Skylark, Meagan Spooner's debut, is one of my most anticipated releases of the summer (you may have noticed my WoW featuring it last week?). It just so happens that this talented author calls the DC metro area home, and she’s mega-cool. Proof that Ms. Spooner is indeed made of awesome: she’s here today with an author interview. If you’re interested in winning a copy of Skylark, stay tuned until the end of the post – there’s a pre-order giveaway. Because: why the heck not?! Happy Monday!
Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She's traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there's a bit of every trip in every story she writes. She currently lives and writes in Northern Virginia, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there's no telling how long she'll stay there. In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.She is the author of Skylark, coming out August 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. She is also the co-author of These Broken Stars, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013.
[Note: the bold italics indicate my question, normal font is Meagan’s response]
The world in which Skylark is set has many unique and interesting features, but one of the most important to the plot is the way technology is 'powered.' Can you share your inspiration for that element of the book (if you know it)?
The world was actually the first fragment of an idea for Skylark to come to me. Everything else came later. I was in my car driving home and listening with half an ear to a piece on NPR about the energy crisis, and I started thinking (rather pessimistically) that even if we had it to do all over again, if we had a brand new power source to draw from, we'd likely mess it up again with our greed and impatience for power. I think most people would think things like "solar," "wind," "nuclear"--I, being a huge fantasy geek, thought "magic." And so this world just unfolded in front of me while I was driving, one ruled by magic, where clockwork machines walked up and down the streets and people sailed by in carriages driven by magic. I imagined what it would be like, the day the magic in that world ran out--and that's what led me to the post-apocalyptic-yet-magical world Lark lives in. Magic is a limited resource, one the city's rulers are willing to kill for--and worse.
You're a world traveler. Is there a particular place you have visited or lived that inspired the setting of Skylark?
The city Lark lives in (and escapes from) in Skylark is actually based off of Washington, D.C., where I've lived almost my whole life. Originally the book was set in a future version of our world, but in revision it quickly changed to its own unique fantasy world, a sort of alternate reality version of D.C. Although the city is never named, its streets and buildings are based on streets and buildings in the actual D.C. The Institute where Lark is taken in the beginning is based off of the buildings of the Smithsonian Institute on the Mall. And when she escapes, the forests and countryside that Lark travels through are based off of suburban Northern Virginia--a lot of the same plants and geographic features.
I see that your college major was playwriting. How do you think that has influenced your prose?
I think studying playwriting was one of the better things I ever did for my writing. Not only does studying plays (and how to write them) improve your sense of dialogue and rhythm, but it gives you a sense of dramatic structure that, for some reason, is much harder to conceptualize with novels and the study of literature. Every book I write has three acts--and I think of them very much like acts in a play, in terms of what they need to accomplish for story, character, etc. I also studied acting as part of my major, which was tremendous in terms of learning to develop characters. When you act, you spend a huge amount of time getting to know the character you're playing, reading between the lines of the script, even making up elements backstory that never appears in the play just so that YOU know it, so that your character can be a fully fleshed-out person that leaps off the page (or the stage). I'm constantly doing this for my own characters. I have tons of information about them that will never make it onto the page--but maybe I'll get to post them someday as sort of "DVD extras" for the books!
Do you have any hidden (or not-so-hidden) superpowers?
My secret super power--or perhaps my secret villain power--is that I kill houseplants just by thinking too hard about them. It doesn't matter how much (or how little) I water them, they always kick the bucket sooner or later. I have one philodendron given to me by my mother as a housewarming present that is still alive, ten months later. I'm pretty sure it knows how many of its cousins I've killed over the years, and it's just biding its time, waiting for me to let down my guard. So it can avenge its fallen brethren.
You know, I might have a bit of a thing with plants. It would explain a certain scene in Skylark in which... well. Let's just say there's scene with some scary plants. >_>
If you could invite literary characters to a dinner party, who would be sitting around the table, and what would you serve?
Oh, goodness, let me see. I think I'd invite a handful of villains (or antagonists, shall we say), because I find complex anti-heroes to be fascinating. I'd invite Mrs. Coulter (His Dark Materials), Lady Macbeth (Macbeth), President Snow (The Hunger Games), Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes), Tom Riddle (Harry Potter--pref. before he became Voldemort, back when he was a bit more complex as a student!), Javert (Les Miserables), and Iago (Othello). Just about everyone in my books tends to be a villain in some way, so clearly I have an unhealthy obsession with them. It would be fantastic research.
So yeah--I'd get all those guys in a room, and then I'd serve Chesapeake Bay blue crabs in the shell. Partly because they're delicious, but mostly because it's absolutely hilarious to watch people eat them. There's just no way to do it gracefully! And it amuses me to think of a group of scary BAMFs trying to eat crabs in a dignified manner.
What books are on your nightstand (or wherever you keep your 'read next!' pile) right now?
The Goddess Test, by Aimee Carter
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang
For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
...and those are just the ones I can read from here, from my stack! My TBR pile right now is absurd, especially coming off of BEA.
Thank you, Meagan! I am even more excited to read Skylark now… if that is possible (it’s really not). Oh! And move For Darkness Shows the Stars to the top of your pile – that is one fantastic book.
Meagan Spooner's debut YA novel will be released on August 1st, 2012 from Carolrhoda Lab. Want to win a pre-order of Skylark? Simply fill out the FORM. One entrant will win a pre-order from either Amazon or The Book Depository. Giveaway open internationally, will end on July 9th, 2012 at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be notified by email. Good luck!
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.
Lark did not expect to become the City’s power supply.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she’s ever known…or face a fate more unimaginable than death.