Laini Taylor's debut book, Blackbringer, is the first in the Faeries of Dreamdark series, and it's going to win her legions of fervent fans. To quote my own blurb (if I may be so bold), "A tremendous book--a vivid adventure in a place both familiar and new, characters that made me laugh and cheer and a truly frightening villain. I thoroughly enjoyed the read." I'm so pleased to host Laini in our ongoing quest to bring book happiness to the world!
Me: So, you’re a pretty fantastic writer. Characters, setting, plot, language—you’re a master of all the building blocks. I’d love to know something about your writing process.
LT: Geez, thanks!!! Coming from you, that means A LOT! I could go on and on about process (actually, I just DID go on and on about it: just last week I launched a new website called NOT FOR ROBOTS that goes into embarrassing detail about the strategies I have to use on myself to get my work done! It’s at: www.notforrobots.blogspot.com). My natural tendency is to micro-edit every single sentence as I write it, to happily tinker around with language as if I think I’m writing a poem, not a novel. It would take a very long time to write a novel this way! So, much of my process is about keeping the storytelling going as I make my tortuous way through my first draft, and not letting my persnickitiness take over until I’m ready for it.
My favorite parts of the writing process are the early stage: plotting, and the late stage: revisions. So that leaves the whole middle, the actual writing part, as my not-so-favorite! That said, I have to admit that the days when the writing is flowing and the story is surging forward, those are the absolute best days, far better than the best of all plotting or revising days. It’s like the nursery rhyme: “When they’re good, they’re very very good, and when they’re bad, they’re HORRID!”
Is there anything about publishing your first book that surprised you? Anything about being an author that’s different than you imagined when you were younger?
Hm. I think I once imagined yachts were somehow part of the deal, and vine-draped terraces in Italy, and lots of witty, fascinating friends swinging by in the evenings with violins and absinthe and poetry. Ha ha! I am sure I had some ludicrous daydreams about the life. But seriously, one thing that does really stick in my memory is a scene from the movie “Back to the Future,” in which the main character’s dad, who’s a writer, gets a box of his new book delivered by his publisher. I’ve always remembered that scene, and it’s funny -- my husband has seen that movie more times than me but he doesn’t remember it, but many writers I’ve asked know exactly the scene I’m talking about. I guess we all crave that box of books! And when my first box came, it was just as cool as I had hoped.
One thing that did surprise me about publishing, even though I thought I was prepared for it, was the god-awful byzantine complexity of publishing contracts! What a horror! Also, it was a nice surprise to discover what cool, unscary REAL PEOPLE work in children’s publishing!
(I totally know that exact scene! It's been in my heart for years.) How did the story of the Faeries of Dreamdark unfold for you?
When I first got started on it I thought I was writing a light-hearted faerie story for young girls, which I planned to illustrate myself. I spent a lot more time on the art part than the writing -- I even made paper dolls of the characters! But once I really got into the writing, the tone began to change very quickly. One thing I’ve learned in writing an adventure book is that it is really the villain, not the protagonist, that determines the plot and the tone. What does the villain want? It’s from that question that the story flows, and once I had my villain, my story became darker than I had originally anticipated -- and those paper dolls went out the window! In retrospect it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t READ light-hearted stories for young children. I like dramatic, sophisticated stories for upper middle-grade and YA, books like The Golden Compass and Sabriel. I just didn’t
immediately realize that’s what I was writing.
What do you read?
I’d say that for the last few years, I’ve read about 80% kidlit, 20% adult fiction, with a smattering of nonfiction thrown in. I mentioned The Golden Compass above -- my favorite. I also love a certain kind of historical fiction -- books like Water for Elephants, A Thread of Grace, Hattie Big Sky, and Anahita’s Woven Riddle, that take a little niche in time and place and make it gloriously real. It’s the next best thing to time travel, and I am humbled by the ability of these authors to blend research and storytelling. Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccolo Rising series is the best of the best. And of course, I love the supernatural. I’ve been a fan of horror since I was a little girl, and I can’t do
without magic. I also confess to needing a little spice and romance, a good intense love story, and even a sob or two! One of the best, most unexpected (and most unknown) books I’ve read in
recent years is The Carpet Makers by the German sci-fi writer Andreas Eschbach. It was discovered by Orson Scott Card at a convention, and he saw to it that it got translated into English.
Please tell me there will be more stories about Magpie (you know that’s what we call our daughter Maggie, right?).
Yes, there are more Dreamdark books coming. I am working on the second one now; it’s called Silksinger, and picks up not long after Blackbringer leaves off. I have five books planned in all. (And I love the name Maggie! I have a friend named Maggie and I’m always accidentally calling her Magpie.)
Thanks, Laini! I love your hair, by the way. So sassy and beautiful too. We'll all be waiting breathlessly for Silksinger.