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.

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Leigh Bardugo Talks Grisha Trilogy Inspirations

Characters in the Grisha trilogy can be inspirational, but what were they inspired by?

Let’s start with Sturmhond! Leigh Bardugo recently talked to Belle of the Literati about where the idea for this character sparked:

Sturmhond was inspired by Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond, but mostly by someone too spoilery to mention for those who haven’t read the book.

Sturmhond practically writes himself. Whereas most of my characters struggle with their motives and themselves, Sturmhond is pure confidence. He knows exactly who he is and exactly what he wants. It’s a pleasure to write that kind of clarity of intent.

She also talked about the Grisha trilogy was inspired in bits and pieces by (and perhaps published because of) one of her idols, Stevie Nicks!

Exclusive Comic-Con Interview with SHADOW AND BONE Author Leigh Bardugo

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My fourth and final interview of the Comic-Con weekend was with Shadow and Bone author Leigh Bardugo, who was there to talk Siege and Storm, the sequel to Shadow and Bone and, of course, to be a fangirl just like everyone else there!

Like The Maze Runner author James Dashner, this was her 2nd visit to Comic-Con, and she finds it as enjoyable as everyone else, especially getting to meet other authors that she adores as well as the chance to “get exposed to things that are out of the YA world.” 

Warning: mild *spoilers* below

This time, I got to chat with her a little more about Siege and Storm, and then about the third book, Ruin and Rising.  One of the first questions that came to mind was about Sturmhond and what we can expect to see in regards to his role in the Big Palace.  Of course, she was quick to remind me that we don’t know what his situation is at this point, stating “Well, we don’t know if he is still alive.  He could be alive, he could be dead, he could be held prisoner.  We don’t know.”  I paused for a moment, realizing my faux pas and told her that I am just assuming he is (basically because how could you get rid of such a wonderful character, right?)

Read the rest of this very intriguing interview after the jump.

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Review of SIEGE AND STORM, Book 2 of the GRISHA TRILOGY, By Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You just never know how the story is going to go. Of course, when you read the first book of a series, you naturally expect the second book to be about the same. However, you can’t always rely on that, because sometimes that’s not always the case.

I can’t say that this book generally follows the same pace as the first book, because for me, it doesn’t. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, because as you can see by my rating, I did. But it is different, and to be honest, some people may not find the pacing to their liking.

There is still a good bit of action involved, however, there’s also a lot of internal turmoil with Alina and having to deal with the ramifications of the events of the first book, even when it comes to Mal, or especially when it comes to Mal. You find her to be very untrusting of anyone, including herself, as may be expected, and you may find it frustrating. I know I did.

Mal’s position in all this is also much different than when it was in the first book, and you learn more about it. I definitely felt for him, but I found him just as much in turmoil emotionally as Alina, even after reuniting with her at the end of Shadow and Bone.

There are some supporting characters that make a return in a way you didn’t expect and there are a few new characters that are quite likeable. Keep a watch out for Sturmhond. He is by far the most exciting new character in the book.

As with some second books, they tend to be more of a set-up for the third and final book of the series. This one serves its purpose as that, I believe, and in saying so, again it feels realistic in the pacing of the procession of events. That’s not to say it’s boring, because I was actually surprised at how fast I was able to read through the book.

The book is quite descriptive, but I don’t think that you could understand anything about the action-y parts of the book without the descriptive parts of the book, so I appreciated the pacing of it.

The hard part was wanting things to be good for these people and not seeing it fully realized. This book had my heart pumping and aching and tightening, and every so often, laughing with humor… but not as often as I would like. Yes, I am not ashamed to say tears were shed, even for people that I didn’t think I would shed tears for.

The hard part about having to complete it so fast is that I have to wait that much longer for Ruin and Rising to be released. *sigh* Waiting can be so torturous in itself.

Realistically, I’d give this book a 3.5 stars, so slightly less than Shadow and Bone, but still very good.

You can read my review of Shadow and Bone here.

Leigh Bardugo on Female Leads and “Competent” Boys

EW’s Shelf Life caught up with Leigh Bardugo and author friend Veronica Roth (Divergent) to discuss YA lit and what makes their characters tick!

Veronica-Roth-Leigh-Bardugo

Here’s a pretty spectacular snippet!

The love interests in your books, Tobias/Four and Mal set readers’ hearts aflutter. What qualities do they have that reflect what you look for in real-life partners?

L: I’m about to give the least sexy answer ever. Ready? Mal, and the Darkling, and Sturmhond all have one thing in common: they’re spectacularly competent. They’re really good at what they do. I guess I also love the sense of honor at Mal’s core. He’s someone you’d always want at your back in a fight. I feel like that’s true for Four, too.

V: I LOVE that answer. I think competence is extremely sexy, actually. And it’s what Tris is attracted to when she sees Four jump on a train for the first time — she admires his physical competence, and the ease with which he does it. I also think something your boys have in common in Shadow and Bone is that they feel like whole people — you don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on their looks, and instead you focus on the things that make them tick, their strengths and their flaws and their desires. That, I think, is what makes them appealing to readers, even if they can’t quite put their fingers on it — they feel real. I tried as hard as I could to make Four feel as real as possible, so this is something I think about a lot.

With Four specifically, he’s always appealed to me because he’s utterly convinced of Tris’s strength even when she isn’t. He respects her and respecting women is sexy, I don’t care what anyone says.

L: Hold up, who says respecting women isn’t sexy?

V: I mean, no one in particular, but sometimes you see love interests who completely disregard the main character’s opinions or feelings or even clearly expressed wishes, and I think that is the antisexy. There’s a difference between, say, impulsive or protective and straight up controlling and disrespectful, and that’s something I try to be pretty careful about. I think you’ve done a good job with this, actually — Mal wants to take care of Alina, but he’s not pushy or condescending about it. Two thumbs up, Bardugo.

L: Okay, now I’m the one blushing, Roth. It’s funny, I said that both Mal and Four would be people you’d want at your back in a fight. I think they’d say the same for Alina and Tris. That trust, that respect is fundamental. I like alphas. I like bad boys. I like a guy with a protective streak. But all of those archetypes fall apart if they’re just running roughshod over the heroine.

Fear and darkness are themes in both the Divergent and the Grisha trilogy. Do you ever have nightmares about the characters/scenarios in your books?

L: Ha! No but I had a nightmare about a bird pecking its way into my mouth after I read Divergent. (I did once dream that I was at King’s Landing, one of the locations from Game of Thrones. The Pet Shop Boys were playing.)

V: And I have been haunted by a particularly horrifying image at the end of Siege and Storm since I read it. I don’t want to spoil it, but you know what I’m talking about. So I guess we’re even!

L: Is it wrong that I’m pleased? I’m pleased.

Read the full interview here!

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #15

On Leigh Bardugo‘s fifthteenth stop in her Siege and Storm blog tour, we get to know more about Sturmhond, Alina Starkov, and Botkin Yul-Erdene.  Sturmhond is a character that is introduced in book two, so he would be unfamiliar to you if you haven’t read the first five chapters, but he’s already attracted more than a handful of fans.  Let’s read more, shall we?

adrawlingSturmhond

(source: Ardawling)

Name: Sturmhond
Most Frequently found Wearing: A teal frock coat, leather breeches, and a brace of pistols
Line of Work: Privateer
Skills: Smuggling, arms trading, breaking blockades, making mayhem
Likes: Money, good wine, enthusiastic women
Dislikes: A fair fight
Inspired by: Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, and someone too spoilery to mention.
Frequent Fancasts: He’s new to the scene, but Lee Pace, Colin O’Donoghue, Caleb Landry Jones

“My mother was an oyster and I’m the pearl.”

Leigh’s Comment: Sturmhond practically writes himself. Whereas most of my characters struggle with their motives and themselves, Sturmhond is pure confidence. He knows exactly who he is and exactly what he wants. It’s a pleasure to write that kind of clarity of intent.

ellieAlina

(source: Ellie)

Name: Alina Starkov
Most frequently found wearing: Blue and gold
Occupation: Former cartographer’s assistant in the First Army, Sun Summoner
Skills: Summoning and manipulating light, the Cut
Likes: Sweet rolls, time spent in the meadow
Dislikes: Herring
Inspired by: … hard to say. But I like to think there’s a little Emma Stone in there.
Frequent fancasts: Crystal Reed, Taissa Farmiga, Sarah Bolger

“I’m not the world changing type.”

Leigh’s Comment: People often ask if I’m like Alina. I’ve always felt like an outsider and we definitely share a similar sense of humor, but beyond that, we’re quite different. Alina is braver and more forthright than I could ever hope to be, and she’s simply had a much rougher time of it. It’s not always easy to see her fail or make a bad choice, or to watch her struggle with her own fear and doubts, but I like heroes who don’t always get it right, and I hope all the hell I put her through makes for a more interesting story.

eventhepartBotkin

(source: Kira)

Name: Botkin Yul-Erdene
Most Frequently found wearing: roughspun and something lethal
Line of Work: Combat instructor at the Little Palace
Skills: A trained mercenary, Botkin is deadly no matter which weapon he wields
Likes: Seeing progress in his students even if they have to suffer for it
Dislikes: Bullies
Inspired by: One of my grade school teachers who was also a former marine
Frequent Fancasts: Jason Momoa, Sifu Kisu, Clive Russell

“Steel is earned.”

Leigh’s Comment: Botkin is a Shu mercenary tasked with training Grisha in hand-to-hand combat. He’s tough on his students because they tend to rely too much on their powers, and drives them mercilessly in drills and sparring bouts. Though Botkin is gruff, he’s never cruel. He really is quite a bit like Mr. Lee, my fifth grade humanities teacher. He was a little terrifying and definitely hard to impress, but that made his praise all the more valued.

(via fifthteenth blog tour stop: Mundie Moms.  Enter to win a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone along with a hardcover copy of Siege and Storm!)

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #7

On Leigh Bardugo‘s seventh stop in her blog tour, Leigh gives us more insight on Alina, the 2 previously known male characters and 1 new male character in Siege and Storm, as well as some information on Ravkan wedding traditions (what?!):

Jen: I love that the books explore the issue of women and power. In Shadow and Bone, Alina remembers suppressing her Grisha abilities as a child. Using her powers brings Alina a sense of joy and even pride, but also a great deal of ambivalence, guilt and self-doubt.  Can you talk a little about this?

Leigh: One of the questions at the heart of Shadow and Bone is what we give up, what we’re willing to sacrifice to belong to someone or something. I think we often make those concessions—women in particular—without even realizing it, so I wanted to explore that. But I also think Alina’s struggle with power is as much about class as it is about gender. At the beginning of the series, she’s a girl without status or prospects or any kind of real say in her life. So while using her power is a joyful thing, the repercussions of actually wielding influence are much harder for her to contend with.

Jen: Dealing with those repercussions is certainly a huge part of Alina’s story in Siege and Storm.Transformation is another theme in your books. Besides being a writer, you’ve worked as a “glamour and ghouls” make-up artist. Do life and art intersect in this area for you?

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(source: Leigh Bardugo)

Leigh: I worked primarily in beauty as opposed to effects, so most of the time, my job was to make someone look “natural” (now there’s an illusion) or perfect a smoky eye. But my favorite shoots were the ones that combined the beautiful and the bizarre, where I got to bring a little bit of fantasy to life. With both makeup and writing, the goal is to hide the craft, so that the viewer or the reader never has cause to question the illusion. Hopefully, they just get to experience something magical.

Jen: I would definitely call your books magical! And yet, Alina also feels like a real girl. She can be prickly and sarcastic — and funny!  In an interview last year with author Claire Legrand, you described Alina as someone who “struggles to be strong.” Would you still describe her that way in Siege and Storm?

Leigh: I think that may depend on your definition of strength. Alina is far more powerful, more confident, and simply more dangerous in Siege and Storm. Now she has to struggle to maintain her humanity. Being merciful, kind, and just, and balancing those traits with the authority to rule requires a different kind of strength.

Jen: You’ve also written a trio of swoonworthy yet complicated male characters: Mal, the hunky guy next door with a chip on his shoulder, the Darkling – the tortured bad boy – and then, in Siege and Storm, the swashbuckling, wisecracking Sturmhond, who is creating quite a buzz around the blogosphere. They’ve inspired fan art and fanfic. Are you amazed by how invested people have become in your characters?

Leigh: It’s the craziest, most wonderful thing. I am so blown away by the things that people create, by their talent, by the fact that they care enough about the characters and the story to find all of these wonderful ways to bring them to life. I just don’t think there’s any higher compliment. But one of the reasons I like tumblr so much is that we’re all fans of something. I love finding out that I share fandoms with my readers, because then we get to geek out over Legend of Korra or The Mortal Instruments or Game of Thrones together.

Jen: I love your Game of Thrones posts! I can tell that you’re an avid fantasy fan, but I also think about history and historical figures when reading your books. After finishing Siege and Storm, I began to wonder if Alina might surprise us all and stay single, like Queen Elizabeth I. Then last month I saw an intriguing little tidbit that you posted on tumblr:

grisha-tumblr-weddingrings-ravka

Is this wedding you speak of a love match? A marriage of convenience?  Is it reminiscent of the plots of any of these Hollywood wedding movies: The Runaway Bride, My Best Friend’s Wedding or What Happens In Vegas?

Leigh: Ha! Well, I didn’t say it would be Alina’s wedding, did I? Elizabeth is an interesting parallel.

Jen: Well, no, you didn’t say that.  But… hmmm… I’m going to have to think more about this.

(via seventh blog tour stop: YARomantics.  Enter to win a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone and a Hardcover copy of the upcoming Siege and Storm!)