I was tagged by the absolutely delightful Erin Bow, who talks about her Next Big Thing, Sorrow's Knot (which sounds so luciously creepy and beautiful I can't even stand it) right here.
I, in my turn, am tagging lovely writer friends R.J Anderson (author of KNIFE, SWIFT, ULTRAVIOLET and the upcoming QUICKSILVER) and Elizabeth May (the lady whose beautiful photograph and face are on the cover of FrostFire) whose first book THE FALCONER is coming out next year. These guys will be posting their own Next Big Things either this or next week, so check their blogs out.
NOTE: I would have tagged more writers for this if I could, but practically everyone I approached had either *already* taken part or *couldn't* take part for excellent reasons. As it is, R.J. has actually already been tagged by Erin in the same post that tagged me. We decided to let it slide, since I was about to break down and cry all over Twitter.
What’s the working title for your book?
The fact that I can finally talk about this now makes me so happy and giggly. Yay! It's The Name of the Blade trilogy, and Book One is titled The Night Itself.
A short synopsis?
When Mio steals the katana – her family's priceless sword – she only wants to liven up her fancy-dress costume. But the katana is more than some dusty heirloom, and her actions unleash an ancient and unspeakable evil. Soon the monsters of mythical Japan are stalking the streets of 21st century London, searching for her and the sword. Only the appearance of a mysterious warrior boy, Shinobu, saves Mio from death. Now Mio knows that if she cannot learn to control the katana's legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life ... but the love of a lifetime.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
The first spark of the idea was a gift from a friend who is in my writer's group. She posted the Robert Graves poem 'The Bedpost' to our online forum as part of a discussion we were all having. Now, the poem is about this legendary hero and warrior who is enchanted by an evil witch, and ends up trapped in a post of wood - the bedpost of a young girl's bed, in fact. His only chance to break the spell and gain his freedom is to whisper stories to the young woman and get her to fall in love with him. But she's only interested in bloodthirsty tales of battle and adventure, and so he remains trapped in the post.
Straight away I felt that someone needed to take this story on and give it a more satisfactory ending! But I thought that if my hero was going to be trapped in an inanimate object, it ought to be something a bit more interesting - and mobile - than a post of wood. Since he was a warrior, my brain immediately leapt to the idea of a shield or an axe or - a sword. A Japanese sword! And my hero would be a hero from ancient Japan, which would give me a chance to utilise all the wonderful mythology and folklore which I had read about during my research for Shadows on the Moon, but which I never used in that book.
I knew that with so much magic and so many mythical creatures flying about, I would need a realistic setting and a very down to earth, ordinary main character in order to keep the story feeling grounded and real, and the fantastical elements feeling strange and scary. And at that point my brain just seemed to explode with all these ideas and I began to realise that there was more story here than I could possibly tell in a single book, and that for the first time I was actually looking at a series.
What genre does your book fall under?
It is dark urban fantasy for young adults.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The actress who looks most like my idea of Mio Yamato, my heroine, is Horikita Maki. She's a Japanese actress who is more or less unknown here in the west:
Truth to tell, Kaneshiro-san is too old to play the role of teenage Shinobu now, but in my head, that is the face I see when I think of my character.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by Nancy Miles of the Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency, and the book will be commercially published in the UK by Walker Books in July of 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
An astonishingly short time, for me - just under six months. That's the fastest I've ever written anything. The universe made me pay that time back in other ways, though! The first draft of the second book (which I've just finished and turned in) took over a year.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The books that most immediately spring to mind are The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. Just like The Mortal Instruments, The Name of the Blade is urban fantasy with a really strong sense of setting (in TMI it's New York, in TNotB it's London). In both series there's a large cast of diverse characters, and a focus on fast paced adventure and thrill-ride fight scenes. I've also done my best to create a central love story which is as achingly romantic as the relationship of Jace and Clary in TMI, although Mio and Shinobu's connection can best be described as... unique. *Evil laughter*
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I've already talked about the initial inspiration, which came from several different places. But I think the underlying motivation came from the books I was reading at the time. I had just finished a draft of FrostFire - it had taken me nearly sixteen months to get it to a publishable state, including masses of re-writes with my editor - and it had turned out to be the most dark and emotional of my high fantasy novels. Frankly, I needed a break. Some friends of mine - again, from my writer's group! - took me on a mega-book-buying spree. It was insane; they just kept shoving books at me and I just kept buying them. I had a job fitting all the bags on the train, let alone carrying them home from the station. Inevitably I ended up with lots and lots of urban fantasy simply because that was one of the most common things on the shelves of the bookshop. I'd read the plenty of urban fantasy fiction before that, but suddenly I had a massive collection of the most recent, cutting edge YA stuff right in my hands.
So I started reading. And some of this urban fantasy was just brilliant. It made my heart race and my brain light up and my soul sing. I loved it. But equally some of it was DIRE. So bad that I couldn't believe that anyone, let alone experienced publishing professionals, had thought this was worth the paper it was printed on. Now, as most writers will tell you, that point - the point where you're diving into a genre and you're starting to see all the patterns and all the tropes and all the cliches and all the overused ideas and under-exploited potential, where you've read the best of the best and the worst of the worst - that's the liminal space where your own imagination starts to light up. You start to ask yourself 'How would *I* have dealt with that plotline?' or think 'I would love to do my own take on a situation like that!' and finally 'Why hasn't anyone written THAT in a book yet? It would be brilliant!'
All those questions lie fallow in the back of your brain, just waiting for the right story to come along and bring them to life. So I was basically inspired to write an urban fantasy by reading urban fantasy. Which is often the way, I think.
What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
Well, if anyone else is as burned out as I am on books dealing with western mythos - angels and demons, werewolves and vampires, fairies, elves, mermaids, witches oh my! - but still wants breathless fight scenes, epic adventure and swoony romance, I think they will be interested in The Night Itself. And as a bonus, this will be my first published story where I get to exercise my sense of humour on the page - which I've enjoyed more than I can say - so if my blog or my Twitter have ever made anyone laugh, chances are these books will too (and possibly cry a bit as well, but who knows?). *More evil laughter*