it is with great pleasure that we welcome kristin
cashore to the enchanted inkpot! kristin's critically
acclaimed debut was one of my top five reads in
2008, and the sequel, FIRE, once again made my
top five reads in 2009. i asked kristin for an interview
immediately after reading the FIRE arc, and she was
gracious enough to complete a mini-dissertation for me!
WARNING : Does contain some mild FIRE
and GRACELING spoilers!
Thanks so much for joining us here at the inkpot,
Kristin! FIRE is a pretty hefty book—which is the
best sort of fantasy book, in my opinion! Since this
is the second book you’ve written in this world, how
early did you conceive an inkling if this tale? Did you
know before you wrote GRACELING, during, or only
after? What were the initial sparks (be it images,
words, ideas) that helped to ignite FIRE? =)
Kristin : :o) Super cute pun :o)
I started thinking about Fire partway through writing
Graceling, and what set me off was a single line in Graceling.
Po was telling Katsa the story of another character’s
background, a character who had come to court begging
for food as a child. Po said, “The servants took him in, for he
told such wonderful stories—wild stories about a place beyond
the seven kingdoms, where monsters come out of the sea and air,
and armies burst out of holes in the mountains, and the people
are different from anyone we’ve ever known.” At the time I wrote
this, it was just a throwaway line. Character X needed to be telling
stories about something, so why not monsters and armies? But
then, the line began to poke and nag at me. I found myself thinking,
hang on, what are these monsters, anyway? How can armies burst
out of holes in mountains? The world of the Dells, where colorful
creatures mesmerize humans with their beauty and control minds,
and where the armies ride horses through underground tunnels,
started to grow in my mind. Eventually, it grew so big that I had to write it.
This is how it seems to work for me—partway through writing one
book, the next book appears and starts asking to be written. I’m not
sure what I’ll be writing once I’m done with my current WIP, but I’m
not worried, because I know it’ll make itself known when the time comes.
I love this response. I also got glimmerings of a third novel from
my debut. And I like how you just let it happen and come to you.
I know from being a big fan of your blog that there have been
comments regarding GRACELING about Katsa’s attitude toward
marriage. Were you surprised by the reaction to the marriage
question in GRACELING? And did you write to make a point? Or
simply what is of you and is fitting for the story?
Kristin : I didn’t write to make a point; I simply wrote to be true to Katsa’s
character. No, the reactions to which you refer haven’t surprised me.
I’m sad whenever I encounter people who believe there’s only one
formula for maturity and fulfillment; I’m sad to see people judging
the way other people love. But I’m surely not surprised.
I will say that I’ve gotten comments and mail from people who get it,
people who thank me for my representation of a young woman
who’s thinking hard about what’s in her heart, questioning assumptions,
and searching for her place in a big, strange world. I’ve also gotten mail
from people who don’t completely understand or agree, but who are
interested in talking about it—respectfully—rather than in judging or
proselytizing. This kind of mail makes it more than worth it. I only wish
I had time to respond individually! Maybe it’s something to blog about again someday.
I think the fact that it generated discussion is fantastic. And I do
believe you stayed true to Katsa's character. I was recently on my
first ever fantasy panel at Comicon, and the topic was “evolution
of fantasy.” I said that the lines between YA and adult within this
genre is the most blurred. GRACELING is marketed as an adult
fantasy in some parts abroad. Were you surprised to find your
debut coming out in the YA market? And what are your thoughts
on being considered a YA author in the states?
Kristin : I wasn’t at all surprised; I kind of assumed it would, and
would have been more surprised if it hadn’t, simply because this
sort of book tends to be marketed as YA in the states. I’m proud to
be a YA author in the states, without reservation. I’ve loved children’s
and YA literature my entire life. You and I and others who’ve studied
the literature know that it’s a fine art form! I’m heartbroken sometimes
by the condescension it receives—condescension which is closely related,
of course, to the condescension young people receive. People who don’t
read good YA and children’s lit—or who only read the big blow-out titles—
are missing out on a lot of great stuff.
When I write, I don’t write for any particular age, and the only thing I
assume about my audience is that they’re intelligent.
I couldn't have said it better. For me, the books that always
resonate most strongly are the ones I read as a child.
FIRE is more political than GRACELING and also touches on the
necessity and the awfulness of war. Were these themes you
wanted to address or did they surprise you to an extent?
Kristin : You’re not pulling any punches, are you? :o) I think I’m
almost always surprised by the themes that expand as I write. I
tend to have a general idea of the themes I want to touch on before
I start, but I never appreciate their implications until I’m actually
writing—and suddenly realize, for example, that I know nothing
about the logistics of war. How are armies structured? How many
horses can realistically fit on a ship? How does a mounted army
feed and stable its horses—thousands of horses!—when it’s on
the move? (I ended up doing a lot of research for Fire!)
The war themes of Fire definitely snuck up on me. But I suppose
it shouldn’t be all that surprising for a writer today, or at any other
time in history, really, to find herself writing about what a stupid
waste war is.
I’m not showing my cards or anything, am I? ;)
I think the research and thought you put into FIRE
really came across, Kristin. What were the most easy and
difficult aspects of writing FIRE for you?
Kristin : Fire was emotionally painful and exhausting from start to
finish—and every time I jumped back in for a revision—in a way
that Graceling wasn’t and that my current WIP isn’t so far. At a
certain point, while my editor and I were working on revision
after revision, I began to dread its arrival on my doorstep. I’m still
not sure why, but I think it might simply be because Fire’s head is a
dark and difficult head to be trapped in! She has a lot of pain, and
she’s a lot more introspective about it than Katsa is, so I had to get
into that place with her in order to write about her. Weirdly, despite
this, the saddest scenes wrote the fastest. In particular, the scenes
where Fire is alone and sick and lost and encounters the river
mare—those scenes wrote pretty smoothly and easily, as I
remember. The trickiest and longest ones were the scenes that
were super-complicated because of Fire’s powers and all she was
trying to monitor in her mind. For example, the party scene that
takes place in January in the palace. Oh my goodness. WHY I ever
thought it would be easy to write a protagonist who can sense the
thoughts/feelings of thousands of people at once is beyond me.
Never again! :D
I asked once (because so many of us who read GRACELING did
fall for Po) if you had a crush on your own hero. And you said
maybe initially, then you became too busy wrangling with your
story and prose. So I ask you again, did you fall in crush or love
with any of the characters in FIRE?
Kristin : Melissa Marr said something really smart on her blog recently.
I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of, as a
writer, you meet fans who love your characters more than you do.
That rang true for me. My characters are tools I use to make other
people—my readers—feel things. Of course I have feeling for them—
I created them, they come from inside me—but it’s not in the same
category as the way I feel about characters I read. My characters
are made of words that I’ve wrangled with; it’s not my job to love
them; it’s my job to make other people love them, or dislike them,
or have some sort of reaction to them. It’s my job to make them real.
That being said, I will say that by the end of Fire I had grown fond
of Nash. He grew on me, which surprised me. He wasn’t very
promising in his first few scenes. :o)
You attended the first ever Sirens conference in Vail, CO this
past October. (Which I wish like mad I could’ve attended!) It’s
dedicated to women in fantasy literature. Can you share
some of your favorites from childhood and now?
Kristin : Truth is, I didn’t read a whole lot of fantasy as a child. I read
mysteries voraciously (Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
Dorothy L. Sayers, and of course, Nancy Drew), and I read a lot of
classic stuff—Frances Hodgson Burnett, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy
Maud Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Charles Dickens. I also
read whatever middle grade and YA stuff my public library had,
which wasn’t a whole lot, but I did get a decent amount of Beverly
Cleary, Judy Blume, and Katherine Paterson, for example. Then I
discovered Madeleine L’Engle, and oh my goodness, I adored her
books, each and every one. These days, I would rank L’Engle,
Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, Megan Whalen
Turner, Philip Pullman, Margaret Mahy, Margaret Atwood, Carl Sagan,
Toni Morrison, and Salman Rushdie among my favorite writers of
What a fantastic list. We share some favorite authors from
childhood as well as today! Where would you like to see
yourself as a writer in a decade’s time?
Kristin : Oh, you ask good questions! I guess I’d like to see myself as an
established fantasy writer but also as a writer of other things,
which I won’t elaborate on here, because peeking ahead, I see
that you ask about it in the next question. Most of all, I hope to
still be writing and still want to be writing. In a comfortable
armchair in a quiet house, perhaps with a cat by my side. :o)
And maybe I’ll have conquered my emoticon addiction?
Don’t hold your breath on that one. (^_^)
Emoticons FTW! \o/ Ha! If you could write outside of
fantasy, what genre would you like to try?
Kristin : I like the idea of mixing genres. For example, my fantasies
tend to have elements of mystery as well, and sometimes romance.
I’d like to focus a bit more on mystery someday in the future;
they’re so fabulous to read, but super-tricky to write, so I need to
do some work before I’m ready to tackle one. I’d also LOVE to try
magical realism. Margaret Mahy, Margo Lanagan, and Francesca
Lia Block, for example, have gotten my wheels turning.
And last, but not least, what is your favorite pastry?Kristin : That’s easy: cannoli!
Be sure to visit Kristin's awesome blog.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Kristin!
Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, April 28, 2009