So, this interview is trickier than some as I've only been able to read your first novel, LAMENT, and the short fiction you've posted at Merry Sisters of Fate. (Ordinarily I read as much as I can possibly get my hands on, but alas, no ARCs for SHIVER or BALLAD, so I'm flying in the dark, I'm afraid.) Nevertheless, I shall soldier on.
1. Your first novel, published by Flux, was LAMENT: The Faerie Queen's Deception. In it, we follow Deirdre Monaghan, a talented 16-year old harpist who finds that she's a "cloverhand" – a person who can see faeries – and her developing awareness of her "gift", as well as her relationship with Luke, a soulless faerie assassin, and with her best friend James, who has gifts of his own. LAMENT includes references to Irish folk songs, Celtic folk and fairy tales, Alexander the Great, Thomas the Rhymer (a Scots prophet), Shakespeare and Spenser.
Why the interest in Celtic and English legend? Did the initial drafts of the manuscript include all of these elements, or was that something that evolved over time?
Oh man. The initial drafts were even geekier. I’m a folklore magpie, and I love finding similar threads in different tales and myths and poking them into plot holes. I’m afraid this only continues unabated in BALLAD.
Actually, it’s interesting, because one of the big challenges for me when writing SHIVER, which deals with a quasi-scientific (I’ve always wanted to use “quasi”) explanation for werewolves, was that I couldn’t fall back on fun legend for my plot twists or character backgrounds. I had to – gasp – rely on real life.
2. The follow-up to LAMENT is BALLAD: A Gathering of Faerie (due out on October 1st), which is set at an exclusive school for humans possessing other-worldly gifts. From reading your blog and website, I know that the main character in BALLAD is not Dee/Deirdre, but rather James, and that it involves James's entanglement with a faerie muse named Nuala. Nuala feeds off the souls of creative young men just like James, trading her inspiration for pieces of the men, but finds herself so intrigued by James (a talented piper who has refused her "gift") that she begins to offer James inspiration at no cost to himself. Meanwhile, James is trying to work out the precise nature of Dee's role in a deadly faerie game, including a need to choose one girl to save.
How much do the elements that were in LAMENT come into play in BALLAD? Is there further Celtic myth and music? What other influences can we expect to see?
There is much, much Celtic myth and old stuff in BALLAD, of a generally darker variety than in LAMENT. Readers will spot references to Herne/Cernunnos, Leda & the Swan, Hamlet, phoenix (the mythical creature, not the sunny vacation spot for snowbirds), and more, much more! BALLAD: now with 20% more folklore and 0 grams of fat!
Also, the reader can definitely expect to see Dee in an entirely different light. She’s still very much the center of the faerie conundrum, and so even without a point of view, she’s a huge player. However, I do love me some evil Nuala.
3. Having read your blog and website, I know that you yourself play the Celtic harp (like Deirdre) and the bagpipes (like James). How long have you been playing each of the instruments? What's your favorite tune to play on the harp? On the pipes? When (as in LAMENT) you craft an original work, do you set it to music in real life?
I am sort of a multi-instrumental person. I think of myself as a musician in general rather than just a player of one particular thing (although I think the pipes are my best instrument). I’ve been playing both the pipes and the harp since I was about 16; since a car crash, I’ve had to put the pipes down though, much to my sadness. I still play a bunch of other things, but the pipes really were me.
Favorite tune on the harp changes depending on my mood! I have a lovely bong-y low minor air that I’ve completely forgotten the name of. And “The South Wind” is a crowd favorite. I love all jigs. When I die, put “she loved jigs” on my gravestone, please.
And yep, most of the original music you see mentioned in my books has a real tune that originated in my living room or my shower. Sam in SHIVER constantly crafts lyrics, and many of those have tunes that go with them. Not that you’ll ever hear me sing. In public.
Will there be a further book (or books) involving Deirdre and/or James?
I am actually in the planning stages of one right now, called FUGUE. For the moment. It’s all very nebulous at the moment, but it will of course involve homicidal faeries and kissing, as all the books in the series do. Also, water, I think. BALLAD was all about FIRE and BURNING which was very entertaining, but I’m in the mood for another element now.
5. In August comes the release from Scholastic of SHIVER, the first book in the SHIVER series, which follows the relationship of Grace, a teenaged girl, with a pack of wolves who live in the forest near her house during the winter, and with Sam, a teenaged boy with extremely familiar-looking yellow eyes. In your guest-appearance at Lori Devoti's blog in April, you mentioned that your werewolves aren't particularly "were-" in nature, but are more shape-shifters – either all human (for a few brief months) or all wolf. Knowing how you came to figure out more about the wolves of Mercy Falls, I'm wondering more about Grace. What can you tell us about where she came from?
Actually, Grace’s character is a response to Sam’s coolness: namely, he turns into a wolf! Whoo! That is cool! However, in a lot of urban fantasy, the female lead has to become a super kick-butt leather-bodice-wearing chick in order to have the same level of coolness as her supernatural hero. I didn’t want Grace to be that girl. I wanted her to be a strong, level-headed character who was cool without leather and rivets and Taekwondo. So Grace became this extremely practical, loyal girl capable of great things in a very ordinary way . . . and she also has fun backstory which I will NOT TELL YOU.
6. Based on your use of the term "werewolf nookie" to describe SHIVER, am I right in categorizing the book as paranormal romance (as opposed to urban fantasy, which is, I believe, the proper label for LAMENT & BALLAD)? In your opinion, how do you differentiate between the categories of paranormal romance and urban fantasy? (I ask because this is often a Burning Question in the minds of both readers and writers of fantasy.)
I’m pretty sure that SHIVER is definitely a paranormal romance, because the point of the book is the love story (I like to call it a love story instead of a romance, as romance implies a happily-ever-after). I think an urban fantasy is a novel that can have significant romantic elements, but the resolution of the romance is not the point of the novel. So I agree with you. LAMENT & BALLAD are not about whether or not the characters end up together, but rather whether or not they end up in one piece. So no amount of nookie will change that.
7. I know that SHIVER was part of a two-book deal with Scholastic, and that you've recently completed revisions for the sequel, LINGER, which is due out in 2010. LINGER is described as a continuation of "the story of the wolves of Mercy Falls". Will we be seeing Grace again in LINGER? Will additional books follow in this series?
I can’t tell you anything about LINGER. I could, but I’d have to transform you into a wolf so you couldn’t speak. Pretty much everything I have to say about LINGER’s plot would be spoilery, which is quite entertaining and maddening, but I can say that it follows the story of the wolves of Mercy Falls and uses at least one of the same narrators (there are two) from SHIVER. And it will be a trilogy, barring alien invasions. The final book is tentatively titledFOREVER right now and I can’t. stop. thinking. about. it.
8. In addition to both the Faerie and Shiver series, you've written a great deal of short fiction over at the Merry Sisters of Fate. I'd have to assume, given your commitment there and the amount of short fiction you've written, that short stories and retellings of fairy tales are of particular interest to you. Why is that, do you think? What's the payoff?
Woof. You ask good questions! Last year at Merry Sisters of Fate, I posted a short story just about every Friday, for a total of 45 short stories. I learned an incredible amount about establishing character in a very short period of time and about writing voice and making every word count. It was amazing. I highly recommend it to the more masochistic writers out there. This year, we’re changing it to two stories a month from each of us, to make it more manageable to readers and us alike, but I wouldn’t have given up last year for anything.
9. What's next?
What’s not? I’m working on a love story that is 90% realistic and 10% paranormal, cooking up FUGUE, working on ideas for FOREVER, doing sketches for a graphic novel called THE OCTOBER COAT, and generally making trouble.
Cheese or chocolate? Chocolate. Dark as hell, please.
Coffee or tea? Tea. 4 cups a day. Much sugar in it.
Cats or dogs? Dogs. And cats who think they’re dogs.
Favorite color? Black. Is that a color? I’m making it a color.
Favorite snack food? Cookie dough. And tea.
Favorite ice cream? Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Directly out of the container. Whilst sitting on the couch watching The Princess Bride or Hot Fuzz, preferably.
Water or soda? Water. I’m allergic to preservatives, so soda would make me do twitchy, dying, drooling things.
What's in your CD player/on iTunes right now? A wishy-washy Celtic mix of Loreena McKennitt, Cape Breton music, Cran, John Doyle, and other things that I was using to write the synopsis for FUGUE.
What's the last movie you memorized lines from? Kung Fu Panda.:
“You are free to eat.”
Other stops on the SBBT today:
Barbara O'Connor at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Bildungsroman
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray