From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Almost Feymous: An Interview with Julie Kagawa

Meghan Chase is a fifteen-year-old misfit. She’s never fit in at her school, never had any close friends (besides Robby), is at odds with her mother and stepfather, and barely tolerates her half-brother Ethan. In the twenty-four hours before she turns sixteen, Meghan discovers that she’s a by-blow of Oberon, King of the Seelie Court, Robbie is Robin Goodfellow a.k.a Puck, and Ethan’s been kidnapped by a new rogue element set to destroy all of Faerie: The Iron King. Julie Kagawa told me all about her new book last summer at Hypericon, so I was very excited to finally sit down and read it. I was even more excited to sit down with Julie and talk to her a little bit about Meghan, madness, and the magic behind her debut YA novel The Iron King.

Alethea Kontis: What songs/bands would be on Meghan’s iPod?

Julie Kagawa: I’d like to think we have the same taste, so Aerosmith, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Sweetbox, Cascada, Breaking Benjamin, Hey Monday, and Gorrilaz, to name a few.

AK: What is it about cats that always gives them cryptic, supernatural abilities in tales?
JK: Perhaps it’s because they live with us, but don’t really need us. Or maybe it’s the whole “witch’s familiar” thing. Or the fact that you really can’t “own” a cat, not completely, and they always have this look that they know much more then they’re letting on.

AK: What were your favorite books as a child?
JK: My favorite children’s book was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. (My fascination with monsters started early.) I went through a “horse phase” in junior high, where everything I read was about horses, i.e. King of the Wind, The Black Stallion, and Misty of Chincoteague. But I always came back to fantasy, even then. Terry Brook’s Sword of Shannara series was one that I remember most fondly.

AK: What inspired you to write this series? Anything in particular beyond your typical influences?
JK: Faeries, the old, ancient fey, not the glittery winged sprites, have always fascinated me. But I wanted to write a book that was different than other faery books. So I began thinking: what if there was a new type of fey that had evolved with progress over the years? What if they weren’t only immune to iron, their existence was slowly poisoning and corrupting the lands of the traditional fey? And I realized we already have “monsters” in machines: gremlins, bugs, viruses, ect. And from that thought, the iron fey were born.

AK: Would the Iron Fey be considered “Steampunk”?
JK: Some parts definitely have steampunk elements, but not the entire book. The Iron Realm, in particular, is very steampunk-esqe, with its railroads and smokestacks and black iron tower stabbing up into the sky. But much of the rest of the book is set in the Faery realm and the real world, so it’s more of a paranormal fantasy than a true steampunk.

AK: Were you a misfit in high school?
JK: Yep, most certainly. I was a loner who didn’t fit in anywhere, who wore only black, and who didn’t have but one or two friends. I was constantly getting into fights, hid novels behind my textbooks in class, and generally drove my poor teachers insane. I know more than one of them breathed a sigh of relief when I finally graduated, lol!

AK: Do you have any unique abilities?
JK: I can make a knockout salmon roll. (Mmmm, sushi.) I’ve also trained horses, cats, rats, a parrot, and hundreds of dogs, so I guess I have a way with animals, too. I consider myself a good “clicker” trainer. A clicker is a small device that makes a loud click, and it’s used to let an animal know they’ve done the right thing. Using it, I’ve actually trained a cat to sit, lie down, roll over, and say prayers. But, in true feline form, my kitty will only do it if he feels like it, and there must be pepperoni included or he just laughs and walks away.

AK: Have you ever thought one of your friends or family might be a changeling?
JK: My youngest sister IS a changeling. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do. 😛

AK: If you were the bastard child of Seelie Royalty, would you want to know? Or would you drink the wine?
JK: I think it would be incredibly cool to be half-faery. Just think of the pranks you could pull if you could go invisible. *Evil laugh.* But of course I wouldn’t drink the wine. I have no desire to end up as a hedgehog.

AK: What’s next for Meghan? Are you working on any other series?
JK: Meghan’s story continues in The Iron Daughter and then The Iron Queen. Beyond that, I haven’t planned anything else for her, but who knows what will happen? I do have another project I’m working on at the moment, but it’s kind of a sekrit for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to share soon.

AK: Do you write/publish shorter pieces like stories and poetry?
JK: As a teen, I did “publish” one very badly written poem called “The Modern Dragon’s Guide to the Civilized World,” in a poem anthology that was about 800 pages long. I entered a poetry contest I found in the back of a magazine, and not long after I was notified that I was a “third prize winner,” and the winners got to have their poems published in this collection. I was pretty excited, but The Catch was you had to buy the anthology to see your poem, and the book was forty dollars. It was a complete and total scam, because there were hundreds of “third place “poems in this book, some of them horrendously bad, and after I bought the thing I kept getting other offers: my prize winning poem on a plaque, or on a special display stand, all of which cost money of course.

After that, I decided I wouldn’t enter anymore contests for short stories or poetry, that the next time my work was published it would be as a real book.

AK: Can you reveal any new and exciting characters that Meghan will meet on her next adventure?
JK: One new and very flamboyant character Meghan will meet in book two is an exiled faery called Leanansidhe. Leanansidhe is a bit of a legend herself, though not as famous as Oberon or Robin Goodfellow. There is only one Leanansidhe, and she was known as The Dark Muse, because she would inspire promising young artists or painters to create their greatest works. But her help always came with a price. No one Leanansidhe inspired lived very long. Their lives were brilliant, colorful, and very brief. Meghan meets Leanansidhe after jealous Queen Titania exiled her to the mortal world. Whether Leanansidhe is a friend or foe, I’ll leave it for the readers to find out.

AK: What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
JK: I’m a video game addict, and can usually be found on my Wii, Xbox 360, or PS3 (Yup, I have all three). Currently, I am obsessed with Assassin’s Creed II, but some of my recent favorite games have been Dragon Age Origins, Borderlands, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mass Effect II, and Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time. I am anxiously awaiting Bioshock II, Red Dead Redemption, and the newest addition of my favorite series of all time, Final Fantasy 13.

AK: If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
JK: That’s a toughie. It’s a toss up between Shadowcat, Batgirl, and the Invisible Woman, because who wouldn’t want to be able to walk through walls, kick major butt, and go invisible? Of course, if I were a complete Munchin I’d go with Phoenix, but I don’t know if I could do the whole World Eating thing.

Alethea Kontis is the New York Times bestselling author of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, as well as the AlphaOops series of picture books. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications, and her personal essays have been collected into several volumes, the first of which is Beauty & Dynamite. In addition to being a Princess, Alethea is also an interviewer — her Genre Chick reviews have appeared in the Ingram Advance, Fantasy Magazine, and on her own website (www.aletheakontis.com). Alethea currently lives Somewhere Over the Rainbow, North of the Mason-Dixon Line. She likes to paint, makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted, and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.