We had such a blast throwing our Shadow and Bone book club party last fall that we couldn't resist reading Ruin & Rising this year to finishing out the series. We asked Leigh if she would consider Skyping with us again and she graciously said Yes! (we all did our happy dance when we first saw her beautiful face pop up on the screen!) We chatted and giggled with Leigh for over an hour and got all of our burning questions answered and even a few tid bits of info we promised not to reveal. Sorry guys, you'll just have to wait and see what Leigh has up her kefta when she decides to share all her book secrets but I promise, you'll be happy!
Here's some of the questions we asked Leigh and her answers:
Q: You told us last time, there would be a character that took after David Bowie. Who were you thinking?
A: Sturmhond/Nikolai (you would notice more from Siege and Storm)
A: If I write about Nikolai, it will most likely be a full book, actually. I'm not swearing to it, but . . . (she may have shared some more details here, like a possible title **hint, hint** but our lips are sealed!)
Q: We've heard about this new project you're working on. Can you tell us more about The Dregs?
A: On the map from Siege and Storm or Ruin and Rising, you will see the country of Kerch. While the rest of the world has been in turmoil, Kerch has prospered. It is this neutral country, a great trading power and hyper-capitalist society. It is the jewel of all art and culture. And just like it is the hub of all legal trade, it is also the hub of illegal trading - with a thriving criminal underworld, where all of my heroes come from, of course. I like to describe it as Oceans 11 meets Game of Thrones. Its a rag-tag band of largely despicable characters who have to pull off an impossible heist.
Q: Will we ever know where Alina came from and her power? We know Mal came from the Morozova's line, but she's just a huge questions mark for us.
A: What's interesting about Alina's power is that it's different, but it isn't actually that big. If you remember from Shadow and Bone, it's actually an issue. She's a powerful Grisha, but she isn't as powerful as the Darkling. She knows without the first amplifier she can't enter the fold. So in some ways she's an ordinary Grisha, but she's also an extraordinary one. I have Alina's origin story written down just so I would know. I just thought it was important not to wrap it all up in a bow. I know there's this desire to look at destiny and it's one of the things that Alina falls into - the classic thing in fantasy where everyone falls into this idea that "everyone is chosen". I wanted to play with the idea of "don't tell me I just happened". I wanted there to be possibility. Maybe someday I'll write more of her story, but I don't know. I have a lot of stories to tell.
Q: When Alina and Mal's powers left them at the end, did Alina create a new kind of Grisha or were they Sun Summoners, like she was or something combined with what they old Grisha power was?
A: No Grisha becomes a Sun Summoner. All the ordinary people are the ones who become the new Sun Summoners. If the amplifiers had been brought together by a tide maker, then it would have created a bunch of tide makers. Morozova wanted to bridge the gap between the Grisha and everyone else.
Q: The sea whip and the stag: did they have that dual life (like Mal who, when he died, he let go of the extraordinary life he had, and become ordinary)?
A: No, this is something I could have done a little bit better, but it was this game of trying to reveal what Morozova was doing without revealing everything. If you look back to all the references of his journals, you see that he killed animals and brought them back - that's the way create an amplifier. Then he chose these extraordinary animals (not like some arbitrary rabbit you find on the side of the road) that he brought back to life with Morozova's power/magic.
Q: When you started writing the trilogy, did you know then who or what the three amplifiers would be or did you figure that out along the way.
A: No. I when I started book one, no. I didn't plan on it being three books. I had never written a book before. My only goal was to finish this book (I had started many books before and never finished). About halfway through the book, I realized that the ending I had come up with was wrong - that it was a bigger story - and that there was a larger arch at play, this girl's journey didn't last this short period of time. So I started taking notes and when I signed with Jo (my agent) she said she got the feeling like this wasn't just one book and I told her I pictured it as a trilogy. So she said we would just go with that and luckily, Macmillan wanted all three books. But we had to submit a synopsis fro books two and three. So I used my notes and I came up with a synopsis and I turned them in. While my editor had book one, I was on a shoot in upstate New York, and I decided to revise my outlines. At the time there were three amplifiers, but there were at lot of things that were different. I'm sorry for those that didn't have read all the books yet, but Nikolai originally died in Siege and Storm, (**We all gasped we she said this**). I know . . . He was going to be murdered by Vacily and Alina was going to be framed for it.There was originally a split POV between Mal and Alina. And there were three ordinary amplifiers. The final showdown took place at the Grand Palace. When I went through this long walk in the snow for like 2-3 hours, and I was like, "NO!" I rewrote the two books on this long walk, went home and changed the outlines and sent them to Macmillan. Nothing changed after that. But it was during that walk that I realized that Mal was the third amplifier and when I started building out Morozova's history. And it's whe i got a better sense for what the arch of the story was going to be.
I went to this conference at DragonCon and there was this panel on morally ambiguous characters in Harry Potter. There was this lively debate about Snape and about Dumbledore and Percy. The thing that was interesting to me is that I think there is this desire among readers, myself included, to believe that Authors have it all mapped out, like they know everything from moment one. I just don't think its true. I don't think the Queen, JK Rowling, had it all mapped out. So, yes, I will confess that I didn't have it all mapped out. But I did always know the way it would end. That would never change.
Q: So about Oncat (Harshaw's cat), we were wondering if at any point during your writing process if Oncat had something sinister behind him. One of us thought that he might have been spying on them for the Darkling . . .
A: (lots of laughing) I think that is the best question I have ever had!! No, Harshaw was just nuts! Oh my Gosh, I love that - the cat was behind all of it! That's great!
Q: Did you have a favorite character?
A: I know it sounds obnoxious, but I love all of them. It kind of came over the course of the books to have a soft spot for everybody. I think Genya arch for me was one of the most important in the series for me - she's really near and dear to me. Her story has been really important to me and its the story that I get the most touching email about. She's one of my favorites. I have to say that in book three, my favorite character to write was Zoya. It's funny, I love her so much. She's such a b****. And I really enjoyed somebody who could be a good guy and a hero and also just awful. I am just with you, Zoya. We are kindred spirits because that would be me. I would be like, "I want a nap, I want a glass of wine, I want everybody to shut up, and don't talk to me." Yeah. In fact, I just got a new car and I named it Zoya.
Q: If you had to chose one guy from the Grisha trilogy that you could have a happily ever after with, who would you chose?
A: Okay, this is going to sound crazy, but Tolya. Because he is sweet and loyal. He's tall, tough, and loves poetry - like a jock who loves poetry. Admittedly, he's a religious fanatic, but for me, Tamar and Tolya's faith was important for me to present in a positive way and I feel like I would be fine with him being like, "I gotta go take care of my Saint right now." I just really love Tolya. He's just not as much of a pain in the butt as everyone else. He just doesn't spend as much time brooding and moping and trying to save the world. He's just doing his job.
Q: Where are the film options at right now or do you know?
A: What I do know I'm not really allowed to talk about. They make you sign these insane disclosure documents that basically say, "If you speak about this publicly, we will sue you." and stuff like that. I get asked all the time about casting and I try to skirt around it by saying, "A young this or and young that." Yeah, I don't really know. We'll see.
Q: Will you be involved in the movie?
A: Well, I met David Heyman (owns Heymaker Films, who bought Harry Potter). He asked how much I wanted to be involved. I was like, "How much will you let me be?" Contractually, they have no obligation at all to involve me. I know there is a screen play, but they have not let me read it yet.
Q: Last time we Skyped with you, we asked you: who would marry, make-out with, or kill. This time, we want to know: who would you go dancing with, who would you like to have a sleepover with, and who would you like to go on vacation with?
Q: What is one of your favorite questions that you've ever been asked?
A: Your Oncat question!
Q: What really happened to Oncat after? Sitting by a glowing fire? At the palace?
A: Funny you ask that because when one of my friends read the book early and she warned me in several texts, "If you kill this cat, we can't be friends anymore." Stags, yes. Poor sea dragons, yes, But you can't kill the CAT! I love that Oncat is now the secret villian or hero. He's going to have to be the new novella!
The best question . . . I think it is the overall discussion now that I enjoy. It has been really fun to talk about the book (now that all of them are out) and not have to hide anything anymore. I do think it funny when people come up to me and say, "You've destroyed me! It wasn't supposed to end like that." I get a lot of teary -eyed teenagers asking, "Was there ever a chance Alina and the Darkling could have ended up together?" Yeah, I think the two questions I get asked most frequently are that one and did I know how the series was going to end. And the answer to the Alina and Darkling is: NO!
Q: So we know that they made an impostor Alina for her funeral pyre. We were wondering if that was possible for the Darkling?
A: As Nikolai would say, when people say impossible, they usually mean improbable. And I'm just going to leave it at that . . .