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Interview: Melissa Marr

The Highway is thrilled to have had the chance to talk to Melissa Marr. Although she wasn't able to share spoilers from her best-selling Wicked Lovely books, she was kind enough to chat with us about e-books and free technology, her interactions with her readers, and the kind of guy Melissa-the-teenager went for.



Thanks for talking with us, Melissa. Your faery court books, beginning with Wicked Lovely, are hot property. But the fey in these books aren’t a little girl’s fairies. What inspired you to write a darker faery world?


The series is rooted in traditional Irish & Scottish folklore.  As such the faeries are reflective of that tone.  Real faeries are sparkling frivolous things, but terrible beautiful creatures.  The Wicked Lovely series is simply reflecting that folklore.


Your books utilize a host of main characters, with POVs switching back and forth in the books. Had you always intended on writing the series this way, or was the Dark and High Court persistent to be involved from the very beginning?


Originally, there was only a short story with one pov, but then the story became a novel (WL).  I finished it and immediately started another – which became INK FE.  So, in one sense, I never had a plan. On the other hand, I don’t find myself as interested in just one voice as I am in multiple voices, so it was inevitable that the books all had multiple narrators.


What methods do you use to keep track of your complicated, interweaving characters and plot lines?


Memory, I guess. If I’m unsure, I open up the files and do a control-F search for the term in question.  In writing each book, I also re-read the books already in print, sorta like when I taught. I re-read the texts I was covering to refresh my memory.  I do the same with the novels.

You are highly interactive with your readers, from commenting on Absolute Write, to your blog and myspace and, of course, your extensive contributions to Rath and Ruins. Why is it important to you to interact with your readers? Also, do you ever chuckle/shiver/stare in amazement at readers’ predictions and assessments of your stories?

There are a few things going on as to my online activity.  Some of it is the same instinct that made me teach: I participate on Ab Write and Verla Kay’s Blueboard as a way to try to answer pre-published or aspiring authors’ questions; that is purely a desire to answer stuff, not about reaching readers. Some of it is just because I like talking to people (Twitter & FB). The only place that, for me, is really about chatting with readers is the Rath. On there, I can spend time with people who are spending time with my characters. I think it keeps me a little saner.  For weeks and months, I spend the bulk of my day with characters and a world that . . . neighbors and strangers and random people don’t know. On the Rath, there are people who know these same characters, their worries and hopes, their struggles and successes.  It’s wonderful being around these readers . . . plus a lot of them are just fun people to meet and talk to. They join me for tea or evening walks or aquarium visits when I’m on tour—which is all sorts of awesome.

And, yes, I’m often astounded by how much you all pick up on.  There are clues in the books, threads that you can follow to see where the story is going, and so many of you say “a ha!” and reveal that you know exactly what will happen.  I really enjoy that.

And, judging from your readers’ comments and questions, who are the particular favorite characters/couples in the WL series, do you think?

One of the fun parts of having multiple voices & so many characters’ having storylines is that readers aren’t all cheering for the same character.  I enjoy that a great deal.  That said, some characters get a lot of love. Keenan & Seth & Niall probably have the most swoon-ish reactions; Donia is easily the favorite of the female protagonists.  There are Don-Keenan, Don-Seth, Don-Evan, Don-Niall shippers.  Ash is shipped either with Seth or Keenan.

You also support access to free materials (of a sort) to your readers. You’ve provided free short stories, excerpts from books, deleted scenes . . . would you tell us about sharing these materials, as well as your overall thoughts about offering free downloads and ebooks?

I write them as part of the process.  Sometimes to figure out the right ending I need to write a few possibilities. Sometimes, I cut chapters, and on occasion, I write short stories to figure out what the characters are doing when they’re not the primary protag of the text I’m writing.  If I write it, I might as well share it.  At least that’s my theory.

Free downloads….that’s been a pet project of mine.  Last year I went to my publisher and said, “Here.  I wrote this. Help me get it out to my readers.”  They have been great about supporting that, and they’ve supported my free novel access too.

The free stories were just because it seemed fun, but the novel was a result of my library love.  I wanted to make the book available in a check-it-out-and-maybe-you’ll-
like-the-rest plan.

I absolutely hate hate hate the theft sites, but if I choose to share (which I do often) that’s different.  It’s all about choice: when the theft sites come up and steal, that’s taking my choices.  On the other hand, if readers are not sure if they want to read it, there are temp access options (library, author approved free access/dls).  I think we can work with the system without destroying the publishing industry by resorting to thievery and deceit.  I don’t expect my teachers to work for free, take bread from bakeries, etc, but I enjoy when they offer free community classes or sample plates.  We can embrace digital without losing our ethics or ending writers’ careers, and I want to be a part of that.

Umm, which is more or less how I ended up teaching online courses too.  Tech is either an enemy, a friend, or something we harness.  I vote for that last one.

Tattoos! Obviously, they place a major role in INK EXCHANGE. Plus, Seth is the sexiest punk I’ve ever read about, with his piercings, etc. What does Melissa Marr love about body adornments?

I don’t think I ever set up to write about body art. With Seth, it was a matter of “I want the character to be attractive” and to me “attractive” requires a) intelligence, b) artistic skills of some sort, and c) physical beauty.  I think body art is beautiful.  I’ve rarely even gone on a first date with anyone undecorated.  It seems strange to me to be sans art.  Sometimes I think part of the fascination is that tattoos are non-verbal stories—like paintings and symphonies and ballet.  Sometimes I think it simply results from the fact that ornamenting the canvas of our body lets us re-make our bodies into what we find lovely. I was born with these eyes and this height; they are not my choice.  The painting on my spine and the ring in my lip are my choice. 

In truth, I’m very fond of tattoos.  Piercings are fun, but tattoos are something more . They are stories, images that reveal more than they might seem at first glance. I used to work in a bar across from a tattoo parlour. Listening to the stories was a great treat. Hearing most tattoo stories is revelatory. My spouse and I met over the tattoo on his forearm (a beautiful woman). I asked about the tattoo, and then there were other tattoos (one shared with friends while on ship in the Pacific). Over the years, I’ve listened to many tattoo stories—one ex had his life story “written” in prison-ink across his back—and found them revelatory. They are pictographic glimpses into a person’s oral history. They’re stories, and I like stories.

We really admire the extensive research you do for your books. I’ve read you order special books from Ireland. Would you tell us about your research processes?

Research always seems an odd word for it. It makes it sound like work. I read what interests me, and in the reading, inevitably, something catches me and holds on.  From there, I follow those threads; then, I scrawl notes from the reading. Often, stories pop up.  I pick one of my ideas, play with it, and sometimes it turns into a book. 

As to straight-up need-to-know-X research, I have a shelf that is a dedicated folklore shelf, and I’m always collecting more books to read or browse. I read critical academic articles on folklore studies, literary criticism, gender studies, and philosophy. Those tend to feed my imagination.  In recent months, I’ve also hired a research assistant (Christopher); he’s a lovely academic man who spends hours gathering up sources of whatever catches my attention.  

RADIANT SHADOWS: Devlin, the assassin, walking the line between his sisters. Ani, the half-faerie . . . How tumultuous will their relationship be? And, with a trained killer’s POV in this book, are we going to see some real bloodshed?

Sorry, that’s too spoilery.  I will say it’s an action-filled book.

You recently signed a deal for GRAVEMINDER, your first adult book. What can you tell us about that project? 

I’m not sure I have anything useful to say yet.  It’s written, but I have no proper release date, cover, synopsis. What I think I know is that it’s due out in 2011 in the US.  It’s already sold a couple places overseas, but I’m not sure of release dates there.  

My summary is that it’s the story of a mortician, a commitment-phobe, a dead girl, and a town with a peculiar problem.  Like everything I do, it’s rooted in folklore. I suspect my older YA readers will find it quite accessible, but it is a bit dark. My crit readers have called it everything from ghost story to dark fantasy to horror with a romance plot to supernatural mystery, so I’m not sure of what genre it’s properly called.


Four Real Fast:
1. What kind of faerie would you be? Depends on the year.
2. Four words to describe the perfect guy from the teenage Melissa Marr:  Teen one?  Dangerous, yummy, anti-rules, and different.
3. I’m most comfortable in my:  Skin
4. Rumors of a sixth WL book . . . ? L.O.L.  I sold at least 6 YA books.  There are 5 WL books.  Beyond that I’m not saying a word.

To learn more about Melissa and her political, romantic, and action-filled books, including exciting WL movie news, head to http://www.melissa-marr.com/

RADIANT SHADOWS, the next installment in the world Melissa created, beginning with WICKED LOVELY, will be released April 20th. You can pre-order your copy now.

Thanks again for your time, Melissa.
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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14 comments:

  1. Great interview Melissa & Kristin.

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  2. I love reading Melissa's research tweets and AW posts. Thanks Melissa and Kristin!

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  3. Awesome interview!

    Of course you left out the silly question I would have asked: "Did you squee like a fangirl when you got a blurb from Charles De Lint and do you know other people squee like fangirls when you reply to posts on AW".

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  4. Brilliant interview! Really enjoyed reading it.

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  5. Great interview K! Melissa is one of my all time faves. Ans she has great taste in books! She recommended mine (PERSONAL DEMONS) on her blog! =)

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  6. Great interview. You reminded me I still have to reread the first three before Radiant Shadows comes out.

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  7. Awesome interview. :) Love her thoughts on technology, may quote her one day.

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  8. Awesome interview :) My favorite part is about the tats. Now I feel undecorated lol *runs out to get a tattoo*

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  9. I love that teen Melissa would describe a guy as yummy! That's totally my speed.

    Great books, although I haven't read FE and RS, yet. I'm in Japan and so English books are difficult to get my hands on.

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  10. Thanks, everyone! I loved Melissa's thoughtful answers. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

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  11. Great interview.
    Melissa's writing is so beautiful. Good to get a glimpse into how she goes about her work.
    :))

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  12. Wonderful interview! It's so nice to put a face and a personal voice to authors. I'm reading Wicked Lovely right now, btw.
    Thanks Melissa and Kristin!

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  13. This is a great interview! Thanks for posting!

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  14. thanks so much, Melissa & Kristin. Melissa's writing is a force of nature.

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Item Reviewed: Interview: Melissa Marr Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook