Author Interview with Melissa Marr


Melissa Marr is the author of the hugely popular books, Wicked Lovely and Ink Exhange. Her third novel, set in the same world as the two aforementioned books, is scheduled for release in April of 2009. In anticipation of this, Melissa was kind enough to sit down with us this week and answer some of our questions. Grab a cuppa guys, you’re in for a real treat!

Firstly, I just wanted to say congratulations on writing such an amazing series. The Wicked Lovely books are hugely popular, and rightly so!

Thank you : ) It’s very cool (and still exceptionally surreal!) that readers are enjoying spending their time with my characters.

First things first, I want to put some debate to rest and ask just exactly how you pronounce Aislinn’s name.

Aislinn or Aisling (ASH-ling or ASH linn)

Does Ash’s name signify anything about her character, or was it just a random selection on your part?

Aislinn means “dream or vision.” The first part sounds like “Ash.” Mounain Ash/Rowan is one of the trees used a lot in folk tradition. Ash is also the leftover bits after we pass away (“ashes”) and what is left after one is burnt up (by the sun, frex).

Most of the names in my texts are chosen for their etymological significance. If you want spoilers, sometimes checking out the names of characters in texts will lead you to clues.

There seems to be a definite divide between the Team Keenan and Team Seth fans. Are you impartial, or do you lean towards one team over the other?

I can argue for the strengths of both Seth & Keenan—and have love for most of my characters. That doesn’t mean that I would take up with them in the real world. They’re neither one my type. If I were able to step into the book, I wouldn’t be pursuing either of them or trying to sway Ash in her decisions . . . but I can see why she has feelings for them. They’re good guys. Flawed, but good. . .

In your mind, who came first – Seth or Keenan?

Keenan came first in terms of the writing. In 2004, I wrote a short story (“The Sleeping Girl”) about a girl – Aislinn – who had to choose between joining the Summer King and becoming the next Winter Queen. Choosing one would end her contact with the other. The Summer King tempted her with a life of endless summer – dancing and freedom and no responsibilities.

So, Keenan & Ash were in the story from the beginning. Seth and Donia and all the rest evolved as the story became a novel.

Why faeries?

Why not? : ) With folklore, there are so many interesting beings. I grew up believing in them — the beansidhe in the woods, the ghost in the music box, the vampire who likes to walk in the old cemetery on the hill. . . Add a steady diet of folklore, fairy tales, critical studies on the same, and a decade teaching literature, a few years teaching lit/gender studies . . . It all swirls together. So it’s what leaks through when I write. Right now, the faeries leaked through first.

Who is your favorite fey character in your fey world, and why?

Depends on what day it is and what I was just writing : ) I like the Scrimshaw Sisters, Beira, Irial, Bananach … I like Sorcha. Tonight, I’m in revisions on the fourth novel (which has a working title of Skin Starved), so I’m particularly fond of Ani. To write them, I need to love them. I need to want what they want, believe in their goals, and look at the machinations necessary to make their agendas reality. If I don’t hold their needs and wants and hopes as important, they could end up as flat characters or placeholder characters . . .and where’s the fun in that?

Are any of the characters in your novels based on actual people?

Grams is based, in part, on my own grandmother – Marjorie Marr. My grandmother was the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. She was brilliant, tough, clever, and never stopped learning about the world. I wouldn’t be the person I am without having had her influence on my life.

Grams also has the surname of my grandfather’s (John Marr) mother. The rest of the characters are not consciously based on anyone, but Grams is my homage to my grandparents and their histories.

Ink Exchange predominantly follows a different set of character than Wicked Lovely does, what made you want to change the focus like that?

Picture being in the middle of a group of people. One person is talking, telling a story, and another says something fascinating. Now, you can’t really stop everything to follow up bc, well, the original story is interesting you and if you walk away you’ll miss it. Afterwards, the room is emptying out and you see the person who made the remark. You can follow the first person and hope there are more things they’ll say later, or you can walk to the park with the second person whose story you haven’t heard yet. To me, the second option is more fun. Life is filled with people with stories inside of them, and I don’t want to only listen to the stories of one person (or character).

In Wicked Lovely we first met Leslie as Ash’s friend. But in Ink we see a whole new side of Leslie that we don’t really see in WL. They seem kind of different to me. How did they become friends?

I suspect it was the same way we will all do – a moment where they discovered a point of connection, a commonality. (In their case, it was over a lit assignment they first started talking.) I guess I don’t see the difference as the important factor. Difference is all the more reason to talk. One of my dearest friends is a very granola, very religious (& not my faith), kinda anti-feminist mother of a few kids. Another hates children (no, really, finds the idea of small humans repugnant). Another is texting me right now abt a particularly good date he had last night-today-still. Another is a bit of a misanthrope. Another is hardcore activist, reproductive rights, liberal. Another is . . . They’re not the same. I argue with some on issues. I adore them all.

If we are only friends with those who are all the same, we miss out.

Are we going to see Leslie again in future books?

Leslie is not in Fragile Eternity or Skin Starved (Book 4). Beyond that, I have no answer. I know what’s going on in her corner of the world, but I’m not sure when or if that needs to be brought back into the novels. The resolution of Ink Exchange was the right resolution for her at this point in her life, so I don’t anticipate her returning to the rest of the events in the world of Wicked Lovely anytime soon.

If my memory serves me correct, Ash doesn’t have any tattoos, right? Is she planning on getting any? If so, of what?

Ash isn’t so much a tattoo fan. Seth is. A few other characters are. (Tavish has a sunburst tattoo I’m quite fond of), but Ash has no immediately plans for a tattoo. Some people just don’t want to wear art – which is fine.

It’s no secret that you’re a fan of tattoos. Do you have any advice for someone thinking about getting one?

One should always research both the artist and the studio as the key part of planning to get a tattoo. You want an artist with experience, not just in traditional art but in tattooing. Just because someone can run a tattoo machine doesn’t mean they are qualified to decorate your body – and just because they can sketch doesn’t mean they can tattoo. Think of it like calligraphy and working in oil: both are art, but skill in one isn’t necessarily skill in the other.

Ask questions, meet the artist, check out the shop, & trust your instincts if you get a twitchy feeling. There are some brilliant artists out there, but there are inexperienced scratchers too. A lot of shops will have laws, advice, and other helpful things on their websites. The pros – the real tattooists – want you to have beautiful art and a put that on a worthy canvas. That means client and artist need to be sober (no drinking or drugs), clean, and well rested. On their side, they should also open new needles (in front of you!), change gloves any time the gloves contact anything (phone, trash, etc). Treat a tattoo visit with the respect you would your physician’s visits. It’s a profession and an art.

The [US] covers of your books are amazing. How much input did you have on that?

They’ve been very active in asking for my opinions. I picked both cover models (in that, matching the character’s image in my head and looking healthy were my priorities. Promoting an unhealthy body image seems anti-feminist so a number of models were off the list for that reason). They asked for a list of suggestions of “iconic images” (the flower on the cover of Wicked Lovely, the tattoo on the cover of INK, & the butterfly in FE). The vines on WL & FE (ivy & jasmine, respectively) are from the texts.

I’ve had regular contact with Alison (the Art Director), and I’ve even answered questions on what length the models fingernails should be for the WL cover. At the end though, those very same details could create a totally different image, so while the details are things I can offer thoughts on, the art is totally theirs. Mark Tucker (whose art makes me crush on him quite horribly) and Alison Donnalty are the ones who do the magic on the covers.

And, yes, I do have a favourite – the US cover of Ink Exchange is easily my top pick, closely followed by the US cover of Wicked Lovely. I’ve been fortunate to get some beautiful ones overseas too: both the books have gorgeous covers in Germany, and the art on the original UK covers is stunning. I’ve been elated by all of these.

What is your fave novel circulating at the moment?

I don’t usually have just one answer, so here are my top 6.

In terms of newish books? The Graveyard Book (Gaiman). No one else alive can craft stories like he can. He’s brilliant.

Other newish picks I recommend to my readers are Graceling (Cashore), The Summoning (Armstrong), Bones of Faerie (Simner).

In term of what’s coming? The Forest of Hands and Teeth (C Ryan) and Immortal (Shields) are both texts that are literary and captivating – in totally different ways. I really enjoyed them both.

Do you think you’ll always write novels about fey, or are you planning non-fey stories in the future?

I’m afraid I don’t plan very well, but since I know what I’m under contract for – but not spilling in public any time soon – I can safely say that I will write both faery and non-faery stories 😉

Fragile Eternity is out in April. Don’t spose you could dish any info for us?

If it wouldn’t get my knuckles smacked, I’d spoiler all over the place. I’m one of those folks who reads ending first, so I’m all for spoilers . . . That said, I get chastened if I share too much. Hmmmm. How about this: The Persephone myth (which is very like a particular faery lore detail) is a factor. I think the actions of the characters are ones that were totally inevitable, but I know a few earlier readers (including my daughter) have gasped at some of them.

We’d just like to say a very huge thank you to Melissa for taking time out of her uber busy schedule to answer our questions. I know I speak for everyone in the yaReads family when I say that we’re all profoundly excited about the release of Fragile Eternity. In my opinion, April can’t get here fast enough!

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