An Interview With Marlene Perez on STRANGE FATES
Strange Fates is a departure from your YA works. Even though he looks like he’s twenty, Nyx is already several centuries years old. What made you decide to write from the POV of an older protagonist?
I was interested in a different take on an immortal. They’re often written as wiser and all-knowing, but in my experience, more years on the planet doesn’t necessarily make you any wiser/better, especially if you haven’t dealt with your issues. Nyx has definite issues he hasn’t dealt with. He also has a bit of a drinking problem and addiction slows or stops emotional growth. He’ll grow throughout the novels, but it will be slow and painful.
What has the transition been like switching from YA to adult urban fantasy? Did you change your writing process at all?
My writing process usually starts with me finding some little gem of information somewhere and then huddling over it like Gollum did with the ring, muttering “my precious” and hoarding it, waiting for the right time/right book to use it in. I wasn’t trying to write from a male point of view, but Nyx just started talking to me. He was a little drunk at the time and I knew I had to start Strange Fates in a bar.
My writing process changes with every book, at least a little. I love books on writing craft, so I love to experiment and try different methods. The one thing that doesn’t ever change is butt in chair. You have to put your butt in that chair and work. Save the Cat is one of my favorite books on writing and even though it’s written for screenwriting, I know a lot of novelists who use it.
I love this quote by Jack Canfield. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Every time I sit down to write a book, any book, fear is the first thing I face. It’s actually how I know I’m on the right track, because without that fear, that means I’m writing something safe. I’m not challenging myself. I think most writers start a novel with a mixture of anticipation and fear.
For me, every book begins with a character I love and want to spend time with. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the character turns out to be the nicest person in the world, but I have to be interested enough to spend a year or two with him or her.
I think the transition has been very positive. I love reading adult novels as much as I love teen novels. The exciting thing about publishing right now is that the lines between adult and teen are blurry, anyway. Harry Potter and Twilight helped to change the way we read. Adults are reading teen fiction and teens are reading adult fiction and everyone is switching back and forth. It’s always a little intimidating to do something new, but it’s also creatively fulfilling. The “no risk, no reward” mantra is something I have to tell myself when I get scared.
Why did you chose the Fates? Are your Fates different from what we know of them in classical mythology?
I was interested in the idea of entitlement. There had been a lot of discussions on writing lists about entitlement. That made me think about fate versus luck and/or hard work. I also loved Terry Pratchett’s Fates in Discworld and I love Greek mythology. I riffed on Circe from The Odyssey for the Dead Is books, so I was reading a lot about mythology and I happened to read somewhere that there was a link tying the Fates to the goddess Fortuna. The idea of luck and fate as sisters intrigued me, especially if they didn’t get along particularly well. And there’s a lesser known myth of Meleager. The three Fates said that he would live until the log burned out and so his mom took the log and hid it. Of course, since it’s Greek mythology, it didn’t end well, but I loved the idea of a mother defying the Fates for her son. The Fates in the Nyx Fortuna books are different from classical mythology, but that’s what made them fun to write.
Nyx has gone through a lot in his immortal life, and he can’t have had an easy time growing up. If he could send a message back in time to his teenage self, what advice would he give to sixteen-year-old Nyx?
Run! Or maybe he’d tell his younger self that it would eventually get better, that he wouldn’t be lonely forever. At least I hope he isn’t.
Finally, you read and write across a lot of genres. Who are a few of your favorite authors?
I read across more genres than I write, so this is going to be a long answer. I love fantasy, urban fantasy, and humor particularly. Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series is one of my favorites, but I love vampire fiction, too, so my favorite vamp series is the Joe Pitt detective novels by Charlie Huston. And Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat books are close to my heart, but I also like her Mayfair Witches books. The Hammer by K.J. Parker was amazing. I also read Meljean Brook, Charlaine Harris, Caitlin Kittridge, Richelle Mead, and Rob Thurman.
One of my all-time favorite children’s books is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I just read a mid-grade novel that I really liked called The Golden Door by Emily Rodda.
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp was a contemporary teen novel that just blew me away. Stunningly good characterization. For an unreliable narrator, my favorite novel is The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. My favorite fantasy novels include Anansi Boys and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Holly Black, Alyson Noel, Mary Pearson are favorite authors for teen fiction. Amy Butler Greenfield has a fantasy novel coming out called Chantress and I’m really looking forward to that, as well as Alyssa Day’s The Cursed (League of Black Swans. My to-read list and pile is quite embarrassingly long. My husband bought me an iPad for my birthday. I think he thought that it would make the piles of hard copy books magically disappear, but it’s only added to my book addiction. Now with one click, I can have a book. Instant gratification! I love holding a book in my hands.