I’m super excited to have Ari Marmell, author of Thief’s Covenant, here at Inklings Read to tell us a bit about his writing and first venture into the young adult fantasy genre!
Q. First off, It's a pleasure to have you here at Inklings Read! I was reading up on your background a bit and noticed you wrote several fantasy books and guides. What inspired you to venture into the YA genre? How did you have to change your approach when writing for a YA audience?Quite honestly, it happened almost by accident. The very earliest drafts of what would become Thief's Covenant weren't written as YA. It just happened to come out in such a way that, as my agent at the time pointed out, it wouldn't take much rewriting to change it into a YA book.
Some of the reasons for doing so were purely clinical--such as the fact that the book was too short for most publishers to publish as an adult fantasy. But the truth is, I liked the idea of branching out into YA. I was about that same age when I first really began devouring fantasy fiction. Many of the authors I read back then still stick with me, and are responsible for my love of reading. I love the idea of just maybe being that writer for someone else.
As far as changing my approach, they were all fairly minor. It involves writing about a younger protagonist than I did in any of my other books, but Widdershins was always meant to be fairly so young, so that wasn't really an issue. I toned down the blood and violence a little bit, but not much. (And yes, that will come as a surprise to people who read the fairly bloody prologue, but it's true.) And Widdershins herself isn't as dark of a main character as many of my others.
Q. I LOVE the cover of Thief's Covenant! It's what initially drew me to the book. What role did you play (if any) in the design of the cover?The artist, Jason Chan--a god among illustrators, if I may say so--provided Pyr Books and me with a selection of rough sketch ideas he had. My editor and I talked it over and chose the one we liked best, and that's the one he turned into the full cover design.
So, I had a little input, but pretty much all the credit is due to Jason.
(By the way, just for giggles, I gave Widdershins her own Facebook page. If anyone wants to see those preliminary sketches, I got permission from Jason to put them up there. Just look for "Widdershins" in the FB search bar.)
Q. What do you think sets Thief's Covenant apart from other YA fantasy books?I'd start with the setting. The modern speculative fiction market in YA is either near-future science fiction or modern/urban fantasy. While there certainly are plenty of traditional fantasy YA novels, the majority of them are a bit older. I like the idea of brining traditional fantasy back to a position of equal prominence in YA. (Not that I'm likely to accomplish that by myself, but...)
I think the combination of a Renaissance-inspired setting, rather than the more common Medieval, and the peculiar religious system at the heart of the culture, would also qualify as setting the book somewhat apart.
And I'd like to think that Widdershins herself--particularly her unique relationship with Olgun--stands out as well.
Speaking of whom...
Q. Widdershins is such a kick butt character! Can you tell my readers a bit about her?I'm glad you think so. She's definitely one of my favorite characters to write.
For those who haven't read the book, Widdershins--whose real name was Adrienne Satti--grew up largely on the streets in the city of Davillon. For a time, she seemed to have managed to escape a life of poverty in a "rags to riches" story that almost seemed (even to her) like it was straight out of a fairy tale. And then that life was destroyed, along with many of the people she loved, by enemies both human and supernatural.
She makes her living as a thief today, but she doesn't quite work alone. She has the assistance of Olgun--a god who basically lives in her head. (She's his only living worshiper, so while he's a very weak god, he can focus all his attention on her, and grant her certain abilities.)
All of this really came about because I had certain specific goals when creating Widdershins as a character. I wanted to have her function in both high society and low, but I didn't want to just make her a rich kid who fell on hard times. I thought the idea of a poor girl who managed to escape before getting sucked back in was a more interesting approach.
I wanted her to be a character who was skilled, smart, and capable of handling herself--even against foes she normally couldn't, which is where Olgun comes in--but I still wanted her to be fun. I wanted her to be vulnerable in the way that all people--especially some teens, who are experiencing many trials of life for the first time--are vulnerable. (In other words, strong but not cold or emotionless.) She's smart, but she's impetuous.
Most importantly--and this was a challenge, given that I normally prefer writing older characters--I really wanted her to actually be a teenaged character. A mistake often made by authors is that they describe the main character as younger, but still have the characters act and speak exactly as an adult would. For better or worse, I really wanted to avoid that.
And that's probably a lot more text than you were expecting from that question. ;-)
Q. Now for a fun one: Who is your favorite villain of all time?Oof. How can I possibly pick just one?
Well, I'll choose one of my favorites. And I'd like to make a choice that's a little less predictable/traditional than Darth Vader or the Joker. So...
I think I'm actually going to go with the Psi-Cop Alfred Bester from the TV series Babylon 5. Bester had absolutely everything a good sci-fi/fantasy villain should have: He fun to watch in a "love to hate him" sort of way; he was powerful and a real threat to the heroes, without being invulnerable or undefeatable; he won as often as he lost; he was a right bastard, but he was still human, and still had those people he cared about; and he truly believed he was the hero of his own story, with a genuine cause, rather than evil for evil's sake.
Plus, he was played (and played well) by Walter Koenig, and the opportunity to see the guy who played Chekov on Star Trek do something not only different, but actually menacing, was an opportunity not to be missed. ;-)
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