Thursday, September 30, 2010

Interview with NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Brenna Yovanoff!

The FNC is truly feeling the love lately.  We've had so many awesome authors stop by (with more to come!) and today is no exception.  Today we welcome Brenna Yovanoff, whose debut novel, THE REPLACEMENT, came out just over a week ago and debuted at #10 on the NYT Bestseller list!!  We were lucky enough to have an ARC of this book, so we've all been drooling over it for awhile, and we're so glad it's finally out so you can all join us in a big drool fest!

Below, read on to find out more about Brenna, including her other project, Merry Sisters of Fate (a critique group after our own hearts!), what she's up to next, and who she would fangirl squee over!

1) You're part of the Merry Sisters of Fate, along with Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton.  The three of you run a really interesting blog  where you take turns posting your original short fiction as well as some round table with the three of you, and other interesting and fun things.  How does keeping up with Merry Sisters of Fate and short fiction help you in your novel writing?  Is there any short fiction you've written for the blog that you've considered expanding?

Merry Sisters of Fate has had a big influence on my writing style and has really helped me grow and improve.  We've been keeping the blog for more than two years now, and it's taught me so much about efficiency, and about making stories and characters exciting.  There are definitely more than a handful of shorts that I'd consider expanding.  Right now, they have to compete with a bunch of definitely-full-length ideas, but one day, I intend to get to some of them!

2) Alright, Merry Sisters of Fate question part two.  As well as being your blog buddies, Tessa and Maggie are also your critique partners.  What does that relationship look like?  How did you all find each other?  What's the best and worst parts about doing the long-distance thing?

Well, since you asked . . . our relationship actually looks pretty childish most of the time. We do a lot of giggling and squealing and making inappropriate jokes and making fun of each other, and just all-round not conducting ourselves with dignity.   However, we love each others' writing and take our work as a critique group very seriously.  We're here to help each other write better books, which is definitely not the same as "help each other write the book that we would write."  At this point, we're all really familiar with each others' styles and voices and have gotten good at pinpointing problems and bouncing around solutions.

We met when Maggie put out a call on her blog for critique partners and basically, we've just been laughing and squealing and making fun ever since. The best part of the long distance thing is group chat.  The worst is that we don't get to see each other that often.  However, when we do see each other, we never get *anything* done, so . . .

3) You mention on your blog that you're working on book 2.  You've also mentioned that it's about "demons and moral ambiguity and kissing."  Does your new novel have any connection to The Replacement?  And can you tell us any more about it?

Even though the new book is entirely separate from The Replacement, the world definitely has some similarly strange stuff going on.  Basically, if the creatures in The Replacement are the small-time crooks, these ones are the mob.  This book tackles some of the same themes of family and humanity, but from a very different angle.  The main character, Daphne, is sweeter and more proactive than Mackie, while at the same time, much less human.  Also, yes, kissing.

4) The world of Mayhem feels so creepy and fully imagined, like looking at our world but through one of those scary carnival mirrors.  What was your inspiration?

It actually took me a while to figure out what Mayhem was like.  I knew that the characters were very old, but still capable of adapting—they just did it really slowly.   Finally, I realized one day that to really understand them, I needed to give them a kind of Victorian sensibility, because there's definitely some class warfare and some repression happening, and their science is still all tangled up with mysticism, even though they probably wouldn't admit it.  A lot of the stranger details of the world are either drawn loosely from folklore, or are just things that scare me (for instance, water you can't see the bottom of).

5) Do your characters talk to you?  Or refuse to do things that you've planned for months that they would do?  What do you do when your characters are at their most unruly?

When my characters are resistant to what's happening, it's almost always because I'm not quite getting it.  If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't, so I've learned to take a step back and try to look at the character, the situation, and what I want to say.  One of the things that works best for me is to write out an interview asking the character what they want to do and why.  The first page or so is usually just them evading, but somewhere around the second page, I almost always figure out where I got derailed.

6) What are your most favorite and most hated words?  Why?

One of my absolute favorite words is "incandescent."  It just has such a nice ring to it, and is fun to say.  I hate the word "chuckle."  I don't know why, but it drives me nuts.  I never say it, I never write it. 

7) Fill in the blank: If I saw __________ I would totally fangirl squee because...?

Neil Gaiman, because he is *so* cool, and I really, really like American Gods.

8) Finally--The Replacement is your debut novel.  A lot of writers talk about their novels being their babies.  Yours is about to grow up and go out into the world!  What parenting advice will you give to it?

Hmmm, that's a good question.  I think I would tell it to conduct itself with confidence and compassion.  It is what it is, and even though not everyone is going to like it, it's still going to be exactly what some people are looking for, so just work on being there for them and don't worry too much about being all things to all people.

Thank you so much Brenna for stopping by!  We've fallen in love with Mackie and your wonderfully creepy world, and we can't wait to see what else you have in store!  And if you haven't already, either hop online or head over to your favorite bookstore and pick up The Replacement!


  1. Absolutely loved this book! (and your interview with Brenna)!!!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Brenna -- I can't wait to read The Replacement, and congrats on hitting the bestseller list! Also -- I'm a huge Merry Sisters fan!

  3. I'm a little more then half done with The Replacement. Fab interview

  4. Great interview. Brenna, congrats on your book making it to the New York bestseller list. I can't wait to read it.

    I so wish I would have been following Maggie's blog when she asked for critique partners. I love her blog and writing. That's great you are friends.


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