Many of our Press Corps members also report on multiple sites. Our reporter, Willa, originally interviewed our June buzz book author Leigh Bardugo for her own blog, Willa’s Ramblings.
How did you come up with the idea behind Shadow and Bone?
That’s always such a tough question. The short answer is that, after a rather scary experience stumbling down a darkened hall, I found myself wondering what it might be like if darkness was a place. What monsters might inhabit it? What kind of power might create it? I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and started writing.
All the time! I had an idea that I was sure was much more commercial and would be so much easier to write because it was set in our world. I kept notes on it, but my mantra writing Shadow and Bone was, “Just finish.” I promised myself that if I wanted to, I could scrap the whole thing when I was done, but I had to finish it first.
The powers of the Grisha are so unique and well-portrayed. How did you come up with each and fit the characteristics of a person to each? They seemed to fit so well.
Thank you! I’ve always been curious about the functionality of magic. I mean, you wave a wand or mutter a spell, and what actually happens? So the magic practiced by the Grisha is grounded loosely in molecular chemistry and bound by the rules governing the natural world. That’s why it’s called “the Small Science”: they manipulate matter at its most fundamental levels. As for the characters, they just kind of grew out of their powers. This is a country under siege, so the warriors would necessarily be treated better and have the arrogance that comes from that higher status. The Fabrikators (the lowest Order of Grisha) are kind of the nerds of the Second Army, but later in the series, they become very important to the war effort.
How did you build the world of Shadow and Bone? It’s so intricate and descriptive – how did you keep it all straight?
I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I began with the basic beats of the narrative. The first (very rough) draft of the book had the magical system in place, but none of the texture or feel of the world. Before I started the second draft, I researched for two months. (I put a time limit on that work because I knew that I could happily bury myself in history and folklore forever, and just avoid every going back to writing.) The research changed the story quite a lot, and I think that next draft was when I started to believe there might actually be a book there. As for keeping things straight, I kept lots of lists and had index cards taped all over my walls. (It got very A Beautiful Mind for a while there. You know, except for the math genius part.)
Which one of the many characters of Shadow and Bone is your favorite?
Depends on the day. I can tell you that there’s a character in Book 2 who is my absolute favorite to write. But in Book 1, I really love Genya. She seems like one thing– gorgeous, confident, the typical fairy godmother “I’m going to give you a makeover and show you the ropes” type. But there’s so much more to her than that.
Which tense do you prefer when writing novels? Past or present?
I love writing in first person present, but I rarely do it. Occasionally, if I get stuck in a draft, I’ll change tenses, and sometimes that’s all it takes to see the story from a new angle.
Do you ever consider writing for a different genre?
I don’t worry too much about genre. I write the story and hope the genre will just work itself out. My current WIP would probably be considered horror. We’ll see how it goes.
What has been one of your favorite experiences while in the publishing and novel industry?
There have been so many! Finding out that Keith Thompson was doing the map for Shadow and Bone is definitely up there. Dinner at the Russian Tea Room with my agent. I also really love working with my editor, Noa Wheeler. We’re often on the phone for hours slogging through crazy details, and it’s still so much fun.
When you were growing up did you know you wanted to be a writer? If so, how did you find time to write?
I always dreamed of becoming a writer (I have the picture to prove it!), but it wasn’t a straight road. I changed my major about twenty times in college and flailed around at all kinds of different jobs. When I was working as a journalist and copywriter, I never seemed to find time for my own writing. I think changing careers made a big difference. When I started doing makeup and special effects, it seemed to flip a switch.
How do you stay focused while writing a novel?
Early in the drafting, I make work dates with friends. We call it “friendly surveillance.” We go to a coffee shop and we don’t let each other get on FB or twitter. We even hide each other’s phones. When it’s really time to whip the book into shape, I go into the bunker. I don’t socialize at all. I quite literally don’t leave the house for weeks. I haven’t yet learned to balance work and play, so this is what I have to do, and my friends have sort of come to expect it. Or maybe they’re just glad to be rid of me.
And the Classic Willa’s Rambling Question:
What do you ramble about?
Well, myself. I’m a complete narcissist. Other than that, I used to be a makeup artist, and I LOVE to talk product. Seriously. You can email me, tweet me, approach me in the street and I will discuss mascara and foundation with you at length. I can also talk Game of Thrones/ASoIaF until I pass out.
Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. She lives in Hollywood where she indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist
L.B. Benson. Her debut novel,Shadow and Bone(Macmillan/Holt), is the first book in the Grisha Trilogy, a YA high fantasy series set in a world inspired by Tsarist Russia.
Places you can find Leigh:Twitter: @LBardugo Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GrishaTrilogy?ref=ts