Monday, May 17, 2010

Melissa Marr's Signing/Talk Recap - Part One

On Friday, Frankie and I returned to Chester County Books for another amazing signing --- this time we met Melissa Marr, author of the incredible Wicked Lovely series, on tour for book four, Radiant Shadows.

Seriously, the signing was so chock-full of insider details, we had to split this into two posts! For this one, we're sharing what we learned about her writing process, her preference for rule-breaking, her character names, plus we're dishing on our sneak peek of Darkest Mercy, the final WL book!

(If you're unfamiliar with Melissa's books, the Wicked Lovely series focuses on a group of faerie and mortals whose lives intertwine, showing their individual stories. One book sets in motion the events of the next book, but there are many different points of view.)

Melissa came to CCB partly because our honorary FNC-er Joanne (of My Brain on Books) is an employee there, and Joanne has the honor of having written the first review of Wicked Lovely!

She was casual about the whole thing and left it in a Q&A format, and since there were a lot of aspiring authors in the group, the questions were writing focused. Yay for us!

Melissa is refreshingly honest and practical and has this low-key sense of humor that kept us totally engaged. And her inner rebel is alive and well, ready to push back against publishing authority to maintain the integrity of her novels. I just wish I could translate that for you guys in this post!

1. How do you (or do you) plot?
She doesn't plot. All books start from one of two questions: How did we get here? or Where do we go from here? Wicked Lovely sprung from "aisling," a Gaelic word meaning "dream" or "vision." While writing Fragile Eternity (#3), she saw where the series would end and wrote the final pages. She saw the beginning of Radiant Shadows (#4) while writing Ink Exchange (#2). The first part of Wicked Lovely she wrote ended up being chapter 6 or 7 -- she had to work backward to find the beginning of the story.

* Melissa stopped here to note that everything that ANYONE (teacher, author, editor, etc.) tells you about writing is an OPINION. It's not absolute truth or fact. What works for her or anyone else won't work for everyone.

She doesn't write linearly for this series, but weaves the pieces of the story together. However, her first adult book, Graveminder (1/11 release), is a mystery, and she realized during the process that it had to be written in a linear fashion. This felt odd for her, but the mystery made it necessary, so she had to break from her non-linear pattern.

Graveminder continued her love affair with multiple points of view -- it began with three primary characters, but then she added in two- or three-page points of view for side characters, adding up to about 15 POVs total. That was how the story made sense to her. Like the WL series, it began with one question, inspired by an Irish folktale she discovered while traveling. Besides that and the multi-POV, this book was unlike any other. (Link to her livejournal entry about this.)

2. Do you have the same editor for you adult book?
No, she has a different editor --- actually, multiple editors are working with her on Graveminder.

3. Where do your character names come from?
They're all plot clues, and they all have specific meanings. When she writes, she needs a character to have the right name before she can move forward with the story. She even collects Post-Its from book signings (with names for personalized signings), and when she sees a unique name, she asks the etymology.

4. What differences did you find in writing your adult book vs. your YA novels?
Oddly enough, her adult characters swore a lot less! Primarily because of who they are: a mortician (works with people in grief, so wouldn't curse), a priest, a priestess, a rabbi. Also, Graveminder's writing is less lyrical than in her YA novels, primarily because of the characters. In the WL series, she's writing dialogue for faeries who are hundreds of years old. Plus, a gritty mystery is a less poetic story! She didn't realize the difference until after she wrote it.

* On characters:
Melissa urges writers not to force characters to do things that aren't natural, even if their choices annoy you. (Sometimes she hates Aislinn's whining.) Readers will recognize it.

* On critics:
Don't believe critics when they say you're brilliant or you suck. You're neither as good or as bad as they think you are.

Things we learned about Darkest Mercy, the final book in the Wicked Lovely series:
- It's a sequel to all of the Wicked Lovely books, bringing together all the stories.
- It has a squee-worthy prologue.
- She wants everyone to tweet @harperteen to help her campaign for an earlier release of Darkest Mercy. (Right when she said that, thunder and lightning cracked outside. Oops!)

Check out part two, which has even more insider details on writing graphic novels, juggling multiple projects, the Wicked Lovely movie, what a super agent can do for you, and fun facts about Melissa.


  1. I can't wait for part 2 of this! I want to see if there's anything else I don''t know.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Donna. And that was a wonderful recap, especially since I missed part of Melissa's talk because I was, um, dealing with a problem caused by a customer tweeting about a certain other book, heh heh.

    Actually, that was the first time Melissa's been to the store. We met in 2007 at restaurant in Philly. Her publisher invited some area indie booksellers to a pre-pub dinner for Wicked Lovely that January. A few months later, my review appeared in PW's Galley Talk. She then sent me a signed copy of the book!! She rocks.

    As a writer, I loved hearing her say she doesn't plot out a book ahead of time.

  3. Catie - Glad you enjoyed! This was one of my favorite signings.

    Joanne - Thanks for the correction -- I fixed it in the post! And I'm being a pantser on my new novel, so I'm hoping the no-plotting thing works out for me!

  4. I would have so loved to be there. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Thanks so much for reading our blog, and we really appreciate you taking the time to comment! We read every one, and we try to respond to all of them via email/comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...