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March 23, 2010 / Chersti Nieveen

interview: megan whalen turner

I discovered The Thief a few years after it was published. A year or so later, I was excited to find a sequel sitting on the library shelves — could it really be true? Another book about Gen! Even though I have this thing with severed limbs (okay, it absolutely horrifies me), I still fell in love with the book.

But even then, I thought that was the end. Then when I was a freshman in college, I heard rumor that another book was coming out: The King of Attolia. I pre-ordered it, and then stayed up all night reading it. As soon as I was done, I promptly reread it (despite the need of sleep and homework from classes).

The third book hinted that there was more to the story; so when I ran into one of the fabulous editors from Greenwillow, Martha Mihalick, at a writing conference, I just had to ask her about future books. She said that Megan had planned more to the series, and they were anxiously awaiting for Megan to turn in her next book (A Conspiracy of Kings) so they could all read it.

Hey Megan! So I am very curious about your writing process (though you admitted in Shannon Hale’s interview that you wish you had one!). Do you outline or or just start writing and rewriting until the book is done?
I usually do a very sketchy rough draft once I have the story all laid out in my head.  I usually work from the beginning to the end, but I do go back and forth occasionally to add in little things I am afraid I might forget before I pass that way again.  I leave notes for myself in [hard brackets] so that I can find them again easily with the search function.  If that sounds like advice, though, it shouldn’t.  I think everyone has a way that works best that is very personal.  Using someone else’s process can get in the way of finding your own.  Also, the way I write depends heavily on what else is going on in my life. I think it helps to be flexible.

How many drafts do you go through for each book?
I don’t count the drafts.  I have no idea how many there are, and I am not sure I could figure that out.  How do you define draft?  I suppose that I go through the whole story once, and that is a draft, but after that it’s more a matter of constant adjustment than separate drafts.

Do you think of yourself as a writer? Do you work with a critique group?
I do think of myself as a writer.  I don’t work with an author’s group.  I am surprised and relieved that people still remember my name whenever I publish a new book.  I am very grateful to my original editor at Greenwillow, Susan Hirschman, who reassured me that I should take all the time I needed while she waited for The Queen of Attolia.

How do you deal with negative criticism?  (Especially about parts of your novels that you love)
I try to consider the source.  If I share my critic’s taste in reading, I am much more concerned by their criticism. I’ve been very lucky, though, that the people who don’t like my books . . .  mostly don’t tell me.  Most of the people who make the effort to review a book, review it positively.

Have you published anything you wishes you could go back redo?
Oh, yeah.

You have four books out already, but I heard there are going to be more – what are your plans for the series?
I hope to write two more books in the series.

Your point of view shifts are intriguing — can you tell us whose POV the next two books will be told from, if you know (hinting is good, too)?
It’s very tempting to hint, especially when I think of it is as “sharing,” but a little voice in the back of my head tells me that it is way too close to “teasing.”  I might feel differently if I produced books more quickly, but I don’t, so I try to avoid stringing people along.  (Although, I did mention elephants in the Enchanted Inkpot Interview with RJ Anderson.  It was a moment of weakness.)

You have a very intriguing religious system in the books – so how involved are the gods in the next few books?
Um?

Does Eugenides’ father ever take a larger role in the books?
Er?

What about the Medes, will we meet more powerful political figures there?
Not telling.

Will the country of Sounis be more involved since A Conspiracy of Kings is about Sophos?
Lallalalalallala.

You have such creative names, yet they all seem very regional. Before The Thief was published, did you ever decide on a name and then later change it?
Ha.  In the King of Attolia, I named one character Bob, while I was waiting to think of a name for him.  And then, one “Bob” made it all the way to the very last stage of copy-editing before it was corrected.  I’ve promised myself that I won’t do that again.

I want to know everything I can about behind the story.  What do you think of your characters? Do they sometimes annoy you?
No, I love my characters, even the smarmy ones.

You’ve often said that you don’t put everything you know about your characters in the story – can you give us the back story of one of the characters, no matter how small?
Not until I have finished the series, no.  I don’t know what I’ll need to use, and I don’t know what might change.

I have to admit that I am such a Dr. Who fan. In one of your previous interviews, you mentioned you’d like to travel with Dr. Who – which of the eleven doctors would you pick to become their companion and where would you hope to go?
Either Eccleston or Tennant.  I am not familiar enough with the others to go shooting across the Universe with them.  As to where I would go, I think, if you are traveling with the Doctor, you let him lead.

We saw you surfing on Greenwillow’s blog — so what do you do for fun when your not writing?
This year, it’s all about the surfing. I am terrible at it, but having a lot of fun.

And finally, will you come to Utah and visit?
In a heartbeat.  We drove through Utah this past summer and stayed at the guesthouse up on the University campus above Salt Lake City. We made a special trip into the city just to visit your public library which is on my list of best public libraries ever.  I bought little sticky notes at the Library Shop that say Salt Lake City Public Library, and used them for revisions of the manuscript for A Conspiracy of Kings. I’d love to come back.

13 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Rebecca J. Carlson / Mar 23 2010 8:45 am

    “Conspiracy of Kings” is the one book coming out this year that I am the most excited about. Thanks for doing this interview!

    • Chersti Nieveen / Mar 23 2010 8:55 am

      I agree — I have been waiting for this book for years! Now just waiting on Amazon to get it to my house… Now regretting I didn’t overnight it :-)

  2. Kevin Smith / Mar 23 2010 8:53 am

    Chersti totally got me into these books. After she successfully introduced me to my future wife, I found taking her suggestions was a good idea. I’m really excited for this next book! I also love that Megan loves Dr. Who. :D

  3. Annie Douglas / Mar 23 2010 9:26 am

    Can’t wait for Conspiracy of Kings!!! I started reading these books with a little apprehension, I thought they weren’t “my type” of book. Two days later, after letting the house go to shambles, I was one of those sorry people agonizing over the wait for King of Attolia to be delivered to my house. Thanks for the interview, Chersti. Megan sure leaves us in the dark;)

  4. Jackie / Mar 23 2010 10:02 am

    Great interview! I love the section where she doesn’t answer – very funny! I’m so excited for this book!

  5. melissa @ 1lbr / Mar 23 2010 10:20 am

    Fabulous interview! I sure hope she comes back here, I’d LOVE to meet her!

  6. shalleemcarthur / Mar 23 2010 11:11 am

    Great interview, Chersti! I’m interested in checking the books out. Thanks!

  7. Jenilyn / Mar 23 2010 2:17 pm

    I hope she does come back! I would love to meet her!

  8. Angie / Mar 23 2010 2:35 pm

    Oh, please come back to Utah! We will promise to make it worth your while. :)

    The non-answers were awesome.

  9. Chersti Nieveen / Mar 24 2010 3:35 pm

    Thanks all for your kind words — Megan was such a delight to interview, and she’s just so darn funny!

  10. Dishonor / Apr 30 2010 4:30 pm

    The mention of a character named “Bob” in King of Attolia just reminded me of Bob Costis, NBC Olympics sports announcer extraordinaire. XD I don’t suppose it was our loyal and much beloved guardsman who you forgot to name?

  11. sally / Oct 25 2010 12:01 am

    I can’t believe she came to UT and I missed it! so wrong. Please come back.

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