Fairy folklore is widespread and can be found in almost every culture around the world. In North America there is the Yunwi Djunsti, in China there are stories of mountain fairies and kitchen fairies. In Great Britain there are tales of the Duergar, Norway has the Nisse, while the Patupairehe is in New Zealand. In Germany and Sweden there are wood fairies and Skogga. There are countless legends throughout Scotland, Ireland and Great Britain involving selkies, sidhe, the blue men and the Tuatha de Danann. Don't forget pixies, gnomes, brownies, elves and leprechauns and that's just naming a few.
We've been raised on faerie tales but the folklore isn't quite the Disney tale you'd expect. Faeries are capricious in nature, their magical powers a danger to mere mortals and more often than not --as the legends go--humans suffer at their hands.
I'm very excited about this week's interview with Janni Simner, author of Bones of Faerie, as faeries are my favorite creature of folklore. Please welcome Janni as she talks about her latest novel that uses a well known legend but presents it in a new, original tale.
Thanks to Random House and Janni's publicist, Meg, The Book Fiend has a copy to giveaway on January 26th. Just type a comment to enter your name in the drawing. The contest closes at 5pm (EST) on January 26th.
Janni: Bones of Faerie is set almost 20 years after the war between Faerie and humanity destroyed the world. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, but the world is filled with deadly magic the war left behind--trees that seek out human blood, glowing stones that burn with cold fire, forests whose shadows can swallow a person whole. The humans who've survived search for magic and cast it out where they find it. The story's protagonist, Liza, was born after the war and accepts this--until her infant sister is set out on a hillside for showing signs of magic. Liza's mother disappears soon after, and then Liza discovers signs of magic in herself and is forced to flee the town she's known all her life.
Evie: Bones of Faerie is your first young adult novel but you are by no means an inexperienced author. You've proven yourself in the publishing world which is no small feat. Can you tell us about your other work?
Janni: I've published four middle grade novels--books aimed at elementary-school-aged readers. The most recent Secret of the Three Treasures, is about a kid determined to become a professional adventurer, just like the hero of her father's novels. I've also published more than 30 short stories, aimed at a mix of kids, teens, and adults -- the most recent of those appeared in Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar and the online magazine Coyote Wild.
Evie: How did you feel when you opened the offer letter from Random House for Bones of Faerie?
Janni: It was actually an email from my agent--the details are fuzzy in my mind now, but I seem to remember being glad that the offer had arrived by email, because I wasn't sure I would have been able to speak coherent sentences if it had arrived by phone. :-)
Evie: You wrote the opening for Bones of Faerie over ten years ago and it gave you shivers. I must confess, when I read the excerpt, tears welled up. It's intriguing, frightening, heart wrenching. It grabbed me with the first line and as I continued reading, the grip around my heart tightened. I had to know more about the characters and their world. What happened- what clicked- that brought the story to you after ten years? Did the idea suddenly come to you in toto? I'm glad I didn't read the opening years ago. I would've been on your doorstop giving you paper and pens, begging you to write!
Janni: Thanks for the good words about that opening! It haunted me all through the decade or so before I wrote the rest of the book. Every few years I'd go back to it and write a few more pages, but I never got very far, and after a while I decided I simply wasn't good enough a writer to tell the story yet. So I went off, and wrote other things, and along the way kept improving my craft until I finally did feel ready--and also felt too impatient to know the rest of the story to keep waiting any longer. Even then, I had to give myself permission to write a truly awful and rough first draft. But by then I'd come to understand that writing awful first drafts was part of my writing process. Once I have something on the page, I know I can revise it. In many ways, I'm a better rewriter than writer.
Evie: "Invasive Species" is a short story written in the same world as Bones of Faerie and was published in Coyote Wild Magazine, August 2008. When was this story originally written?
Janni: I wrote "Invasive Species" just a couple years ago. Bones of Faerie is set in the Midwest (where I lived when I wrote the opening), but when I sold the book I'd long since moved to Arizona, and I wanted to find out what the war had looked like from here--where even without magic, the plants know how to bite and the dandelions (or plants that look like dandelions but technically aren't) really do have thorns. I actually stole those thorny dandelions for the world of Bones of Faerie, because they seemed like they belonged there--but we have a lot of other thorny plants here, too!
Evie: Will we meet Kyra, Alex, Aunt Anna and Camden again?
Janni: Originally I'd thought of their story as a one-off, but afterwards I wasn't so sure, so ... maybe. I'm still thinking about it.
One of the fascinating things to me about the world of Bones of Faerie is that the fear of the magic is legitimate, and really can't just be dismissed as silly--because magic in that world really does kill. So the question then becomes, what do we do with this fear? How do we deal with it and respond to it?
Evie: You have an online journal that is proof of your day to day creativity and your romance with words. I became an instant fan when I found out you have an idea box. Can you tell us about your idea box, your writing routine, what gets your creative juices flowing? Does music play a role in your writing?
I'm a messy, find-the-story-as-I-go-along sort of writer, so I tend to avoid outlines unless they're required as sales tools. But I prefer to jump in, listen to the story, see where I wind up, and then revise and revise and revise to make it seem like I knew what I was doing all along.
Evie: Did you study literature and writing in college? It's not readily apparent. You could have studied Botany or Alternative Medicine!
Janni: You're right on both counts, actually! I majored in English and Biology. I started out planning to be a researcher, but while I enjoyed studying science, I didn't enjoy doing labwork. I'm grateful for the groundwork I got in the sciences, though, and I still enjoy reading about it. Just as we need readers as well as writers, I think we need informed laypeople as well as working scientists.
Evie: What kinds of jobs have you had?
Janni: I had the usual assortment of random jobs through high school and college. After college I worked as a publications editor for a university magazine, as a marketing writer for another university's non-credit courses, and as a web-designer. When I began freelancing I kept writing nonfiction articles and marketing materials alongside my fiction. I still write nonfiction--mostly science writing these days.
Evie: I've read that you love to travel. What's your favorite place so far? Do you collect refrigerator magnets from the places you go? Do you collect anything? I mean, besides ideas for your idea box. ~.^
Janni: Iceland! I've visited Iceland twice and hope to go back a third time--the mix of geology, history, and literature there is fascinating, and the land itself compelling in a way that continues to pull on me. I also love camping and hiking in national parks and forests throughout the west. I have family in Switzerland now, too, and have enjoyed exploring its stone cities and seeing the angle of light off the Alps.
When I travel I mostly collect ideas (as you say!), and pictures, and impressions. I don't seem to be good at collecting physical souvenirs--I've tried collecting pins or patches, but the habit never seemed to stick.
Evie: Did you always want to become an author?
Janni: I always wrote stories, even before I really knew how to write. It wasn't until around the time I realized I wasn't going to be a researcher that I began thinking about whether I could do this writing thing that had always been my hobby professionally, though!
Evie: Who inspires you?
Janni: Everyone! Really, it's the small details of how individuals navigate their lives that are most inspiring in many ways.
Evie: What kinds of books do you read? Interested in television?
Janni: I love reading YA fantasy--I never really stopped reading it when I hit adulthood. I also read a little bit of everything else: adult fantasy, general fiction, nonfiction, folklore.
And Icelandic sagas. By the end of that first trip to Iceland I was hooked on the sagas. In a way reading the sagas has the feel of reading high fantasy--only with more lawsuits. :-) Plus unlike in fantasy novels, many of the places in Icelandic sagas are real, and can still be visited.
I'm not much of a television watcher, but I have been enjoying Doctor Who lately.
Evie: Any words of wisdom to aspiring authors?
Janni: Don't follow any writing advice unless it works for you.
There are a lot of different ways to write, and everyone does it differently. As writers we like to talk about our processes, but sometimes we forget to include an important caveat: This worked for me. It may or may not work for you.
So be open to trying everything. But only keep the things that are right for you and your writing. The fact that someone else's techniques don't work for you doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. It just means that their process isn't your process.
Evie: Has your life changed since you've become published?
Janni: It hasn't so far. :-)
It's funny, actually. When my first short story came out, and later when my first novel came out, I thought everything would change once my words were on the shelves--but it didn't. Life doesn't magically change on publication day, and that's probably a good thing. Though it is pretty magical knowing that other people--people I've never met--are reading words I've written and about characters I've created. Getting to share the things I create--that's pretty amazing.
But I think the thing that's changed me is not selling my stories, but the act of writing them. I take something away and am in some small way changed by every story I write.
Evie: In closing, is there anything you'd like to add? Something you'd like to share with your fans?
Janni: I think you've covered it pretty well! :-) Thanks for the questions, thanks for all the kind words, and I hope you enjoy Bones of Faerie!
Janni, thank you for visiting The Book Fiend and taking the time for the interview. You've once again proven that writers are awesome people. Good luck in all you do and safe travels!
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