Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Of Triton (Of Poseidon #2) by Anna Banks
Sky on Fire (Monument 14 #2) by Emmy Laybourne
Jessica Brody, Anna Banks, Jen, Emmy Laybourne, Leigh Bardugo
Below I transcribed my interview (from audio) with Leigh Bardugo, Anna Banks, Jessica Brody, and Emmy Laybourne. Answers with spoilers have warnings in bold, so just skip that answer if you don’t want to read them. Enjoy!
Jen: Hi everyone! To start, please introduce yourself and share a little bit about your series/book and what inspired it.
Leigh: Hi, I’m Leigh Bardugo, and I wrote Shadow and Bone and the sequel, Siege and Storm, they are the first two books in The Grisha Trilogy. They are set in a world inspired by Russia and are about a country that’s been torn in two by a swath of darkness called the Shadow Fold. And a girl who discovers an unknown power when she is thrust into it (um, that sounds weird). The idea came from one night when I managed to scare myself when I was stuck in the dark looking for a light switch, and everything rose out of there.
Jessica: Hi, I’m Jessica Brody, I’m the author of several contemporary books as well as the new Unremembered, which is the first in my young adult, sci-fi suspense trilogy. Unremembered is about a 16 year old girl that wakes up among the wreckage of a devastating plane crash and she is the only survivor. The only problem is she doesn’t remember anything before the crash. She doesn’t remember her name, where she’s from, or boarding the plane, or even what a plane is. She’s not on the passenger list, her DNA and fingerprints are not in any database, so basically she doesn’t exist. She has to figure out who she is, where she came from, and why she survived when no one else survived. I got the idea from a newspaper article in 2009 about a teen girl who was a sole survivor of a commercial airline crash, and I just started to brainstorm all these crazy ideas about why she’d be so lucky, and it’s not really about luck – in my book – for her, it was.
Anna: Hey, my name is Anna Banks, and my series is the Syrena Legacy series, which consists of Of Poseidon and Of Triton right now. They’re about mermaids, but not the cheesy mermaids. They’re really out there, so I wanted to bring the world’s attention to the existence of mermaids through this series. I made up a few characters, Emma and Galen, who may or may not fall in love, and may or may not argue all the time.
Jen: Anna, what sparked your interest in writing about mermaids?
Anna: This one time at band camp… (we all snicker at this) I was watching a documentary about the giant squid, and scientists had always believed that it was legend/folklore, fishermen’s myth. And one day in 2005, a real, dead giant squid washed up on shore, and they had to say, “Oh, we were just kidding, I guess they’re really out there.” So that got me started thinking, what else could possibly be out there that we don’t know about that is also legend or myth, and that we’re just completely over looking.
Emmy [WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1]: Hi, I’m Emmy Laybourne, and I’m the author of Monument 14 and Sky on Fire. Monument 14 tells the story of 14 kids who get trapped in a super store while civilization collapses. And Sky on Fire picks up where Monument 14 leaves off as half of the kids leave the safety of the store to try and make it to an evacuation site in Denver, and the other half stay behind. They stay behind because there’s a chemical warfare compound out in the environment that attacks people based on blood type. So that some people turn into paranoid freaks, and some people blister up and die, some people turn into blood thirsty monsters, and the last blood type are actually left sort of untouched. They become infertile and unable to reproduce, but otherwise, they’re just left watching the devastation around them. Well, the kids that stay behind have the blood type O that makes them turn into these raging monsters, and they’re afraid if the go with the other kids they will do them harm. It’s a survival story, and it’s also a story about a group of people finding the light within themselves in a very dark time.
The inspiration lies somewhere between my love for survivalist thinking and planning for a disaster, and my equally fervent love of super stores. (we all snicker at this too)
Jen: Awesome. OK, so tell us about your writing process and if you have any quirks.
Emmy:My writing process is to outline extensively. My books have a lot of plot that moves really quickly, so I outline extensively, and then each day before I will look at the next day’s scene. I read it before I stop work, and then I think about it before I go to bed, I think about it when I wake up in the morning, and by the time I sit down at my computer to work, it’s really ready. I’ve imagined the scene a bunch of different ways and I’m ready to write it. As far as quirks, I do really like to start the day off with a dance break. Especially if I’m feeling tense or anxious about my work, I like to put on Daft Punk, and dance. In fact, I’d like to… and this is a bit of a digression, but I’d like to do a website called The Masked Lunchtime Dancers (we laugh). Where the rules are you have to post a video of yourself dancing with a mask on, in your office, at lunch. (all laughing)
Anna: My writing style is that I don’t outline at all. I’m kind of the odd ball out here. Even if I outline… sometimes I have good intentions and I outline, but by the second sentence or so I’ve already strayed from the synopsis I thought I was going to write. My editors are really patient with me in that way. I actually told my editor that I didn’t even know how Of Neptune is going to end, and she was like, “I know, but you’ll figure it out. You always figure it out.” So, that’s just how I write. As far as quirks, I don’t think I have any quirks…
Jessica (to Anna): You’re just quirky on your own.
Anna: Yeah, it’s just contagious. Thank you. (all laughing)
Jessica: Actually, I have a very specific writing process. I like to write in the mornings, because if I don’t write in the morning I don’t get it done. And I only drink coffee while I write, so that way I get the most juice out of it, so the coffee works really well. Also it’s kind of a physical thing that it works well. But also it’s a mental thing that my brain has been trained that taste of coffee equals writing, equals productivity, equals working. So it kind of hones me in. Then I listen to a very specific thing, I listen to a white noise track. So it basically sounds like ssshshshshsshsh in my ear, and I blast it, and it has a frequency underneath it that is supposed to induce focus. So I put that on, I brew my coffee, and I write for about 2-3 hours a day, about 1500-2000 words a day, for 5 days a week. I only write 5 days a week, I like to give myself 2 days off, and they don’t have to necessarily be Saturday and Sunday, I’ll just tell myself you have to write 5 days a week. That way, if for some reason I can’t write that day I don’t feel guilty.
Leigh: My writing process when I’m drafting, I like to be with people, out in the world in cafes. My friends and I do something called friendly surveillance, where we’ll try to keep each other offline and we’ll take each other’s cell phones so we can’t get online that way, and we’ll work. The drafting process is always a little scary for me, so I like it when it’s not too quiet. Then when I’m transitioning from draft to actual book I like to go into the bunker, and I basically don’t come out until the work is done. I tend to be really productive for 2-3 weeks at a time, then I need a few days or sometimes a whole week to do nothing. And I’ve learned to not feel bad about that anymore. Because some people have to write 1500 words a day, and I used to feel like I was a failure if I didn’t do that, but I’ve learned to respect my process that way.
Jen: Which government watch lists do you think you’re on, due to the research you’ve done on your books?
Leigh: Oh god! I’m probably on Putin’s watch list, which is the worst of all possible watch lists! Vladimir Putin, if you’re out there, please don’t come with a leopard on you shoulders and kill me with your thumbs, cause he could do it too. Yeah, I’m probably on their watch lists, if I’m on anybody’s watch lists, for researching weapons facilities and abandoned copper mines in Russia.
Jessica: Um, I really don’t know if I’m on anybody’s watch list. Let’s see… I Google a lot about memories, memory manipulation, and amnesia. Maybe the memory manipulation… Oh, and how the brain works, and memories are stored, and things like that. I don’t think I Google anything too bad as far as that’s concerned.
Anna: The worst thing I’ve looked up is how to Chloroform someone, and the side effects of that. And actually, Google picked up that and started giving me prices on Chlorophorm in my sidebar.
Emmy: I’ve Googled a lot of suspicious stuff for the Monument 14 series. Like making bombs and weapons, how to make a potato cannon I looked at, can you run a chain saw on anything besides gasoline. And can you McGuyver a battery powered chainsaw up to a car battery, and how grappling hooks work. So I’m probably on a watch list. I think I’m on a watch list for… *whisper* it could be for terrorism. You guys are my witnesses that I have good intentions – I’m a Patriot, I love America.
Jen: What is your favorite book that you’ve read in the past year, and what are you most looking forward to reading this summer?
Jessica: My favorite book I’ve read in the last year is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, I just finished it and it’s fantastic. And Emmy read it too and she loves it, everyone loves it! I just bought The Elite [by Kiera Cass] and I’ll be reading it on this tour, and I’m very excited about reading that one.
Anna: I think my favorite one so far has been Shatter Me [by Tahereh Mafi], I’m a really big fan of the series, and I’m a really big fan of her writing. I’m looking forward to reading Jessica’s Unremembered, because the more she talks about it, the more I’m like, “Oh my God I have to read this!” I’m ashamed I haven’t read it yet, so, yeah. She’s going to pinch me later.
Emmy: I think the best book besides Eleanor and Park, which I just read and I loved, that I read this year is The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. It’s not a YA book it’s an adult literary fiction book. It’s a post-apocalyptic, and it’s really exquisite. Very sparse writing, and very exciting. The book I’m looking forward to reading is the sequel to The Last Policeman by Ben Winters. It’s also not a YA book, but it’s wonderful. The Last Policeman, I thought it was great. And, I know Ben, he’s a friend of mine so I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does in the sequel.
Leigh: It’s always hard to pick a best… Code Name Verity is probably my best book that I’ve read in the past year. Coda by Emma Trevayne was also totally wonderful and totally different. I’m really looking forward to These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.
Jen: That’s all we have time for, but thank you so much for meeting with me and answering my questions!
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