Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Into Fantasy: Author Interview with Andrea Cremer

Andrea has always loved writing and has never stopped writing, but she only recently plunged into the deep end of the pool that is professional writing. When she’s not writing, Andrea teaches history at a very nice liberal arts college in St. Paul.

In the little spare time she can find, Andrea stares up at trees, rescues infant rabbits from predatory cats, and invents names for pug puppies with her husband. She has an unfortunate tendency to spill things – white carpets beware!

Her debut novel, NIGHTSHADE, the first of a YA fantasy series, will be published in fall 2010 by Penguin (Philomel).

From the author's website

What inspired you to write Nightshade? How did you develop the unique mythology?

Calla started it all because I wanted to write a story about a female character who wasn’t being pulled into a magical world – she was already in the middle of it, a leader and a warrior. The world of Nightshade came as I tried to figure out how someone like Calla, a girl who I knew was incredibly powerful, could be afraid and angry. What was controlling her? Why would she be fighting against her own destiny? I realized that she was facing off with something even more powerful than herself. That’s where my background as a historian came in. I teach early modern history (1500-1800) – a period of immense, violent change in human societies. This is the time of witchhunts, religious warfare, colonization, the Inquistion; all types of cataclysmic social transformation that turned the lives across the globe upside down. The more I thought about Calla I thought about the ways in which wolf warriors and witches could have intertwined lives.  The mythology in Nightshade is a blend of history and lore plus new twists I imagined along the way.

How did your interest in Hobbesian theory develop?

My interest in early modern philosophy stems very much from my curiosity about how human societies try to trace their origins. In the period of history I study there was an abundance of competing theories about what human beings were like before they formed societies (the ‘state of nature’) and what compelled them to come together. Hobbes believed human  nature was inherently violent and could only be curbed by a powerful central authority that compelled people to cooperate. Building on ideas about what human nature is and how it functions is a great way to explore relationships and power in a novel;  plus, I simply find it fascinating to speculate about!

What makes Calla defy the Keepers’ laws and save Shay’s life?

While Calla values loyalty and believes in her calling as a Guardian, her strength as a leader also makes her want to protect the lives of others. She can’t stand by and watch someone suffer when she can do something about it.

Calla’s favorite book is Watership Down. What are some of her other favorites? What about Shay’s (besides comics)?

Calla likes Jack London’s novels, Margaret Atwood The Handmaiden’s Tale, The Hunger Games trilogy, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Jean M. Auel Clan of the Cave Bear, Markus Zusak The Book Thief, Stephen King The Shining

Shay will read just about anything but a few favorites are Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, The Illiad and The Odyssey, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque cycle, Umberto Eco Name of the Rose, Mary Shelley Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories, Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises, Neil Gaiman American Gods, the Harry Potter series

If you were one of the mythical beings in the Nightshade world, what would you be? Why?

I would be a Guardian because I’d love to be able to shift into wolf form at will.

What inspired you to deal with the issues at the heart of the novel – misogyny, servitude, trust, loyalty, rebellion, etc?

Once again I can’t fight my love of history – I specialize in the intersection of religion, sex and violence. Throughout history struggles for power often use ideologies about gender and religious beliefs as flashpoints for conflict. Understanding the dynamics involved in those conflicts is fascinating to me and my study of history has led me to belief that sexual politics and violence are pivotal pieces in the shaping of society; therefore I think its pivotal to examine them.

Which do you find more challenging, teaching history or writing? [reader question]

It depends on how I’m feeling. They’re both rewarding and challenging in different ways. On days when a story really grabs hold of me, or if I’m feeling particularly quiet and introspective, writing comes easily and it can be difficult to tear myself away from the computer. However, I love sharing ideas with students and having lively discussions in my classrooms makes me incredibly happy.

What song would you choose as the novel’s theme song? Why?

Florence and the Machine’s “Howl.” It’s a gorgeous song that has powerful, insistent rhythm while at the same the words reveal how torn passion makes the singer. The first time I heard it I thought “wow, this song is seriously aboutNightshade!” It’s that perfect.

Why do you think the YA genre has become so popular in recent years?

I think we all need to thank J.K. Rowling for writing such a phenomenal series. Harry Potter really made people realize that YA can be beautifully written and is full of fantastic characters and worlds that appeal to readers of all ages. One of my favorite quotes about YA (and I’m sorry I don’t remember who said it) is “YA isn’t an age group, it’s a state of mind.” Getting past the stereotype that ‘teen lit’ is only for teens and instead having people, by the millions, discover that YA is about compelling plots and the trials of self-discovery and that fascinate us all.

How did your interest in writing develop?

My favorite games to play as a child were imagination based. Whether building forts out in the woods or creating characters in my living room, I favored my own stories and worlds instead of things like Barbie. Making up those games offered a natural segue into writing. I’ve always written but I never thought I could it professionally – it seemed like too big a dream to pursue. I only started writing novels after I was in a horseback riding accident two years ago and couldn’t walk for the whole summer. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop!

What authors have inspired you? What about them do you find inspirational?

Authors who influenced me when I was growing up were J.R.R. Tolkein, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Margaret Atwood, and David Eddings. Contemporary authors who I find inspirational are Neil Gaiman, Barbara Kingsolver, Libba Bray, David Levithan, John Green, Suzanne Collins, Maggie Stiefvater, and Cassandra Clare. What all these authors have in common is an uncanny ability to create compelling characters, write in lucid prose, and construct worlds I’m sad to leave when I turn the last page of the book.

What is a random fact readers probably don’t know about you?

I have an irrational fear of crocodiles.

What can you tell us about the future books in the Nightshade series?

I can’t talk about what’s in the books at all, but Nightshade is a trilogy. Wolfsbane, Book 2, comes out in July 2011 and Bloodrose, Book 3, will be published in spring 2012. After that I’m writing a prequel to the series, set in the Middle Ages, that’s about the origins of the Witches War.

For more about this author, please visit:

Thank you so much to Andrea Cremer for this great interview! Have you seen Lake Placid? If so, then your fear is not irrational at all. I still have nightmares. :-)


Lori said...

This is a really great interview!! I loved seeing what the characters favorite books are!

Lindsi said...

Awesome Interview Casey! I loved the questions :)

Jenny said...

Fantastic interview, I really enjoyed all your questions and all Andrea's answers. And a fear of crocodiles is most certainly not irrational:) Can't wait for book 2 and 3 of this series!

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

Thanks everyone! I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview!

And Jenny, I totally agree! Books 2 & 3 are too far away!!

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