The Compulsive Reader: Interview with Laini Taylor!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview with Laini Taylor!

One of my favorite books this fall just came out this past week! To celebrate the release of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor is doing a real-life book tour and a blog tour! You can click here to read my review of the book, go to lainitaylor.com to find her tour schedule, and read below to learn more about the making of this spectacular book!

TCR: What was your reaction to the cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone?

LT: Covers are so interesting. Authors generally have nothing to do with them, and only hope to like them, and in this case I lucked out! I think it’s really strong, and I’m so glad that Little, Brown decided in the end against showing Karou’s face, as is such a major trend in YA. I love the mystery of the masked character. It is a scene from the book, and a really major one, but it doesn’t come until fairly deep in the story so I can’t really talk about it with spoilers. 

Little, Brown is using the marketing tagline “Who is the Daughter of Smoke and Bone?” which I think is great since it is the major question of the book. Who is Karou? And the cover illustrates that perfectly. Who is wearing this mask? In fact, once you’ve read the book you see that the question and answer are more significant than you can have predicted. Very cool.

TCR: I love the multiple settings in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but Prague was my favorite. Did you travel to Prague for your research? If so, what was your favorite place in Prague?

LT: I’ve been to Prague twice, neither time specifically to research this book. The most recent trip was in 2005, when my husband Jim and I went there to research a different book, a graphic novel which we didn’t end up pursuing. It was to be a vampire story (I think we were there the actual month that Twilight debuted, little imagining how the vampire landscape was about to alter!) and we spent a fabulous nine days wandering the city and figuring out just where the vampires would live and hunt and where the humans would fortify against them. I think all trips can be made more interesting by imagining the unseen vampire “layer”, ha ha.
Well, all of that information—including ghost tours and marionette theaters and performers on the Charles Bridge—was just lying in my brain waiting to be used, and it struck me as the perfect setting for Daughter.
Favorite place in Prague? I wish that Poison Kitchen were real, but since it is not, alas, I would have to say Prague Castle. It’s so gorgeous and full of weird little alleys and dungeons, a toy museum, a sort of summer pavilion, and there’s even a castle falconer with birds of prey perched on his arm. I don’t know, though. The Charles Bridge and the Old Jewish Cemetery are both fantastic sites, and there was a teahouse on Nerudova that was delightful—that site in the book was based on a real place.

TCR: Do you see a lot of yourself in Karou (besides the shared preference for fun hair color)?

LT: Well, if I could rewrite my real seventeen-year-old self, I’d want her to be like Karou. I mean, she really is a wish-fulfillment character with so many cool attributes and resources. Talented artist, kick-ass fighter, multi-lingual, beautiful. You know, one could dream. But then I really worked to give her a true emotional core. She has the same longing to be loved that many girls have, and a loneliness that goes with it that makes her vulnerable.

She wishes she were strong enough to not care about boys—she has the presence of mind to see it, to want not to need validation—but she still craves love and recognition and belonging so powerfully.
I wouldn’t say that I see a lot of myself in Karou, but little things, and certainly my own fantasy projections for the kind of character I wanted to live with while writing the book, and in an ongoing way. My hope is to write a character that readers will want to be, so she has to be on the larger-than-life side.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Daughter of Smoke and Bone? The easiest?

LT: Let’s see. Well, the book began as a freewrite on a day I let myself write anything just for fun. I was struggling with a different book (that will never see the light of day), and had gotten so mired I need to remember that writing could be fun! And Karou and Brimstone just burst out of nowhere, so vital and so real, and that was the best writing day ever. 

It was nowhere near a “book” yet, there was no premise even, only two characters in an interesting situation, with fun dialogue and some intriguing questions.

I would say the easiest part, then, was coming up with the characters, because this was such a rare case (for me), of characters emerging fully alive and multi-dimensional, and in a situation the demanded exploration.
Turning them into a book was fun too! But the hardest part would have to be relatively early on, when I had so many possible ideas and hadn’t begun to whittle them down yet. Making that first set of choices can be really really hard, because inevitably I’ll have ideas that I love but that can’t coexist in the same book, that would sort of cancel each other. But I get attached to them all and try to see if I can work them all into one plot, and then I’m pulling out my hair.

Much sacrificing of ideas must be done. In Daughter, Karou tells Brimstone this grim factoid: that mako shark fetuses cannibalize each other in utero, and it struck me later that this is a great (and gross) metaphor for writing: ideas also must do this. They have to eat each other. Only the strongest can survive to be born!

TCR: Thank you. Laini!

LT: Thank you for the great questions!

I have also been collecting entries all month long for a lucky commenter to win a copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Today is the last day to enter, but it's  easy--all you have to do is leave a significant comment on any post from September 2011 that adds to the conversation! I'm picking a winner tomorrow!

But seriously...pick up this book. It'll blow you away.


The book girl said...

I absolutely love Laini Taylor! And this just makes me love her more. She's so fun and interesting, someone you'd definitely want to be friends with! And her books just blow me away:)

Brittany said...

What a fun post. I can't wait to dig into my copy, I'm afraid I won't be able to put it down.