Friday, October 18, 2013


Last week, we told you about the Dark Days event at our local independent bookstore, and we introduced the books that were featured: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, and Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. This week, we’re sharing our interview with these authors, and giving you a chance to win each of these three titles!

I opened by asking what comes first for each writer: character, world, or story. Rae and Mindy both said character without hesitation. Amelia said “For me, on this book, story came first,” but went on to say character usually comes first for her as well. Then I asked them to talk a little about each element.

Mindy McGinnis

Character — “My main character actually came from a dream that I had. I watched a documentary called Blue Gold about a fresh water shortage. I have a pond in my backyard, and I had a dream that night that I was teaching a young girl how to handle a rifle to protect our pond. In my dream, the child was very young, eight or nine. I woke and I thought ‘Wow. That’s a ridiculous thought. You shouldn’t give rifles to children.’ But then I thought ‘If someone was eight or nine years old, and you gave them a gun and told them to kill people to protect themselves, what kind of person are they going to grow up to be?’ And that’s where I got my main character.”

World — “My world pretty much built itself, because my world is my backyard. I have a pond in my backyard. The basement is my basement. The street is my street. My world is my world but a little waffled.”

Story — “I don’t plot at all. I just sit down and write. I just fly, truly, by the seat of my pants. I’m a complete, total, 100 percent pantser, and I usually don’t really know what’s going to happen, and I just go with it. The story’s going to tell itself. Before I started writing, I would hear writers talk about characters making their own decisions, things like that, and I was like ‘You’re the writer, you’re in charge, you’re God to these people,’ but you’re not. These people are their own people.”

Amelia Kahaney

Character — “I kept seeing a girl with long red hair, who was very lithe and dancerly, jumping through an urban night sky. I have a friend who is very lithe and dancerly, and I think I ended up modeling some of my main character, Anthem Fleet, on her, looks-wise. And I just thought about what a privileged dancer would do if the terrible things that befell her started to befall her.”

World — “My world is New York City. I’m in the heart of Brooklyn, so not as crazy as Manhattan, but still pretty darn packed. At the time that I began writing the book, Occupy Wall Street had just started their campout. The bankers had to walk by them every day, and there were these amazing images. I went down to the encampments as much as I could. I was so into what they were doing, and I was so interested in seeing the signage. They set up a whole library down there. Just seeing someone finally talking about how much some people have and how little everyone else has… it’s this new thing where, in this country, we’re talking about class. So I ended up creating a very divided city with the rich in a small enclave and the poor everywhere else.”

Story — “I was so into the Dark knight franchise, and my story has the feel of a superhero origin story. Those comic book convention are there for a reason. They really work. I have been a pantser, but The Brokenhearted was very carefully outlined. Also, I was terrified of writing a novel, and having the outline there really kept me going. I would finish chapter five, and I would say ‘I can’t do this.’ Actually, I said that until about chapter thiry. But then I would see the outline for chapter six, and I would just start to do it. That really was the guiding force for me.”

Rae Carson

Character — “[Alisa came from] jadedness and disgust current societal norms. I was rebelling against some things, like ‘Oh, princesses are always pretty. Well, fine. This one’s not going to be.’ I was just sick and tired of seeing some of the same things over and over again. I have a confrontational nature, so I wanted to do the opposite and see if I could make a sympathetic character out of that.”

World — “I was a social science major in college, so I studied history, economics, government, and I think that was actually a really good foundation for writing high fantasy. In addition to that, I have this insatiable curiosity about everything. I’m the type of person who goes on wikipedia to see what last night’s ratings for my favorite show were, and two hours later, I’ve somehow gone down the wikipedia spiral, and I’m reviewing Moroccan architectural history. Worldbuilding comes from a place of knowledge, knowing not just what you know, but what you don’t know and being curious about the things that you don’t know. If you don’t have a curiosity of about the world and the world you’re writing about, it’s going to be a drag. My advice is always, if you want to be a writer, indulge your curiosity shamelessly.”

Story — “I have a super basic outline in my head — like beginning, middle, end, and a couple touchstone points. Everything else, all the details, I discover as I go.”


Contest: If you would like a chance to win one of these great books, leave us a comment telling us what is most important to you in the books you read: character, world, or story. Winners will be announced on Thanksgiving Day.

13 comments:

Steph Scott said...

I think all three are pretty important to me, but if I had to pick one, I would pick world building. I want to be immersed in the world created by the author.

Emily Elizabeth said...

For me, it's the characters. I need to love the characters to love the book. I can't think of a book that I've read and enjoyed without connecting to the characters. (Though I really like books that have great characters, world-building and a phenomenal plot! ;) )

edandemsreviews(at)gmail(dot)com

Kat N said...

I say the characters, they are what makes the story, although the world does as well but I'm more into the characters than the world.

Fiction_TheNewReality said...

To me, the characters are most important, because I hate stories that have flat, underdeveloped characters, but the setting/the world around the characters is also really important to.

KiKiD said...

Hmm...for me, all three of those are important, but it also depends what type of genre the book is in. Like, in fantasy books and pretty much everything but contemporary(characters are most important to me in those), the world-building is most important.

Thanks for the giveaway!

allaboutyanovels at gmail dot com

Faith McLaughlin said...

For me it's the characters! You get to know them and they basically become your friends and I love that! :)

Elizabeth Bevins said...

Definitely story!

bittycornwell said...

Tough choice! I think characters are very important because if you have a really good character the author usually will place them in a world that has been developed for them and the story will hopefully develop with them.

Bookworm1858 said...

Characters tend to be the most important for me-I'm thinking of how much I love Elisa in The Bitter Kingdom, for example. However story is what will get me to pick up a book-if I don't like the sound of the plot, I'm not touching the book!

Jamie said...

Even though characters are a big part of it, I'd have to say the story keeps me reading. The characters could be the most interesting people in the world, but if what happens to them isn't intriguing, I probably won't keep reading!

Thanks,
jamiewritenow(at)gmail(dot)com

bookmarkedpages said...

All three are super important, but I'd have to pick character. If the book has amazing characters, the rest doesn't have to be that great. I have a bad memory when it comes to plot, but characters always seem to stick in my mind if they made an impression on me.

mckaykelly said...

The most important thing to me is character development. If i don't connect with the characters on some level I'm not going to like the book. The second most important thing would be world building (in fantasy, pnr, etc.) I like to feel fully immersed in a story and I need to feel like I'm actually in the world while I'm reading!

mckaykelly said...

oops I forgot to leave my email! It's kpoo18 at gmail dot com. Sorry!

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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
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Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
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The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
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