that gritty old west feel, but I also want magic.
6) Your on tour with the FIERCE READS tour what is your favorite moment so far? Our first stop at Mrs. Nelson went so well that was great for me because it got off to a really good start. So, that mattered for me a lot. I just wanted to get off on the right foot. Then the second stop I ate something I was allergic to and I had to take a bunch of benedryl or everything would start to swell so I was very loopy.
Emmy Laybourne: MONUMENT 14
1) What was your inspiration to write MONUMENT 14? It came from a lot of different places. I've always been a person who has fantasized about what I would do if the apocalypse came. When Y2K was approaching I had like a huge plan. Salt lakes and guns and getting up into the hills. It's been a preoccupation of mine. So that was a part of it. I think that everyone has had experience of walking through a Walmart and think "I could live here".
2) What kind of research went into creating the disastrous circumstances for MONUMENT 14? Mega tsunamis are real and one of the Canary islands that is considered to be....it's a long shot but there are doomsday theorists who think that if this volcanic island drops into the sea that it could go up and fall into the ocean and cause the mega tsunamis that could wipe out the east coast of the United States along with parts of Europe and Africa. But the rest of it was a little bit of conjecture. I don't really know. I think that the plates of the earth that if a trauma like that would happen that it would destabilize the rest of North America which is what happens with the earth quake and then of course the chemical ware fare component that stems completely from my own imagination. Those are not based on reality.
3) I was fascinated by the concept of how a chemical spill affected the population differently, dependent on their blood type. How did you come up with that idea? Sometimes you get inspiration from strategy. I wanted something that would divide the population and affect them differently and I wanted some people to have this reaction and that so that it could be unpredictable. So, you didn't know what was going to happen. Just putting it together with blood type it was just a fluke and I don't know how I got that idea.
4) You are an accomplished actor, comedian, and teacher. What motivated you to write stories for young adult readers? I think I always knew that I would be a writer. When I started acting I started improvising. In a way it was because I couldn't express what I wanted to on the page. I had to act it out. The comedy that I did I couldn't figure out how to write it. When I read my early writing I was trying to write funny but it was just not there, it just didn't make sense. It was funny unless I did it because I could make it funny. So, I think as my skills as a writer grew. I didn't need to act anymore in a funny way. Although I miss making people laugh. I do miss improvising. We had got a question the night before at our event and it was "When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?" and everyone had an example of a story that they wrote when they were a little kid. I didn't say mine because I actually talked about my experience of being an actor. But, I had a story that I had wrote as a kid about an alien named Grog and I think many, many writers have those early storeies that call them into being a writer.
5) What can your fans look forward to next? Well the sequel to Monument 14 is next. Book two is darker and more scary. It's hard to believe but it is very, very dark. Sky on Fire has two narrators (sorry can't say who for those that haven't read the Monument 14 yet) but it will give you an idea of which direction the story is going.
6) Your on tour with the FIERCE READS tour what is your favorite moment so far? I can identify with a particular moment, but I can say that I am the mom of two children ages eight and five. So my life at home is hard. I work hard. I write all day when they are school and then I am the mom. I pick them up from school, I clean the house and do the dishes and all that stuff. So, being on tour is like joy upon joy it is so much fun. I miss my kids but its so fun to be in a hotel. I sleep late. I can get room service. It's super fun, but this is my debut novel. I was a novelist before and there is a moment at our first tour stop and I looked out (she starts welling up at this moment). When I looked out at these people gathered at Mrs. Nelson's book store and I was like, here I am in this beautiful book store surrounded by people who love books and they love books so much that they came out to a writer event to meet us. And it felt like I had found my people. I spent all this time in the world of actors auditioning for roles and its a snarky hard, hard world. Auditioning is so hard and then to write a book and to have people like it and respond to it and get to meet them. It's like a dream come true for me.
What a perfect ending to a great interview set with the ladies of the FIERCE READS tour. I wanted to thank MacMillan for giving me this amazing opportunity and for Anna Banks, Leigh Bardugo, Jennifer Bosworth and Emmy Laybourne for making this interview really special. Thank you, and best wishes always.