Bringing in December with a Few More FAQs

Spoiler status: The following Frequently Asked Questions are generally spoiler-free. I do give away something about the way Gracelings look in question 3, so if you’re positively psycho about spoilers, skip #3.


1. Can I chat/IM with you online?

*smile* That is a very sweet question. Truth is, I don’t chat online with anyone, not even my best friends. I seem to have an allergy to the entire concept. I don’t do Facebook or MySpace or any of those things, either. I like to keep my life simple.
2. You keep talking about how hard it is to write Book 3 / Bitterblue. Can you tell us why it’s so hard?
*smile again* I guess I didn’t realize what I was getting into. Which is just part of the human condition, right? You make a seemingly innocent decision; you don’t realize what you’re getting into; but now you’re into it, and there’s no turning back. You’ve just got to figure out the best way through. Didn’t somebody once say, “The best way out is always through?” Yes — I just googled it — Robert Frost.
One of the many tricky things about Bitterblue is that there is a LOT of stuff going on. Possibly too much stuff; so much stuff that it’s hard to figure out how to structure it. I would describe the current structure as, um, rather numinous. I know it’s possible to write a good book in which a million things are going on at once; I know it’s possible to weave things together so that the reader isn’t left asking, WTF is going on in this book? What is this book even ABOUT? I’ve seen it done in other books. But that doesn’t mean I know how to do it. So, there’s some on-the-job training going on here. A lot of rewriting; a LOT of writing 10 pages and throwing out 5. I’m also trying to read a lot of complicated books, to see how other, better writers do it. Most of all, I’m trying to keep perspective: The fate of the world does not exactly depend on this book, now, does it? I’m trying to remember to laugh at myself and, in emergencies, eat cannoli. :o)
3. In Graceling, what made you give the Gracelings two-colored eyes? Are the colors significant?
Good question! Truth is, I don’t remember why I decided to do this. I guess it just came to me and felt right; it looked right in my mind. I chose the particular colors I chose simply because I liked them. As far as Katsa goes, well, blue and green are my favorite colors; and Po, he’s just a glow-y guy (his rings and earrings were part of his character from the very beginning), so it seemed right to give him eyes of glow-y colors.

4. Have you read Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley?
Gee, what gave you that impression? :o) I LOVE Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley; they have definitely inspired me. When my editor emailed me to tell me that Tamora Pierce was blurbing Graceling, I burst into tears. I ran to tell my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, who was luckily talking on the phone at the time to my sister, secret code name: Apocalyptica, so we were able to have an impromptu family celebration.
5. Can you recommend some good YA fantasy?
I can indeed, and I invite my readers to add their own recommendations in the comments.
I’ve never read anything by Tamora Pierce or Robin McKinley I didn’t like. With Pierce, the Alanna quartet is a great place to start; with McKinley, The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Deerskin are among my personal favorites. Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials cannot be beat. Cynthia Voigt has an inter-related quartet of books called the Novels of the Kingdom that aren’t technically fantasy (nothing impossible happens), but they have a medieval fantasy feel. They are: Jackaroo; On Fortune’s Wheel; The Wings of a Falcon; and Elske.
Digressing slightly from fantasy, Margaret Mahy writes beautiful YA magical realism; The Tricksters is one of my favorite books (not to mention the book that inspired the title for my blog). And for plain old women-having-romantic-adventures-in-beautiful-locales stories (not YA, usually not fantasy, nonetheless fantastic), do you know the novels of Mary Stewart? They’re a little dated and sometimes hard to find (check your library), but Nine Coaches Waiting will always be in my top ten. In addition to her adventure tales she wrote a wonderful series that’s a King Arthur retelling from Merlin’s point of view (starting with The Crystal Cave). Good stuff.
6. I always wonder about how to make time in my own life to write. What was your day job when you were writing Graceling?
When I wrote Graceling I was working as a freelance educational writer. There was a great discussion on the question of “the writer’s day job” on The Longstockings several months ago; if you’re curious, check it out here. And if you’re specifically curious about my work as an educational writer, scroll down to my own comment in The Longstockings discussion, because I wrote a tome about it there, describing the work in detail… :o)
7. What is your favorite musical performance inspired by Bizet’s Carmen and performed by a grapefruit?
Ah, yes. That timeless question that all of us must ask ourselves eventually.
Could I just say, before I get to my answer, that a couple of weeks ago I went to see a violinist named Augustin Hadelich, and his performance of Sarasate’s “Carmen-Fantasy op. 25,” inspired by Bizet’s Carmen, had me jumping out of my seat? If this young man happens to come to your town, do try to go see him, even if you have to pawn your winter boots to afford the tickets. (Btw, you might know the Sarasate piece even if you think you don’t. Listen to Itzhak Perlman play it here…)
Anyway. Augustin Handelich is not a grapefruit. And so, without further ado, here is my favorite musical performance inspired by Bizet’s Carmen and performed by a grapefruit:

There are loads more questions I’d like to answer, so more FAQs on Thursday. :o)