Friday, December 30, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
(second in the DREAMDARK series)
You don't need to read BLACKBRINGER to read the second book of the DREAMDARK series: SILKSINGER. In BLACKBRINGER, Taylor nicely wrapped up the story so the book functions well both as a standalone and as part of a greater story. While set in the same world with characters and conflicts readers will recognize, SILKSINGER is an entirely fresh tale with an even more ominous threat.
It’s no secret by now that I think Taylor writes memorable characters. Magpie, her silly crow brothers, and Talon feature prominently in SILKSINGER, but the new additions to the cast are equally compelling. Whisper actually reminds me of Taylor's own short story in LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES in which the woman’s voice will kill all who hear it, so she remains always silent. Whisper is a muted version of this same concept. Her fairy clan, the Silksingers, have magical voices, a gift she can’t always control. Thus she keeps her voice at a low whisper to avoid accidental magic. This soft-spoken nature causes many to underestimate her, but she will prove her bravery and determination more than once before the end of this book.
Friday, December 2, 2011
(second in THE UNICORN CHRONICLES)
There’s a lot of exposition in the first few chapters of SONG OF THE WANDERER, but Coville slips in details from the last book with admirable ease. Though experienced readers and writers will recognize the intent, the story never reads as an information dump. However, the first part of book moves rather slowly, suffering a little from what bibliophiles term "middle book syndrome." Before the story and action begins, there’s a long, relatively uneventful journey.
Of course, this is a short book (although it’s twice as long as its predecessor!), so even the slow bits are fairly fast reading. Besides, it’s well worth trudging along with Cara and her crew during the quieter portion of the journey, because when the pace picks up, oh boy does it pick up! The tension just keeps riser higher and higher near the end as the conflict escalates and unexpected surprises pile on.
I certainly don't mean to imply that the first half of the book is boring, either. As with many great series, we learn more about beloved characters from the previous book along with meeting plenty of new ones. Medafil the gryphon now joins the Squijum on my list of favorite UNICORN CHROINCLES characters. And, of course, our young but brave protagonist Cara deserves a spot up there herself.
SONG OF THE WANDERER might take a while to hit the same fast pace as INTO THE LAND OF THE UNICORNS, but once it starts moving it doesn’t slow. The end is stuffed with intriguing confrontations and revelations that promise much more excitement in future books.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Wow, do I ever admire Larbalestier for this book. It's tempting to play it safe as a writer - go with characters, settings, plot formulas that consistently do well - but I will always respect those who don't, who try something that hasn't been tested yet or that doesn't always succeed. In this case, LIAR has an unreliable narrator, something that can make a book soar high or flop hard and definitely a description that can turn off a potential reader. Why should I read a book where I can't trust anything the narrator says to be true? Because Larbalestier pulls it off; that's why.
I'll admit the style is the slightest bit confusing at first. If you read the back of the book, like I did, you know going in that Micah is unreliable: a liar. So I was immediately on guard not to believe a word from the start and that made for an unusual reading experience. Additionally, this book isn't sorted into standard chapters. Rather it's divided into short sections (less than a page to a few pages), some of which are entitled "before" and some "after." Before and after what? you may wonder. Right near the start we learn that Micah's boyfriend has died, possible been murdered. That’s the event around which this story centers.
The reason that this unreliable narrator works is because she's a real, likable teenager. Micah won me over and I wanted to keep reading whether she was lying to me or not. Also, there’s more to the plot than a girl who lies all the time. Or there isn't, depending on what you believe and what you don't! I at least believe that Micah's boyfriend really did die, and that there was some kind of foul play. Their realistic relationship also grounded the story, since it’s a dynamic I don't see too much of in YA fiction despite seeing a lot of it in real life.
Some of Micah's lies are easy to see coming when she confesses later. Some of them really sneak up on you! While Larbalestier does an amazing job with an unreliable narrator, the readers still need to resign themselves to an ending open to interpretation. Really, an entire book open to interpretation. One could spend hours arguing over the lies and the truths. Yes, Micah does claim to tell you the real truth in the end, but there's plenty of reason to still believe otherwise.
I want to believe Micah's last version of her story, implausible as it is, but that might be naive. While I admit that not knowing for certain did occasionally drive me crazy, I still took away from this book two points Micah made about lying that really resonated with me. The first: that lying is easier than one might imagine, because the victim wants to believe the lie. If they don't, they feel negative emotions such as anger and humiliation that someone would try to deceive them and that they almost bought it. So many hop along with the lies rather than play the guessing game of "is she/isn't she telling me the truth?" That may very well explain why I choose to believe Micah’s latest version of the story rather than wonder if this entire book masks yet another truth.
Whether or not Micah's final tale is the truth I still cling to the second, more personal, point she made about lying: that she lies to cover up the real truth, because it’s so convoluted and outrageous that no one would believe it. She would rather have people disbelieving her lies than her truth. If I trust nothing else that Micah said, I believe that.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Anyone who read my zealous review of Laini Taylor’s most recent book DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE might not be surprised to learn that she’s making her way up the ranks of my favorite authors. Since I enjoyed DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE so much, I have been reading her older works. I’m loving everything. I finished LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES, a collection of three stories, in one day.
Taylor’s writing is spectacular. With all her books and stories, I find myself pausing to admire utterly unique turns of phrase, many of which so concisely capture the current emotions or situation that you wonder how you’ve never read or heard this combination of words before. Now it’s time for some honesty: as a writer working towards publishing my own books, sometimes admiration for brilliant authors can be tainted with a little of that ugly sentiment: jealously. Somehow Taylor’s writing, stunning as it is, doesn’t stir up any envy. It inspires. When I read writing like this, I remember why I love to read, why I love to write, why my life is practically devoted to these two activities. Taylor’s writing is entirely her own, a goal to which most authors aspire, and it shoves its way past your mind towards those emotion-laden concepts: your heart and your soul.
All three of these dark stories tantalize and linger. Both fresh and familiar, they tap into folklore and fairy tale elements, but the emotions make them relevant to today and any day. The title of the book makes more sense once you read the stories; all three of them utilize kissing as a key component. In fact, the pronounced overarching theme of the collection echoes off the page: love and wanting.
For the first story I want to share an excerpt from the brief prologue, which succinctly captures the premise and tone of the tale:
There is a certain kind of girl that the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.
The second story has a slight ELLA ENCHANTED feel with magic that binds one’s will until overwhelming helplessness makes them feel trapped in their own body. Due to one strange woman’s peculiar relationship with a demon, the innocent victim Anamique is cursed as a baby: if she ever utters a single sound every person in the room will die. Unlike ELLA ENCHANTED in which the protagonist knows without a doubt that her curse is real because it affects her every day, Anamique constantly battles doubt. What if the real curse is that some cruel person has convinced her of this mad, fictional spell? What if she’s silencing herself for no good reason? Of course, testing the curse would be a dangerous game. As usual, Taylor plays well with her setup and this story, if it didn’t break my heart, still fractured it again and again.
The third and last story is the darkest and most mature, closer to the type of fairy tales for which the Grimm brothers are famous rather than the happily-ever-after, mellowed-down-villain versions in abundance today. For this one, I fear telling you too much will ruin the experience, so suffice it to say that this story plays with folklore about the more sinister fascinations that fey folk have with mortals.
I loved every story in LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES too much to rank or compare them. Each is its own unique and beautiful tale. And Laini Taylor is definitely an author to watch!
Friday, October 21, 2011
Review of WHO FEARS DEATH by NNEDI OKORAFOR
This is an ominous tale worthy of shudders, not due to any fantastical beasts but because the story is filled with the dark side of humanity that, sadly, doesn’t feel at all unrealistic or exaggerated. The redemptions here are plenty: strong writing, haunting characters, stirring relationships, and politics both familiar and magical. Despite the book’s virtues, it wasn’t easy to stomach the violence and cruelty that’s almost mundane in Onyesonwu’s life. This is a beautiful, terrible book and I’m grateful that it was difficult to read.
Onyesonwu has been dealt a painfully inequitable burden in life: she is a child of rape and her lighter skin marks her as such. Those who don’t think she should be killed still hardly consider her an equal. Right near the start of the book the war rape of Onyesonwu’s mother, along with many other women, is described in vivid, excruciating detail. I have read my share of violence, including a lot of rape, but this particular scene skyrocketed to the most agonizing that I have ever read. I was quite seriously tempted to toss the book to the floor and bolt to the bathroom. My stomach rebelled not so much at the level of violence but at just how real it felt. Honestly, though, I think that’s good. There’s something irresponsible about rape scenes that are easy to read. I’m not against violence in books but I do find myself worked up when it’s clearly thrown in there for “spice.” If I’m going to read a rape scene, I want it to make my skin crawl like this one did. I want to be reminded that this really happens - this part isn’t fantasy - and that the emotional consequences last far longer than the actual rape.
However, if you think you’re through the worst of it after reading that scene, think again. Before I even had a chance to compose myself, I stumbled into the circumcision scene. The sting of this one doesn’t lie so much in violence, but more in how it’s drawn out. It’s clear that Onyesonwu can leave at any point, but she has a desperate hope that her peers will accept her if she goes through the same eleventh year rite as all the other girls. I won’t revel whether or not she goes through with the circumcision, but it’s a long scene that actually roused my adrenaline as I mentally begged Onyesonwu to leave while she still could. Okorafor describes each minute in detail, reminding the reader that Onyesonwu’s opportunity to back out is ticking away.
Horror and hope are well-balanced in this world, even though there’s such a heavy dose of horror. Onyesonwu’s magic, in a sense, stems from pain, something she struggles with daily. She’s not a pure storybook victim who takes the beatings from fate without doling out anything herself. She can be rash and commits some terrible actions, but I could always understand her motivations and how her traumatic past has filled her with so much anger.
A small, bright light of comfort can be found in Onyesonwu’s friendships. Friends are few and not easy to find for her, but circumstance brings her a handful that prove touchingly loyal, even if their fear of her still shines through on occasion. The romantic relationship that she enters into is also full of such depth that I will probably only undermine it if I attempt to summarize.
One last quirk that I want to mention is the connection to ZAHRAH THE WINDSEEKER. Those who have read the book or my review might as surprised as I was to learn there’s a link between such vastly different books. Well, it’s extremely subtle. Really, just one line, one little detail, that doesn’t play a significant role in this story at all, but will leave readers familiar with both books pondering for long after.
WHO FEARS DEATH is a rough, emotional read. I cringe at telling anyone not to read an amazing book, but this is definitely one that will always come along with a cautionary disclaimer after any gushing. I am filled with admiration for how Okorafor handles such disturbing subject matter, but I admit to still feeling a little traumatized every time I even think about this book. Again, in an odd way, that’s a good thing. I prefer my trauma in books than in real life, because it can be a safe way to learn more about the world without needing to have the same horrific experiences as, say, Onyesonwu. Still, fictional trauma, when done well, drags along the reminder that this is a reality for someone. Those reminders, which can be life altering, are one of the primary reasons I read.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Review of TRIS & IZZIE by METTE IVIE HARRISON
(Review based on an advance reading copy)
TRIS & IZZIE transfers the story of Tristan and Isolde to a high school setting. Izzie, our protagonist, has the perfect life until she makes the mistake of fiddling around with magic. Though Izzie has a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend Mark, she senses that her best friend Branna might be a little lonely for a romance of her own. Since Izzie’s mother is a witch, her mind jumps to the easy solution and she tries to use a love philtre on Branna and the odd-but-handsome new guy Tristan. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan, and Izzie accidentally drinks the philtre herself.
It took me three to five pages to go along with the tone of the book. The description of Tristan and Isolde transferred to a high school setting might have set me up with the wrong expectations at first. The book, while still a delightful read, is more whimsical than realistic, more humorous than tragic. A lot of the dialogue felt slightly more plot-serving than something I can imagine teenagers actually saying and the characters seem more like people from a fairy tale than a real high school campus. While it took me a few pages to accept the atmosphere, it all works well for the story.
The book doesn’t waste any time. We meet Izzie and Mark and see a brief glimpse of their relationship in line one and we have conflict between Izzie and her best friend Branna on page two. The story line isn’t an exact parallel to the Tristan and Isolde tale, so readers can expect some surprises.
A woman torn between two wonderful men, trying to have them both. That sets the writer a challenge to make her likable, and Harrison jumps over this hurdle: Izzie is very likable. She walked into this situation by messing with magic, but it’s debatable whether her feelings for Tristan are her own or entirely forced from the love philtre. Her eagerness to help her friend early on won me over. In fact, most of the characters demonstrate remarkable maturity throughout in their desire for others’ happiness. Definitely a book that inspires faith in humanity.
The role of will in love is perhaps the most prominent theme. Izzie is perfectly happy with Mark until a love philtre makes her fall for Tristan instead. Does that mean her feelings for Tristan aren’t real? Or is the philtre merely an excuse? I saw parallels to alcohol with this, especially in the sense that the substance can be used as a social crutch. “It wasn’t me; it was the alcohol.”
TRIS & IZZIE is a fun read, especially since Harrison makes the story her own. Its greatest strength, in my opinion, is the characters. For all their complications and flaws, all the main characters are good people and their self-sacrifices and loyalty make this book a refreshing alternative to the abundance of dark, dreary stories out there.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Review of RAMPANT by DIANA PETERFREUND
At first, RAMPANT seems like a twist on unicorn mythology; in Peterfreund’s portrayal unicorns are violent, aggressive, and deadly. However, as the author herself points out, her version of the unicorn is actually the more historically accurate one. Astrid, our protagonist, discovers that she descends from a long line of unicorn hunters and a reemergence of the bloodthirsty beasts forces her into a lifestyle that she can’t even comprehend.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ve heard only good things, but for some reason it fell a little flat for me. All of my criticisms are specific, petty complaints that individually can’t ruin a book for me, but together kept me from being enveloped into this imagined world. After some thought, I realized all the little details that distracted me can be summarized into two main points: the story often felt both unbelievable and contrived. However, because the book raises such imperative topics with an incredible candor I still consider it a worthwhile read.
The fact that I found a book about killer unicorns unbelievable deserves a mental chuckle, but fellow readers, especially fantasy readers, know what I mean. I have read many books with preposterous, ridiculous, or plain silly premises that somehow suspend any skepticism and unfold a “what if” in your mind like it really could be an alternate universe just out of our reach. I wanted RAMPANT to be one of those books where each character, setting, conversation, and action comes with a clear mental picture that will forever live on in my mind, but I found myself constantly distracted by little things. In particular I wanted to picture these unicorns, since they clearly differ from standard depictions, but descriptions sometimes clashed and I could never form a mental image. The chaotic action scenes also left me confused and I often had to re-read passages multiple times. Astrid’s voice never clicked into place; she always felt more like a character than a person and for that matter a character trying a little too hard to be a teenager. I often struggled to follow her sudden mood or opinion changes and couldn’t understand the logic behind her actions and decisions. Other characters suffered similar fallbacks. Caricatures is too harsh an assessment since all of them are so close to feeling realistic, but some tiny detail in each made them fall short of convincing me.
Whenever I use “contrived” to describe a book, I mean that I’m too aware of the author. The story wasn’t quite fleshed out enough and I often saw major events as mere plot devices, which detracted from any emotional impact. I can’t explain why, but I foresaw Astrid’s cousin Philippa’s latter role in the story as soon as she was introduced. I also wanted to know more about how magic works, why unicorns behave the way they do, and why only certain families can hunt them. It really bothered me that Astrid and the others simply go along with murdering unicorns, because people tell them they must do so without any additional explanation. It’s only at the end of the book that Astrid and her fellow unicorn hunters begin asking questions I feel they should have asked before they ever picked up a weapon.
I still think this book is worth reading! Despite the fact that I never fell in love with the story the way I anticipated, I found it enjoyable throughout. Yet even that isn’t why I consider this book worth reviewing and recommending. RAMPANT contains some primal themes and the nature of its premise allows for a much franker discussion of sensitive topics than teenagers, or adults for that matter, are likely to find many other places. The subjects I want to mention are sex (which is really an umbrella label for a LOT of different discussions) and endangered species.
One part of unicorn mythology that stays fairly consistent is the creature’s fascination with female virgins. In RAMPANT and countless tales before, virgin girls pacify the wild, hostile unicorns and, thus, are often used as hunting tools: the bait to lure the prey. The nature of this mythology already creates a preoccupation with purity and virginity that cannot be untangled from the rest of the story and pushed aside. Astrid’s mother desperately urges her daughter to preserve her virginity, but less for the usual reasons and more because if Astrid is no longer a virgin she cannot be a unicorn hunter. At times Astrid is even tempted to sleep with someone merely to escape a path she feels forced into by her mother. This metaphorically addresses how many teenagers (and, yes, adults as well) sleep with people for the wrong reasons. The book also tackles rape with a rare openness. In particular, RAMPANT forces readers to acknowledge exactly what can be considered rape. There are many different kinds, but women whose experience doesn’t fall under extremely violent penile penetration by a stranger are often even more likely to keep their mouths shut. The experience is humiliating enough without explaining the details to everyone.
Another forefront theme is unicorns as an endangered species. In fact, those who know of these creatures’ existence already believed them to be extinct, but unicorns are reemerging. Part of why I couldn’t invest in this story fully is also why I think it’s important discussion fodder. Astrid and her fellow unicorn hunters are told very little: unicorns are evil monsters and the teenagers must kill these beasts. I was deeply bothered that none of these girls demanded more information before they followed orders and slay, by gruesome means, what seemed to be more like animals acting on instinct. Humans, along with other creatures, have a widely acknowledged fear of the unknown. Oftentimes, what scares us or differs from us we would like to see erased from the world. Though my opinion did alter a little as the story unfolded, at first I saw unicorns more like sharks or crocodiles: predators but not evil and certainly not deserving of intentional, violent extinction.
While I regret that the story didn’t wrap around me as I had hoped, I still find myself pondering the candid discussions to which it leads the reader. The metaphorical but frank discussion of sex doesn’t impose any opinions, but rather poses question after question to be collected and considered. The theme of endangered species also branches out into other serious topics about killing and fear of the unknown. Whether or not you can jump into Astrid’s world, you will find an abundance of relevant, noteworthy issues stuffed into these pages.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Review of WARRIOR by MARIE BRENNAN
(first in the DOPPELGANGER duology)
The premise of this book can be reduced to a concise hook: Miryo is a witch in training. Mirage is a bounty hunter. Miryo learns she cannot use her magic until she kills the doppelganger she never knew she had: Mirage. Remember, Mirage is a ruthless, expertly trained bounty hunter, so this isn’t exactly going to be easy.
By the nature of both Mirage’s career path and her impending confrontation with Miryo, intense action scenes find their way into almost every chapter. I’m not normally inclined toward action heavy books; I often find myself skimming the fight or flee scenes for the end result. Yet Brennan writes these scuffles with such urgency and clarity that each moment held my attention…even though I’m not familiar with all the terminology for specific kicks and strategies!
I don’t want to make it sound as though action is all this book has to offer. There are a lot of politics and well-paced mysteries as both Miryo and Mirage work to understand a world that defies their previous assumptions. I can be a very skeptical reader and there were many times when I braced myself for a contrived, cheesy, or cliché resolution to a problem. For inevitable events, such as when Miryo and Mirage finally meet or the many smaller stepping stones of necessary revelations, the author has her work cut out for her. The reader expects a reasonable amount of emotion and dramatics for an event of that magnitude not to mention understandable actions and conversations from the characters. Oh, and it still has to be interesting. I approached each of these critical moments with wariness, but Brennan pulled them off every time.
The magic in this world seems well-developed with its own checks and balances as well as cans and cannots. While the reader isn’t attacked with exposition about how magic works, what can be gathered from statements or conversations pieces together without any noticeable logic lapses.
The premise raises a lot of imperative questions about survival and killing. Though filtered down to a one on one situation, it’s easy to see parallels to war. Experienced witches have warned Miryo that if she doesn’t kill her doppelganger, her magic will spiral out of control, killing her and most likely many other innocent people. The only way Miryo can even contemplate this violent task is by thinking of Mirage as “it.” She pushes away her objections to murdering a human being and tries instead to stuff the action into the mental category of survival versus an inhuman threat. Convincing herself that this act is necessary is the only way she can live with it.
Though part of a duology, the book reads as a stand alone novel and ends without any vital plot threads left dangling. The end, as with the other crucial moments of the book, impressed me. Brennan sometimes backs her characters into such tricky corners that I don’t see how they’re going to find their way out without a painfully flimsy explanation. The end was a little like that and as the story drew down to its final pages, I feared a brisk wrap-up, but once again Brennan took me pleasantly by surprise.
Friday, September 23, 2011
SILENCE by Michelle Sagara, which is due out next year. I love her adult SUN SWORD novels (written as Michelle West), so I'm really excited about this book, which is her first YA.
Books already out that I've loved the past few months include Karen Healey's THE SHATTERING, Megan Crewe's GIVE UP THE GHOST, Sarah Rees Brennan's THE DEMON’S LEXICON, Roseanne Parry's SECOND FIDDLE (not a fantasy, but very much about the importance of art in our lives), and Malinda Lo's HUNTRESS.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
So many things! I was the sort of kid who was always telling herself stories, so in a sense I was always a writer. I also immersed myself deeply in playing pretend games, long past the age when anyone admits to still playing them, and that was a part of becoming a writer, too. And of course, I've always been a reader. Sometimes, if you don't find that book you want to read, you have to go out and write it!
I most love the moments when I'm deeply immersed in the story, and the words are flowing, and the characters seem just a little bit real. I also love the revision process, taking the rough words already on the page and turning them into an actual story.
I probably least love all the waiting involved in being a writer: waiting to finish writing a book, waiting to sell it, waiting for it to come out … being a writer has forced me to learn patience, something that doesn't come to me naturally!
Do you have a writing process?
My writing process is as much a rewriting as a writing process. I don't outline ahead of time (unless I need an outline as a sales tool), and I do go through at least five drafts to get a completed book.
- The first draft is the one where I pretty much tell the wrong story. By writing the wrong story--and seeing why it's the wrong story-- I learn things I need to know about the right story.
- The second draft is the one that's sort of kind of is somewhere in the neighborhood of the right story.
- The third draft is the one where I tell the right story, but use all the wrong words.
- The fourth draft is the one where I begin finding the right words, and along the way straightening out muddled character and story arcs.
- The fifth draft is the one where I smooth out all the things that are almost there, and polish the prose more deeply as well.
On top of that, I usually do a bunch more rewrites to get the ending to click into place.
I sort of think of myself as honing in on the story as I go. With each new draft, layers get added to the story, and so every draft has a role to play in making the final book as strong as it can be.
What are your passions?
I'm a serial hobbyist, so what I'm passionate about changes over time. A few things have remained constant through the years, though: a love of writing, an interest in doing volunteer work with kids, and a love of hiking and camping and the outdoors.
What inspires you?
I draw a lot of inspiration from natural world and various places I've visited. Wherever I go, I want to understand the land I'm walking on (whether I'm in a wilderness area or in a city where that land is more hidden beneath all the layers of buildings and people who live there) and how it shapes the people who live there. I've had several books (published and to be written) begin with a landscape.
I've always read fantasy, so it never really occurred to me to write anything else! I love magic, in our world and in other worlds, for its own sake and for the things it teaches us about what it means to be human and to live and survive in our non-magical world.
I love what Jane Yolen says about fantasy in her collection of essays, TOUCH MAGIC, which I think gets to the heart of one of the things fantasy is all about:
"And for adults, the world of fantasy books returns us to the great words of power which, in order to be tamed, we have excised from our adult vocabularies. These words are the pornography of innocence, words which adults no longer use with other adults, and so we laugh at them and consign them to the nursery, fear masking as cynicism. These are the words that were forged in the earth, air, fire, and water of human existence, and the words are:
Love. Hate. Good. Evil. Courage. Honor. Truth."
I have that posted above my desk.
Why young adult?
I've always loved coming of age stories, so I've always tended to write stories with teen protagonists who are living right on the edge of that time when everything begins to change.
It took me a while to realize those stories were YA, though--I started off assuming I was writing for adults, just with younger characters. Then I noticed how much more enthusiastic the rejection letters I was receiving from YA editors were than those I was getting from adult editors, I took another look at both my work and at the books I loved to read, and I began more consciously calling what I wrote YA.
I also have written books for younger children, along with the occasional short story for adults.
How was BONES OF FAERIE born?
BONES OF FAERIE began with an opening scene that wouldn’t let me go. I don't know where that scene came from. I do know that once I wrote it, I had to tell the rest of the story. Only I didn't know how to--I didn't know what happened next, and I also just wasn't yet a good enough writer to tell the story well. So I went off and wrote some other things, but every few years I came back to BONES OF FAERIE’s opening, until I was ready to write the book that went with it.
All told it took me 12 years from writing that opening to finish the book!
How much do the fey and magic in BONES OF FAERIE pull from folklore and how much is your own invention?
It's a mix. Ballads and stories and bits of folklore did contribute to the book, but the elements drawn from them were in many ways transformed when seen through the lens of the book's post-apocalyptic war between faeries and humans. Glamour, for instance, became much harsher in FAERIE WINTER (BONES OF FAERIE’s sequel) than in the stories where I'd seen it used, because the world in which I was using it was harsh, too. And there are other elements that are entirely my own, including the quia trees that once grew only in Faerie, and that become increasingly important with each Faerie book.
A book in which I stuck a little more closely to existing canon than in the Faerie books was THIEF EYES, which is based on my reading of the Icelandic sagas. I think how close one sticks to the known folklore depends a lot on the story being told.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Be stubborn! Stubborn enough to keep learning, keep revising, and keep becoming a better writer; and also stubborn enough to keep submitting your work. Just because you don't sell quickly doesn't mean you won't sell. The authors who break in quickly and spectacularly are the most noticeable, but that's only one way to build a career. This is a paced game--more of a marathon than a sprint--and it's worth being in it for the long haul.
Learn the business, but keep as much focus as you can on the craft and the process of writing. That's where the joy comes from, and that's where you'll find the things to sustain you over that long haul.
Ignore any writing advice you hear that doesn't work for you, even mine. There are many ways to write, and no one way works for everyone. Try everything, keep the advice that works for you, and ditch the rest. Ultimately, you're trying to find your own way and your own processes.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I like gelato. I don't like chocolate. I think the Star Wars movies should have stopped with the original trilogy, and I try to pretend the later movies never happened. I used to love unicorns, and then I hated them, but now I love them again.
I've just turned in the third and final Faerie book (from Liza's point of view, anyway) to my editor. So many years after writing BONES OF FAERIE’s opening scene, it feels like Liza and I have traveled a long way together, and I'm going to miss her.