I don’t actually interview authors often but every once in a while they’ll want to deviate from my standard blog posts and will have me wing some questions at them. Wing I did. Hopefully this’ll give you all more insight into SKYLARK and if you haven’t read it yet this should light a hotter fire under your ass. Thanks for stopping by, Meagan!
You did a good job of portraying the disparity of the city in a multitude of ways, and not glossing over any of it. Is this only the beginning of the lengths they’ll go to in order to preserve themselves?
One of the things that’s constant throughout all three books is the struggle between what is right and what is best. I love moral grey areas–I love exploring territory where it’s not clear what’s right and wrong. We all grow up thinking in terms of black and white, and I think one of the hallmarks of becoming a teenager, of becoming an adult, is that you start to realize that it’s not always that simple. In fact, it rarely is. While I can’t quite go into deep specifics about books two and three, I will say that SKYLARK is the most black and white of all three, in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Lark’s home city is a part of that, and in book two, she ends up in another city just as morally troubled as the first, but in different ways. And we haven’t seen the last of the Institute.
Lark can see past people’s rougher exteriors to something that others might not realize is even there, even considering her upbringing (Oren being more than a feral boy following her, the woman and child in the magic bubble, etc.) and experiences. At times it seems to almost be a fault. Is this something we’re going to see her grow beyond or has her time in the wild reshaped her thinking of people in general?
Having lived most of her life in an utterly sheltered environment, Lark has not had many experiences with people beyond the ones she grew up with. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working on book two (which I finished a couple months ago, and am now revising) is exposing her to forms of civilization entirely different from what she’s encountered before. I think with each broadening of her world, Lark’s view of the people around her expands as well. And while I can’t go into it without spoiling the end of SKYLARK, I can say that by the final pages Lark transcends the definitions of what she thought she was… book two is all about her struggle to understand herself, and what she’s become. Power isn’t always a gift, after all. The demons Lark faces in book two don’t all wear fangs and claws.
Is your world supposed to be our earth? Are we going to see more of this war that completely destroyed the world?
Originally, it was our earth. The basic idea was that people discover “magic” in the near future, and society exploits it as a resource the way we’ve exploited our existing resources. Leads to a cataclysm, and then voila, post-apocalyptic magic world. In revision, though, I decided to take it another direction and create a world separate, but similar. An alternate universe, of sorts–one where magic was always the dominant power behind technology. But human nature in this world is the same as human nature in ours, and the exploitation of that resource was always inevitable.
We are going to see more of the war! We learn a bit more about it in book two–how the Renewables were involved, what they did that was so terrible, how they could have destroyed the world in their quest for power. And in book three… well, that would be telling. But I’ll just say that instead of just learning about it, we get to see it.
Your world is a combination of fey and steampunk. What made you decide to go this split route? Could one pure side or another have worked in the world you created?
I think that I probably could have told a lot of the same surface story by choosing either steampunk or magic. But at the risk of sounding utterly pretentious, I think the themes would have changed. Lark is caught between two worlds–the rigid, orderly, measured, safe world of machines and technology (the steampunk aspect) and then the wild, ruthless, dangerous, beautiful world of magic. Magic is wild and untamed, machines are by their very natures controlled, doing what they were designed to do and no more. The juxtaposition of these two elements is so much fun to play with. If I’d chosen one kind of world or the other, I wouldn’t have the same external factors on Lark as she’s having these internal struggles. Her world really is a reflection of herself.
Can we expect more unabashed monstrosities in the next book a la chick hooked to tubes and siphoned for power? I found that particular aspect of your story to be especially grounding, that you aren’t afraid to go where it needs to go.
The last thing you need to worry about with my books is a lack of monstrosities in them. One of the things I love most about working with my editor at Carolrhoda Lab, Andrew Karre, is that he not only lets me go to dark places and explore them–he encourages me, when so many YA authors and books are shying away from the dark. So much of human nature is below the surface… scuttling away in the dark, hidden and not talked about. I like to find those creepy-crawlies and drag them out so people can see. I think what makes it so horrifying is that we can see ourselves in these shadows. I don’t like villains who are just evil, you know? I like people who do “bad” things because they don’t know what else to do, because their choice was, in their eyes, the only thing they could do. Someone who we can look at and say, “I’m not sure I would’ve done differently in his place.” There’s always a reason behind every terrible act my characters commit. And sometimes it’s a really good reason.
But they’re still going to do plenty of terrible things.
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