Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bookanista Interview with Rae Carson, author of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS has been one of my most anticipated books of the year, so I'm very glad to know that Rae didn't run screaming from me when I bombarded her email with questions on how could I get signed copies of her books, would she let me interview her, how creeped out would she be if I started stalking her, and so on.

Fortunately, Rae is a charming, wonderful lady who wasn't creeped out by my fangirling! And without further ado, here's her interview!

We can read all about your life from your bio in the jacket flap of your book. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

I competed in beauty pageants when I was in my early twenties. I used to run away with the swimsuit competition. Now that I’ve learned to rock plus-sized womanhood, I doubt I’ll ever have a desire to be skinny again.

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

I loved Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. I must have read it seven or eight times. Now that I’m wise and mature, I prefer my books to be full of magic and/or ridiculously hot men.

Did you draw anything in your book, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, from your real life? 

Oh, definitely. Like Elisa, I very self-conscious as a teen—in my case it was due to an egregious case of acne. I drew on that experience a lot for the first third of the book.

It's the inevitable question: what inspired THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS? 

I was dating this guy. He considered himself an “encourager.” His golden nuggets of motivation tended to be things like, “Are you sure you want to eat that?” And, “Wow, Rae, if you lost another five pounds, you’d be reeeally hot.” And, “Did you get your run in today?” I was a size 6 at the time.

It took me a year to come to my senses and kick him to the curb. I spent the next day eating cookie dough ice cream and thinking about all the fabulous women I knew and the qualities I admired in each of them. It never once occurred to me to put “skinny” on that list of admirable qualities.

Then I jotted down the fictitious diary entry of an overweight and seemingly-inadequate princess named Elisa who was destined to save the world using smarts, courage, and determination—traits my real-life girlfriends have in abundance. That diary entry didn’t make it into the book, but it was the seed of an idea that eventually became The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

You are getting rave reviews for the unique settings in the book—the geographies of the kingdoms, the desert, etc. Can you tell us a little about why you chose to have such a diverse setting, and how you went about creating your world?

I love deserts like whoa. Whatever I wrote was going to have a desert in it. Also, I was learning to speak Spanish at the time. So it made sense to draw inspiration from Colonial Mexico and Spanish Morocco. Once you establish a harsh, barren climate, it automatically restricts your choices about clothing, architecture, food, etc. So as long as I stayed true to the world, everything fell into place.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS?

I wrote the first three chapters in a flurry of inspiration. Then I got stuck. But the first chapter was selected as “editor’s choice” at an online writing workshop, and a few months later, I workshopped the first chapter at a conference--and the editor requested the full manuscript! Those two things gave me the motivation I needed to figure out the difficult middle and make a real book out of it.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, what would you want it to be?

I hope teens who read Elisa’s story come away with the idea that they don’t have to be perfect to be extraordinary.

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

I’m been surprised—nay, shocked!—to learn how much of writing is not-writing. There are edits, copyedits, research of agents and publishing houses, interviews, research for the story itself, page proofs… I could go on and on.

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?

Learn to absorb and apply constructive criticism. I think it’s the most important weapon in the writer’s arsenal.

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing?

I think I do all right creating complex characters dealing with realistic issues. I could give you a whole list of weaknesses. The thing that handicaps me the most is my own self-doubt.

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