Author Interview: Holly Black on Tithe: A Modern Faeire Tale

TITHE: A MODERN FAEIRE TALE by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2002). Kaye Fierch has been passing through life as a blond Asian, connecting with faries but not counting herself among them…until now. Excellent juxtaposition of the fantasy elements against the New Jersey setting. Some readers may be familiar with Black for the Spiderwick Chronicle series (for the younger set). Ages 12-up.

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

I had a visual image of a girl in the middle of a circle with the cuffs “softly burning” her wrists. I jotted it down on piece of paper and started thinking about why metal would burn someone. I remembered that iron burned faeries. I also remembered a short story that I’d written for a creative writing class about a faery changeling that was really more a very long vignette. Putting them together was the beginning of the looooooong process of writing TITHE.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Conservatively, it took me about five years to finish writing TITHE. I have about three completely different drafts. I really had no idea how to structure a novel. I had a very hard time learning the shape of a book.

Once I finally finished, I showed the book to some of my friends. At the time, I was teetering between considering TITHE a YA novel or an adult novel. Tony (who I would later work on the SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES with) agreed to show the book to his editor, Kevin, and ask for his professional opinion. Kevin said it was indeed a young adult novel and that he wanted to buy it.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge was trying to get the tone that I wanted for the book along with a plot that I liked. I very much enjoyed the faery folklore research and would while away (read: waste) a lot of time in research. I found plotting to be a hugely difficult–at first it seemed an imposed and unnatural structure. In trying to understand it and make it organic, I think I wound up with a lot more plot than I expected. But the most important and thing was to understand the dynamics between all of the characters. Once that was in place, the story came to life and started moving on its own.

Cynsational Links

Recent children’s books with a focus on cats are eligible to enter the 2005 Cat Writers’ Association Communications Contest. The postmark deadline is July 1.

More personally, a pair of mourning doves are nesting in the pecan tree just outside the window of my sleeping porch.

2 thoughts on “Author Interview: Holly Black on Tithe: A Modern Faeire Tale

  1. Tithe is a real page-turner. I especially enjoyed its bleak, but never overwhelmingly depressing, look at life from a jaded sixteen year old point of view. Even before Kaye discovers the world of faery her world isn't that of your typical teenager. Because of her upbringing and lack of parental support she's got an edge about her that makes her refreshingly interesting. She smokes, talks tough, and holds her own against the flakey, ineffective adults and self-absorbed teens that inhabit her world. Though she's self-reliant and insightful she's still a teenager prone to emotion, moments of selfishness and wicked thoughts of revenge. Her faults, as well as her strengths, are the reason I enjoyed her character so much. Her conflicted feelings for Roiben — is he tortured hero or cold-hearted fiend? — are also another fascinating aspect of the story. Their emerging romance manages to be sensual, touching and anything but the same-old, same-old. If you're tired of angelic, nauseatingly good heroes and heroines don't worry because you won't find any here!

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