Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Interview with the Fabulous Melissa Marr

We here at YAYA are thrilled to introduce our interview with the amazing, New York Times bestselling author MELISSA MARR!

Our interview format is a little different--we all submit one or two questions to create a fun, quirky, different interview.

Let's get started:

Bethany: Obviously, your gorgeous covers couldn't be improved upon, but if you could commission any artist from any time in history, to paint a scene from one of your books, what scene would it be, and what artist would paint it?

I have three big weaknesses--the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Renoir, & Dali. Which scene would be dependant on which artist. With Dali, I'd go with the Faire in WL or the initial scene with Irial & Bananach in Ink. I'd want something with faeries so his unusual vision could run free. For Renoir, I'd go with a scene in the park across from Keenan's loft (Ink) or a scene outside Donia's cottage, something nature-y. For a PRB artist . . . Mmm. Anything really, an individual, a sequence, anything . . . I actually reference them in a museum scene in Ink Exchange. I'm a hopeless art fan, so seeing my world through artists eyes is amazing to me. In truth, that's one of the fun parts of this--I get to see artists' take on the world via covers, fan art, & the manga.

Haphazard: Do you feel that there's a negative stigma attached to fantasy/sci-fi novels? What do you think of it?

I suppose it depends on the reader. I read SpecFic, Romance, Mystery, Chick-Lit, Classic Lit . . . and I have met people who scoff at every one of those groups. I, personally, think it's asinine to suggest that any genre is IT or that any genre is inherently awful. I like words. I like stories. Some days, I want high fantasy with a band of mismatched heroes; some days, I want utterly sweet historical romance; and some days, want Faulknerian narratives. If a reader doesn't "get" one sort of text, they can read something else. Variety is a beautiful thing.

Suzanne: Have you ever found yourself falling in love with a character from your book? (editorial note: Keenan or Seth, especially?)

With my pov characters, I can't write them if I don't love them :) Some get my heart a bit more, but it's fluid. I'm writing the third novel these days, and my heart is definitely with one character more so than it was elsewhere. . . but a few months ago, I was smitten with Irial. It's just part of the writing process. Fortunately, I like falling in love so it works out well.

Hannah: Do you have a process for coming up with character names?

I keep name lists, & I research. I search Social Security lists of popular usage for the mortals. I collect names (I ask to keep some post-its readers names are on at signings). I'm a total geek on names. Almost every name is chosen for what it means, but also how it "feels" on the character. I do a control-F and substitute different names until I find the one that fits the character as well as has the right etymology. Names have power. I take time picking mine.

Sophie: What’s the most important thing a budding writer should keep in mind?

Oh, dear. "Most"? I'm never good at these questions. No one answer fits all people. Maybe that's the answer :) The path, the process, the advice--it's all guesses. What worked for me wasn't worked for writers I've since met. For me, the most important thing was reading. I read voraciously in all sorts of genres, & then I analyze why a book did or didn't work for me. Getting a degree in lit (& teaching university lit) was how I became a writer. I didn't take creative writing courses or how-to. I don't do the BiC ("butt in chair") thing. Other writers I know have word goals, took courses, do BiC, read only one or two genres. . . Some do crit groups; some don't. Some revise as they go; some don't. Some write start-to-finish. Some write outlines. It's all so very individual, so I guess that's my bit of "wisdom"--there's not a Right Way to do this.

Sophie: What do you prefer to write: characters, plot, or prose?

They're all tangled up. The plot is what happens when the characters' agendas conflict. The words . . . they're what I need to try to capture the experience of a thing, a moment, a feeling. Inevitably, none of it is really as good as I want it to be (shades of Platonic Ideals, yanno?), but there are a few moments here or there when the plot, characters, setting, prose, narrative, lore all tangle to get a little closer to what I want. That's what I like: those rare moments when I think I might be easing a little bit closer to my objectives.

Amanda: Did you take the title Wicked Lovely from the passage in the text, or did you start with the title and build the story from there?

That title was a nightmare. We were almost at ARCs before we had a title. Between us (two editors, agent, and me), we had a list of at least 300 titles. Then, one afternoon, my agent & I were on the phone. I was ranting (again). She suggested "Lovely Wicked"; I was elated. My US editor inverted the words. Both houses liked it. We had a title. OTOH, Ink Exchange had a title from page 1; I knew the title. I knew the plot. I knew the resolution. The two were very different.

Meg: How extensively do you plan your books?

Plan? Umm, like an outline? Ahh . . . I have a series of thread I poke at with different characters. What do they want? How does that impact others? The world? The story is what happens when I shake a few characters up in a box. I have a general sense of the "big picture," but the getting there is not planned out. It's like road trips/driving tours: I have places highlighting. I know we'll stop at F, W, & Q. The stuff that happens along the way? If I plan too tightly, I get bored. Then I will wonder off to do something else. I hate being bored, so I'm not so much on minute planning. With the first two books, I knew the general ending from fairly early on. I had a sense of a few key events, but the minutia comes as I write. Then I re-structure the whole to flow with the consequences of that minutia.

Meg: What’s the best possible comment a reader could give your book, besides the generic, “I love your book?”

I'm kinda basic here. I just like knowing what people thought, & I've been lucky to have so so many amazing letters from readers already. I get extra smiles sometimes over the odd ones, but the fact is that I'm just touched that a person a) took time to read my text and b) took time to share their thoughts.

We all want to know:

Are the characters from Wicked Lovely going to play a big part in Ink Exchange? Or will they simply be mentioned in passing?

I have a no plot spoiler rule. What I'll say is that a couple of the WL characters are definitely players; some aren't there at all. Obviously, Leslie & Niall were characters in WL, & they're the MCs in Ink . . . which means that some WL characters are inevitably in Ink as they as tied to the lives of these MCs.

How is Ink Exchange different from Wicked Lovely? Is it darker?

Darker? Yes, but not in any gratuitous ways. It's also, I believe, hopeful.
The Dark Court was instrumental in binding Keenan (as noted in WL), so they move to the center stage in Ink.

How is it different?

In some ways, Leslie (the mortal) is the opposite of Ash. Where Ash had a stable family, a friend/love she could trust, and the Sight, Leslie has none of that. She has no anchors, no Sight, & no defenses. The other two MCs--Irial and Niall--have agendas, but she is oblivious. That was a challenge to set up, and it was a factor in the overall darkness. Another difference is in how much stronger I think Leslie is. She falls pretty far, but falling doesn't mean she gives up. I've known a lot of people like her.
Structurally, there are similarities--three narrative threads & POV limiting veracity; there are thematic similarities--volition concerns & moral relativity. It's a different sort of story, but I hear that it's a viable companion to WL. We'll see what readers think.

Is your publisher planning on a book tour for Ink Exchange?

My US publisher is. I believe I go out in May. In 07, they ended up sending me on two US tours: a pre-release tour (where I met a lot of booksellers & some readers) and a post-release tour where I met readers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, & interviewers. 2007 was unbelievably busy on that front. I've turned down far more than I did, and I still did a lot of events. 2008 looks busy, but there's only one tour this time--and I don't believe there are any overseas events. Last year, I did a few things in London. My Italian publisher (Fazi Editore) has offered to bring me over to do events in Italy, and my German publisher (Carslen) has expressed interest in my coming there as well, but I don't think that's in 2008. We'll see. I chat with my editors in these places, and they're all so wonderful. It makes it very hard to tell them no. I want to go see them; I want to do whatever I can to support their efforts . . . and I'm also a total travel fan. I'm trying to be reasonable though, so I'm really trying to not agree to too many things.

Do you have any random thoughts, ideas, advice, or comments to share with us?

Just a good luck wish to the pre-published & soon to be published among you. Thanks for asking fun questions.

Thank you, Melissa!


hannah said...

This was a GREAT read. Melissa, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us!

althrasher said...

Thank you so much, Melissa! This is great to read (especially the "no Right Way" part.)

bethany said...

Great answers, and I loved reading everyone else's questions, too. Thanks so much, Melissa!

SuzanneYoung said...

Thanks, Melissa! You are really sweet and I loved your answers. Thanks a bunch.

Vanessa Concannon said...

Plot/character/prose being all tangled up was the best answer...ha awesome interview. I approve. Thanks!

AmandaKMorgan said...

Thanks again, Melissa! Your answers are A-Mazing.

Sophie W. said...

I loved this interview! Thanks a lot, Melissa. :)

bethany said...

Every time I read it, I like this interview more. I hope our questions for John Green are this good :). This blog is just getting cooler and cooler. More and more cool? Either way...

Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordan said...

Hey guys. Google "Melissa Marr" and "interview." Right now, we're the sixth result.

That is pretty cool.

Melissa Marr said...

Thank you all for inviting me. It was fun :)


Jessica Burkhart said...

Great interview! So glad Melissa stopped by. :)

Meggy said...

Awesome interview!