Melissa Marr Interview
Melissa Marr is the author of Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and the soon to be published Fragile Eternity. In August of 2007 Wicked Lovely won the Rita (Romance Writers of America) Award for Best Young Adult Book. Her biography states that in high school she was voted “most likely to to end up in jail,” which shows the uniqueness of her life. This uniqueness is reflected in Marr’s novels which mirror human nature at it’s loveliest as well as nastiest. Below is an online interview with Marr.
When you started writing Wicked Lovely, were you planning on writing more books set in the same world?
I didn’t have a plan. When I started, I wrote a short story. About a year later, those characters and that story evolved into a novel. As soon as I finished it, I began writing another novel (parts of which eventually became the second and third books, Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity respectively). Currently, I’m planning a total of 5 books in this world. The fourth of those is the one I’m currently writing.
Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what are the musical playlists for both books?
I can’t write without music—or proofread with it. Each book starts out with a collection of songs that grow & shrink & get sorted as I write. Some characters have playlists too. When I hear a song I think works for a character, I save it to their individual playlist. (FWIW, my webmaster posted a bit of a playlist on my website for both of the first two books.) With WL, I listened to a fair bit of Jem, Tegan & Sara, and The Corrs. For INK, I had music with more obvious teeth— Within Temptation, 30 Seconds to Mars, Bella Morte. For the manga series (Desert Tales), I listened to Sia and Damien Rice a lot. Fragile Eternity had a lot of A Fine Frenzy and Hurt. And, for reasons I don’t question, every book includes listening to Marilyn Manson. He’s my failsafe. Whenever I need inspiration or a shot of energy, his art is one of the resources that I can rely on to spur me to write.
In your bio you say that you’ve lived all over the country. Why did you choose Pennsylvania as the setting?
Actually, I’ve never really thought of it AS being in PA. It was a sort of “any town.” Pennsylvania works—but so does New Jersey or West Virginia. There are references to Pittsburgh & DC, but Huntsdale isn’t defined as being in particular state location. Folks assume it’s PA bc of the P-burgh reference and bc I’m from PA. It’s certainly a viable possibility, but so are a few other spots.
Why not specify? It’s like writing detailed physical descriptions of the characters: I think that sort of concrete real-world data is unnecessary. Adding it takes away from the stories I’m trying to tell. I know what the characters look like, and I could find Huntsdale on a map . . . but that’s my visual and my map. Yours would be different, so who am I to impose mine on you? Everywhere I’ve been in my travels, there are towns with folks desperate to escape. There are spots fighting economic depressions and teens and adults dreaming of a way out. That feels familiar to me; it’s been a theme that runs through conversations I’ve had with people all over. I like leaving it non-specific for that reason.
Your novels remind me of Holly Black’s modern fairy tale series. Have you read her novels and if so are they an influence?
I have read and enjoyed Holly’s YA novels. Her novels, along with Clare Dunkle’s and Charles de Lint’s and Emma Bull’s and Neil Gaiman and a host of other authors’ texts, gave me hope that there was a chance for stories rooted in old folklore to find readers. Their texts did (and do) what folklore has done: take the improbable and mythic beings and place them in the Real World. It’s what folklore has been doing for centuries. It’s what I’m trying to do. Like them, I stay lore-true in some cases, but vary in others. Frex, I didn’t stick as true to courts as Holly Black and Emma Bull do. They both use Seelie & Unseelie, whereas I did a four court structure and made up two a court for Cailleach Bheur (Winter Court) instead of it being just her and her hags.
What other novels and writers have influenced your writing?
Everything influences what a writer writes. My biggest influence textually is folklore. In terms of writing, classic literature is where I find my inspirations. Faulkner does gorgeous things in incorporating full sensory experiences. He tweaks narrative structure and threads wisdom into a good story. Browning and Wilkie Collins did the narrative structure thing brilliantly. Christina Rossetti evoked folklore for modern (to her) political statements—as did Hardy and Barrett Browning. They did this all within good storytelling. That’s my goal. I’m obviously not there yet, and quite probably will never touch even the bottoms of their shoes, but that’s my influence—folklore and literature.
How do you come up with fairy names? Did you research them? Are they variations on other mythical names?
Some are from myth. Beira is from one of the many names of Cailleach Bheur/Cally Berry/Beara. She was the one who made Winter spread. It wasn’t a court though. She was attended by her hags. I wanted her to have more companionship than her hags and her wolf, though. I kept a version of her name, but in the myth where she’s thwarting the embodiment of Summer, I re-named him Keenan (little ancient one) bc liked the etymology of Keenan for the character.
Aislinn wasn’t the name of the missing Summer Queen, but Aislinn is a sort of traditional “dream or vision poem.” It’s also a name. I thought that fit well.
Niall means “champion”—which was appropriate for his role in the novels.
In terms of types of faeries, yes, most of those are research rooted as well. Ly Ergs are based on a type of faery who was a warrior with a “red right hand” stained with blood. Bananach is one name of a carrion-crow. Rowan is a sacred tree, so rowan faeries seemed fitting. Thistle fey are a result of the thistle as a traditionally used herb, combined with the idea of skin that caused pain to touch. (A similar type of faery is in the manga in the desert for the same set of reasons.) Scrimshaw is carved bone, and the rather macabre faeries are called that bc of their general mien. The more animalistic and natural ones (including thistle and scale) are a sort of homage to Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” which was the poem that made me want to be a lit teacher.
This is a dangerous question. *smiles* I research and read and angst over the names and characters and allusions to the point of obsessive sometimes. Frex, I opted to call the Dark Man Far Dorcha as opposed to Fear Dorcha bc although “fear” is the proper spelling of “man” it looks like fear (i.e. fright) which has connotations that I didn’t want. A folklorist I talk to kindly sent a letter asking about my “inaccurate spelling of ‘fear’ in the Dark Man’s name.” I was all anxious as I explained the logic & hoped my logic was acceptable to her. (It was.) The decision to do that was seemingly minor—I mean, it’s a single letter I changed, right? It wasn’t a minor choice though.
In Ink Exchange, Leslie the main character is mentally and physically abused. Do you have any advice to give to teens in similar circumstances?
“Get help” and “tell someone” are easy to say, but awfully hard to do sometimes. However, those are good first steps. It’s the healing part that’s a little more nebulous. I’m a rape survivor, and I had lots of advice from helpful folks. At the time, though, it all felt like noise. I believe it does get easier over time. It did for me. It’s such a personal path though. I’ve known folks for whom group therapy or one-on-one or self defense or religion helped. Revenge doesn’t. Drugs don’t. Sex binges don’t. Avoid the stuff that masks how you feel and is destructive to your spirit or your body.
How would you feel about a fan getting Irial’s tattoo? Horrified, pleased, or indifferent?
I’ve had a few dozen emails from folks on this so far. Personally, I don’t think it’s my place to have any opinion on what someone else does to decorate his/her body. When I’m asked, my only real concern is the same as it is when asked about any tattoo opinions: please research to assure that the person into whose care you’re trusting your body is a true professional. Beyond that, it’s not my place to have a voice in this.
Any plans for new tattoos?
What’s the most common drink requested in a biker bar? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found in an archeological dig?
Most of the places I’ve worked were beer and whiskey places. I worked in one beach bar that was fluffy drinks, but the clientele there wasn’t very much fun so I moved on pretty quickly. The dig I worked was colonial ( a settlement that had been razed & re-settled & later abandoned) , so we found a lot of pottery shards, tools, and daubing. My favourite finds were when I could collect a piece of a dish that I’d found earlier pieces of, like a puzzle slowly coming together.
Can you tell us a little bit about Fragile Eternity the next novel in this series?
I’m so not good at this part. FE is a sequel. When I finished writing Wicked Lovely, I started a new book; parts of that book became Ink Exchange and parts became Fragile Eternity. It’s funny to me that I wrote WL in a matter of months, but INK took almost three times as long and FE was already in progress at that time (and after). Instead of it taking less time, each book has taken longer. Fragile is a sequel in that it revisits the protags from Wicked Lovely. I call it “Seth’s book” bc he’s the center of this novel. FE is set directly after INK, but it’s going back to Ash, Seth, Keenan, & Donia.
The fourth book is “Ani’s book”—she’s the center of the events that take place in it. Like INK, it stands alone.
The fifth one (the final book) is back to Ash & Donia again. Like Fragile Eternity, it’s part of the original protag’s story.
Also can you tell us about the 3-book manga series coming out next year?
Desert Tales is a story that I started about Rika, a former Winter Girl. I’d started it as a short story or maybe the start a novel, but when I was asked to do the manga, I knew that this story worked. The central question I was wondering about was what happens to the winter Girls once they’re freed. There is only one Winter Girl at a time, so where do the others go? I had a few ideas (which I reference briefly at points in Wicked Lovely), but I wanted to explore it further. Where would she go? Somewhere hot, away from Keenan, and out of Winter’s reach . . . the desert. What would she feel? What leftover fears, worries, hopes, dreams would she have? Trust issues . . . It felt like something to follow up on, and the manga was a new venue in which to do so. Writing it was fabulous fun, and Irene Diaz (the artist) really made the whole process thrilling for me. I love seeing the thousands of words I wrote converted into a few hundred pages of images. It was incredible to me to see how few pen strokes it takes Irene to “say” they same thing in images that I said in paragraphs of words. Visual art is like magic to me.
If you were a fairy what kind would you be and to what court would you belong too?
I actually have no desire to be anything other than who and what I am, so if the choices were infinite, I’d be me as I am right now. If the options were limited to faeries, I’d be solitary. I’m not very good at following orders. Winter makes my body ache; High is too reserved; and Dark or Summer . . . well, it’s not where I’d choose at this point in my life. Once upon a time, I would’ve liked those two the best, but I’m a mom now so giving myself over to sheer decadence isn’t the path I’m on these days. Vacations into indulgence are still on the table as options, but so are bouts of practicality. Solitary would enable me to meander among a few courts, so I’d go for that option. As to what kind, I’ve always had a fascination for water beings—selchies, kelpies, finn-folk—so I’d probably lean towards those options. The spouse & beasties are all ocean lovers, so I suspect they’d veer that way, and in the end, that’s my ultimate decision maker: the path that assures that I’m with my family.
Thanks for the fun questions!
*Thank you Melissa Marr for providing such an entertaining interview! The YaYaYas are looking forward to the publications of your new works!