Four Part Author Chat with Leigh Bardugo and Friends

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!

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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.

PART TWO: WORLDBUILDING AND THINGS WE PUT IN OUR BOOKS JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE COOL

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.

PART THREE: CONS, FANS, AND BOOKS WE WISH WE’D WRITTEN

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.

PART FOUR: ALL THE LIES!

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.

THE TOO-CLEVER FOX on Best Stories of 2013 List

Tor.com has released their list of the 21 Best Stories of 2013! We thrilled to see this list includes Leigh Bardugo’s THE TOO-CLEVER FOX, the telling of a popular Ravkan fairytale that influences Alina throughout the Grisha Trilogy!

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“The Too-Clever Fox”
Written by Leigh Bardugo
Illustration by Anna and Elena Balbusso
Edited by Noa Wheeler

This story is the most engaging new trickster folktale I’ve read in a while. The author does a wonderful job of crafting a story with the kind of multivalent morals wrapped in straightforward storytelling that characterize the genre she’s mimicking. The result is an unfolding folklore tradition that makes her world feel rich and real. That’s valuable enough on its own, but I’m even more impressed by the story because it’s a work of tie-in fiction. Leigh Bardugo really understands how to use a short story to promote her novels. The answer isn’t to write another chapter, but to build a mythic foundation that makes her world enticing.

Tor.com is releasing THE TOO-CLEVER FOX and the 20 other books listed in an anthology titled SOME OF THE BEST. You can preorder it for FREE on Amazon now!

Morozova’s Collar: One Fan’s Stunning Homemade Design

While HebelDesign has an amazing Shadow and Bone collection, alltheladiesyouhate on tumblr was looking for something unique for her Alina Starkov cosplay outfit. So she went to work and created her own Morozova’s Collar using air dry clay. Let’s just say it has quite the effect!

 

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If this is just one part of the costume, we can’t wait to see the whole thing!

An Exclusive Interview with Leigh Bardugo, Author of SHADOW AND BONE, Part 2

Here is part 2 of the interview I had done with author Leigh Bardugo, where we talk about the Shadow and Bone movie, and what’s next for Leigh. 

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TFGeekGirl:  What were your first thoughts about DreamWorks when they were interested in getting the rights to your book? 

Leigh Bardugo:  (laughs) You know, if I could have hand picked a company to be interested in making Shadow and Bone into a movie, it would have been DreamWorks.  But it’s the kind of thing that you just don’t even let yourself think about.  What are the chances?  It was just not a call I expected to get. I think it’s very hard to do fantasy well, and I think they’re one of the few places that can, so I feel very safe in their hands.

TFGG: Did you imagine a certain actor/actress when you were writing the characters?

Leigh:  I don’t really use actors as inspiration. But it’s really fun for me to see who people pick.  I love seeing fancasting and I love when people create fan art or images. 

TFGG:  I’ve seen some pictures and I saw that Colton Haynes was fancast as Mal, and I found that interesting.

shadow-and-bone_lowresLeigh:  I think with fancasting, and this isn’t a criticism – I think you sort of need something to go by – and so people feel much more constrained by the physical appearance of the characters. Now, I’ll admit that if they say “let’s make the Darkling blond,” I’d be upset.  But it’s really much more important to me that the actors be able to bring what they need to bring to the table, rather than that they look like what I have in my head.  And I hope that people will be open-minded on casting.  I think it’s easy to get attached to hair color or eye color, but the most important thing is to find people who can really bring these characters to life. Real charisma is rare, and you just don’t know what someone will bring to a character or what kind of chemistry they’ll have with the other people in the cast.

TFGG:  What scenes are integral to the story that just have to be in the movie?

Leigh:  That’s a hard question.  I think that there’s a reason I’m not writing the screenplay (laughs).  I suspect the biggest challenge with Shadow and Bone will be that there are a lot of things that happen internally for Alina that will need to be externalized.  In terms of things that have to be there, there are certain scenes that were really the basis from  which the entire book grew. I would be heartbroken to see them go or change radically, but I’m going to keep an open mind see what our screenwriter comes up with. I think it’s important for me to step back and respect that it’s a totally different medium.

TFGG:  Will they let you see the script?

Leigh:  They will let me see the script and I’m looking forward to meeting our writer (Christopher Kyle). He wants to know what’s going to happen in book three.

TFGG: Is that about as far as you think you’ll be in the production?

heyman-kyleLeigh:  I don’t know.  I was lucky enough to meet with [producer] David Heyman when I was in London and I told him I’d like to be as involved in it as they would let me. But the fact is I have books to write and they have movies to make, and I’m happy to let them do their job.  Again,  if it were a different group of people, I would be a lot more insecure or worried about what they might do.  But these are people who have a proven track record of working well with authors and creating beautiful films.

TFGG: Are you still writing Ruin and Rising?

Leigh:  Ruin and Rising, the first draft, is finished and sent to my editor.  It will have to go through revisions, but it’s done.

TFGG:  Do you have any stories after the Grisha Trilogy is finished?

Leigh:  I can’t talk about some of the other projects that I’m working on, but there are a few things cooking.  And there’s a good chance that there will be more books set in the same world.  I will promise that the trilogy for these characters will be complete.  There will be no question in your mind.

TFGG:  So, your time is in writing right now?

grisha_insignia-corporalki_heartrendersLeigh:  It is.  Between writing and promotion, there isn’t room for a whole lot of anything else.  But I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  This is what I wanted my whole life.  Even when I’m at my most stressed out or freaked out or worried or tired, that’s only the top layer, and below that top layer there’s that deep sense of gratitude and satisfaction, and disbelief, honestly – I’ll periodically be walking down the street and just think, “I’m going to wake up!”  I’m going to be in my bed, and it’s going to be three years ago and none of this will have happened.  So, I don’t mind.

TFGG:  What Grisha power would you want?

Leigh:  I would be a Heartrender. (laughs) I really like red, and I just think it would be so badass.

TFGG:  Do you have your own kefta?

Leigh:  I don’t!  But I want one desperately.  I’ve been lucky enough to have a few people come out in Tsarpunk costume to events and I love that. A wonderful woman sent me one she’d made, but it didn’t quite fit. I felt terrible because of the work she’d put in.

TFGG: What are you reading right now? 

Leigh:  Right now I’m reading a history of guerrilla warfare by Max Boot.  (The full title is “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present”). I’m in a non-fiction phase and it’s also a little bit of research.  I don’t get to read as much of [YA] as I used to, because I just don’t have as much time to read. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d actually never read The Hunger Games trilogy until this last summer. I took two days and read them all!

That was where we ended, but I was able to ask her one more question as we were about to go our separate ways, and if you’ve read the free short story called The Witch of Duva, which is available on tor.com, she did say that there will another short that will also be available for free on tor.com, and will come out before Siege and Storm.  

You can check out Leigh’s official site – www.leighbardugo.com, which has some really fascinating information about the world of the Grisha, including how to speak Ravkan, and recipes from Ravka.  You can also go to her Tumblr site, or her Pinterest board for art and fashion that helps visualize Ravka.  

Siege and Storm is scheduled to be released on June 4, 2013.  So, don’t forget to pre-order!  

An Exclusive Interview with Leigh Bardugo, Author of SHADOW AND BONE, Part 1

leigh-bardugo-2-smallThis past weekend, I got a chance to spend some time with the brilliant and wonderfully personable Leigh Bardugo.  Her debut book, Shadow and Bone, has already made an impressive mark on readers and sellers alike, and the movie rights were bought by DreamWorks in September of 2012, with David Heyman, the person responsible for securing the rights to the Harry Potter films as well as producing them, in the producer’s seat for the film as well.  Not a bad start at all for her first book.  

Leigh started at Yale University with the objective of being a writer, but she changed her mind as well as her major more than a handful of times.  After her education, she found longtime work as a makeup artist as well as a singer in a band, but it seemed that the call of writing came back to her, and therein began her real career officially as a writer with Shadow and Bone, the first book in the Grisha trilogy.

So, during ConDor Con in San Diego (a science fiction and fantasy convention), where Leigh took part in several panels, she allowed me some time in between to pick her brain on the details of Shadow and Bone, what we could expect from the sequel, Siege and Storm, what her involvement is with the Shadow and Bone movie, and what’s to come in the future for her.  With so many questions, I fear I may have exceeded the time an actual interview should last, but hopefully she wasn’t too deterred by my efforts to find out as much as I could for all you fans (as well as myself).

TFGeekGirl:  How much detail did you put into your creating Ravka?

Leigh Bardugo:  I drew a map that was really just to keep track of where my characters were, because I reached a point where I needed to see what distances were like and if it would take them a week to get someplace or two days.  I wanted there to be a realistic sense of that.  In books 2 and 3, there’s actually going to be an expanded map where we’ll get to see a little bit more of the world. I know there are authors who map out their world first, but that was really the second phase for me.  The first draft was the way the power worked, the way status worked, the plot, the beginnings of the characters. The second draft was where I’d taken a few months to research and where the sense of place came to life. That research had quite a bit of an impact on the way the story went as well.

TFGG: Was your story inspired by Russian folklore?

Leigh:  One of the retellings of the firebird myth served as inspiration for Shadow and Bone. But the rest of the plot and the characters grew out of the idea of the Shadow Fold— what kind of creatures would live in it, what kind of power it would take to create it, what kind of person would create it, what it would take to destroy it. But the feel of the place and a lot of the internal conflict within the country was inspired by Tsarist Russia—the army of serfs that is ill-equipped and badly armed and essentially just cannon fodder, the corrupt monarchy, the failure to industrialize. 

TFGG:  How much research did you do?

Leigh:  I took about two months to research, and I only gave myself two months because I didn’t want to stay too long away from the draft.  This was my first book and my fear was that I would just go down the “rabbit hole” of research and I would emerge six months later and then not have written a word.  I was afraid it would become an excuse to not write.

TFGG:  Did your experience as a makeup artist help in describing the Grisha as well as the story in general?

Leigh:  I don’t know.  I’ve always loved costuming and I’ve always loved makeup and creating illusion, so I think being able to convey the way the world looks and the way the world feels, maybe that was impacted by that experience.

TFGG:  Reading your book, I could really visualize it and I just thought your world was so beautiful.

Leigh:  Thank you! That’s part of why I wanted to write fantasy.  I know there are a lot of really wonderful, but very bleak books out there. I think there’s an element of fantasy that can be about wish fulfillment. I wanted to indulge that.

TFGG: How has the response been with the readers?

Leigh:  It’s been really wonderful.  Much better than I ever could’ve hoped for it to be.

TFGG:  What was the hardest challenge in writing Siege and Storm?

seige_and_storm-cover-smallLeigh:  I think for me it was a pretty steep learning curve. I had never written a second book.  I had never written a book on deadline before.  And I had a much tighter timeframe to finish in. I think it was also that the world becomes much more complex in Siege and Storm.  There are more characters who enter the plot, and the political and religious elements come into play in a bigger way, so it’s a more complicated story than Shadow and Bone. 

TFGG: Will we get to see more of Shu Han or Fjerda?

Leigh:  You’ll get to see Novyi Zem in Siege and Storm, but I can’t say much more than that without getting into spoiler territory. The new map will have a few hints.

TFGG:  Any new elements or powers?

Leigh:  Let’s just say that a lot of things have changed.  I guess I can tell you, since it’s in the summary, that the Darkling has emerged from the Fold with a new and terrible power.  So the Darkling has new tricks up his sleeve. I guess the best thing I can say is that no one and nothing in Ravka are ever quite what they seem.

TFGG:  So, we are going to get to see David and Genya again, right?

Leigh:  Mm-hmm (she nods).

TFGG:  The Apparat wanted to tell Alina something but he never got a chance to.  Will that come into play?

Leigh:  The Apparat will come into play more in the second book.  You will see him again.

TFGG:  I loved Morozova’s Stag and was really saddened about what happened to it, but are we going to see anymore magnificent creatures like that in the second book?

Leigh:  You may.  I can’t say much about that, but the idea of sacrifice plays a big role.

Obviously, I hit some things that she couldn’t really get into without spoiling it for us, as she answered some of my questions regarding Siege and Storm with a hint of coyness and a glint in her eye.  But it’s only 3 months away before the release of Siege and Storm, so you won’t have to wait too, too long to find out what’s coming.  Just know that it’s definitely going to thrill us to bits when it arrives.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2, the conclusion of my interview!

REVIEW: Shadow and Bone (novel) by Leigh Bardugo

shadow-and-bone_lowresShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. I knew it had Russian elements, but not much else. The funny thing is that I didn’t expect the style of writing to sound somewhat modern in how they spoke. I’m not sure if that was to make it easier for the readers to understand Alina Starkov or what, but it only took me a few pages to get used to.

As far as the story goes, I slowly became enveloped in this new and unique world of people with powers and unfamiliar words (I still don’t know the meanings of some of the foreign terms because I was too involved in the book to stop and find out what they meant – hopefully I’ll try and look them up soon enough, but I realize it’s a lot harder to “flip” through the pages of a ebook since I didn’t book mark them).

Alina is the protagonist and she’s an interesting character, because you see how shy she is how low her self-esteem is. Although you see the changes in her throughout the book and see her confidence grow, she still is vulnerable, which I think is something I can understand. It’s not easy to just change completely within a short amount of time, and what I mean by short is the several months this book goes through. I like this character, even if I was frustrated with her at times, wanting her to hurry up and be brave. But realistically, courage can sometimes take time to build.

The Darkling is a very interesting character indeed. You think you know the guy, and for the longest time I had a hard time picturing him looking like a normal handsome man. The title made him sound more than human, like some kind of magical creature in human form, but not really human. Yet, there are things you read and you have to assume that he’s human. It’s interesting how my thoughts about him changed from one thing to another and I wished that some things about him weren’t so, but it does make for really great storytelling and really original characters.

Mal, Alina’s best friend, is somewhat of an enigma for probably the first half of the book, but when he comes in, you realize how much he brings to the story, and you just want to hug him and protect him, and him to protect and take care of you and never, ever leave.

There are some really cool elements in here. There’s the Grisha (those with powers) with their awesomely sounding garments. Although they are different from regular people because of their powers, their characteristics most of the time run on very human emotions, so you’ll find you like some Grisha better than others.

The other supporting characters don’t bore me, either. They all interact with Alina in different ways that doesn’t read as repetitive and you get to see Alina learn from each of them in more ways than one at some point.

In the end, your mind will try and wonder who exactly to trust or who to like. You may even want to like someone even though that person may be bad, or vice versa.

The pace of the book isn’t exactly fast, as there’s only bits of action here and there, but it doesn’t dwell too much in descriptive details, only in the importants things. So, it didn’t feel too long for me at all. I was drawn into this place without knowing hardly anything about Russian folklore or terms. I guess that’s what made it feel original to me.

I’ll definitely continue with book 2 when it comes out later this year. And hopefully I’ll be wearing a kefta when I do! Just kidding…kind of.

View all my reviews here or just my book reviews at Goodreads.