Meet The Author: Juliet Marillier
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Enough from me…. on to the interview! (~K)
Lives: Perth, Western Australia
Webpage: Juliet Marillier
Books: The Sevenwaters Trilogy, The Bridei Chronicals, Wolfskin, Foxmask, Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret, Heir to Sevenwaters
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Celtic Fantasy
From the mouth of the author:
1. What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?
My number one book pet-peeve is head-hopping – constant changes of point of view within one scene. It’s still pretty common in fantasy writing and distances the reader from the main protagonists. My number two pet peeve is writers using ‘lay’ when they mean ‘lie’, and editors who don’t correct it.
2. What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why? No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.
The non-human characters in my books would be deeply offended if I ever referred to them as critters. They’d prefer to be considered somewhat similar to humans, but superior in all ways that matter. Most of them come from mythology or folklore, but I take quite a few liberties with them. I had a lot of fun with the Irish mythological race of Fomhoire in the Sevenwaters books, especially HEIR TO SEVENWATERS – they have become distinct individuals now with personal quirks. Their strongest skill is being able to blend with the surrounding landscape, whether it be water, stone, foliage or whatever. This has ensured their survival over many generations.
3. We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?
My two dogs, a Miniature Pinscher and a Maltese / Bichon cross. They are always up for more cuddles, snacks or walkies, so it’s easy to use that as an excuse to stop work – who could resist a little dog’s softly pleading eyes? I brew and drink a lot of tea and coffee, especially as my current work space is the kitchen table. Using the Internet for non-essential purposes is another great way to waste time. Close to deadlines, I disable the modem so I can’t obsessively check my email or visit favourite sites. I don’t switch off the dogs or the kettle.
4. With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?
Curling up with the dogs and reading a great book while drinking tea. Or at least, that’s what I’d do if it actually was winter, but I live in Australia, where Christmas coincides with summer. That means the dogs and I are more likely to be paddling in the nearby river or collapsed in a heap under the shade of a big tree. Summers are extremely hot here.
5. I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?
I have a mug of Twinings Earl Grey on hand pretty much all the time. (See above regarding kitchen as workspace.) Food-wise, I graze on whatever is to hand. Sitting at the computer eating and drinking most of the day tends to lead to ‘writer’s bum’ (in American, I guess that would be ‘writer’s butt’) so I also go to the gym three times a week.
6. What does it take to write a really good villain? Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?
Over the course of twelve books my villains have become a lot better (by ‘better’ I mean subtler and more interesting as characters – they’re no less evil.) In my first book I wrote a cardboard cutout villain. I even included a ‘since you’re about to die, I will now explain in great detail all the evil things I’ve done’ scene. These days, I guess I don’t write ‘villains’ as such. I’m intrigued by characters whose moral codes are a bit askew, or characters lacking the ability to come to terms with certain aspects of their existence. It’s interesting to explore their motivation and to look at how nature and nurture shaped them. Mac Dara, the prince of the Fair Folk from HEIR TO SEVENWATERS, is a complex character, with his own motivations and his own weird logic to back up his decisions. Some of my bad characters, such as the seriously warped Somerled in WOLFSKIN, are extremely popular with readers. A sympathetic baddie is a good baddie. Do I ever shock myself? No, but I don’t enjoy writing the scenes where unspeakable things happen.
7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?
Faolan from the Bridei Chronicles gets the prize for being the most trouble AND for being my favourite. Clearly unhappy with his intended bit-part as assassin and spy, he moved himself up to hero’s best friend in THE DARK MIRROR, then insisted on taking the central role in the second and third books in that series. One book to introduce him, one to break his heart, one to let him sort his life out. Hardest to write for has been Anluan, the male protag of the novel I’ve just finished, HEART’S BLOOD. He is such a burdened character, he and I both had to dig deep to find his heroic qualities.
8. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. Stephen King even says we should kill them. What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?
I prune nature descriptions, pagan rituals and angsty internal monologues. I’m getting better at recognising what is slowing the story down. Looking back at some of my earlier books, I can see a couple of passages that cry out for the editorial red pen.
9. What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?
A tendency to wordiness. I’m working on it. Writing two novels for young adults, with a shorter word count, taught me to write more tightly.
10. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?
I enjoy discussing the craft of writing. The authors I most admire are those who combine excellent technical skills with great storytelling ability. I’ve already interviewed the two fantasy authors I most wanted to talk to, Jacqueline Carey and Joe Abercrombie, for genre writing blog www.writerunboxed.com. I’d love to talk about writing technique with Orson Scott Card – I especially admire the earlier books in his Alvin Maker series, in which he makes brilliant use of voice. I’d like to interview Margo Lanagan, whose recent novel, Tender Morsels, is a dark and gritty variation on Snow White and Rose Red.
From the mouth of Clodagh, the narrator of HEIR TO SEVENWATERS:
1. What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?
Recognise your own strengths and trust your own judgment. Who would have thought my sewing ability could have achieved what it did? It helps to have capable friends, too.
2. How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?
My author has a theory that ordinary women can be heroes without needing magical powers, so she didn’t give me any except for the ability to mind-talk with my twin sister, and that only got me in more trouble. She didn’t give me any combat skills, either, because she has another theory that her stories need to be plausible within their historical and cultural context. As it happens, I did quite well with just my common sense, courage and readiness to accept outsiders. Oh, I did get one small magical device to use. Judging by what happened, I think I’d have been better off without it.
3. What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?
We don’t have any of those in our stories. What has to be vanquished is fear or prejudice or a crippling memory. We did face a dark prince of the Tuatha de Danann. This time around, we got the better of him by courage and cleverness, and a smidgeon of magical craft. It was a case of out-tricking the trickster. I feel sure there will be a next time; he wasn’t happy.
4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?
My author believes in true love, but she thinks it’s unrealistic to have everyone live happily ever after. My beloved and I got a ‘happy for the foreseeable future BUT…’ sort of ending. It’s enough to be going on with; I’m a practical person. When you have a powerful enemy, you don’t expect to live the rest of your life in peace.
5. Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…
In the right hands, this kind of thing can be very useful. In untrained hands (mine, for instance) it’s a really bad idea. In our type of story, it’s not magical trappings that save the day but human virtues such as courage, faith, love and loyalty. In other words, it’s what a person is INSIDE that makes the difference. (Wait – my author just pointed out that her next story contains magical mirrors, grimoires and a spectral horse … Oh, it’s all right, my beloved tells me we’re not in that one.)