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Moonlit Interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce (LIAR'S MOON)!

Digger is back! In Elizabeth Bunce's LIAR'S MOON, out this month from Scholastic's Arthur A. Levine imprint, the wily, charming, stubborn thief of STARCROSSED, having accidentally started a civil war, finds herself back in the city of Gerse and once again all tangled up in a poisoned snarl of politics and magic. If she doesn't figure out who killed her friend Durrel's thoroughly unpleasant wife (and why there are smears of magic on the walls), he is likely to meet a very nasty end. But everywhere she turns, Digger finds more lies and more magic . . . .

INKPOT: Thank you so much, ecb, for agreeing to do a LIAR'S MOON interview for the Inkpot! We all loved STARCROSSED at our house and have been looking forward to this return to Digger's world for a long, long time . . . .

My only complaint about STARCROSSED was that it didn't contain a helpful map, so you can imagine how delighted I was to open the gorgeous covers of LIAR'S MOON and find, not one, but two maps, one of the city in which almost all the action takes place, Gerse, and one of Digger's world (Llyvraneth) in general. (I think I'll photocopy the world one and tape it into our copy of STARCROSSED, for future reference!)

Please, though, in the next book could you include a chart of the Llyvraneth sky? I'm sure I'm not the only person completely in love with those seven moons. In fact, let me start my questions with something astronomical:

What night of the year is the best time to visit Llyvraneth, from the moon-viewing point of view? Do the moons line up in interesting ways in certain seasons, and so forth? Did you ever find, while writing STARCROSSED or LIAR'S MOON, that hours would slip away while you thought about the appearance and orbits of the seven moons? Or are you a stronger person than the rest of us?


ecb: I didn't lose sleep over the moons while writing, but I did find my mind wandering while looking at our own moon. Writing these books has definitely given me a far greater appreciation for our own planet's lone natural satellite than I ever got from science classes, and I now find myself watching for moonrise and tracking the phases of the moon (and for the first time in my life actually *know* when a new moon is occurring, rather than just not noticing if there's a moon out or not).

As for stargazers visiting Llyvraneth? Well, in addition to the interdimensional portal to take you to the fantasy world, you'd also need a time machine. The most spectacular astronomical event in the planet's history actually happened several hundred years before the events of *StarCrossed* and *Liar's Moon*--a total solar eclipse known as The Darkened Day, during which the Moon of Marau caught an asteroid in its orbit, which became the Moon of the Nameless One. As you can imagine, the birth of a new moon (not to mention its representative goddess!) was a significant cosmic and cosmological event for Llyvraneth, and, in fact, was the major factor behind the religious and social destabilization that led to the Inquisition of Digger's day. But it had to have been spectacular to witness! (Even without the telescope, which is brand-new technology in Digger's era.)

INKPOT: ("The Darkened Day"! Umm, could you please write that one up? Please? Prequel? Please please please?) Ahem. Although A CURSE DARK AS GOLD, STARCROSSED, and LIAR'S MOON all count as "fantasy," in fact each one of them seems to explore a different genre as well: CURSE would appeal to someone who enjoys historical fiction, STARCROSSED has that high fantasy/adventure swoop, and LIAR'S MOON could also be seen as a pretty wonderful detective story! Did you know from the start that LIAR'S MOON would be a mystery? Is there any other genre you would like to explore some day?

ecb: I absolutely knew *Liar's Moon* would be a mystery. In fact, I had a title and a premise long before I knew for sure that *StarCrossed* was to be a real book! Years ago, I had found the phrase "tincture of the moon" in a book about archaic English words, and jotted it in my journal. When I stumbled across it again during the early, early draft of *StarCrossed* I knew immediately it would make a spectacular poison in Digger's world--and even that poor young Durrel would be accused of murdering his wife with it. And, of course, that Digger would then be engaged to clear his name.

My editor has told me that I write "mysteries disguised in fantasy dress," which is pretty accurate. But I also like blending genres (incidentally, one of my favorite parts of writing YA), and knew when I started Digger's series that I didn't just want to write One Book In Three Parts; as a reader--and definitely as an author--I'm more attracted to series that give the characters new adventures in each book. I find that the characters and their situations typically suggest the genres to me; in fact, I've just realized that my current WIP (not about Digger) is far more a straightforward romance than any other book I've yet written, and that's entirely thanks to the main character. There's plenty of fantasy and mystery as well, but for the first time, the romance is going to the forefront of the plot, instead of being a subplot. It's exciting to explore new genres, and I think it's an excellent way to grow as an author, as well.

INKPOT: I so love and admire Digger! She's complicated and competent and deep! I especially appreciate the way you draw her as someone whose feisty sense of humor has built itself up around an old heartbreak (the loss of her lover Tegen, way back before STARCROSSED even really begins). Her heart is not healed up all nice and tidy, but she still is able to feel twinges of interest (perhaps more than twinges?) when attractive people show up in her world. How do you see Digger's emotional evolution, from the first pages of STARCROSSED to the end of LIAR'S MOON?

ecb: I think Digger's emotional growth is twofold, and it's kind of summed up by her rules: *Stay alive, don't get caught, don't get involved*. At the outset of *StarCrossed*, those are her priorities, survival at almost any cost, definitely at the cost of emotional and ideological attachments. She also has an underdeveloped moral compass (which may account for her chosen profession and her propensity to be creative with the truth). By the end of *StarCrossed*, of course, she's gotten *completely* involved, thoroughly entangled with people who love her (and whom she's come to love, as well), and with their cause. But (as *Kirkus* pointed out), in *StarCrossed*, it's easy for Digger to identify the Good Guys, the people worthy of her love and support. In *Liar's Moon*, things start to get more complicated, and it's harder to tell strict right from wrong, good from evil, and people aren't necessarily who or what she thinks they are. Bad guys are suddenly sympathetic; good guys do bad things... there's a lot more grey in this world, and it's going to continue to affect her character arc.

INKPOT: Something I so admire in your world-building is the way you make so many things seem like the "tip of the iceberg"--as in real life, every character seems to have a whole story of his/her own, even if we don't hear all the details. Do you secretly plot out the rest of the iceberg for each of these characters, or are you an expert in leaving things mysterious and open and suggestive, even for yourself?

ecb: Oooh, good question! The answer is, mostly yes--I try to know a lot about all of my characters before I put hands to keyboard, but that doesn't mean they never surprise me (or keep secrets. Yes, Character From WIP, I am glaring at YOU.). But as an author it's important for me to tell stories that are real and authentic; this may be a fantasy world, but I want my readers to *believe* in it--characters should feel like real people, with deep and complex personalities, and the world itself should give the sense that it existed long before this story began, and spreads out well beyond the pages of the book. If nothing else, it makes my job 100% more interesting; why bother writing about people who are boring or who *don't*surprise you?

INKPOT: No pressure, but I would love to hear more about Digger's brother. I love super complex kind-of-evil-but-maybe-not people, and you are so good at maintaining ambiguity over a long stretch! Come to think of it, you give us quite a crowd of those ambiguous characters in LIAR'S MOON: Durrel, Geirt, Lord Ragn, Koya. . . . Everybody, just about! Are there some of these secondary characters you especially care about?

(WARNING: Spoiler for anyone who hasn't read *StarCrossed* below!)


ecb: Funny you should ask! I got a letter from a teen reader who said her favorite character was Werne, and she wanted to know more about him. I do, too! For instance, the question I'm asking right now is, why isn't he married? A Llyvrin man of seven-and-twenty, particularly one in such an esteemed position, should be well married by now, with a brood of children... so why isn't Werne? (I like to think the answer is more than simply, the author did not yet see fit to provide him with one!) In this instance, I beg Digger's ignorance. My knowledge and familiarity with Werne seems to have ended with Digger's. I can tell you a lot about Werne's childhood and adolescence in the Celystra, as well as a fair amount about his rise to power... but the man now is a bit of a cipher, and I definitely look forward to exploring his character, and his troubled relationship with his sister.

INKPOT: What was the hardest part of writing LIAR'S MOON?

ecb: I think *Liar's Moon* was actually the easiest of my books for me to write so far. Part of it was working in a well-established world with characters I knew really well. A large part of it was working with my editor for the third time. Even more of it was the massive amount of prep-work and outlining I did (thanks to a foreshortened publication schedule). And part of it was a decision, after two-and-a-half books, to stop working weekends.

But if I absolutely, positively *had* to pick something difficult... it was laying the groundwork for a third book. We wanted *StarCrossed* to stand alone, so in revisions for that work, we actually stripped away some hints for the sequel. But in revisions for *Liar's Moon*, we were working them back in... since I hadn't yet sold a third book, we were trying to make references to a story that didn't yet exist, which was an interesting challenge, to say the least! I now have all these intriguing pieces to work with, and I think it's going to be really fun to piece them all together properly (who's killing Greenmen? What do the purple handprints mean? What about the plague in Markettown? What will post-war Gerse be like? And, well, if you've read the book, you know about That Other Thing.;).

INKPOT: What was a scene that you felt especially happy with, as soon as you typed it up?

ecb: Oh, that first kiss! It went differently in my head (the other party was supposed to make the first move), but as is so often the way, the characters had their own plans. I had actually discussed the "who makes the first move" issue with my editor, and we both liked my initial plan--and I did actually write a version that went along with that plan--but when my editor read the scene as written, she said it was too perfect to change.

INKPOT: What projects do you have going now? More Llyvraneth? Other things entirely?

ecb: I think everyone would love a chance to work on another book about Digger! So that's definitely on my To-Do list, and I've made a lot of notes and brainstormed quite a few scenes. It's ready to go whenever we get the go-ahead. But right now I'm working on a totally different book that surprised me utterly this summer, and about which I could not be more excited, and about which I'm going to tell you absolutely nothing! Everyone will just have to wait.

INKPOT: Thank you so very, very much for bringing Digger's world into our world, thank you for being willing to answer all of these questions, and may all curious readers quickly find their way to a copy of LIAR'S MOON!
Tags: anne nesbet, elizabeth c. bunce, liar's moon
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