Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with Sarah Maas, Author of THRONE OF GLASS

Congratulations to Sarah Maas, whose epic fantasy THRONE OF GLASS debuts from Bloomsbury Teen this week! You can read about her incredible four prequel novellas, which range from swashbuckling to heart rending here. THRONE OF GLASS is setting hearts on fire all over the world, and is an August Amazon Best Teen Book of the Month!

Sarah was kind enough to sit down with Lucky 13er Amie Kaufman for a chat about —among other topics—her debut, her novellas and why she writes epic fantasy.

First, a bit about THRONE OF GLASS:

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life.

Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Celaena's an epically kick-ass heroine--she can rock a ballgown anda throwing star with equal style. For me, one of her strengths is that she's very real, and has questions and worries that feel very genuine, despite her incredible life. What do you think makes a great heroine?
You know, there’s so much focus these days on a heroine’s physical skills as a sign of true strength—that in order to be considered a strong heroine, she has to be able to kick someone’s ass. But I think that real strength comes from inside of yourself—and heroines can be strong without being able to wield a sword.

A great heroine is someone who feels like a REAL person, someone who has faults and desires and passions and fears. Someone who makes mistakes and pays for them, someone whose flaws can cause genuine difficulties for her and others (can I just say that being clumsy is NOT a real flaw?). A great heroine doesn’t need to be strong from the get-go (I mean “strong” in the inner/emotional sense), and she doesn’t need to be wholly “good” either. She just needs to be a real person—a fully-rounded, multi-faceted, 3D person.

Reading your four novellas, I laughed, cheered and sobbed. How did you come to write them, and what was it like?

Well, it was my agent who actually had the idea. She thought writing a few short stories would be a great way to tide over my FictionPress fans until the release (this was right after we learned that Bloomsbury had decided to make ToG a Fall title, and was pushing the release back by a few months). So, she presented the vague idea to Bloomsbury, who immediately got on board. But instead of writing short stories, they wanted me to write four, 20-30k-word novellas.

After some brainstorming and back-and-forth debating about WHAT these novellas would be about, we decided on the stories and the arc of the four novellas: they’d each be stand-alone, but together would form the arc of Celaena’s downfall and imprisonment in the salt mines. So, just about a year ago, I began writing.

Honestly, I had no idea just how time-consuming, overwhelming, and wonderful this experience would be. Together, all four novellas make around a 100k-word novel, which I wound up writing as I was finishing revisions on Book 1, going through copyedits, first pass pages, and then drafting Book 2. The novellas each had their own revision process (as well as copyedits, etc.), and…I’m just going to say it was exhausting, but amazing.

I learned so much not just about writing and publishing, but also about my characters and the world of Throne of Glass. I’ve been humbled and amazed by the reaction readers have had to the novellas—it makes all the long hours and moments of doubt totally and completely worth it.

Without spilling the beans, can you tell us about a favourite scene from Throne of Glass?

Hmmm. Such a hard question. I love all of the scenes between Celaena and the Captain of the Guard, especially the ones toward the end of the book. I also adore the scenes with Celaena and a certain someone that she meets in a certain secret/forgotten place (…how’s THAT for vague and non-spoilery). (Amie: That scene is AWESOME, and you all should read the book to find out what she’s talking about!)

Throne of Glass totally puts the "epic" in "epic fantasy"! What isit you love about this genre, and why do you write it?

Another hard question! I’ve always been a high fantasy fanatic, and I’ve never really been able to put my finger on WHY I adore it so much. Perhaps it’s because our world never interested me as much as imagined ones—worlds where fantastic and magical and wondrous things happened every day.

I love that feeling of opening up a book and venturing into a world I’ve never been to before—learning its rules and history. Epic fantasy allows for us to dream big and make our own rules—to invent entire cultures and landscapes and legends. It’s exciting and seductive and full of endless possibilities.

I think I wound up writing epic fantasy just because the stories I daydream about happen to be set in other worlds…I don’t actively think ‘Oh, I’m going to write an epic fantasy.’ Instead, I think: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a world where X-things existed and Y-characters were faced with Z-problem?!’

Sarah J. Maas was born and raised in New York City, but after graduating from Hamilton College in 2008, she moved to Southern California. She’s always been just a *tad* obsessed with fairy-tales and folklore, though she’d MUCH rather be the one slaying the dragon (instead of the damsel in distress). When she was sixteen, she discovered FictionPress.com, and shared a (very rough) draft of Throne of Glass, a YA epic fantasy retelling of Cinderella. For the six years Throne of Glass was on FictionPress (at the time called Queen of Glass), it developed a massive fanbase–which later gave her the confidence to attempt getting it published. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found geeking out over things like Han Solo, gaudy nail polish, and ballet. You can visit her website here, add her on Facebook and Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter.

This interview was conducted by Lucky13s member Amie Kaufman, whose YA sci-fi novel THESE BROKEN STARS will be released Fall 2013 from Disney*Hyperion. The interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies -- YA, MG, and children's book authors debuting in 2012.

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