Huffington Post has released its Top 10 Young Adult Books of 2013, each with its own honorific. SIEGE AND STORM, the second book in the Grisha trilogy, was among those recognized!
Here’s what Huffington’s YA Book Blogger, Lisa Parkin, had to say about the book:
I’m so thankful for another stellar sequel. My expectations were ridiculously high, as Shadow and Bone was my all-time favorite book of 2012.
With interesting Russian influences and an absolutely unpredictable plot, Siege and Storm kept high fantasy alive and well in YA fiction. There are power struggles and epic battles and evil dark forces at work. This book kicked my butt and broke my heart. (Don’t the best always do?)
Leigh Bardugo got together with authors M.L. Brennan (AMERICAN VAMPIRE), Django Wexler (THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS), and Teresa Frohock (MISERERE) to chat about all things books, writing, and connecting with fans!
PART ONE: UNICORNS, HIGHLANDERS, AND THE CHARACTERS WE KILL
Q: What are your feelings about seriously harming or even killing main characters?
Leigh Bardugo: I’m glad that you mentioned doing serious harm, because for me, that’s sometimes the more interesting choice. I like to take away the thing that the character believes defines him or her and then see what happens.
As for killing off characters, agreed on all fronts, particularly Teresa’s points re manipulating or cheating the reader. A death is like a declaration of love or any dramatic moment really—it has to feel earned. Even if the death is deliberately arbitrary (Whedon does this a lot—shrapnel! stray bullet! danger is everywhere!), I think the fallout has to be deeply felt. Otherwise, you’re just upping the body count and there’s a good chance the reader will begin to feel brutalized or simply stop caring. I don’t know. It’s easy to talk about these things in the abstract, but I just locked the third book in my trilogy and I worried quite a bit about striking a balance between the reality of war and narrative satisfaction. I still don’t know if I walked the line successfully.
Q: Is there an element you put in your books not because it was necessary to the plot or characters, but just because it was awesome?
Leigh Bardugo: I like imagining Teresa setting fire to the world. In Siege and Storm, Alina discovers that Mal has been spending his nights brawling in what started out as an ordinary fight club scene because, well, I wanted to write about a fight club. But my friend Sarah called me out on it. She basically said, “What is this Far and Away shiz?” And I knew she was right, but I also knew there was a reason beyond bare-knuckle shenans for why I felt so attached to the scene. It was only on the rewrite that I realized the change I needed to make to give the moment significance: Mal is an ordinary soldier and he needed to be challenging Grisha, the members of the magical elite. He’s doing it to prove he isn’t helpless, to get a bit of his own back—and it ended up having an impact not only on his character, but on the rest of the trilogy.
I desperately, desperately wanted Sturmhond to have a sky fortress in Siege and Storm. I had this whole vision of how it would plummet to the earth in this big battle. But with the rules I’d created for the magical system, it was impossible. In theory, a group of Squallers could have kept a floating fortress aloft and stable, but in the context of my world it would have been an absurd expenditure of resources, completely pointless. So that was the end of the sky fortress. But I still think of it fondly.
Tell us about one novel that you wish you had written.
Leigh: Lawd, I never know what to make of this question, but I’m going with Glen David Gold’s Carter Beats the Devil. It’s one of the most perfectly plotted books I’ve read, and it also strikes this tone of possibility that I haven’t encountered many other places. It’s an intimate story, but it has grand scale. It’s historical fiction, but there’s an element of magical realism. It’s whimsical and improbable, but grounded in something sinister, and heartbreaking, and absurdist. After I read it, I started trying to write a literary novel set in early 1900s Los Angeles. I never got past chapter two. At the same time, I’d hate to have written Carter because then I’d be deprived of the pleasure of simply reading it.
Q: Is there a book you pretend you’ve read, but haven’t? Answers after the break!
Leigh Bardugo: I always nod or smirk as appropriate when Jonathan Franzen’s books are mentioned, but I’ve never read them. The problem is that, at this point, I’ve read enough of his commentary that I’m incapable of giving him a fair read. Am I missing out? Tell me fellow panelists. Unless you haven’t read him, in which case, nod or smirk as appropriate.
Shadow and Bone author Leigh Bardugo got to share her thoughts, along with 20 other well-known authors, on the process of writing a novel, including your first one. As one who’s debut series’s final book has yet to come out, I’m sure the first time process is probably fresh in her mind. Read below what she had to say:
When did you decide to write what became your first book? What were you doing for a living at the time?
Leigh Bardugo (first book Shadow and Bone): I was working as a makeup and special-effects artist at the time and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Before that I’d worked as a journalist, I’d worked as a copywriter. When my dad passed away I decided to switch careers. I needed to be away from a computer screen and around people. I think not writing for my day job helped to let that muscle relax during the day so that I felt like writing when I came home at night.
Was the proposition of writing a book intimidating or crazy-seeming, or were you confident you could do it?
Leigh Bardugo: I believed all my life that I could write a book. I thought if not easy, it would be a pleasurable journey. I don’t think I could have been more wrong about that. I think that one of the myths we have about creativity is that sometimes we have a calling, that you know that every day of your life, when in truth, half of writing a first draft is very much about failure.
Had you attempted to write other books prior to the one you ultimately published first?
Leigh Bardugo: I tried to write a bunch of books. I would get an idea and I would race into writing. I was so excited. Momentum would usually carry me through 50 pages or so and then I would hit a serious bump or I would lose steam or I would have one of those slow days. That slow day would turn into a slow week and then a slow month and I would step away from it and never come back.
Did you show people sections or drafts of your manuscript as you wrote it?
Leigh Bardugo: I sent the draft to two people, a friend who’s a TV writer and another who’s an academic. Neither of them is huge into young adult or science fiction, but I knew they would at least appreciate what I was trying to do. They understood how to tell a story. This is something I tell writers, aspiring writers all the time: Choose your readers wisely. Choose people who aren’t going to bring their own ego or their own agenda to the page. You have to trust them wholly so that when they come to you with things you don’t want to hear, you can’t just dismiss them.
What helped you get through, despite the obstacles you encountered?
Leigh Bardugo: I basically tricked myself into writing the first draft of Shadow and Bone. Every time that voice kicked in that said, It’s not good enough, instead of trying to fight it, I said, You’re absolutely right. Nobody’s ever going to see it. I just have to write it and then I can put it in a desk drawer or send it out to sea or set it on fire.
All told, how long did it take you to write the book, from idea to selling it?
Leigh Bardugo: From idea to sending out the manuscript was a little under a year. It was a really great year.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known then? What advice would you give your younger self?
Leigh Bardugo: I used to believe in the myth of the big idea: The big idea hits and you never look back. It’s sort of like when you meet a couple that’s been together for a long time and the question you ask is “How did you guys meet?” And there’s always a great story. But the real question — and the one that hopefully you’re too polite to ask — isn’t “How did you guys meet?” but “How did you stick together?” That’s the story of writing a book. How did you stick with it? How did you get through the day-to-day? I think one of the reasons you get so many questions about process — “Do you plot?” “How do you do it?” “How do you do it every day?” — is because people want to believe there’s a way to take the pain out of the process of writing. And there really isn’t. You’re going to have days that are terrible.
You can check out the whole interview with all the other participating authors, including Dean Koontz and Charlaine Harris, on Buzzfeed.
Last week at YALL Fest, our correspondent Ellie got a chance to chat with Leigh Bardugo about the Grisha trilogy: The characters! The challenges! The fandom! THE DARKLING.
There are no RUIN AND RISING spoilers in this interview, but if you haven’t read up through SIEGE AND STORM, there may be some major spoilers. Also, if you haven’t read SIEGE AND STORM, what are you waiting for?!
First off, how is RUIN AND RISING coming along?
Leigh Bardugo: Well, the first draft was finished back in February and we’ve done a couple rounds of revisions since then. Now we’re basically just going into copy edits, so it’s done!
Any warnings or clues for your readers?
LB: Not everyone is going to make it out of the series. Those that do survive will be much changed. And many, many secrets will be revealed.
Which book is the Grisha series was the most difficult to write?
LB: Easily book three. Writing book two was incredibly intense. It was the first time I’ve written on a deadline and I was making the world much more complex. There were more characters and the political dynamics of the world came much more into play. But book three… books one and two are really about opening doors and book three was really about closing doors. It was really hard to say goodbye to the characters and also to make everything so final, despite the fact that I had plotted out the book literally years before. To bring those things into to being was a much more difficult process than I had anticipated.
As you were writing, did you leave your characters possible for alternate outcomes or were you set in their journey from the very beginning?
LB: I always knew where they would end up, but there were certain characters– There was a character in book two– I talk about this a lot and people always get frustrated because I won’t reveal who it is. There was a character in book two that I intended to kill off, but I just couldn’t. That was because that character still had a big journey to go on. That was really the only surprise of the series. But for the most part, even despite that, the ending has never budged and I think I always knew where they needed to end up, why they needed to be there. Alina’s story is– I’ve always known where the heart of her story is. If she had gone someplace different, it would have betrayed all of the things I’d set up to begin with…. That was very vague. (laughs)
When I first got into the books, I knew very little except that people were in love with The Darkling. When I found out the truth about The Darkling, I was shocked. Did you expect people to fall in love with him? How do you feel about that?
LB: Any time people connect with your characters, it’s kind of this wonderful surprise. I was not very active in the YA world in terms of readers and fantoms. I had no idea what that would be like or even to hope for it. In that way it was really gratifying but… (laughs) Honestly, if I didn’t want The Darkling to be appealing, I would have just pulled a Vader or a Voldemort. It would be like “Oh! My evil is making me gross and disintegrating my nose!” I want him to be appealing because I feel like that’s what charismatic leaders and dictators are like, otherwise nobody would follow them.
What is the most unique fan art, costume, gift, etc that you have seen or received?
LB: It actually happened on this last tour at our first stop. Two people cosplayed Alin and the stag, but they based the costly on fan art by Irene Koh. I was like “Now, if somebody writes fanfic of this, we’ll basically open up a wormhole.” That was incredibly fun, especially because I love seeing readers interact with each other. It’s fun for me to chat with them, but it’s cool for me when people get each other to read the books or plan things together. I’m part of the fan community. I’m a member of the Game of Thrones fandom, The Brotherhood Without Banners, and those people are a really big part of my life. So it’s really cool for me to see other people being brought together by the books. Again, something I never really anticipated, but it’s really fun to witness.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you were to redo your writing process for the series?
LB: I wish I could go back and eliminate some of the self-doubt I experienced. That’s something that kind of perches on my shoulder throughout the books. I’m getting better about that, but there are still days when I feel like I’m not capable of finishing a book or I have no idea how to do it; I don’t know how I managed it before and I’ll never manage it again. There are some magic and alchemy that I can’t recreate. There was so much of that early on and I wish I could go back and reassure that past Leigh that I could do it. That’s why whenever I talk to aspiring writers, I tell them to let go of that voice inside that says you can’t and tell them that they can.
Are you set on the fantasy genre or do you plan on writing other genres as well?
LB: Whatever I write will have some element of fantasy or the supernatural in it, but there’s a good chance I will deviate from secondary world fantasy and write some horror. Who knows what else.
If you had to enter the Shadow Fold, what would be your survival strategy?
LB: (laughs) I would curl up in the fetal position and I would sing softly to myself. Start singing “Soft Kitty.”
Would you want to be a Grisha and if so, what class would you be?
LB: I would love to be a Heartrender, but I think deep down, I’m really a Fabrikator. I’m kind of crafty but also I’m most happy when I’m sitting in my workshop all by myself. I don’t think I would be on the front lines.
What’s next for you?
LB: I can’t really talk in too much detail about what I’m working on right now. I’m hoping to be able to make an announcement soon. I can tell you that it is fantasy. I was just at a writing retreat and I spent the first week of that retreat drafting this new book. I’m very excited.
Do you have any last messages for your fans?
LB: A very heartfelt thank you. I feel very, very grateful. I have basically my dream job and you’re the reason for it, so thank you.
Congratulations to Leigh Bardugo for her book, Siege & Storm, the sequel to Shadow & Bone, being named one of the best YA books of 2013 by Amazon.com! It was listed among 19 other notable YA novels. Definitely worth the read!