Interview: Sarah Rees Brennan

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon.

Having fallen completely in love with her novel, it was my great pleasure to speak to Ms. Brennan about her characters, the world she's created and the difficulties in writing for teens.

Be sure to check out our interview below (SPOILERS, beware), then make sure to show her some love by picking up her new novel, The Demon's Lexicon, at a bookstore near you!

Hi Sarah! We so appreciate you taking the time to chat with us! First off, over here at The Reader's Quill, we love all sorts of books and music. We're curious, what are your top three favorite books? And top three favorite musicians?

Oh gosh. This is so embarrassing, I am about to be shamed before music-lovers: I love country music. I just finished a month-long writing binge listening solely to Taylor Swift, so I'm going to have to say her. I also love Dar Williams, and turning slightly away from the country side, I'm very fond of Matt Nathanson. I can't really pick favorites, but those are three I really like.

Three favorite books are impossible too, but these are three I love: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (everyone says it, but that is because it is so brilliant), Valiant by Holly Black and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy.

Let's talk a little bit about The Demon’s Lexicon. How did you come up with the idea for the series?

I was watching a documentary about a wolf who adopted two human girls, who learned to howl and run on four legs, and by the time the wolf was shot trying to protect the girls from human hunters I was crying, and having an idea that I wanted to mix up with the supernatural.

This is your debut novel in the YA market. Did you face any challenges in writing for teens?

There were challenges - there always are, with writing - but I have to say I think writing for and about teens is the most fun a writer can have. When you're in your teens everything's changing, you often fall in love or have to cope with death for the first time. They're important, intense years, and it's wonderful to write about characters experiencing them and think that you might be writing a book that touches someone else the same way books did me in my teens, when I discovered what I really loved to read, and read some books that changed the blueprint of my brain.

There are so many really fabulous YA books around: a lot of the best and most original books published today are YA. My challenge was to try and do justice to that tradition of excellence!

Could you tell us a bit about your writing process?

My favorite way to write is in a cafe with friends. I like pausing, chatting about how the writing is going, having an iced hot chocolate... but failing that, at home with the country music blaring (don't look at me like that!) is a good second choice. I always have the characters in my head, and I take walks just to think about certain scenes: it feels a little like I'm rehearsing them for the play of their lives, so writing is easy for me once I sit down and commit to doing it. Maybe too easy - my books can end up terribly long!

Which is your favorite character in the book? Which was your favorite to write, if different?

Oh, I can't pick a favorite! I love them all at different times and in different moods. I will say that it's always tons of fun to write Jamie, since he's the light-hearted one and the most like me, so what he does and why always comes naturally.

Are any of the characters based on people in your own life?

No, but some of them are named for my friends. I have a minor character called Natasha after a girl I lived with, and I killed her in the first draft until my agent asked me to spare her, and I spent a day wandering around muttering to myself that I should maybe kill Natasha. Strangely, we're still friends...

We really loved the characters in the novel, but we have a few questions about them...

Alan seems pretty committed to Livia. Is this devotion to her safety purely stemming from his love for his father or has he truly grown to love her despite her antics?

Alan's an affectionate guy, and he's lived with Livia since he was four: I think Alan sees her as family, even though he's very aware she's not his mother. He's very committed to the idea of her as Nick's mother - it's Alan who taught Nick to call her Mum. I think he feels sorry for her, too, and Livia looks a lot like Nick: Alan could probably love her for that alone.

By the end of The Demon’s Lexicon, we find out that Nick’s a demon. We were curious, however, can demons ever truly love?

That is one of the big questions of the series, so... maybe! Demons do certainly have feelings, but whether they could ever be close enough to human feelings to be equivalent to them, well, I try to lay it out so readers can decide for themselves.

If so, could Mae be in the middle of a potential future love triangle?

My editor thinks so. My agent thinks that Mae and Alan belong together. I simply laugh a mysterious laugh. There's certainly romantic potential there, but Mae and both the brothers also have potential love interests elsewhere: call it more of a love join-the-dots puzzle!

We were surprised to find out that Jamie is a wizard! How will this affect his life from now on?

It will be affecting his life from now on in a huge variety of ways. He's now the object of interest for a lot of other magicians, and not just the Gerald and the Circle we met in the first book. He and his sister now have trust issues, he and Nick have a more complicated relationship and Jamie's mother is just terribly confused. Kids these days and their magical powers...

Speaking of Jamie, does Mae, his sister, have any powers of her own?

She's not a magician, but that doesn't mean she has no power... far from it.

We are really looking forward to the second book in the trilogy. Any hints you can give us as to what's in store for Nick, Alan, Jamie and Mae?

Oooh, let me see. Betrayal is a major theme. Two of the four main characters fall in love (I don't necessarily mean with each other), and I am pretty confident that the first kiss of the book is going to come as a surprise to people. There is also a lot of fighting. People yelling at each other. A schoolyard brawl. And a duel!

Come back tomorrow for another Sarah Rees Brennan exclusive!


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