On Thursday, April 4th I got to meet Robin LaFevers who wrote Grave Mercy and the sequel, Dark Triumph. It was sponsored by The King’s English and held at the Sprague Library. I’ve never been there before and it was gorgeous!
This is my summary of the night.
Robin also goes by the pen name R.L. Lafevers. She used that pen name in her 10 years of writing middle grade. She moved to writing YA because she wanted something different that was dark, epic and had heart-rending decisions. So she decided to use a different pen name so all her young middle grade readers would pause before jumping right into the more mature YA books. I thought that was very classy of her.
Middle Ages and Teens
I loved how Robin pointed out that the Middle Ages is a perfect setting for YA. Teens were more active in society back then. They got married young, went to war as teens, and some were even ruling as teenagers. She didn’t feel like they were completely adults just because they had adult roles.
During her research of the Middle Ages she found that some noble women preferred living in convents because it gave them more independence. How ironic that a strict convent was one of the most freeing options of the time for women.
Grave Mercy is very much about female empowerment and how it’s not just about having physical power but having the power to choose and having emotional strength.
I loved the mythology in these books. It’s so different than anything I’ve read. Her mythology comes from the early Christian church when they made the decision to incorporate pagan gods and goddesses by making them saints to bring in more people.
Robin talked about how she wanted a Celtic backdrop to the book because really the whole book was just her mental junk drawer of things she loves. Brittany emerged as the perfect location because they clung to their pagan roots longer and they had a personified death figure…and hey they could be handmaidens of death….like assassin nuns. Maybe that could be a thing! :) (Robin talked about how the publishers wanted to market the romance more, but when the early Goodreads reviews came in that were all like “OMG assassin nuns!!!” they decided to go with that.)
I thought the writing process for Grave Mercy was really interesting. Robin said it took long time to get into the main character Ismae’s head. She started in third person but it wasn’t working because Ismae got lost in the huge cast of characters. Robin changed the narrative to first person to bring Ismae front and center. Robin felt like it was better but the character wasn’t coming together like she wanted. To get to know her character better, she started some character journaling like a diary that was written in the present tense and Ismae just came alive.
In Grave Mercy, Sybella had a strong personality that kept threatening to take over the whole book. So Robin decided to give her own book.
Sybella’s story in Dark Triumph is about a girl that made a bad choice and how she came back from it. The book isn’t about the bad choice itself, but making the best of it on an adventure and transforming herself.
Q & A
When did you want to be a writer?
Robin wanted to be a writer at 8 years old when she read the Chronicles of Narnia. The first time she read it she thought, “Wow you’re allowed to just make things up.” She always thought fiction had to be based on real things (and she mentions she must have thought fairy tales were history or something) but it blew her mind that you could totally make stuff up. And that’s what she wanted to do. But in high school when she told people she wanted to be a writer all the adults in her life said it was a bad idea because she was too sensitive to take all the rejections that come with being a writer. So she went to one year of college and left because it wasn’t interesting to her.
Later, when she was a parent and spending a lot of time reading stories to her kids she realized how much she missed it. Since there was no parent around to tell he she couldn’t be a writer, she took night classes and joined groups and workshops. She sold her first book after about 8 years.
What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from your stories?
Not to cut off parts of themselves to be what someone else wants them to be.
What books have you read recently that you love?
Robin loves to read historical fantasy but she can’t read fiction while she’s writing. She can only deal with one world at a time (and then added “Well in addition to the real world.” He he:). She did mention a few books that she loved:
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
How do you approach research?
Her first step for a broad overview of anything is to go to children’s books. (That is a good idea. I’m going to use that one.)
I picked up an extra signed copy for one of you guys! Just enter in the Rafflecopter below. This is for US/Canada only since I’m sponsoring it myself.