Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interview + Giveaway with Sarah Rees Brennan!

I love Sara Rees Brennan's series. The Demon's Lexicon blew me away, and The Demon's Covenant was even better! I'm eagerly awaiting book 3, but here's an interview to hold you over until then. 

How do you do research for fight scenes? Do you have a hidden stash of weapons anywhere?

The glorious internet, mostly! I also took fencing lessons, and a single archery lesson. (It... didn't go... so well. But nobody was wounded, and the instructor's hurtful nomination of me as Student Most Likely To Give Herself An Accidental Piercing was unjust!)

I do not have a hidden stash of weapons anywhere... unless you count the fact that one of my housemates works in a museum, and has taken me down to the secret cellars of her workplace and shown me many ancient and excellent blades not seen by the public. (Some of them made with bones.) It's not MY hidden stash of weapons, but it is A hidden stash of weapons...

Your magic system is very unique! Where did you come up with it?

Thank you! My magic system comes from a hodge-podge of things - my love for Christina Rossetti's poem the Goblin Market, fairytales like that about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, my reading about beliefs in demons in Sumerian and Elizabethan times, German tracts about witchcraft, the way I wanted to have a ton of different kinds of magic and magic user, the way I wanted to use magic to talk about language, danger, music and love.

Also often just things that occurred to me as Super Cool. I'm, uh, a complex soul...

I saw somewhere that Hiromu Arakawa (creator of Fullmetal Alchemist) drew your Japanese cover, and I freaked out a little. Do you have a favorite cover?

You could not have freaked out as hard as I freaked out. I spent seventeen hours in front of my computer, rocking back and forth, waiting for my Japanese cover. I do love my cover as drawn by Hiromu Arakawa a lot! I have to say I also love my French cover for the Demon's Lexicon. But then, I love having a ton of covers: it's a lot of fun to see all the different ways that different cover artists imagine my book.

Have you had any controversy because the book deals with demons, has violence, or has a gay character?

I think I have managed to escape controversy because my book just has 'DEMON' in the title - it scares everybody off! (Nooooo - come back, readers, come back!)

I've heard the most noise, I think, about writing Demon's Lexicon from the point of view of Nick - from inside the head of the tall, dark and crazy dangerous dude we usually see from the outside, and trying to show this guy as very problematic, and all his pitilessness, his scary capacity for violence - as well as what he loves, and what more he is trying to be. That's put some people off, but I've also received a wonderful response from those who liked what I was trying to do. And I've been very pleased (and a little surprised) by how much fan love there is for Jamie, the main gay character. My little sister hadn't read about a gay character before and likes him the best, eleven year old boys have written to me about having never read a gay character before and liking him the best.

It's wonderful to see that kind of response, and also wonderful to see appreciation for Alan, Nick's older brother, a book-loving crack shot who is disabled: my very first fanmail when the second book, The Demon's Covenant, came out was from a disabled reader. It's one of my very favourite emails I've ever received. Seeing that kind of response makes me more than ever determined to write characters who aren't traditional or stereotyped - to say to everyone that everyone has a story.

Also I just think things like swordfights on the Millennium Bridge in London are really cool! (I do know I've taken on a responsibility, and have to handle writing about violence and gay characters both thoughtfully, for very different reasons. But if a writer's not challenging themselves, they're doing something wrong.)

The books are hilarious. I was laughing through the whole book (when I wasn't being sad or on the edge of my seat) Are you really that funny, or is it just Jamie/Nick?

Thank you again! I make a lot of jokes, but I'm not sure how funny I am... I love writing humour, and I never believe in a scary scene, or a love scene, or any kind of scene without at least a little bit of humour. I don't think I could care about a character who didn't have a sense of humour, and I'm interested in the way humour can both be a way to connect to people and a way to distance yourself from them.

So I make a lot of jokes in my books. I have fun writing them, and I'm very, very pleased if people think I'm (or Jamie or Nick is!) funny. I'm never sure any of us are myself, but I love trying to be!

I was going to ask something else, but I forgot. Can you remember what I was going to ask?

I can remember what you were going to ask! And don't worry, I know the answer. Marmalade pudding. (You're welcome!)

Do you have a favorite scene? Character?

Picking a favourite character's like picking a favourite child, I bet: you have a favourite all the time, but they keep changing! A minor character who I ended up loving much more than I thought I would was Matthias, a pied piper (someone who creates magic through music) - a cynical guy who doesn't think much of the main characters, and who appears first in the Demon's Covenant.

My favourite scenes tend to be those that made me laugh or made me cry: Mae and Nick on the boat with Mae pretending to be a pirate and Nick her helpless captive, Nick and Alan in the demon's circle with Alan telling Nick the truth for the first time, Drunk Jamie, and That One Chapter With The Most Storms In It.

Have you written anything before TDL that will never be seen by anyone?

Oh gosh. PILES OF THINGS. Thousands and thousands of pages. If I kept all my manuscripts under my bed, I'd have a sleeping situation like the princess in the Princess and the Pea. My huge, huge piles of work hidden away from all mankind forever include Regency romances with explosions, horse-loving schoolgirls who get mixed up with ninjas, and my persistence proves that anyone who wants to be a writer - really wants - should just keep trying. Keep writing! Eventually, you will get better. (Don't keep it all under your bed....)

There was a scene in TDC that made me very sad. Is it harder for you to write the deaths as opposed to the lighter sections?

It's hard for me in a way - sometimes I cry! - but also some scenes I've been anticipating writing for ages, because it's fun to write exciting, dramatic, really important and life-changing scenes. So I thunder away at the keyboard and weep and really enjoy myself in another way.

I think I know the scene you mean. ;) I'm very flattered to have made you sad - the biggest compliment, for me, is eliciting an emotional response from your readers. It's wonderful to have someone admire plot and writing style, but the very best thing is if people love your characters, and care what happens to them.

Have you always wanted to be an author? What else did you want to be when you grew up?

I've wanted to be an author since I was five. When I was five, I - like many, many other five year old girls - wanted to be a ballerina! Since I have all the grace of a giraffe in a forklift, this dream shortly died. (This may be why so many of my main characters are excellent dancers...)

Are there any YA books recently released or coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

Oooh. Yes, absolutely. Recently released YA: Holly Black's White Cat, which is about magical conmen and has a fabulous boy narrator, and Kelley Armstrong's the Reckoning, the last in her awesome trilogy about a very sweet necromancer and a very grouchy werewolf.

Books that aren't out yet: I just finished Robin McKinley's Pegasus, which is this gorgeous, heartbreaking high fantasy about a princess and a pegasus and politics and love and language, and when I read the ending I thought I was going to have a heart attack. And I absolutely love Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, in which demonhunting ladies in Victorian London dispatch demons with their deadly parasols, and beautiful boys are totally round the twist and positively not gentlemen at all.

Do you have a title for book three yet? 

Noooooo. I waaaaaant one. I've told my editor that my favourites are The Demon's Tempest and The Demon's Trial. We'll just have to see. Stuff like covers and book titles, boys and girls, are never up to the author!

Speaking of book three, do you have any info that you can give us? 

Sure. A couple of spoilers for you: In the third book, Nick gets brought to his knees (figuratively and literally) and Alan gets a girlfriend.

In more general terms: I had a lot of fun writing Sin's point of view, since she, like Nick, is a character who gets seen more often from the outside than the inside - the dangerously alluring and (holy cow, is this an issue) dark-skinned femme fatale.

Sin's very aware, as a performer, of how she's seen by other people, and how other people consciously or unconsciously play their own parts. It felt like exactly the right way to finish a trilogy which from the start was about seeing familiar roles in a new way, and how people can surpass their own expectations of themselves, and the readers'. It was also a challenge, of course, because Sin's story couldn't just be Sin's story - it had to be a continuation of Nick's story and a continuation of Mae's story, and an ending for all the characters that I hope will satisfy my readers!

Are you working on anything else besides that?

I am, yes! My trilogy's main focus is on sibling relationships, so I wanted to try my hand at something very romantic. (But... romantic in an unusual way, because I always do things in a crazy way, apparently!) And I wanted to write about a mystery that needed to be solved, because I love crime novels. And to have a touch of the Gothic in there, in modern times. And... well, I'm really excited about my new project, but I will be mysterious about it for now. With luck, someone will want to publish it, and someone will want to read it! (Wish me luck, you guys...)

Thank you so much Sarah! And because she's so awesome, she's donating an audiobook of The Demon's Lexicon to one of you lucky ducks! All you have to do is fill out the form to enter! Followers get an extra entry, as does spreading the word. This is open internationally, so anyone can enter! I'll pick a winner on Saturday, July 31 Wednesday July 28th. Good luck!


  1. Awesome interview! It was nice to read something about book three, and SRB's writing plan(?) Excited for it! :)

  2. I'm a fantasy reader and I specially love magic. But after reading so many magic books they sort of sound the same. Looking forward to a new magic twist with this series :)

    And thank you for the chance to win an audio copy of The Demon's Lexicon!

    Cherry Mischievous
    mischivus101-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

  3. I just loved this interview! I am such a fangirl when it comes to Sarah Rees Brennan lol She's a genius :)

  4. Maidnveil: I was so excited to get some info for book three out of her!

    Cherry: You'll love TDL. Very unique fantasy.

    Erin: I was freaking out when she said she'd participate! I did a happy dance.

  5. Excellent interview. Thank you'

  6. Love this interview!! Sarah is one of my fav authors out there right now. Love her stuff. Wonderful interview!!

    Am I too late for the giveaway?

  7. Thanks!
    Michelle: The giveaway ended last night. Sorry! :(

  8. I LOVE Sarah Rees Brennan's books -- they're brilliant -- and I can't wait to listen to the audio!

    So sad that I missed the contest. Oh, well.
    Better luck next time (I hope).

    In the meantime we will (of course) be getting the audio for our library as soon as we can!

    deirdrej aka Head of Youth Services, Mount Kisco Public



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