"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Melissa Marr has taught folklore and fairytales on a university level, and she brings the faery world to life in her debut young adult novel Wicked Lovely. Her work has been called “stunning,” “alluring,” and “enticing” by reviewers and has appeared on bestseller lists for the New York Times, LA Times, and the Spiegel list in Germany. Her novel has been translated for Germany, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, and Italy, and is also available in Canada, the UK, and New Zealand. When she’s not touring or traveling, Melissa enjoys spending time with her family in Washington D.C. Her second novel, Ink Exchange, released in April 2008. She also has a short story in an upcoming anthology, and a manga series with TokyoPop debuting in 2009.
An Interview with Melissa Marr
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Melissa M.: I did. I was twelve when I decided I wanted to write, teach English, and be a mother. When I was a teenager, I was told I couldn't have children, so in college I decided to focus on teaching university with the long term goal of teaching PT and trying to write when I was 40. I figured that would allow me to be secure enough financially to adopt, and by teaching university, I'd have summers off to write.
Not long after grad school I was able to become a mother. I still didn't try writing. I figured I hadn't lived enough to have anything to say and teaching (which I loved) was the steady income for seeing to my kids' needs.
Then, when I was 30 my spouse suggested I should give it a go. I decided (under his nagg-- umm, encouraging) that I would work PT for 3 years and try, but if I failed I'd stop again until I turned 40. I was down to the last couple months--and had made plans to resume FT teaching--when I suddenly had to choose between agents and then a couple weeks later I had publishers vying for my book.
Now, I write.
PNR: Are you able to write as much as you would like? Could you tell us about your writing schedule? What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Melissa M.: I don't consider writing to be limited to the physical act of fingers on keys, so to some degree I think I'm always writing. Stories simmer in our minds for months or years before they are ready to be served up on to the page. My schedule is pretty random as result. There are days and weeks when I don't actually have actual pages scrawled out, and then there are days and weeks where I am at the desk 12-14 hours at a time with only brief pauses to get tea or grab a shower.
When I'm away from the desk, I like to do pretty normal stuff--spend time with my spouse and kids, go to museums, travel as often as I can, walk with my camera, get work on my tattoos, play with my puppy, shoot pool, bake bread, go to the theatre . . . just live, I guess.
PNR: Being a new author, who or what has been the biggest influence on your writing? Who has been your biggest support?
Melissa M.: My family is the best support I could dream of having. My spouse, children, and parents all believed I could do this while I had (and still have) so many doubts. They are indefatigable in their support and faith.
PNR: What are the greatest challenges to you as an author?
Melissa M.: I think it's like any career/life choice: the challenges vary. I'm fairly sure that what I want to write and what I'm capable of so far are pretty far apart. I obsess over this. I want stronger texts with less flaws. I want . . . well, I just want to do better, not let down readers, exceed or at least match what I did last text, improve and not stagnant.
On a non-creative level, I worry about job security. Securing my children's education funds has been a high priority, but so too is assuring that I'm as present a mother as they need. The PR schedule I have makes that hard sometimes (my son does not dig my going on tour), but we're finding fixes. My publisher is breaking my tour into several shorter legs. I fly my family to meet me on some locations or take them with me. So I guess, overall, the challenges are one of balance--in my creative goals & skills, as well as in my time for work & for parenting.
PNR: What do you feel are the essential elements of a great story?
Melissa M.: I don't think there are pre-set traits that make a text "great." Sometimes I crave action and intrigue; other days it's all about character; and still others it's passion . . . or tragedy . . . or taut pacing . . . or . . . It's not something I believe to be quantifiable or universal. It's Jack Kerouac's elusive "it." It's the story that resonates with that reader in that moment.
PNR: You made your mainstream publishing debut in June 2007 with the release of WICKED LOVELY. You have received a great deal of recognition and reader admiration for your writing. How does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
Melissa M.: Surreal. I never even dreamed that such a thing could happen. I wrote a story, hoped to sell it for a few dollars to offset my teaching salary and maybe some day build up to a career in this. I was utterly unprepared for what's happened the last 2 years, but I am very, very grateful to the readers and the folks at my various publishers here and abroad who made it happen.
PNR: Congratulations, readers and reviewers are excited about the April 2008 release of INK EXCHANGE from HarperTeen; this is the sequel to Wicked Lovely. Could you tell us what inspired this fantasy series and a little about your vision for the project? What direction will the series be taking? Will it be a series?
Melissa M.: I'm not sure I can pinpoint what inspired it, & I don't think I have a vision for it. I'm just winging it. I wrote the first book. Immediately after finishing, I started the companion novel (Ink Exchange). Somewhere in the middle of that, I started 3 different faery novels. One of those became the sequel to WL (Enthralled). Somewhere in the middle Harper contracted me for 3 more novels; I expect that a couple of those will be faery novels.
PNR: Readers are captivated by the dark fantasy world you have created. Tell us about the challenges you face in world building with paranormal elements in a contemporary setting and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the series? How much research is involved?
Melissa M.: I don't know if "research" is involved. I grew up with traditional folklore, and as an adult, I read it for fun. I read vampire, shapeshifter, zombie, and demon lore too. I think that's a big part of why I write supernatural fiction: it's something I've always been interested in, believed in, and read.
The old stories, the ones I like best, are grounded in our world. It's about "that time Mr. McIntyre, you remember him? Keely's uncle? Right, well, so he was walking home from the pub one night and . . ." or "Mother's old music box, you know the one, it was going to be put in the grave with her but Aunt Sissy saw Uncle Mike's spirit telling her not to so . . ." and "This old man was in the parking garage, and he said, 'You won't be wanting to go that way, miss. The Good Neighbors are riled up.'"
That's the way folktales go. It's the way storytelling in my family went. It's the way I tell tales to my kids. It's so much easier to suspend the disbelief if we have real world anchors. If you need me to believe in a world new dimension, I might struggle a touch more, but I've seen that pub, that music box, that path into the dark. Those I know are real, so why not the Wild Hunt, the ghost, or the faeries? Wrap the impossible around the framework of the real, and we are off to a grand start.
PNR: Your vision of the Fae is quite unique; could you give us some insight into the mythology of your Fae that is the thread to connect your novels?
Melissa M.: I stick as closely as I can to the core truths in folklore. (Faeries have an aversion to iron, for example.) I slip in new-ish traits though. It's what we do in oral tradition. Fairy tales, folklore, and most of our monomyths are re-told and adapted for the times they are being told. It's why there are so many beauty and the beast (animal bridegroom) tales (etc.) So I keep to the old, but I stir in some new--like updating a recipe, tinkering with the flavours but keeping the core ingredients.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Melissa M.: I write characters first and foremost. Since I write via multiple pov, the next step is to select from the characters I "know" to see which of their threads blend. Plot, conflict, tension--these result from characters with opposing needs and motivations.
PNR: You write wonderfully intriguing and complex characters that readers really connect to; could you tell us about the development of the relationships between your heroes and heroines? What was your inspiration for these characters? Who has been your favorite to write?
Melissa M.: Thank you. I suppose the influence is just a culmination of what I've read, lived, and learned. I taught, bartended, waited tables, enjoy travel, studied sociology (my minor in college), and enjoy philosophy and psychology. I like to learn new things and meet new people. I believe that probably all helped me get a sense of different types of people so I could pull traits to create my characters.
Mmm. The romance part . . . I suspect that the sort of love I've been lucky enough to see and to feel has influenced my characters' relationships. I believe in true love--and I believe that true love makes you a stronger, better person. It doesn't fetter you, but helps you become more of who you are.
My UK editor, Nick, made me blush profusely in a podcast interview in London last year when he asked about the romance in my characters' lives. I grew up with parents who've been in love with each other for 40 years now, and they still hold hands. I am married to a man who doesn't seem to know how many flaws I have --despite my showing him my weaknesses repeatedly. I think there's just a lot of amazing people out there, & if we're open to soul-nourishing love, we will find it. I couldn't write relationships otherwise.
I don't play favourites with my characters. I have to be a bit in love with each of them to write them, so I'm not able to say that any one is The One. It depends on which character I'm writing that day.
PNR: The folklore of the Fae has long captured the imagination of readers. Why do you feel it is such a popular theme in the paranormal romance genre? What is it about this genre that captures your imagination?
Melissa M.: I don't think it captivates me any more than the rest. I love the supernatural. It just so happened that Keenan and Donia were faeries when they arrived in my mind. My short story this fall is a selchie. My adult short story is a different type of being. I read vampire, shapeshifter, ghost, time travel, demon . . . I like them all.
PNR: The target audience for your novels is young adult but your work is very popular with adults as well. Why do you feel your writing appeals to such a wide audience?
Melissa M.: I have absolutely no clue :) The story was originally a short story--rejected by adult venues as "too young" and by teen venues as "too mature." I seem to write things that don't categorize tidily. In Germany, for instance, Wicked Lovely was published as a teen book. It's done very well (hitting a bestseller list there too), but the readership has been wide enough that it and Ink were re-sold to an adult house as well. In 2009, Wicked Lovely will be re-published as an adult book as well as released as a teen paperback.
I didn't expect the crossover appeal, but I'm grateful for it. The only guess I've had as to why is that my writing somehow reflects the fact that I don't stick to one type of text--I enjoy classics like Hardy, Faulkner, Keats, but I also read romance, fantasy, mystery, contemporary fiction, YA, manga, et al. I'm all over the store or library in my reading. Within genres, I'm pretty varied too. On my shelves, Nora Roberts sits next to Lynn Kurland, Eloisa James, Cherry Adair, and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I just like good books, not "types" of books. I expect that putting that much variety in my reading diet may result in some crossover in my own books' genre labeling.
PNR: What are the challenges you face writing young adult fantasy and dealing with the sensuality?
Melissa M.: There's actually not much sexual or sensual in the book, in my opinion; however, all of the sexuality in the text is dealt with honestly and respectfully. I didn't approach the sensual or sexual aspects of the book any differently than I would an adult-directed text. I tend to prefer writing (and reading) "closed door" scenes. I think sexual responsibility (in regard to health and mutual satisfaction) is essential.
Wicked Lovely includes exactly two closed door scenes with sexual content; there are a few other scenes with kissing. In WL, there is a discussion about safe sex. I've had mixed responses to that--which surprised me. A partner who includes your health as a consideration? I think that's realistic and romantic. I've also had a few grumbling responses to the inclusion of oral sex. Again, a partner who considers your satisfaction? Why would you have sex with anyone who didn't? I was utterly befuddled by anyone thinking it's problematic to have a female enjoy a consensual sexual experience in a committed love relationship in a very "closed door" setting. Luckily, a lot of other readers agreed with me, & I've received some wonderful responses to both the realism and equality.
I don't include anything gratuitous--or even open door--but I won't shy away from honesty either.
PNR: What is it about the paranormal genre that captures your imagination? Is there a genre you haven’t written but would like to try?
Melissa M.: The first novel I tried writing was a contemporary vampire romance; the second was time travel (Victorian era); the third was straight fantasy; and the fourth was Wicked Lovely. I guess that most every time I start a text, it's included something otherworldly. I'd like to say that there's a conscious thought behind this, but really, I just like it. I grew up believing in faeries, vampires, ghosts . . . Most days I still do. Unless one can prove they aren't real, I'll keep that nugget of "just maybe . . ." I like the possibilities raised by "just maybe . . ." and "oooh, what if . . ."
I think about writing more in terms of character and narrative structure. I'd like to write a framed narrative. I'd like to write a Victorian character. For now, I expect those would include something paranormal. I have an adult novel in progress, and it too is paranormal. I think, for me, it's just the best fit for the conceivable future.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
Melissa M.: Actually, I have a lot of projects that are pending release. Ink Exchange and the paperback of Wicked Lovely both released April 29th in North America (July in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand; 09 in a number of other nations). An anthology (Love is Hell, HarperTeen) comes out in November. That one is a selchie love story. (I had a lot of fun tapping my lifelong romance reading in the writing of it.) In 2009, the sequel to Wicked Lovely releases, and I'm in an adult anthology with Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson, and Jocelyn Drake.
PNR: Thank you, Melissa, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Melissa M.: Thanks for having me. If folks want to find me, I have a website (www.melissa-marr.com). For convenience, my blog, MySpace, and reader forum are all connected to that URL. If folks want to meet me in the live world, my calendar is on that site as well. Harper is sending me off on tour again (the third US tour in 15 months) as well as a number of fun side trips--RWA National, Book Expo America, ALAN Conference, et al. I'm pretty easy to locate these days, and I enjoy meeting new people.
April 29, 2008
sequel to Wicked Lovely
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance between the Faerie Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly-vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.
Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of the world of faeries, or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she craves for her own life.
The tattoo does bring changes—sinister, compelling changes that bind Leslie to the ruler of the faeries’ Dark Court. Slowly, she learns of an ominous power struggle unfolding in a world of shadow and darkness, a world into which she drawn, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils.
Melissa Marr continues her tales of Faerie in a dark, ravishing story of temptation and consequences, and of heroism when least expected.
April 29, 2008
Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.
Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.
Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.
Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.
Faerie intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning 21st century faery tale.
November 25, 2008
Multi-Author AnthologyFeatured in this issue: ~Faerie Tales ~Total-e-Bound Interviews with: Aithne Jarrretta Tambra Kandall Amy Lane Melissa Marr Keira Ramsay Jacquie Rogers Esri Rose Nita Wick Hot Spot Jessica Andersen Jes Battis A.W. Gryphon Karen Kelley
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