When not swimming for her life, Julie immersed herself in books, often to the chagrin of her schoolteachers, who would find she hid novels behind her Math textbooks during class. Her love of reading led her to pen some very dark and gruesome stories, complete with colored illustrations, to shock her hapless teachers. The gory tales faded with time, but the passion for writing remained, long after she graduated and was supposed to get a real job.
To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dogtrainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full-time.
Julie now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where the frequency of shark attacks are at an all time low. She lives with her husband, two obnoxious cats, one Australian Shepherd who is too smart for his own good, and the latest addition, a hyper-active Papillon puppy.
What inspired you to write The Iron King?
I’ve always loved faery tales, the old, creepy faery tales, where the fey were primal and wicked and dangerous, not flower flitting sprites. But when I first began writing a faery story, I got to thinking: what are the fey afraid of? In myth, the answer is iron, so what if there was a type of faery that was immune to iron, that had evolved with progress and technology? How would that affect the more traditional fey? And then I remembered we already have “creatures” lurking in machines: gremlins and bugs and worms and such, and from that thought, the Iron Fey were born.
What sources did you draw from besides “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”?
The research I did for faeries was mostly online. I read a lot of Brother’s Grimm and old fairy tales, with the endings you don’t see in the Disney versions. I know Iron King has been compared to Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland, and while I did love those movies, they didn’t really come to me in all the time I was writing the book. So yes, Grim is very much like the Cheshire cat, but the inspiration for him came from Macbeth’s Grimalkin and a Scottish Highland faery cat called a cait sith. And while Meghan does enter faeryland in an effort to rescue her little brother (ala Labyrinth), the idea came from old, old legends of faery changelings being switched with human children.
I didn’t read any YA faery books while writing Iron King (though I read them later and loved them, particularly Tithe), but I did read a wonderfully creepy graphic novel called Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things. It showed the fey as how I would imagine them: eerie and mischievous, and just a little macabre. If you enjoy faeries and comics, you should definitely read this series. (Also, I just found out it’s slated to be a 2011 movie, which excites me to no end.)
Oberon, Titania and Puck all have very distinct personalities in your novel. How did you develop these rounded characters out of their original sources?
I wanted the faery rulers at least to be very ‘fey,’ meaning aloof, alien, and disinterested in human affairs. To them, humans are toys and playthings, and deeper emotions such as love and empathy are simply not in their makeup. Puck is different because he’s been around humans so much, but Oberon, Titania, and Mab are centuries old, very powerful, and just too ‘faery’ to be anything remotely human.
Who is your favorite fey creature/being? Why are they special to you? [reader question]
My favorite fey creature is a kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit that can shapeshift into a human. They’re clever and mischievous, and so infamous that there are shrines all over Japan dedicated to pacifying the kitsune so they won’t play their tricks on weak mortals. And, since I’m half-Japanese myself (who loves anime and sushi and ninjas) I find their culture fascinating.
Team Ash or Team Puck? [reader question]
I’m afraid I’m Team Ash (sorry Team Puck), because I’m a sucker for dark, brooding Bad Boys who can wield pointy objects.
How did the covers for your novels get chosen? They are all so beautiful! [reader question, seconded by me]
Thank you! I adore them, too. But sadly, I can’t claim any credit. It was all done by the talented people at Harlequin Teen. Most authors get very little to no input on their cover design, but publishing houses have whole teams dedicated to creating covers based on what the market is like, and what elements will make readers pick a particular book from the shelves. Because, let’s face it, we’re all attracted to gorgeous or interesting covers. :)
SPOILER! Highlight to read the question and answer. When Meghan and Robbie are on the bus, and they see the guy who Robbie believes to be Ash, was it really Ash? What was he doing there? [reader question]
Yes, it was Ash, and he was there hunting for Robbie/Puck. Remember that Puck had been looking after Meghan for several years, so it was awhile since Puck and Ash had seen each other.
What was your favorite scene to write? Why?
I can’t remember just one particular scene, but I do love action sequences. Romance is hard for me. Give me a good bloody sword fight any day. :)
What was your biggest challenge in writing this novel?
Writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I did the second half of Iron King for NaNo Wrimo, and it was probably the most frantic 30 days of my life. o_O
In The Iron King, the fey are born from human imagination. How did you develop this imaginative premise?
It’s a myth that’s been around awhile, both in legend and in some popular modern tales (Peter Pan uses it, as does the RPG White Wolf system, Changeling the Dreaming). For me, the idea that fey evolved from human fear and imagination became especially crucial when introducing the Iron fey. Without that idea that faeries came from human dreams, the Iron fey couldn’t exist.
What message do you hope readers take away from The Iron King?
Lol, I’ve seen some reviews that think I wrote The Iron King to show that technology is BAD and EVIL, and that’s not the case at all. (I love my laptop and my PS3 and my Xbox 360, and I dream about getting an iPad and a Nook and all these wonderful little gadgets that are so amazing.) If readers do take anything away from The Iron King, I hope it will be the themes of friendship, loyalty, and family.
What led you to write the Winter’s Passage novella? Do you plan to write another novella between Iron Daughter and Iron Queen? [reader question]
Actually, my editor asked me if I could write a short story in the Iron fey world, with the intent that it would be available for free until The Iron Daughter came out. So I came up with the idea for Winter’s Passage. I don’t know if I’ll do another one between Iron Daughter and Iron Queen, but it’s certainly possible.
Why do you think the fantasy genre, and especially paranormal romance, is so popular in modern times?
I’ve always loved fantasy, and I think the reason paranormal romance is so popular is the idea that this strange, wonderful, eerie world is all around us, and that one day, we could run into a vampire in biology, or a werewolf living next door, or a faery prince at the mall. And if these beautiful, otherworldly creatures can fall in love with the ordinary girl next door, hey, it could happen to us too, right?
What authors have inspired you? What about them is inspirational?
Neil Gaiman is my author hero. His books have this wonderful mix of creepy and surreal that I just love. Terry Brook’s Shannara series made me love fantasy, and introduced me to my first character crush (Morgan Leah). And, though she writes manga and not novels, Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yugi was the first manga series I read and fell head-over-heels in love with, introducing me to the awesome world of anime and drool-worthy bishounen. (“Miaka! “Tamahome!”)
What is a random fact readers probably don’t know about you?
I have reoccurring nightmares about tornados. I love thunderstorms, but a tornado warning can send me into a quiet panic. o_O
What are you working on outside of The Iron Fey trilogy? I’ve heard whisperings of a vampire series?
Yes indeed! My next project, after The Iron Fey, will be a series where a virus has wiped out 95% of Earth’s population, and vampires have risen up to dominate the world. (Since they were already dead, the virus couldn’t affect them.) As of right now, I’m working on a secret project that only my editor and I know about. But, after the Iron Fey trilogy ends, we’re hoping it will be big. :)
What can you tell us about the remaining novels in the trilogy, The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen?
In The Iron Daughter, Meghan has some tough choices to make, most prominently the choice of who she loves most: Ash or Puck? And in The Iron Queen, the battle with the Iron fey finally comes to a head, and Meghan’s life, not to mention all of Faery, is changed forever.
Thanks so much for the interview! :)
Thank you so much to Julie Kagawa for agreeing to an interview! It was truly amazing to hear more about what went into creating such a fantastic novel! And thank you to the readers who submitted questions!
If you missed my review of The Iron King, you can read it here!
Don't miss the Iron Fey novella, Winter's Passage, FREE to download until July 31, 2010! Julie is running a Winter's Passage fan trailer contest on her blog from July 1 - August 1! Check it out and enter to win!
Look for the second installment of the Iron Fey trilogy, The Iron Daughter, on August 1, 2010!