The Compulsive Reader: Interview with Zoë Marriott

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interview with Zoë Marriott

Zoë Marriott is the author of The Swan Kingdom and Daughter of the Flames (which comes out today!).

Why do you write Young Adult fantasy?

Well, it was a bit of a struggle to get there - I tried being a poet, writing romances, horror, whodunits, all sorts. I was not successful; I never managed to finish anything! When I was about eighteen, my sister had her first baby, and I decided to get a unique present for the nursery, one that was a bit more interesting than a teddy or a mobile: books. So I went online and did searches for authors whose names I vaguely remembered as being ones I loved when I was younger, and came up with Tamora Pierce and 'The Song of the Lioness Quartet'. When the books arrived I was off work and at a loose end, so I decided to re-read them before passing them on (terrible manners, but who can resist a pile of shiny new books? Not me). Bam! It was like getting hit in the head with a lightning bolt. I actually jolted in my chair. Something in my head started screaming, THIS IS IT! I couldn't believe I had forgotten how much I loved fantasy for young adults. It seemed so blindingly obvious that this was what I was meant to be writing too. So I owe it all to Tamora Pierce!

What was your inspiration for The Swan Kingdom and Daughter of the Flames?

Both came from books. The Swan Kingdom was inspired by a picture book that my sister bought me when I was really young - a beautifully illustrated version of The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen. I loved the pictures so much that I used to just sit and stare at them and make up dialogue and descriptions to fit them, and as a result the fairytale has remained my favourite all my life. Daughter of the Flames came about after reading 'The Tough Guide to Fantasyland' by Diana Wynne Jones. If anyone is thinking of writing fantasy, that is the number one book they should read first, because it just skewers all the fantasy clichés and assumptions that give the genre a bad name. Daughter of the Flames is my attempt to take some of those clichés (for instance, what Diana Wynne Jones called 'colour-coding') and fix them.

What are you working on now/what can we expect from you in the future?

Right now I'm working on a re-telling of Cinderella - but it's a very, very loose re-telling! It's set in a fantasy version of Feudal Japan, with all those gorgeous rituals, costumes and landscapes. When I pitched it to my publisher, I described it as Cinderella meets The Count of Monte Cristo meets Memoirs of a Geisha, so gives you some idea. After that's finished I'm hopefully going to be working on an indirect sequel to Daughter of the Flames, looking at the country of Ruan five or six years after the events of the story, and how the country is rebuilding itself. Zira and Sorin are back, but only for cameo appearances.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Er...I don't really have one. I write on the bus. I write in the coffee-room at work. I write in bed. I write on my laptop in my tatty recliner, and on my PC in my study. I've written while in the bath (note: I advise using a pencil for this). I'm kind of compulsive, can you tell? (We like compulsive!)

What do you do when you're in a writing slump?

Read like mad to try to forget that I should be working. Bake until my family and friends are begging me to stop before they're sick. Take my dog for long walks until he runs away and goes home without me because his paws hurt. Then finally I give in and go and talk to my writing friends, who make sympathetic noises and tell me to get my butt back in gear and stop moaning (only they're really much nicer about it than that). Sometimes I find switching to paper and pen works, and sometimes switching from pen and paper to computer does the same thing, but just like any author, I long for a sure-fire cure for the Block. I'd patent it and be rich (rich! Rich beyond the dreams of avarice, mwaa haa haa!)

What were some of your favorite books when you were a teen?

Weirdly, I did not read young adult or teen books when I was a teen. By the age of about thirteen I had worked through all the children's and YA books and was reading adult books - and some really dodgy stuff, too. I can't believe I didn't warp my brain for life. But I did read YA books non-stop between the ages of ten and thirteen: Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, Margaret Mahy. Those were my idols. But there was a lot less good YA fiction about then, especially in the fantasy genre. We're living in a real golden age now.

What would your dream library look like?

It would go on forever. It would have books in it that haven't been written yet. There would be a massive roaring fire and a big, cushiony window-seat that looked over a different view every day. And there'd probably be some cats in there too. There's nothing like a cat on your knee when you're into a good book.

If you could have a conversation with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Jane Austen, I think, though I might actually be too frightened to say anything.

What's one good book you've read recently that you'd like to recommend to your readers?

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. It just came out here in the UK, and it's great. When I first read about the premise for the story I was really hacked off, because I had a very similar idea that I had been planning to write about at some unspecified future date, and I couldn't believe someone else had gotten in there first. But the book totally won me over - Ms Cashore's take on it was way better than mine would have been, and I loved it, so I gave up being bitter and now I just can't wait to read Fire!

Is there anything I didn't ask you wish I had?

Um....no. But I would like to include my website address here: http://www.zoemarriott.com/. It's full of advice for young writers and book recs and other useful stuff, and I don't get nearly enough company. Come visit me!

Thanks, Zoë!

Now, here's an extra bonus: a contest. Do you have a playlist of songs that inspire you? Comment below with your playlist, and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of Daughter of the Flames, a few of Zoë's favorite books, and a CD of Zoe's own inspiration playlist. Go ahead, it's tons of fun, and a great way to get inspired! The contest will run until the end of the month, and the winner will be announced March 1st!


Amy said...

1.Blondie-heart of glass
2.Daft punk-one more time
4.Michael Jackson-man in the mirror
5. Janet Jackson-rhythm nation
6. tracy chapman- fast car
7. bob marly- stand up, get up
8. Marvin gaye- what's happening brother
9. hero- mariah carey
10. venus-fankie avalon
11. u2- stuck in a moment
12. At last-etta james
13. careless whisper-george michael

my email is theodoragroger@yahoo.com

Emily Ruth said...

Thanks for the interview. I haven't actually read any of her books now, but they sound so interesting I think I will!

My playlist includes basically all of the songs from O.A.R., The Fray, and some Death Cab for Cutie :)

I love those deep songs... you almost have to write.

donnas said...

Great post. The books sound really good.

My playlist is:

1. The Load Out/Stay - Jackson Browne
2. Cover of the Rolling Stone - Dr Hook and the Medicine Show
3. All Star - Smash Mouth
4. Story of My Life - Smash Mouth
5. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne
6. Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle - Cake
7. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
8. Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show - Neil Diamond
9. Beverly Hills - Weezer
10. Comfort Eagle - Cake
11. The Distance - Cake
12. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers
13. Wonderboy - Tenacious D
14. Calling All Skeletons - Alkaline Trio
15. Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles
16. War Pigs - Cake

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Bow-ties are Cool: Alyssa Guyll said...

The playlist that inspires me is:
1. She's in Love - Disney's the Little Mermaid on Broadway
2. Crush - David Archuleta
3. In Terms of Love - SHeDAISY
4. Not Ready to Make Nice - Dixie Chicks
5. Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright
6. Apologie - One Republic
7. Holy - Nichole Nordeman
8. Lullaby - Josh Groban
9. Love Story - Taylor Swift
10. Supermassive Black Hole - Muse
11. White Horse - Taylor Swift
12. Leave Out All the Rest - Linkin Park
13. Numb - Linkin Park
14. Goodbye Earl - Dixie Chicks
15. Mamma Mia - ABBA
16. Honey, Honey - ABBA
17. Lay All Your Love On Me - ABBA
18. Defying Gravity - Wicked
19. No Good Deed - Wicked
20. For Good - Wicked

anderyn said...

One of my writing playlists is as follows (it's the Chicks who Kick Ass playlist):

Billy Taylor by
Cilla Fisher & Artie Tresize

The Female Sailor Bold by Dianne Dugaw

The Female Warrior by Dianne Dugaw

Jackie Munro by
John Roberts & Tony Barrand

The Female Of The Species by Julia Ecklar

Short Jacket & White Trousers by
June Tabor

The Female Drummer by Mary Ann Haynes

Jackie Munroe by Roy Harris

Female Drummer by Steeleye Span
When I Was a Fair Maid by Triona ni Dhomhnaill

The Pretty Drummer Boy by The Watersons

email: twila dot price at gmail dot com

drunken bumblebee said...

1. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry
2. Prithibir joto shukh - Habib and Nancy
3. Unwritten Natasha Bedingfield
4. Love Song - Sara Bareilles
5. Iccher Ghuri - Fuad featuring Topu
6. Tango Maureen - Rent Soundtrack
7. Alvida - James
8. Kiss from a Rose - Seal
9. Champaign High - Sister Hazel
10. Gotta Be Somebody - Nickelback
11. I'd Come for You - Nickelback
12. If Today Was Your Last Day - Nickelback
13. This Afternoon - Nickelback

Anonymous said...

These books sound so good....
One of my playlists is:
1. Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones
2. Amazing - Johnette Napolitano
3. Ordinary Day - Dolores O'Riordan
4. World on Fire - Sarah MacLachlan
5. Superstitious - Steve Wonder
6. Attitude - HardKnox
7. Violet - Hole
8. Stray Bullet - KMFDM
9. Stripped - Depeche Mode
10. Naked Cousin - PJ Harvey
11. Ska Train - Beatmasters

My email is: Zadieyek_blue@yahoo.com

Unknown said...

Paradise-- Vanessa Carlton
Spente Le Stelle-- Emma Shapplin
Fidelity-- Regina Spektor
Innocence-- Avril Lavigne
Après moi-- regina spektor
At Wit's Ende-- POTC
Viva la Vida-- Coldplay
La Notte Etterna-- Emma Shapplin
Hunter-- Dido
Up is Down-- POTC
Vois Sur Ton Chemin-- Les Choristes
Hey There Delilah-- Plain White T's
Eyes on Fire--Blue Foundation
When You're Gone-- Avil Lavigne
Ordinary Day-- Vanessa Carlton

Purdypirate said...

Hmm... I have tons of songs but lets see...

Sanctuary - Utada Hikaru
Hanging By A Moment - Lifehouse
My Only Love - Jennifer Love Hewitt
Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
Will You Be There? - Michael Jackson
Art Of Loosing - American Hi Fi
With Me - Sum 41
Livin On A PRayer - Bon Jovi
I Believe I Can Fly - R. Kelly

Yeah... those are my favorites. :)


Purdypirate said...

Hmm... I have tons of songs but lets see...

Sanctuary - Utada Hikaru
Hanging By A Moment - Lifehouse
My Only Love - Jennifer Love Hewitt
Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
Will You Be There? - Michael Jackson
Art Of Loosing - American Hi Fi
With Me - Sum 41
Livin On A PRayer - Bon Jovi
I Believe I Can Fly - R. Kelly

Yeah... those are my favorites. :)


Chantele Sedgwick said...

1. Love Story - Taylor Swift
2. 1,2,3,4 - Plain White T's
3. Decode - Paramore
4. Gotta Be Somebody - Nickelback
5. Amsterdam - Coldplay
6. Untouched - The Veronica's
7. Thinking of You - Katy Perry
8. Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
9. The Scientist - Coldplay

Anything from Linkin Park
Anything from The Goo Goo Dolls
Anything from Collective Soul


Diana Dang said...

Inspires in general? //whistles// Let's see...

1. Break the Ice - Britney Spears
2. Rainism - Bi Rain
3. Gee - SNSD
4. Number 1 - Big Bang
5. Strong Baby - Seungri
6. Fresh Woman - Bi Rain
7. Circus - Britney Spears
8. Poker Face - Lady Gaga
9. Come Be My Lady - Big Bang
10. Melt - Prahlad

Most of the songs there are Korean ^^;

darbyscloset said...

Okay my playlist is short for you play the songs over and over and then move on to the next song and play it over and over.
1. All Summer Long - Kid Rock
(I know I'm sick, yet I just love this song and I can't get enough of it!!!)
2. Honky Tonk - Trace Adkins
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Reverie said...

Actually I just had apost with some of my favorite music.



Stacy said...

Length of Love - Interpol
The Meeting Place - Last Shadow
Full Moon - Black Ghosts
Dakota - Stereophonics
Rapture - Pedro the Lion
Sometime Around Midnight - The
Airborne Toxic Event
Spotlight - Mute Math
Down in the Valley - Broken West
I Caught Myself - Paramore
H. - Tool

Erica said...

1) Heaven Knows - Rise Against
2) Already Over - RED
3) Hanging By a Moment - Lifehouse
4) Fire Chariot - Escape the Fate
5) Shameful - Atreyu
6) Falling - A Dozen Furies
7) Tell Me Everything - Just Surrender
8) Antidote for Irony - So They Say
9) Not Too Late - Three Day's Grace
10) Diary of Jane - Breaking Benjamin
11) Fully Alive - Flyleaf
12) Can't Be Saved - Senses Fail

They don't fit together as a whole, but they're my inspirational music, each song in a different way.


Paradox said...

This is going to sound really random, but that's because it is:

All Star - Smash Mouth
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
Snow Rain - Ueda Kana
Rooftops - Lost Prophets
Numa Numa Song (???) LOL
The Great Escape - Boys Like Girls
Bring Me to Life - Evanescence
Umbrella - Rihanna
Miracle - Cascada
1000 Miles - Vanessa Carlton
A Sort of Fairytale - Tori Amos
Porcelain - Moby
Viva la Vida - Coldplay
Decode - Paramore

paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com