As the grand finale of our mini-week special on Dark Fairy Tales, we contacted Melissa Marr for a brief chat--and she was kind enough to take some time out of her hectic schedule (it was right after Wicked Lovely won the Rita Award) to answer a few of our questions! As Thea and I are unabashedly Melissa Marr fangirls, we are happy to present you our Chat With an Author!
The Book Smugglers: Congratulations for winning a Rita for best YA novel with your debut work Wicked Lovely. You must be thrilled. Can you tell us more about the books, for the un-initiated?
Melissa Marr: Ultimately, they’re all stories about choices made and un-made.
Wicked Lovely is a story about three characters who each want something. Keenan wants to find his missing Summer Queen (who happens to be a mortal); Donia wants freedom from the curse she's carrying (because of Keenan); Aislinn wants a normal life (but she sees faeries). Keenan and Donia are at odds, bound to compete to convince Aislinn to choose as they want/need. Aislinn is trying to hide the fact that she knows faeries are real.
Ink Exchange (a companion novel, not a sequel) picks up after Wicked Lovely; this one centers on the Dark Court. It's the narrative threads of characters we meet in WL--Leslie (Aislinn's friend who knows nothing of faeries), Irial (Dark King whose faeries are weakened by the peace that’s resulting from the resolution of WL), and Niall (Keenan's friend). Leslie chooses a tattoo, but her choice leads to events that change the lives of all three main characters.
Fragile Eternity (April 09) is the sequel to WL. It features Aislinn, Seth, Donia, & Sorcha (head of the High Court) as narrative pov characters. This is, in many ways, Seth’s story. It follows up on the problems that are hinted at in Ink Exchange (ones some readers astutely saw as possibilities at the end of Wicked Lovely).
The Book Smugglers: In Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange, you write about teens that do not fit the stereotypical, cookie-cutter fun and sun type sweet-valley-twins-mold. What inspired you to write these type of almost "outsider" characters?Which character has been your favorite to write?
Melissa Marr: When I started writing, I just went with the “write what you know” idea. These are the sort of people I knew (still know). In high school, my closest friends were the leather jacket/black tee shirt crowd. There were “metalheads” and skaters and artists and punks and musicians and (eventually) bikers. They were the unusual, vibrant people. Actually, that’s often still true. I like people who are artists of one sort of another, passionate, thriving . . . I’ve branched out (as I realized that those who look “mainstream” are apt to be passionate too), but if you send me to a social gathering, I’ll still gravitate first to the artistic and the decorated.
Favourites . . . I struggle with that idea. I’m lousy at picking just one of anything. It varies. Today, Ani is my favourite because her thread is what I was working on yesterday (for book 4). If I re-read the books, it’s usually Donia or Irial I enjoy the most.
The Book Smugglers: Going against the current vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter trend, your books instead focus on the Fey in their fiercest, most devious incarnations. Why did you decide to write about the realm of Faerie? What were your influences in creating this world?
Melissa Marr: Is this the part where I admit that I didn’t see any other thing as logical for this story? I love vampires, shapeshifters, demons, ghosts, and all the rest. For this story, faeries were the logical choice. I grew up believing in faeries (and the rest), and as an adult, I still enjoy that belief. For the stories I wanted to tell first, it hard to be faeries. Vampires, werewolves, or ghosts wouldn’t work for these books. They might work for other stories I’ll tell, but it’s not about the creature. It’s about the story.
Influence? Hmmm. I blame my mother and my grandmother for a lot of it. They fed me a solid diet of fairy tales and faery lore. They also fed me a lot of romances and classic literature. As I grew up, I discovered the incredible critical work of Jack Zipes and Maria Tatar, and The Secret Commonwealth (Kirk and Lang), and big piles of folklore in bookstores and libraries.
The Book Smugglers: From your website, you are under contract for 6 YA novels, are they all going to be in the same world? Both Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange can be read on their own, is that how you planned the entire "series"?
Melissa Marr: I really didn’t have a plan. I’ve kind of developed one because I had to, but initially, it was all random. Books 1, 3, & 5 are sequels in the traditional sense. They follow the primary main characters. Books 2 & 4 are stand alones that focus on other characters in the world.
Some people love sequel/series books. (I do sometimes.) Others like the contained story better. I do sometimes.
I figured I could do both with this set of books. Again, the trouble with picking just one .
The Book Smugglers: We love Seth and have to ask- is he going to show up again in the other novels?
Melissa Marr: Actually, he’s one of the main characters in Fragile Eternity (the actual sequel to Wicked Lovely). In it, he’s one of the point-of-view characters. We get to see how he sees things, rather than only see him through the eyes of other characters.
The Book Smugglers: You just won a Rita, a prestigious Romance award. Do you read romance? Or for that matter, speculative fiction (SF/F/Horror)? Who are your favourite authors?
Melissa Marr: Definitely! I read all over the store/library. If I could only pick a few, I’d go with Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Lynn Kurland as my romance mix; Neil Gaiman, Kim Harrison, and Joe Hill as my speculative mix. If I had to pick only a couple literary authors, I’d go with Faulkner (my most fav novelist ever), Hardy, Chopin, and Gaiman (again).
The Book Smugglers: Speaking of preferred books - do you read other YA authors?
Melissa Marr: Yes. I’m pretty random here too. I like everything from realistic to fantastic. Recently, I read Werlin’s Impossible and was enchanted by her storytelling—and by how many thread she blended in (romance, fantasy, folklore, realism, and feminist threads). Kelley Armstrong has her first YA out (The Summoning); I loved it enough that I did my first ever co-author events with her. I’ve liked a lot of stuff that’s either recently out or soon to be out; aside from the aforementioned, I’ve also enjoyed S Kuehnert’s I wanna Be Your Joey Ramone (edgy, cross-over adult/YA, literary), K Cashore’s Graceling (feminist, fantasy adventure), and C Ryan The Forest of Hand and Teeth (zombie apocalypse, horror-ish). I guess, for me, the best answer is that I don’t like a genre; I just like good books.
The Book Smugglers: if you were stranded in a desert island, which 6 books would you take with you?
Melissa Marr: I’d take four for pleasure: American Gods (Gaiman), Sanctuary (Faulkner), Heart of Darkness (Conrad), Norton Anthology of British Literature. I’d also take two for practicality: The Green Pharmacy (an herbalism book) and a blank journal (so I can write).
Although I was voted "most likely to end up in jail" in high school, I decided to get an MA and teach literature and gender studies to college students across the country. Along the way, I've been unable to resist trying new things—including working an archeological dig, slinging drinks at a biker bar, and getting fabulous tattoos.
I call all of this research for my writing. To fill my craving for new experiences, I've lived in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Southern California, and I plan to keep roaming with my family as widely and as often as possible. This year, I think, I'm living in Virginia.
Thank you, Melissa!