Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Author Interview: Pearl North, author of LIBYRINTH

Recently, I reviewed Pearl North's LIBYRINTH here at Writing it Out. Pearl was gracious enough to return here for an interview about herself, her book, and her writing habits. Thanks so much, Pearl!


We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

 I once worked at a doggy day care. It was a ton of fun!

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

My favorite book as a kid, believe it or not, was CHARLOTTE'S WEB. That's why I use it in the first scene of LIBYRINTH. I figured if it was important to me, a lot of other people probably have fond feelings for it too.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An author, actually, though I had to rediscover the ambition all over again in my twenties. As a young adult, I let peer pressure convince me I couldn't write fiction. Fortunately, I got over all of that, and here I am.


How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?

I think all of my characters tend to reflect different aspects of my personality. Haly is the shy part of me that wants to fit in, and Clauda represents my more rebellious side.

The idea of being able to hear books has been with me for a very long time. At the age of six or so, I thought of it and it just sort of made a home for itself in the back of my mind, where it stayed until I started writing LIBYRINTH.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?

 I wrote a very rough draft of LIBYRINTH several years ago and then set it aside because I wasn't sure where I wanted the story to go. Then I joined a wonderful writer's group and I started work shopping it with them. The feedback I received was indispensable in shaping LIBYRINTH into what it is today. There were times when I felt a bit overwhelmed by what I'd taken on, with a whole world to invent and all those different cultures and religions to think through. However, now I find I'm quite pleased with the way it came out. Once my agent sold the book to Tor, it was about a year before it came out in print. It's hard to describe how it feels to see something you've worked on for so long finally emerge into the great wide world. It's exciting and a little scary, but hearing from readers that the book gave them new insights or helped them through a bad day is the real reward. That makes everything worthwhile.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?



What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?

One of the things I love most about writing is the fact that you are always improving and there's no endpoint. In 5, 10 and 15 years, I want to be writing and growing and becoming more skilled and productive and honest with every book I write.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?

How simple it really is, after all is said and done. I used to have a lot of misconceptions about plot as this big complicated thing and the truth is that all you have to do is create a character the reader can believe in, and then confront her with a problem. Have her attempted solution fail and make everything worse, and then repeat that process until you get to the climax. By then she's proven herself worthy of her goal, and you finally let her win. That's it. It's obvious to me now but I hate to admit how long it took me to realize it. I call it my stupidest discovery about writing!

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?

Get lots of exercise. Seriously. Human brains are supported by human bodies, and we are not designed to sit still for hours on end. Get a good workout in and you'll find your concentration and productivity vastly improved.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?

I am blessed with imagination. I can always come up with a new idea. That's also my weakness. I have so many ideas, it sometimes makes my job harder because I have to discipline myself not to go overboard and cram too much into one story.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?

Writing a novel takes an enormous amount of work and a great deal of skill, but writers on the whole earn very little money. Only a very small percentage of published authors can support themselves through their writing alone. A publishing business model that revolves around the bestseller compensates a few authors extravagantly while leaving the vast majority to find other work. Since the more time you have to devote to your craft the better a writer you become, this scheme stunts the growth of literature as well as the careers of mid-list authors.


I can't help myself...I've got to ask you about the character's names. I suspect you've got a story behind some of those names. Did you intentionally link Selene and Endymion? Does Haly's name refer to Alcyone? Are you trying to tell another story through the characters' names?

Ha ha! I can see why you might think that. The truth is I name my characters by ear. I select for them the name that sounds right to me. In fact, in an earlier draft of LIBYRINTH, the character of Scio was named Helene, and it wasn't working out, because I needed her to do things that a Helene simply wouldn't do. Haly is short for Halcyon. With Selene, I was thinking of the huntress, because the character is very disciplined, except for when she's not, and then, she's quite wild and unmanageable. But when I named Endymion, again, I was going by ear, and not considering the mythic undertones that readers versed in the classics will probably read into the story.'s so cool to see how CHARLOTTE'S WEB really had a personal connection to both you and Haly...and that my guess about the names was completely off! :)

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