Wicked World Building: Filling the Space in Wicked Lovely

Before I get into what that title is all about, it’s time to reveal the winner of another book, this one by the fabulous Adi Rule. Click here for the interview with Adi if you missed it.

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The winner of Strange Sweet Song is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Ellar Cooper!

Congrats, Ellar! Please confirm below, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail address! If for some reason, you do not wish to receive the book you won or already have a copy of the book, please comment below and I’ll choose another winner. Thanks for commenting!

Moving on, here’s a question for you (um, not just Ellar—anyone can answer): Why is the art of Maurits Cornelis Escher so fascinating? He plays with our perspective in illustrations of stunning symmetry. In one illustration, he’ll fill up every inch of space evenly. For example, M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by Doris Schattschneider features an illustration entitled “Baarn XII-48” (Schattschneider 174; see illustration below right). In it, Escher shows a series of boats—the same brown boat each time—going west. What at first appears to be a green backdrop of waves is really a series of fish heading in the same direction. You have to take a closer look to see them.

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305234Melissa Marr is like Escher in the way she built the world of Wicked Lovely, a young adult paranormal romance. (This isn’t a new release, so you should easily find it at your library if you’re interested.) Two worlds are depicted within the same space. At first glance we see a town as real as anyplace found in our world. This is Huntsdale, where the main character, 18-year-old Aislinn Foy lives. It has pool halls, Catholic schools, and tattoo parlors. But take a closer look. Marr fill up every inch of space with a second world enmeshed with the first. That’s the faery world.

Feeling claustrophobic yet? You will.

A hint of the interlinked worlds occurs when Marr introduces Aislinn in a pool hall:

Aislinn circled the table, paused, and chalked the cue. Around her the cracks of balls colliding, low laughter, even the endless stream of country and blues from the jukebox kept her grounded in the real world: the human world, the safe world. It wasn’t the only world, no matter how much Aislinn wanted it to be. But it hid the other world—the ugly one—for brief moments. (4)

Marr shows the claustrophobia of Aislinn’s world, thanks to the intrusive, relentless faeries. A few paragraphs later, a faery gets up close and personal with Aislinn by blowing on her neck and touching her hair, confident that he can’t be seen, heard, or felt by normal humans. But Aislinn is anything but normal. She has “the Sight”—an ability (or curse in her case) to see and feel the fey. But to protect herself, she has to pretend that she’s “normal” and therefore, can’t feel or see the fey.

Aislinn lives by three rules: “Don’t stare at invisible faeries, Rule #3” (11); “don’t answer invisible faeries, Rule #2” (12); and rule #3: “Don’t ever attract faeries’ attention” (13). Unfortunately for her, the fey have a way of forcing her to break those rules. One such faery, Keenan, the Summer King, is relentless in his pursuit of her. And that’s the conflict of Wicked Lovely.

There are two things a fantasy writer can do to build a fantasy world: (1) adapt an existing world or (2) invent a new world. Either way, the world has to make sense to the reader.

To populate her world, Marr used the hierarchy of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts from Scottish folklore and William Butler Yeats’s solitary and trooping fey classification from Irish folklore.

19432758The fey are the sidhe—“the Good People” or the Fair Folk. The fey of the Seelie Court are considered benevolent (Seelie means “blessed” according to Wikipedia) while the Unseelie Court fey are malevolent. The trooping fey, according to Yeats in Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, are fallen angels “not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost” (Yeats, 11). They are fairy royalty with entourages, while the solitary fey lack an allegiance to a court and come in many styles: leprechauns—from the Irish leith bhrogan or “one-shoemaker”; cluricauns—drunken leprechauns; far darrig—“red man”—leprechauns with red caps who play horrible jokes on people; fear gorta—“man of hunger”—a spirit that goes around begging for food; house spirits; and others (57). Many solitary fey are evil (Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty below) while others are merely mischievous.

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In Marr’s world, Aislinn and other humans are powerless against the machinations of the fey. Aislinn constantly watches as the fey play pranks on humans, most of whom remain oblivious.

By the end of the book and the defeat of the antagonist, Aislinn has grown in confidence and even sets some rules of her own that the fey have to live with. Aislinn’s rules are her way of making the best of the world she now inhabits—a world even more enmeshed than when the story began.

Now that’s some wicked world building!

Works Cited
“Classification of fairies.” Wikipedia. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classifications_of_fairies>
Marr, Melissa. Wicked Lovely. New York: HarperTeen, 2007. Print.
Schattschneider, Doris. M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry. New York: W. H. Freedman and Company, 1990. Print.
Yeats, William Butler, editor. Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. Digireads.com Publishing, 2010. eBook.

Escher image, “Baarn XII-48,” found at Pinterest.com. Maleficent from fanpop.com. Book covers from Goodreads.

Check This Out: Strange Sweet Song

adiruleGreetings one and all. I feel like singing. Know why? Here today is the awesome Adi Rule, author of the young adult novel, Strange Sweet Song (St. Martin’s Press), which releases today!

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Here is a synopsis:

18112933Music flows in Sing da Navelli’s blood. When she enrolls at a prestigious conservatory, her first opera audition is for the role of her dreams. But this leading role is the last Sing’s mother ever sang, before her controversial career, and her life, were cut tragically short.

As Sing struggles to escape her mother’s shadow and prove her own worth, she is drawn to the conservatory’s icy forest, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. She soon realizes there is more to her new school than the artistry and politics of classical music.

With the help of a dark-eyed apprentice who has secrets of his own, Sing must unravel the story of the conservatory’s dark forest and the strange creature who lives there—and find her own voice.

Adi is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Let’s talk to Adi, shall we?

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Adi: I am left handed. I have never had a cavity. My favorite band is My Chemical Romance. I love video games.

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El Space: No cavities, huh? I wish I could say that about myself! How long was the process of writing Strange Sweet Song?
Adi: About two years.

music-note-icon-psd-psdgraphics-124893El Space: I didn’t know you were a singer until I read your bio on your book. So the obvious question is what commonalities or differences do you share with Sing da Navelli? But I have to ask what other character(s) do you see yourself in most?
Adi: In a way, of course, everything and everyone in the story is me, but I don’t see myself particularly in any of the characters. Sing deals with some psychological issues that are common among singers, so we share some of that. And she’s not always likable—that controversial word—which some readers have responded negatively to at first. But I tried to write honestly; classical singing is so cutthroat that a certain amount of puffy confidence is a matter of survival—but along with that is constant, vicious self-doubt. Sing’s emotional journey is her attempt to navigate between these two extremes to a place where she can actually grow as an artist and as a person.

MacawEl Space: Understandable. What was the inspiration behind characters like Nathan Daysmoor? The Felix?
Adi: Nathan, to me, is that unadulterated love of music that all the best musicians have at their core. He exists outside of the politics of academia and the music world in general, but that also isolates him. I’m actually not sure where the Felix came from. I think her name came first; I have a macaw named Felix—who is nothing like the Felix! OK, sometimes I can tell he wants to rip my throat out—and he’s gotten comments along the lines of, “Isn’t Felix a cat’s name?” But despite Felix cats of varying renown, the name doesn’t come from feles—“cat”—it comes from felix—”happy”—and I guess that train of thought was the seed of a character.

El Space: Reading Strange Sweet Song was like watching a staged musical. What musicals, if any, influenced the book? I couldn’t help thinking of Phantom of the Opera and operas like La traviata.
Adi: Angelique, which the students perform, is a gentle parody of nineteenth century opera. It’s the play-within-a-play that mirrors the events of the novel itself, except that Sing—who loves opera, and Angelique especially—has to eventually come to terms with its flaws.

Sunday_patinkin_peters_aThere are no musicals that specifically influenced the book, although I am a big fan of musicals as well. I like Maury Yeston/Arthur Kopit’s Phantom very much, though strangely enough, I didn’t have it in mind while writing SSS, even though the stories both feature young female singers and sort of darkly attractive mentors. Must have been my subconscious! My other all-time favorites are Sunday in the Park with George, Moby Dick: The Musicalone of the funniest things I’ve ever seen—and, I will admit proudly, Cats. Because, come on. Cats is awesome! And the brilliant Growltiger “opera excerpt” is one of the reasons I got into actual opera.

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Frozen-Soundtrack-frozen-35659358-1280-1280El Space: What songs would you put on a Strange Sweet Song playlist? I ask this, because I’m listening to the Frozen soundtrack on my phone. 😀
Adi: The Frozen soundtrack is very appropriate for the northeast right now! Ha ha! While some of the music and composers in SSS are invented, there are quite a few real pieces throughout the novel. I wanted to throw in pieces people might be familiar with, but they’re all easily accessible on the amazing Internet, anyway. 🙂 Definitely Brahms Opus 118, No. 2 (Intermezzo in A), because that piece features prominently in the story. Pamina’s aria, “Ach, ich fühl’s,” from The Magic Flute, plays an important role as well. And two heartbreakingly gorgeous soprano arias that influenced my idea of what Angelique’s aria might sound like are “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka and “Ain’t it a Pretty Night” from Susannah.

El Space: Which authors influenced you as a writer?
Adi: As a kid, I adored Roald Dahl and James Howe, and I still do. They taught me so much about how to use words and how to be funny, coming at it from opposite ends of the spectrum. Dahl is so delightfully big—just look at all those italics!—and Howe was that hilarious American-dry before it was mainstream. I love Diana Wynne Jones‘s simple, subtle, crystal-clear style that socks you right in the guts. I love every sentence Frances Hardinge has written. I will never be as clever or insightful as Terry Pratchett, and it makes me so happy that he intends to keep writing for as long as he is able. I’m inspired by Lemony Snicket, a master somewhat disguised as frivolous, who often prompts me to wonder, “Can he do that?” And for just perfect words, I am continually delighted by Alicia Potter.

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El Space: What advice do you have for authors who want to incorporate their previous job experience in their novels—i.e., they’re musicians and want to write about the industry; they’re actors or lawyers—whatever? How should an author guard against information overkill?
Adi: That’s a great question. I’d say start—and end—with character. Having real-world experience with the nuts and bolts you’re writing about will lend an easy authenticity to the story, but at its heart, the story is probably about someone who faces a difficulty and undergoes some kind of change. Readers will connect with the emotional arc of the main character regardless of the environment or field she’s in. In terms of info overload, I think it’s important to remember that readers are smart. They’ll get it! Define profession-specific words and situations by context whenever possible—a character’s reaction to something tells us a lot more about it than straight-up exposition. Also, give us the right details rather than all the details. The emotion and the sensory aspects of a scene have to come first, so choose actions and descriptions that both educate and illustrate. And if you have to pick one, always illustrate.

El Space: What writing project are you working on now?
Adi: My next novel from St. Martin’s is called at the moment Redwing, and we’re currently in the editing stage. It’s a bit industrial revolution and a bit mythological. Plus ostriches! I’m very excited about it.

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Thanks, Adi, for being my guest! Happy Book Release Day!

Strange Sweet Song is available here:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indiebound
Powell’s Books
Anderson Bookshop

Looking for Adi? You can find her at her website, EMU Debuts blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

I’m giving away a hardcover copy of Strange Sweet Song. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on the Ides of March. (Um, that would be fifteenth.) Thanks for stopping by!

Book birthday image from romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com. Music note from wallsave.com. My Chemical Romance photo from Wikipedia. Covers from Goodreads. Author photo courtesy of Adi Rule. Phantom of the Opera logo from ukfrey.blogspot.com. Sunday in the Park with George image from Wikipedia. Cats image from catsthemusical99.blogspot.com. Macaw photo from adaptingeden.com. Ostrich from freefoto.com.