Author Interview: Melissa Marr on Wicked Lovely

Melissa Marr on Melissa Marr: “The easy version–I write; I’m a mom; and I used to teach.

“The longer version–I grew up in Pennsylvania. I tended to be too curious for my own good, so I experimented with trouble. I knew though that I wanted to teach and write some day, so I went to college and then grad school. Somewhere in there, I started bartending and teaching university–both of which were great fun. In 1998, I switched from bartending to motherhood, and in 2006 I switched from teaching to writing novels.”

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I suppose it depends on what we consider as the starting point. I decided I wanted to write when I was 12 or so, but I didn’t really do anything about it until I was around thirty. I was afraid, so I decided to wait until I was 40 to try it. The biggest stumble was my belief that I couldn’t provide for my family and be a writer. When I did start writing novels, when I was around 30, things happened pretty much instantly.

Congratulations on the publication of Wicked Lovely (HarperCollins, 2007)(excerpt)! Could you fill us in on the story?”

I’m so bad at this part. Hmmm. It’s a story about three characters who each want something. Keenan wants to find his missing Summer Queen (who happens to be a mortal); Donia wants freedom from the curse she’s carrying (because of Keenan); Aislinn wants a normal life (but she sees faeries). Keenan and Donia are at odds, bound to compete to convince Aislinn to choose as they want/need. Aislinn is trying to hide the fact that she knows faeries are real. Ultimately, it’s a story of choices made and un-made.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

An obsession with the importance of choices? The name Aislinn? Fascination with faeries? Egalitarian issues? Being a mom? I’m not sure there’s a solitary inspiration. I can do the retrospective assessment bit, but that’s assigning meaning after the fact. At the time, I only knew that I couldn’t get the characters out of my head.

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

In late 2004, I wrote a short story that would linger in my mind for the next eight-to-nine months. Then in 2005, I wrote two novels–one that didn’t work and the one that was an evolution of that short story. That novel became Wicked Lovely. Once I started writing WL, things became blurry. I finished it in January, queried agents, picked an agent in February, sold the book in a multi-book co-acquisition (with the US and UK) in March. From starting the novel to signing with an agent to deal was six months total. It was ridiculously fast.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

I don’t know that I think of it that way. People appeal to me. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met are those I met through teaching, so I guess it made sense to write a text that was available to this readership.

What is it like, being a debut author in 2007?

For me, it’s been surreal. I never thought much about the “being an author” part. I wrote a book. I’ve dreamed of seeing it in readers’ hands. I’d never thought about the between writing and on the shelves part. I never thought about events. I’m just not a book-signing, event, author-party kinda person. But my publishers are energetic. There was a pre-publication tour. There was a lunch date with BGI. There’s another tour coming. And, of course, there were (and will be more) events, signings, and…just things. There are things, and I had no clue how to do most of them. I regularly have great fears of failing my publishers by not doing these things well enough.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I’m pretty simple in that I believe that where we are today is the result of every aspect of where we were before, so I wouldn’t want to say anything to my prior self.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I hang out with my family, read, travel, go to museums, roam with my camera, get tattooed, meditate… To write, to live, I think it’s pretty important to keep the well full, so I try to sate my senses and spirit.

Luckily, my family thinks this is a fine plan, so they’re game for new adventures and cool with my going on solitary adventures. For example, we just returned from a wonderful trip to Ireland and a few days in England. I’m preparing for a work trip on my own, but that schedule also includes “go to museum” and “roam” time.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

I’m not sure I am very good at the balance part yet. I’m lucky in that my Harper US publicist (Melissa Ditmar) and my US & UK editors (Anne Hoppe & Nick Lake) are very good at this, so they look at my schedule and sort things out so I’m not terribly dizzy. My agent, Rachel Vater, also does a great job of taking care of me.

Between the lot of them (and my at home support team), I generally know where I’m to be and what I’m to be doing. Plus, I like caffeine, so that helps.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Readers can expect to see Ink Exchange in Summer 2008. This story picks up about six months after Wicked Lovely; this one centers on the Dark Court. It’s the narrative threads of characters we meet in WL–Leslie (Ash’s friend), Irial (Dark King), & Niall (Keenan’s friend). The MCs from WL are in it, but it’s not their story. There will also be a short story in the Love Is Hell anthology in Fall 08. Then my manga series (and another novel) will be out in 2009.