Darkstars Fantasy News

17. April 2011

Interview with Seanan McGuire

Category: Interviews – Darkstar – 17:59

Late EclipsesWhen it comes to Urban Fantasy it’s nowadays hard to find a new series that feels both fresh and unique as well as lovely. For me Seanan McGuire managed to come up with such a spellbinding plot with her October Daye series.

With the third Toby Daye book just having been released here in Germany, the forth of that series (Late Eclipses) having been published in the US a few weeks ago and her Zombie-Horror Deadline coming in May it seemed like the perfect time to ask Seanan McGuire for an interview.

For coming up with questions, for the first time my partner in crime was the lovely hwm – and Seanan answered graciously our questions on her writing live, cover art, the (un)importance of an romantic subplot and many more!

Interview with Seanan McGuire

Dear Seanan, congratulations on winning the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010! In which way did winning the award have an effect on your career?

Well, it got my name in front of a lot of new eyes!  I don’t know that it’s had time to really affect my career all that much – Late Eclipses will be my first book release since the news was really out there.

It definitely hasn’t hurt, and I got a tiara!Rosemary and Rue

I really liked your fresh take on the fae folk and how they access and connect to our world. When planning the Toby Daye series, what did you do to make it stand out from the crowd of urban fantasy novels and what standard elements did you keep as crowd pleasers?

You know, there was no point where I really went ‘I should get rid of this, everybody does it,’ or ‘I have to keep this, people will be disappointed if I don’t.’  I was trying to hew very closely to the folklore and Märchen I was using as the story’s foundation, and everything sort of evolved from there.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn’t make me exactly like everyone else.

On your website you confirm that you are under a contract for a total of seven Toby books so far (with potentially more to come). October must be a character you love writing about, otherwise you’d gone for trilogy. What is it that makes Toby an extraordinary heroine for yourself to follow her story?

I love that Toby is not the best person for the situation most of the time.  She’s not especially powerful, she’s not the smartest, she’s not the best trained.

Her credentials are the same as those of most fairy tale heroes and heroines: she was in the right place at the wrong time, and now she has to save the world or pay the price.  I love that about her. She tries to do the right thing, even when there’s a chance that it could kill her.

One Salt SeaWhat do you like best while creating a novel and/or universe – and what do you loathe?

I love – love – designing the world. I put so much time and effort into the research and the pieces no one but me will ever care about, like the functional biology of sentient humanoid wasps.

What I hate is, ironically, the point where I have to start turning that research into a reality. I love the writing process, but I loathe starting it.

In your second series you try your hand on the horror genre. Feed is an awesome mix between political thriller and zombie horror, but it’s your beautifully broken main characters that bring it to life. For those you haven’t heard about this series before, please tell them a bit about it.

The Newsflesh trilogy is the story of a post-zombie world.  The Rising happened twenty years ago; it was bad; a lot of people died; we got over it.  It’s sort of my West Wing meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as interpreted by George Romero.

DeadlineThe first book, Feed, came out in 2010, and the second, Deadline, will be released this coming May.

I loved your main character and first person narrator, Georg(ia) Mason. She’s such a strong personality and yet so deeply damaged. I was also fascinated by how you handled the relationships in her life, the way you focused on the non-romantic ones.

These days when a female author writes about a female main character, a romantic subplot almost seems mandatory. Did you feel any pressure to include a romantic subplot in the story, did you consciously decide against it and if so, why?

There’s a lot of pressure on women to write romance, I think, and I do get complaints sometimes about the fact that so far, I haven’t written very much of it-people see that I have a female name, or see my picture, and they form this set of expectations about love and romance and hot sex scenes, and those things just haven’t been right for the books I’ve been writing.

The thing is, especially for a female author, any romance in a book turns the whole book into a romance for a lot of people.

I didn’t want Feed to be about romance.  I wanted it to be about the truth, and about Georgia, and Shaun, and how is much is too much to pay.

When I first read your reasons for publishing Feed under a pseudonym it startled me. I had experienced Rosemary & Rue to be the darker, more adult story of the two. Is this experience common? Why do you think that might be?

WinterfluchIt’s not, really.

The Toby books get filed in with the rest of urban fantasy here in the United States, and that sets the expectation levels for most readers.

I do think the pseudonym has been useful, if only because it means people go into both worlds with a clear mind-they don’t expect ‘the usual’ out of me.

Death plays a big part of your novels. In the Newsflesh series the threat of un(death) is everywhere whereas in the Toby Daye series it’s interestingly the immortal fae that have to face death again and again. Why have life (as in immortality and undeath) and death become such prominent factors in your work?

I studied folklore at college, and in the end, everything comes down to life and death.  You can summarize most of the fairy tales and folk stories of Europe as ‘apples and death and oatmeal and bears.’

I didn’t feel like writing about oatmeal, so it’s mostly death and bears, for me.

With currently three running novel-series, being an musician and artist and writing several other books and short stories as well – do you have access to the Summerlands yourself where time is running in another pace than in our world or how do you manage to find the time for all of this?

I don’t sleep.

Actually, that’s not true-I sleep a lot. I just work very efficiently when I’m awake.

I think I may be stealing time from my own parallel-universe clones.”

NachtmahrIf you could meet a fictional character (from your own work or and others) who would it be and why?

I’d like to meet the Doctor, from Doctor Who.  I’ve loved him since I was a little girl.

I absolutely wouldn’t want to meet anyone from my own work, since most of them would probably try to kill me on sight, and that would interfere with making my deadlines.

Some authors seem to be afraid of self-promotion, but you don’t shy away from it and your enthusiasm for your work is infectious. Do you adhere to a policy about self-promotion on your blog and how do you keep it from being obnoxious?

I never post about anything that I don’t genuinely feel strongly about.

My books excite me, because they’re mine, and because they make up such a huge part of my life.

I try to only post when I can convey that excitement properly, or when something new and exciting happens, like a sale, or a cover release.  I don’t demand that people buy my books, I just try to make sure they know the option is out there.

Plus I post cute kitten pictures, which makes up for a lot.

On your blog you not only talk about your books, your My Little Pony collection and your cats, but also serious and deeply personal subjects, such as the poverty you grew up in, being bullied as a child and how you deal with OCD.

I can’t imagine how much courage it took to write about these things in such an open, unapologetic way, but I’m not the only one who appreciates it. Especially your post about bullying got me thinking. Please tell us about how you came to the decision to write about these subjects and how you experienced the reactions to your posts.

A Local HabitationI’ve been blogging since long before I was a professional author, and one of the things I have learned is that people have amazing experiences that they need to share, because we only learn to appreciate other people’s points of view if we fully understand them.

I don’t post as much personal stuff as I used to, partially because my audience is so much bigger, and partially because I want the times I do post to be unusual enough to seem as important to others as they are to me.

I was actually contacted by the mother of a child who had recently been diagnosed with OCD, who wanted me to know that my posts had made it easier for him to accept his diagnosis.  If I could be a happy, healthy, functional person, so could he.  That’s important.  That’s the sort of thing I believe we should do for each other.

Also, on the whole My Little Pony thing, you realize Germany got different Ponies than the rest of us, right?  Can I come over?

Your German publisher is known for their fabulous covers and your’s in particular are gorgeous. Why do you think that they wouldn’t work in the States?

NebelbannThe art of cover design fascinates me. Covers have to imply the character of the contents, and entice the eye.

My German covers are incredible, and I love them.  But here in the US, I think they would read as YA, rather than reading as urban fantasy.  That’s just the way the current graphic trends have gone.

I really appreciate how different they are from my US covers.  It makes me feel all special.

Lets finish with giving us a little glimpse into Tobys future. What does await your readers in book three / book four of the Toby Daye-series?

In the fourth book, Toby finds that the Queen of the Mists has been planning something, and it’s not anything good.  Worse, some of her allies are struck ill, even though that shouldn’t be possible, and there’s a chance that Oleander de Merelands-the woman responsible for her confinement in the pond-may be back in the Mists.  The stakes are higher than ever, and by the time the dust settles, everything is going to have changed.

Thank you!

You can find Seanan McGuires website & her blog here!


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