Check out the recently released German cover for RUIN AND RISING featuring Alina and the Firebird!
No news on any other cover reveals yet, but we love the blend of colors here!
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.
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.
Leigh Bardugo is currently taking part in the Fierce Reads Tour! Many fans will have the opportunity to see Leigh in person, but for those of us who can’t, there’s another way to get a signed book!
From Leigh Bardugo’s Goodreads blog:
Most of the stores on the tour are happy to ship. Just call up one of the stores listed below and place your order. I will sign it, personalize it, and inscribe it with a character quote.
I will also sprinkle it with magic that gives you victory over your enemies.
Here are the remaining stops at which you can order and get a signed, personalized, and inscribed copy of either SHADOW AND BONE or SIEGE AND STORM:
Sunday, November 3 @ 5pm (NOTE: To be safe, order ASAP and/or call the bookstore for confirmation that it’s not too late!)
Joseph Beth Booksellers Cincinnati
Monday, November 4 @ 7pm
Tuesday, November 5 @ 7pm
Rainy Day Books
Kansas City, Missouri
Wednesday, November 6 @ 6pm
Books of Wonder
New York, NY
If you’re thinking of starting up the Grisha trilogy or you’re trying to convince all your friends to read it, now is the time! Amazon has great Kindle deals on Shadow and Bone and a nearly unbeatable deal on Siege and Storm!
Shadow and Bone is on sale for $5, which is 50% off the original price. Click here to check it out!
While you’re at it, pick yourself up a Siege and Storm eBook for $1.40, a whooping 92% off the regular price!
These book deals usually only last for a few days at most, so gobble up the deals ASAP!
We know how much Grisha swag excites us all, so check out this great new giveaway from Fangirl Feeels!
They’re giving away a SIGNED First Army poster as well as a Hebel Designs Etheralki Leather Cuff and Pins.
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!
If this is just one part of the costume, we can’t wait to see the whole thing!