Meet the Author: Marie Brennan
Getting on to cooler stuff. Marie Brennan is our last author interview for December and what a fun ride to talk to her. She’s been on my TBR list for Midnight Never Come since it came out and I’m already a fan of the Warrior and Witch books. I’m hoping I’ll get to it here in the next couple weeks.
Housekeeping: this is the last day to comment to go into the end of the month drawing. A gift card to Barnes and Noble and a book from one of our December authors of your choice is on the line!
How would you classify your fantasy? (For example, epic, historical, classic, re-told fairy tale, low fantasy… etc.)
The series I’m writing at present is historical fantasy, set in London at different points in time. The first book, Midnight Never Come, takes place in the Elizabethan period; its sequel In Ashes Lie covers the Civil War the following century. My first two novels, however, are more middle-of-the-genre adventure fantasy.
From the mouth of the author:
What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?
I really don’t like Destiny. Except in the hands of *extremely* good authors, it tends to render the protagonist’s choices less meaningful; I’d rather read about a character who *decides* to step up to the plate and solve a problem, instead of one who’s been fated from birth to do so. The motif can work if you use it to explore questions of free will and the like, but too many authors use it as a convenient jump-starter for their plot, to explain why this random nobody is so special they’re going to save the world.
What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why? No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.
I’m a pretty big fan of faeries, which I *do* write about. They tie in well with my folklore background, and because “faerie” is a pretty broad category, there’s a wide variety of things you can do with them in a story.
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?
The Internet, easily. It contains infinite distractions, many of which update regularly, so that it’s easy to decide I need to check and see if any of them have posted new content.
With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?
Curling up in the armchair and reading. I grew up in Dallas, so things like ice-skating or snowball fights were a rarity, and being outside in the cold is not something I particularly enjoy.
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?
Not really. I try not to snack too much while working, though sometimes I’ll have a bowl of trail mix on my desk that I can munch from.
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?
I very rarely write villains, as it happens. My plots more often involve antagonists: people who are genuinely trying to do what they believe is the right thing, but their “right thing” lies at cross-purposes to the protagonist. I find that produces a richer conflict, because the opposition isn’t as clear-cut right-and-wrong — and it usually means the protagonist can’t take the easy way out of their problems by killing the bad guy.
Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?
Tiresias, the mad seer in Midnight Never Come. He isn’t the actual Greek Tiresias — he’s just named that because of his prophetic gift — but man, writing a crazy person is *hard*. Making somebody wacky and random? Easy. But creating a compelling madness, something that seems to have its own logic and contains buried fragments of truth . . . that’s much, much more difficult. The book contains five interludes from his point of view, and I think it’s fair to say they were one of the hardest parts to write.
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?
Hmmmm. I don’t tend so much to fall in love with specific lines; more often it’s a scene I don’t want to cut. There’s an outtake from the first act of Midnight Never Come that had Deven, one of the protagonists, interacting with Queen Elizabeth, which I really enjoyed because it showed a side of her that didn’t come through anywhere else in the novel. She loved to ride very fast, and as one of her bodyguards Deven has to keep up with her, so it’s this scene where she’s playing a little game by trying to outrace him, and he gets to see a side of her that’s more the woman Elizabeth, instead of the Virgin Queen.
What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?
Not so much that I tell myself I *will* change it as I wish I *could*: writing late at night. My best working hours start at about 10 p.m. and go until about 3 a.m.; I kind of wish I operated better on a more normal schedule.
If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?
I’d probably have to choose Diana Wynne Jones, though I fear my attempts to pick her brain would degenerate into aimless fangirl babbling. If I had to point to one author who’s responsible for me being a writer today, it would be her.
From the mouth Lune, the faerie protagonist of Midnight Never Come, which is why her responses sound a little archaic.
What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?
Never cease thinking. If your author is like mine, the trials you face will require you to solve the riddle or learn the history or find the solution no one expects. Brute force will only rarely avail you.
How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?
For those of us whose nature is magical, they are as commonplace as breathing — but their power is limited. While I might wish to be a great enchantress, I suspect it would not rescue me from the need for quick thinking.
What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?
With aid. ‘Tis a rare hero who knows all and can do all, without another to guard his back.
Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?
Mortals may love until they die. Faeries may love — until the one they love dies. The grief that follows lasts forever.
Magic artifacts? Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…
All of that and more. But my greatest protection has come from the most ordinary of things: mortal bread. Use lies in everything, if you can but find it.
Thanks so much to Marie and Lune!