On Saturday, myself and fellow bloggers (Angelya and Philippa from Tea in the Treetops, Jocie from The Name is Jocie and Chelsea from Booknerdigans) got to interview the fantastic Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series. A big thank you to Sonia from Bloomsbury Australia for organising this for us! If you want to read all about the event and our experience meeting Sarah and Supanova, see this post!
Sarah’s Message for Aussie Readers
Brittany @ Nice Girls Read Books: Did you intend on having Celaena have multiple romances before you started the Throne of Glass series, or was it something that just kind of happened as you wrote the books?
Sarah J. Maas: I don’t know how much you know about my history when writing this story, but I began writing it when I was sixteen. And with the way it wound up ending (when I posted it online) Celaena kind of stayed with one dude-ISH, but she had some other slight romances. By the time I got to the very end of it, I realised that ONE who I wanted her to actually be with and TWO that throughout the entire draft, I was fighting so hard just to keep her stuck to this one thing that I had planned, but she did NOT want to go in that direction.
So, when I finished roughly the first three books in the series (of the drafts when I was a teenager) I decided to re-write it word for word. I wouldn’t even LOOK at the first draft, so that wound up being the series in its current incarnation, where I wanted her to lead the story where it needed to go.
I wanted her to just feel real – and I think sometimes you can have that romance where it’s like the first guy you kiss and fall in love with – that can be very compelling and romantic. My husband was MY first boyfriend EVER and we got married, so I am that story, but I believe that (and I never want my books to be preachy) it’s OKAY for girls to date whoever they want to date, and however many people they want to do. And that just kind of ended up being part of her story.
But, I didn’t want that to be the defining thing about her story, either. And with the last book, I didn’t want it to be about who Celaena ended up with, I wanted it to be about what she does for her kingdom, and her people, and her world.
So the romance for me has always been really fun to write, but always kind of secondary to what her actual growth is. I wanted Celaena to have these relationship and fall in love, and have it mean something and change both of them – but also evolve beyond that, and for her to be able to walk away and realise what she does need and does want.
And I did know who I wanted her to ultimately end up with, and I laid the seeds for that even as early as The Assassin’s Blade – like, there are little details like ‘the scent of Terrasen’ which is also Rowan’s scent, and it’s mentioned in The Assassin’s Blade what that smells like). With all of that, I just wanted her journey to feel like something that was organic. And I do trust Celaena to lead me where she wants to go… It’s fun to have her fall in love and fall out of it, and for her to decide that she can go after what she wants if something isn’t working for her.
And on the opposite end, it’s okay for the men in the series to also move past that and to have their own storyline that’s totally separate from hers. They aren’t defined by their relationship to her, but also by what they do in their relationships with other characters. So something I planned, but also something I ran with, I guess.
Angelya & Philippa @ Tea in the Treetops: There have been a lot of passionate fan responses to the different relationships – they’re getting together and they’re breaking up – especially in Queen of Shadows. Are you shocked by the amount of different responses by people and how does it make you feel?
Sarah J. Maas: I don’t really go looking for stuff. The only time I ever encounter it is if someone will directly say something to me. And even then, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I think of myself as a fangirl first and foremost, so I totally understand what it feels like to be passionate about a ship. I’m a big fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Zuko and Katara? I’m totally still bitter about that, so I understand that passion.
At the end of the day, as wonderful as it is when your readers are so vocal about your support, I really need to maintain that bubble of my own creative voice. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll just turn off the internet – as much as I love chatting to all of you guys online – in order to hear my characters voices, as I can’t hear anyone else’s.
I think, regardless of what people are saying, it’s wonderful people are even TALKING about the books. It would be really bad if people just didn’t talk about them… probably the worst thing they could do is literally say nothing. But passionate readers? It really gets the word out there. People are having debates about who they want the characters to end up with and people are like ‘Oh, I want to read for myself!’
With Queen of Shadows, I kind of knew before that book came out that some readers would be excited, some would be upset… but at the end of the day, again, I just kind of had to let the characters do what they wanted to do.
And in regards to Chaol, I wanted him to be at such an all-time low. What happens in Heir of Fire is devastating. And he is someone who has dedicated his entire life to serving Dorian, to protecting Dorian and serving his kingdom. At the end of Heir of Fire, he literally has to – not walk- RUN away, and leave Dorian to one of the worst fates that someone can deal with. And that breaks him; breaks him emotionally and I think – again, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion – but for me, I find that he doesn’t have to be perfect all the time and it’s okay. Okay for him, for all of us, to have moments were we break and fall apart and we don’t act our very best way.
In some ways it can be really hard to have someone expect you to be perfect, but everything’s falling apart and that can make you break even harder. And with Chaol, I wanted him to break, but he also had to learn (like he told Celaena in Throne of Glass to ‘get back up again) and so in Queen of Shadows, he is definitely not himself at the beginning of the book because he is trying to re-organise his world and who he is and how he’s going to fight for it. And he is allowed to be mean and ugly because if that happened to my best friend, I would be a wreck! I would be the nastiest and most horrible person. So for him, he is allowed to have that moment.
He also owes it to himself to find a way to get back to that place where he was before – and not just that places, but a better place. For me, that was one of the most meaningful journeys that I wrote about in Queen of Shadows and I know that some readers were upset about who Celaena /Aelin winds up with.
(I always change what I call her depending on what book I’m working on. Assassin’s Blade through Heir of Fire I always refer to her as Celaena, but then Queen of Shadows onward she’s Aelin – but then when I’m talking to a group of people who haven’t necessarily read all the books, I have to call her Celaena because I don’t want to spoil it! So I’m always juggling the names!)
For Chaol, his main relationship is Dorian and that friendship – that bond. And I love that Dorian and Chaol can both exist outside of Celaena. They don’t have to BE their relationship to her. They can be with her, and then move on and have their own stories and contribute to the world and how they’re going to save it. I’m really excited for all the adventures that are coming up!
Jocie @ The Name is Jocie: Well recently, diversity has been a hot topic. Especially in fantasy, there can be a lack of diversity. When you write, are you conscious of writing and incorporating that?
Sarah J. Maas: Oh, absolutely. With my world I want it to be as interesting and diverse as possible and not just with the way that people look, but also the way women and men interact. Often by default I’ll find myself writing a random side character (like a shop owner) and by default I’ll make this person in power a man. I will then actively stop and go ‘You know what? I’m going to make this a woman. A woman owning her own business” or a female member of the guard. So I always try and add different sorts of diversity into my books.
There are new characters coming in and I want it to be reflective of our own world, which is so diverse, even though it’s a fantasy world. Because it’s pretty boring when everyone looks the same, acts the same… And part of what’s really great about writing this giant, sweeping fantasy world is that I can just create so many different cultures and have readers connect with different people and places.
It’s very important to me. It’s something I’m really, really glad that attention is being brought to it and people are speaking up and championing it. Things are starting to change in the industry. It’s been really wonderful to witness, and so many authors are doing so many brave and wonderful things in the name of it. It’s very inspiring and I’m in awe of those people!
Chelsea @ Booknerdigans: A Court of Thorns and Roses is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Did you plan to base future books off of something as well? How do you choose?
Sarah J. Maas: I don’t really actively sit down and CHOOSE… it’s just that the story I have in mind kind of sometimes resembles one of the folk tales or fairytales that I love. And with A Court of Mist and Fury (the sequel coming out May 2016!), that one is very loosely inspired by Hades and Persephone.
You have the kernels of that starting in A Court of Thorns and Roses in the way of Rhys and Feyre’s bargain. It’s not really spoilery – because it says it in the synopsis – but Rhys calls in that bargain and Persephone was the daughter of Demeter (springtime and fertility being stolen away to the Underworld – ‘Night Court’) so there are very slight nods to that, but you’ll see it’s very sprawling.
There are a lot of new characters that kind of come in that aren’t from any kind of fairytale, rather just ‘WELL YOU’RE VERY ATTRACTIVE AND YOU’RE IN THE BOOK!’ but then that fairytale feel will often creep in.
In Book Two, there are a lot of new creepy creatures. There is one moment when Feyre is in a Hansel and Gretel-type situation – it’s one of my favourite scenes ever. It’s not a spoilery thing, but this creature is called ‘The Weaver in the Wood’. I mean, I wrote that scene and I was so excited but also gagging – it’s pretty horrific! So there are definitely those fairytale elements that make their way into it.