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!
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!