September 29, 2014

Fierce Reads Interview + Giveaway!

I love when the Fierce Reads tour comes to town, so when I was asked to be the designated tour stop blogger, I was over the moon! Why wouldn't I want to interview the incredibly talented Ann Aguirre, Caragh M. O'Brien and Marie Rutkoski?

Of course, the event itself was brilliant, as well. Books of Wonder brought Emmy Laybourne (author of yet another brilliant Macmillan title, Monument 14) in to moderate and, as always, she brought the laughs. There was a quiz and those who took part in the quiz won ARCs. There was also the one prepared participant who asked a question with the word "moth" in it, and she won a coveted ARC of The Winner's Crime, the sequel to Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse

But let's circle back to the interview I did with the lovely Fierce Read ladies. We had such a great time and everyone gave such fantastic answers... 

This is the Fierce Reads 2014 Tour. Let's do a quick ice breaker: Your name, where you're from and once fun fact about you.

Caragh: I'm Caragh O'Brein, I'm from Connecticut and I'm really excited to be in New York. We just had a toast, up in the Macmillan building. It was really nice. We got to meet all of the people involved in making our books.
Marie: I am Marie Rutkoski and I'm a really good thumb wrestler.
Ann: Hi I'm Ann Aguirre and I'm here. I'm here!

What's the elevator pitch for your book?

Marie: So I don't have a short thing -
Ann: Young girl buys hot boy.
Marie: That's probably the best way to describe it. It takes place in a world where there an empire that's taking over territories and enslaving populations they conquer and it's a story of a young girl who ends up buying a slave at an auction. She has no idea that the hope is that the slave is a member of the rebellion and he's been planted as a spy in her household.
Ann: Young girl buys hot boy who's actually a spy.
Caragh: The Vault of Dreamers takes place at a boarding school, a school for the arts that also doubles as a reality TV show and nobody's dreams are safe.
Ann: Imagine a world where, if you believe in a nightmare, it becomes real.

Would you want to be friends with your main character now and would you have been friends with your main character when you were a teen?

Marie: We'd be friends. I'd be friends with both Kestrel and Arin, I think. At both periods of my life. Though, I think it would be hard to be just friends with Arin. Because, he's hot.
Caragh: I would be friends with Rosie. We would sort of circle each other warily for a while and then we would really connect with each other and we would be good friends. But, now, she's a teenager and she wouldn't have any interest in me because I'm a grown up. She's really interested in her own world and people her own age.
Marie: Oh, I guess I didn't really think about the fact that they wouldn't grow with us. I would respect her enough to do her own thing now. She's her own thing.
Ann: Probably not. We were both weird and awkward and we didn't have friends, so, no.

Photo taken after the interview by the lovely Ksenia.
Do you think your novels would be as effective written for a different age group, say Adult or Middle Grade? Or do you think your story is distinctly YA?

Caragh: There's no way. Mine's absolutely a Young Adult novel because the issues that Rosie is dealing with are so wonderful for a person who's 15 so if she was 25 you would just wonder why she didn't have things together more and if she was younger it just wouldn't work. There's a different sophistication that's going on with all the layers of the novel and what's evil and everything. I don't think I could have pulled it off at all in a Middle Grade novel.
Ann: What she said.
Marie: I think the themes in the book are too mature for Middle Grade readership. I think that it could conceivable age up, but the characters would still have to be very young, in their 20s. I think it could move up, but it's best that it doesn't. I think, especially because Kestrel's relationship with her father is so fraught and she really wants to please him and that's something that really suits someone in their teen years.

You're all in, at least, your second series. What's the shift between series been like? 

Ann: It's always a struggle to start something new because, just because you have a bunch of devoted readers from one thing, it doesn't automatically mean that they will follow you and so it kind of feels like your'e reinventing the wheel every time. I guess if I wrote the same sort of thing - like all my books were fantasy or all my books were science fiction then it might be a little easier but I can't seem to commit like that. It's tough, especially when you're doing something as bizarre as what I'm doing, I think I was hoping that there would be more of a follow through from the Razorland series, but it is a pretty big leap to this strange YA horror fantasy mash-up that I'm doing. It's pretty far from dystopian, but hopefully a lot of readers will give it a shot.
Caragh: I feel like it was really important to write the next idea that was exciting to me and I wanted to stay in science fiction because it's such a huge area that it wasn't a limiting thing at all to want to stay there. And then I had this idea that I was completely intrigued by and I just trusted, or hoped, that people who had enjoyed the Birthmarked trilogy because of what I did with character and plot, I hoped that those readers would be interested to see what I could do with a new idea. And I also don't think people want the same thing, even if it's from me. I think that they're expecting me to challenge myself as much as I can, and this book was definitely a huge challenge to write. I feel like I've kind of jumped off a cliff and I'm chasing myself down the gravity into the abyss. That's where I'm going, into the abyss. But it's my abyss.
Marie: I think that it was really exciting. My first trilogy was set in an alternative version of Europe in the Renaissance, but in my world there was magic and that was really fun. It was fun to add to a world that I already knew and to change the rules of a world that I already knew. But it was much more liberating to create my own world, and I liked not having any fantasy in it. It's a fantasy because it's made up but it's a very realistic story and I enjoyed that. I love world building. It's once of the greatest pleasures to me in writing.

Taken during the event itself - you can just see Emmy Laybourne, a moderator, on the right!
In fantasy and all it's subcategories, there's a lot of world building that goes into it. Do you have a process or outlining technique to keep track of all of the world building? What's it like building a whole world like that?

Caragh: For me, the world, the setting, is a combination of the physical setting of the book and the societal expectations, which are connected to the physical setting. So in the case of The Vault of Dreamers, it's set at a boarding school with all these cameras and the way the kids have to survive being seen all the time. For some it's invigorating and it charges them up and enhances their creativity and for other students like Rosie, it's an oppressive things. So developing the novel meant imagining the physical place with all of the cameras at the boarding school but also imagining what that does to everybody. As Rosie was developing in the book I had to figure out where the cameras were and what the rules were - how long they would have to sleep and whether they could use their cellphones so they could get around the limits of the place.
Marie: Patricia Wrede has a site online that asks a lot of different question about the world you've created. It's a site I'd recommend to anybody. It's full of really great questions that a writer can ask themselves: What is the religion of this world? What is the currency? All of the things we might take for granted in our own world and I don't know that I would necessarily say that that was a huge part of my process but it was super helpful. I did do that at the beginning of writing The Winner's Curse.
Ann: Everything I know about the world I find out from my characters. It's not that I sit down with a piece of paper or an index card and start arbitrarily making rules. My character divulge everything to me about the world that they live in and I just make sure I'm consistent with everything they tell me.

Don't forget! The Twitter Chat is happening tonight!
What are some of your childhood favorites and what are your favorite books you're reading now that you would recommend?

Marie: As a kid, the books that made an impression on me were Katherine Paterson's books. Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terebithia especially as well as the Susan Cooper The Darkness Rising series. And Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books - all of her books, especially The Blue Castle, which is her romance novel. As for books I've read recently - there are so many. I love The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I love Caragh and Ann's books. I keep wanting to recommend underrated books like Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen Thief books, or Franny Billingsley's Chime.
Ann: That's beautiful.
Marie: It really is. It's so poignant.
Caragh: When I was a kid I really like A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was just a really magical story for me. I really liked the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan series. Those were really incredible stories to me too, that someone could be growing up in a jungle and then find a way to create language. And there's a book by Rafael Sabatini called Captain Blood and there was an Errol Flynn movie made out of it but I thought the book itself was really great. These days I've been reading a lot of different stuff. I really like The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely, which is about a boy who's abused by a Catholic Priest and he has to figure out a way to deal with that. That was a really powerful book. I liked Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I also liked The Goldfinch.
Ann: When I was a kid, probably the most important book to me was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle because the heroine was smart and weird and awkward and she wasn't at all concerned by it. She didn't care about fitting in. All she cared about was her family and what happened to her dad and taking care of her brother and she went on amazing adventures and she eventually met a cute boy who liked her even though she was weird and awkward and all of that really spoke to me. More recently I would really highly recommend Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. It's wonderful. I very highly recommend Gates of Thread and Stone by Laurie M. Lee, also very gripping. I just started, on the train in from Boston, Jackaby by William Ritter. I'm about 70 pages in and I'm really enchanted. My plan for tonight is to go curl up in bed with it and hopefully finish it.

What's the biggest takeaway you want your readers to get from you book?

Ann: Buy book two!
Marie: That's a good message.
Ann: Mine is, at the end of book three, haha you totally read the whole trilogy!
Caragh: Mine is that you should trust in your art.
What about you Marie?
Ann: Be really careful when buying hot boys.
Marie: It's hard for me to choose just one message. I think one would be that smart is sexy. I think it's also about the difficulties of being true to yourself. How it's all very well and easy to say be true to yourself but what happens when being true to yourself hurt somebody else and how do you negotiate your own desires with the desires of other people.

So here's the last question: A lot of authors have been asked recently to sort their characters in Hogwarts houses. Where would you sort your characters and where would you be sorted?

Ann: I have been officially sorted as Hufflepuff and Edie would be Ravenclaw.
Caragh: I have been told by people who have been sorted that I am a Gryffindor.
Marie: I think that I'm a Ravenclaw. I think it's because I'm not brace enough to be a Gryffindor.
Ann: Are you not sneaky and mean?
Marie: You mean Slytherin? I think I would be Slytherin so I could use their pool. Don't they have that amazing bathhouse? I wouldn't like to hang out with Slytherins, though. I'd just want to use their bathhouse, wherever that thing is.
Caragh: That's ambitious of you. Maybe you are Slytherin.
Ann: I think you are Slytherin.
Marie: No, I'm kind of nerdy, so I think I'd be at home in Ravenclaw. And I think that Arin is definitely Gryffindor. Kestrel's, well, Kestrel's manipulative, so maybe she's a Slytherin.
Caragh: And I think Rosie's a Gryffindor. She's very brave. She's just very brave. There's something straightforward about her. She can be manipulative too, but then she realizes she's manipulative so at least she's honest with herself about what she's done.

And this point in the interview, we sort of incoherently dissolved into a conversation about fanfic terms. Terms mentioned? Woobie and Lemon, but let's keep this post PG, shall we?

Thanks so much to Ann, Caragh and Marie for sitting down with me and answering all of my questions!


One lucky winner will receive a copy of Mortal DangerThe Vault of Dreamers & The Winner’s Curse!

~To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. DO NOT enter using the comments.
~ You must be 13 years or older or have a guardian's permission to enter.
~ Prize will be fulfilled by Macmillan.
~ The winners will be chosen randomly. Once chosen, the winners will be emailed. They will then have 48 HOURS to respond, otherwise another winner will be chosen.
~ The giveaway is US ONLY.
~ I reserve the right to disqualify anyone who tries to cheat the system. I WILL be checking the winning entry.
~ Giveaway ends October 7th 11:59 EST

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Be sure to check out the other Fierce Reads bloggers for more recaps, interviews and giveaways!

Downers Grove, IL: YA Bibliophile | @HMZ1505
Exeter, NH: Love is Not a Triangle | @LaurayJames
Cambridge, MA: Ticket to Anywhere | @Irisheyz77
Collegeville, PA: Perpetual Page Turner | @BrokeandBookish
Charleston, SC: Reading Underground | @andriaamaral

And don't forget about the second leg of the tour....