Interview with Sarah and Holly Black – Newcastle, Nov 6th 2013
Nov 6th 2013
K: So, I’m here with Sarah Rees Brennan and Holly Black to talk about their current and upcoming novels! Let’s start right away.
Sarah, the second part of your Lynburn Legacy trilogy recently came out and now we’re all stoked for what’s going to happen next. What can we expect from Unmade? Anything you can tell us about it?
S: From Unmade you can expect some people to kiss who have never kissed before. Absolutely no immediate rescue of anybody… in fact Unmade starts several months after Untold.
K: Oh, but you can’t leave Jared in the tomb!
S: *evil voice* Oh, I can. Oh, I think you will find that I can, my friend.
K: [I was very worried at this point] But he does get out alive?
S: Sure, he’ll come out alive and then gets tortured with knives and – I’ll spoil this for you – he gets put back in. So he gets out alive, gets put back in – take him out, put him in.
K: Poor Jared…
S: *evil laugh*
K: Holly, I read Coldest Girl in Coldtown and it was my favourite vampire novel ever [not kidding, guys – go check it out, if you haven't yet!] and my question is: I know it’s supposed to be stand-alone, but is there a chance that you might go back to the world or the characters at some point?
H: There’s definitely a chance I would go back. I liked the book’s ending alone because I feel it ends in a really nice place, but I know what happens after the end and I know where I would start if there was another book, but whether that’s going to happen depends on a lot of things… it depends on what my editor would like. You know, I’m towards the end of The Darkest Part of the Forest, so we’ll see how that goes and think about what happens next, but it really depends on my editor.
K: Hopefully then! Next question’s for both of you: When writing The Lynburn Legacy and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – what scenes were most fun to write (so far)?
H: Hm, for me I think the most fun scenes were the ones with Lucian and Gavriel and Tana all together. I really, really loved writing those. Lucian is a lot of fun to write and it’s really fun to play out on Tana’s reaction to them and how they play up with each other and, you know, how Tana is obviously the only sensible person in that room. *laughs*
K: And Sarah?
S: Almost the last scene, the one from Jared’s point of view at the end of Untold.
K: The torturing scene – for him and the readers.
S: I do love torturing people, but it was also one of the first things I knew when I decided to write a gothic novel. It was like: I know at some point this is gonna happen and so I was leaving little clues for it, some clues you don’t even know about, yet.
K: Would you share one?
S: Well, there is a mosaic in Unspoken that Jared is actually behind.
K: Ohh! I gotta re-read it now.
S: Mhm! So, yes, the second-last scene of the second book was my favourite thing to write so far and I’ve been building up to it all along and finally I was able to explode it on people.
K: Oh yeah… I remember reading it and thinking “Oh no! You can’t!”. I mean, it wasn’t as emotionally devastating as Unspoken’s ending, but…
S: I shouldn’t have let my editor convince me to write that last scene. I should just have ended it with Jared, that would have been more painful… *evil voice again* Better!
Okay, back the questions. If I asked either you for any side facts or deleted scenes from your books – could you think of any to tell me about?
H: Well, I generally don’t have all scenes that I have excised, but in an early draft of CGICT when they went to Coldtown, they were super excited to be there so they spent a lot of time having fun there. So, originally when they went and stayed with Midnight and Winter’s friends it was a way better situation, and I really enjoyed those scenes. In that version Jameson was actually part of that community and I got to tell more of their story and by realizing that they couldn’t all live together and that it had to be a much more dangerous situation I did really miss out on giving the interaction between all the kids. But I realized it can’t be nothing but fun once you get to Coldtown, or at least it has to be much more tension-filled fun, and so I ripped all that out and changed it. I think that’s the thing I miss the most, those really fun scenes between all of them.
K: So you would have liked to go deeper into the fun side of Coldtown?
H: I would have liked to, however, there still is a lot of fun. I mean those scenes were fun in themselves, but pacing-wise they were a mistake.
K: I found it interesting that you killed off your characters so fast, so after a while I was wondering whether anybody would actually be left at the end.
H: You know, funny enough, even in the fun version, that happened. *laughs*
K: Only they died in a fun way?
H: No, no, they died in the same way. That was the end of the fun.
K: Yeah, some casualties might spoil the fun.
H: Yeah, that’s when they realized things might also go bad – but even then it was still fun!
K: Sarah, any deleted scenes from Untold?
S: Oh, I mean I never delete things of substance, I just always go on for ages… like in The Demon’s Lexicon series there were 30 pages of Jamie drunk. Drunk Jamie antics! And I thought it was hilarious.
K: I would really love to read the very first version of your books at some point.
S: Oh you wouldn’t. They’re very bad. That second book that I wrote…
K: Yes, especially this one.
H: I wanna read that one, too.
S: Nobody is every going to read that one.
H: I can’t get it out of her. Once when she sleeps I’ll get it from her computer.
S: It’s not on this computer – several computers back. My editor, I sent it to her and then I sent her an email saying: No, no, I take it back, take it all back – and she promised me she didn’t read it, so no one but me knows my shame. You know, I feel like a second book is always about emotions, it’s where you bring up the emotional tension, raise the stakes on all levels… In Untold I closed the town. In Unspoken it was just the situation Kami and her friends were dealing with and now in Untold it’s about the whole town – the whole town is snapped shut, like a closed room murder – and that’s definitely not where you deal with the emotional stuff in book two cause you can’t resolve anything – and so the make-outs were where I was trying to make things emotional, but you know, making-out isn’t necessarily emotional, you have to put the other stuff in, too. *laughs* That was my mistake.
K: I think the scene where Jared’s trying to perform the ritual was very emotional. By the way, in comparison to book one it seemed to me that in book two there were rather few new things we learned about the Lynburn family’s history and secrets…
S: Well, there’s their biggest secret to be revealed in Unmade, but I wanted to get more outside the family’s story and also didn’t want it to seem as if the previous story was the more important story so I wanted readers to learn more about the current characters. I started to include Ash’s point of view and Holly’s point of view and we learn a lot more about Holly’s family in this book. So it was like, okay, the Lynburns were the first, and then, of course, Kami’s family also all found out, so it was also about Kami’s family – and Jon indeed becomes an integral part of it. So, the Lynburns got their shot and now we have more of the Glasses and more of the Prescotts, too. I mean that end scene where you find out the mystery of Edmund Prescott – which people didn’t know was a mystery, but I couldn’t mention it and I thought: “Somebody’s got to pick up on this”. And someone did and said, “This guy didn’t leave town.” And I said: “You’re right, random reader! You guessed it!”. So I felt like in book one I was setting up mysteries and revealing the mysteries I had set up and in book two I would reveal the mysteries I had set up in book one no one knew were mysteries and be like: “I have to trust that the readers will realize what I’m doing.”
K: Very mysterious indeed.
Okay, slight change of topic. Tell the Wind and Fire. Sarah, can you tell us anything about it? Have you finished it?
S: I have finished it. It’s currently with my editor and she said she cried at the ending – which makes me very happy.
K: Does it have much to do with the original novel or is it completely different?
S: Uhm, it has a lot to do with it, but, you know, Madame Defarge is the character who’s actually being reproduced, because she’s great. She is the villainess and she gets this really great speech at the end where she explains why she intervened – and she has really good reasons, like: “Lady, you have suffered, you should absolutely get your revenge – on no, wait, there are heroes, dear me.” It was also really interesting to read A Tale of Two Cities and realize everybody loves Sidney Carton, the anti-hero, and thinks he must have a dark past, but he doesn’t, he’s just really gloomy and talks really beautifully, but it’s Charles, the hero, who has the dark past and who has this really evil family and I thought he is this really interesting guy. So having a genuinely well-meaning guy who has darks secrets and an evil family and then a guy who has also suffered, but who doesn’t have an evil uncle, for instance, but goes like, “But I have a cursed soul”, and having a girl who’s being put in this box of the golden-haired angel … It was interesting to explore the things that Charles Dickens had set up. And I have magic – that’s what I like, like sprinkles on ice cream.
K: How are you incorporating that into the story?
S: My two cities is New York, separated by dark and light magic, with the dark magic people being ghetto-ized in a way. Carwin – Sydney Carton – is a product of dark magic and Lucy has light magic. You see in the first book what Lucy doesn’t have is power and everybody takes control of her and at one point Sydney Carton refers to her as a “golden-haired doll” and I thought, she shouldn’t be treated like a doll, she’s a person, and what would it be like to be person who is treated like a doll and what if you had power that you could use but didn’t feel like maybe you should? So I wanted to give her more to do and give her more ability to do it.
K: When you say “first book”, are you referring to the original or will this be another series?
S: No, first book of the original I mean. It’s a stand-alone – and you will cry at the end.
K: Oh, great, this sounds like… so much fun already.
H: It’s great.
K: You’ve read it already then?
H: I have.
K: So what’s your opinion on it?
H: It’s great! I think that it’s really great to see Sarah do something with the material. I remember her telling me that it was going slowly and then she send it to me and I thought it was because it is a massive, political, giant, world-building story that does an enormous number of really complicated things at the same time: There’s an enormous number of characters, a lot of political intrigue, a lot of complicated world-building – it is really an amazing achievement and a truly beautiful book, it really is. I mean, she’s threatening everyone with her novel, but there are so many really beautiful moments in it, there is big, gorgeous love at its centers, it’s really a great story.
K: What’s the word count?
S: It’s not that long!
H: It will be. *laughs*
S: No, it’s really short. Well, it’s about as long as one of the Unspoken books – maybe a little shorter, might get bigger, hard to say.
K: Hopefully bigger! Can’t be enough SRB out there.
Holly, you are writing on The Darkest Part of the Forest and also on The Iron Trial, which is co-written by you and Cassie Clare. Is that right?
H: Yes! It’s a middle-grade series of five books and The Iron Trial is the first one.
K: Can you tell us anything about it, yet?
H: It is about a kid called Callum Hunt who’s been raised by a guy who taught him that the absolute worst thing that can happen to you is that the magicians can come for you and take you to their tunnels where they will educate you.
K: So magic is evil?
H: Magic is evil and it is a world where magic is hidden and secret. So this guy who raised Callum had magic, he was a mage, and he gave it all up, but if the mages think you have magical talent they come for you and then you have to do these trials, so he tells Callum the thing he must do is fail at these trials if they come for him. So when he is summoned his goal is to try and make sure he absolutely doesn’t get chosen to be a mage’s apprentice.
K: Or what would happen?
H: Well, mages are evil, magic is evil… and you’ll die *laughs* down there in the Magisterium.
K: Pretty good reason to fail.
K: And maybe you could tell us a bit about The Darkest Part of the Forest, too?
H: It is about a town called Fairfold, which is outside of Philadelphia in the US, and it’s a place where supposedly fairies live in the woods and there’s a fairy prince sleeping in a glass coffin. So tourists would come and visit the place, you know, like they would come for a giant ball of string, and no one would know whether it’s actually real or not and where he is, outside in the woods there’s this carpet of broken beer bottles where kids have come to party for years and years, decades really, generations. And then among them there are Hazel and her brother, who have been in love with this prince since they were young and they’ve told stories about him and one day he’s not there – and they have to figure out what happened.
K: So I suppose he did wake up?
H: Well, he’s not there so something definitely happened!
K: When are the books coming out?
H: Darkest Part is coming out Jan 15 and The Iron Trial is coming out in Fall 2014.
K: And Sarah, Tell the Wind and Fire is coming out in November next year?
S: November, yes. Unmade in September and Tell the Wind and Fire in November – very close together. It’s gonna be the season of Sarah!
K: My favourite season!
Sarah, have you read Holly’s new books as well?
S: Oh yes, I have read The Darkest Part of the Forest and I’ve read The Iron Trial. I love The Darkest Part of the Forest because the main character, Hazel, is, I think, the protagonist most like me Holly’s ever written, which I enjoy! She makes some irrepressible decisions and she leaps into action in perhaps unwise ways, but in ways that I always understand *laughs*, and she dreams big! I really like Hazel. And I like Call from The Iron Trial for the exact opposite reason, which is that he’s super grumpy.
H: He’s really grumpy and sarcastic.
S: “Everything sucks, in my eyes it sucks – also, everybody’s terrible. Losers.” The line I’m most proud of contributing to The Iron Trial is… he’s being beaten up and Holly was like “Does anybody know a really juvenile thing to say in such a situation? What could he yell when other kids are beating him up?” and a really juvenile thing would be to say “sorry”, so I said “Sorry for being awesome!”
K: Cool. I’m looking very forward to all of these!
Okay, so the two of you both created your own worlds with their respective characters and mythology – do you ever miss any of these worlds or characters from previous series and books and would love to go back to them?
H: Well, I’ve just written three stand-alones, not including The Iron Trial which felt like a stand-alone in a way that it’s the first book in a series. I mean, at least I get to keep going with those characters, but I wrote Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and Darkest Part of the Forest and after writing all of those I definitely felt that I was tired of meeting new people and trying to, you know, figure out their stuff. All I want is to hang out with someone I know, any of them – I’d go back to any of them to hang out with them, but the one I’d really love to go back to is the Curse Workers. I’d love to go and hang out more with Cassel and everybody. I know what happens to those people and I really hope I’ll get to write it.
S: For me The Lynburn Legacy is the one I love best so far. I’ve learned a lot about writing from Lexicon and from Team Human as well, of course, so I was able to bring it all to the table and create a world and characters that I loved even more and really, if I could, I would love to write nine books in the series – probably won’t be able to, but if I could each of the three [trilogies] would be about one Glass sibling, so maybe one day I’ll get to write them.
K: Sounds promising for sure!
Okay, final question: If you were a character form each other’s books – already in the story or new to it, who and what would you be?
H: Hm… I think I would be a magician in the Lynburn universe. I definitely would not want to be a magician in The Demon’s Lexicon universe, that is bad news… *laughs* but being a magician in the Lynburn universe, that would be awesome.
K: Would you be a good or a bad magician then?
H: I guess that depends on how things would work out. *laughs*
K: Good answer! And Sarah?
S: Hm, I think I would like to be a vampire in the Coldtown universe as vampire seem to have lots of fun – and also because they like to play up to a crowd, which I do like very much. I think being a faerie is a pain cause they can’t lie and I love lying, lying is awesome. *laughs*
H: How about Workers, what kind of worker would you be?
S: Uhm, a memory worker!
K: You’d be Barren’s girlfriend then.
S: I would be. I would be Barron’s girlfriend and I would try and remind myself to leave him notes reminding him I was his girlfriend and he liked to bring me diamonds everyday … and breakfast! Breakfast and diamonds.
K: What kind of worker would you be, Holly?
H: A death worker!
K: Ohhh, evil!
H: Yeah! [to Sarah] I wonder, would I be a light or a dark magician in Tell the Wind and Fire?
S: I don’t know…
H: Dark magician!
S: Well, for me, I’d do a lot of things… raise the almost dead.
H: I like raising the almost dead.
K: Do you actually get to choose whether you’re light or dark or are you born with a certain kind of power?
S: You’re born with the power and you get relegated and it also means that if you are born with the wrong kind of power in the wrong city it could get very tricky very quickly.
K: Awesome. Thank you both very very much and I’m really looking forward to reading all of your upcoming books!