Sarah Rees Brennan was born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it’s not called Gaelic) but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead. The books most often found under her desk were Jane Austen, Margaret Mahy, Anthony Trollope, Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, and she still loves them all today.
After college she lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexicon while doing a Creative Writing MA and library work in Surrey, England. Since then she has returned to Ireland to write and use as a home base for future adventures. Her Irish is still woeful, but she feels the books under the desk were worth it.
Q: With so many various writing conferences and cons nowadays, authors seem to have several options to fill their schedules. What is it about Romantic Times that made you add this event to your busy schedule?
A: I’m a huge fan of the romance genre, and I was doubly excited that there was a romance convention that had a special YA track – somewhere where I could go, geek out about romance, and be welcome!
Q: As far as busy schedules go, do you find time to read for yourself? If so what are some of your current favorite books?
A: I read constantly – I don’t think I could write unless I read, and reading is one of my greatest pleasures. Favourite books are ridiculously hard to choose, but my three favourite books of the last month – E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Dia Reeves’ Bleeding Violet, and Eloisa James’ When Beauty Tamed the Beast. YA contemporary, YA fantasy, and a romance novel: the best genres, clearly.
Q: So many adults are enjoying the YA genre now. Do you feel like your writing has messages for the targeted audience of young adults, or do you keep in mind the cross-over audience as well?
A: I keep both in mind, I think: I know from emails and meeting fans that they can be all ages. (I also know this because some of my favourite books are middle-grade and YA, and I’m not a teen anymore myself…) I also think that the most important messages are for all ages: it’s just that some people need to hear them more than others, which is the great responsibility of writing YA.
Q: Do you ever get “star-struck” meeting other authors or have “fan-girl” moments?
A: Absolutely! I remember at one convention staring at Lois McMaster Bujold with big eyes and creepy silence for some time. Same with Tamora Pierce. And I’m going to be star-struck meeting some of my favourite romance authors, too…
Q: Since Romantic Times has an emphasis on romance, who are some of your favorite romantic couples of fiction, or ones perhaps you’ve created?
A: Oh gosh. Well, I can’t talk about couples I’ve created, because the last book of the Demon’s Lexicon series isn’t out yet, and I’m hoping which couples get together will be a surprise! Also it seems awfully, awfully big-headed. But romantic couples I love: Elizabeth and Darcy, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, because I am a shameless fan of the classics. Jessica and Dain, in Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, because she shoots him and is sorry he’s so highly strung. Sorry and Laura, in Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover, because he loves romance novels and she’d rather walk than be carried. Val and Ravus, in Holly Black’s Valiant, because he’s a hot troll who teaches her to use the sword. Gen and Attolia, in Megan Whalen Turner’s The King of Attolia, because they find love through mutilation and war. Freddy and Kitty, of Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion, because they find love through an avid interest in fashion and being kind to others. (I just have so many feelings, you see.)
Q: Are there certain things you have to have to write, like snacks or music?
A: I’ve got to have tea. Must be my English mother, but it’s an addiction: I have a 13 cup a day habit! Snacks: my basic attitude is ‘Yes please!’ but I don’t need them. And I listen to music constantly. Embarrassingly, Taylor Swift seems to be my muse.
Q: Writing seems to be such a personal thing, is it hard to send your work out into the world? How do you deal with getting feedback from so many different people?
A: Oh, I deal with it with all my usual style, grace and aplomb. Which is to say, I eat my own hair and mutter about my unappreciated genius a huge amount. But other times, I prance about the house and I go ‘Look people LIKE MY BOOKS, they LIKE MY PEOPLE’ so it evens out. I don’t think a book is really real until it’s read, not to me: I always want people to share my worlds with, so even though sending my work out is nerve-wracking it feels natural and necessary.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to young adults (on anything), what would it be?
A: I think I’d tell them: You’re okay. No matter what they’re doing/what they’re thinking/what they’re not doing/what they look like/what is the darkest innermost doubt of their heart. That’s something you worry about all the time as a teen, in my experience: that you’re somehow not okay, unacceptable or unlovable. It’s a slow process to realise that you are, and always were.
Q: What is your opinion on the steady popularity of supernatural elements in YA fiction? Do you think that the Vampire (were’s, angels, demons, fairies) trend is here to stay?
A: I think the trend is old as time: think about what myths and legends, and fairy stories, are about! And of the popularity of Dracula and Anne Rice. So I think supernatural elements are always going to be craved after, but they’ll take different forms over the years.
Q: As writers of Young Adult fiction, teens (and some adults for that matter) can get kind of obsessed with characters and the authors that created them. Do you enjoy the fame and attention you have gained from writing or is it more of a nuisance?
A: Oh, darrrrling, the constant adoration of the public is so tedious! Hee, no. I wouldn’t say I have garnered much fame at all, but the attention from fans is always welcome and indeed awe-inspiring. It’s absolutely amazing to think that people you made up in your head have gone out into the world and actually made real people care about them. There are books, and thus authors, who have changed my life: it’s humbling and wonderful to think I could maybe someday do that for someone.
Q: What is next for you? Any exciting news you could share…or tease us with?
A: Well, I do enjoy teasing. 😉 Part of the reason I’m so excited to be going to Romantic Times is that I’m writing a new series that’s more romantic than my Demon’s Lexicon series (last book out in June) – based on the premise that being able to read someone else’s mind would be terribly tricky for romance (Would you love that person? Would you hate them? Could you trust them?) – and I’m excited to talk with romance readers, see what they click with and if they love what I love. But I can’t officially talk about the new series in any detail. Unless you find me at RT…
THE DEMON’S LEXICON TRILOGY by Sarah Rees Brennan
Demons will be loose on the streets of London in June…
ALA Top Ten Best Book
From the pitch-perfect opening paragraph to the heartbreaking final pages, the narrative ratchets up the tension and horror to a series of shattering climaxes – Kirkus starred review
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