Furyborn is poised to be one of the big books this summer as it launches a blockbuster YA fantasy trilogy for Sourcebooks Fire. Claire Legrand has been working on pieces of Furyborn and the larger Empirium trilogy for years often crediting this book as the book of her heart and one that set her on this path as an author. I’ve been waiting for a new YA from Claire since I read Winterspell back in 2015 and I’m so happy the time has finally come. Today Claire is here to talk a bit more about this powerhouse series starter.
Miss Print (MP): You’ve mentioned before that Furyborn is the book of your heart. What was the inspiration for Furyborn? What part of the story came to you first?
Claire Legrand (CL): Furyborn, and the entire Empirium Trilogy, is indeed the story of my heart! I first came up with the idea nearly fourteen years ago. I was eighteen years old and had just graduated from high school. While flying back from a family vacation, I was listening to Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and daydreaming. Suddenly my daydream showed me a young, beautiful woman–very powerful, but very sad, and surrounded by fire. She was about to make a choice that would change the world forever. I knew all of this within moments of first seeing her face.
After that initial vision, I started asking myself questions about this woman; What kind of power does she have? Why is she sad? Who loves her, and who hates her? Why is she surrounded by fire? Is she in the middle of a war? As I answered these questions, I began constructing the character of Rielle, and the rest of the story grew up around her.
MP: Working off the last question: This is a story that’s been part of your life for years. Can you talk about one thing that has stayed the same from the beginning? What is something that’s changed?
CL: The prologue of Furyborn has stayed virtually the same from the beginning, though originally it was told through two alternating POVs–Rielle and Garver Randell. Now the prologue is told entirely through the eyes of a different character, eight-year-old Simon. I still remember the day I sat down in the spare room of my mom’s house to begin writing the prologue, after years of daydreaming and brainstorming. I was so shaky and nervous, as though I were gearing up to confess my love to a serious crush.
One major thing that has changed from the original Furyborn draft is that the characters of Rielle, Audric, and Ludivine used to be children! My initial vision for the trilogy featured them as children in book one, and then teenagers in book two, after an eight-year time jump. While that was a fun experiment–and ended up being very helpful in terms of character development–it ultimately wasn’t the best structure for the story.
MP: The world of the Empirium trilogy is rich and filled with unique locations and its own mythology. Were aspects of this world inspired by real locations or mythos?
CL: Certain locations and languages were loosely inspired by real-world locations and languages. For example, Celdarian words are pseudo-French, and many Borsvall words are a blend of various Scandinavian languages. Having been raised Catholic, I also drew a lot of inspiration from the structure and iconography of the Catholic Church when constructing the elemental world religion featured throughout the trilogy.
MP: Furyborn follows Rielle as she comes into her powers and is forced to complete dangerous trials to prove herself to her kingdom and Eliana a mercenary living a thousand years later doing everything she can to survive and protect the people she cares about. One of them is destined to become a queen of light and salvation to save the world while the other will be a queen of blood and destruction, dooming her world. How did you go about balancing these two separate but connected plots? Your characters don’t have much choice in the matter but if you could choose, which queen would you be?
CL: By the time I started writing the current iteration of Furyborn, I’d spent a dozen years living in this world and getting to know the characters, so it actually wasn’t too difficult a challenge to balance the two storylines. I’d also written a few different drafts of the book, and each new draft helped me learn what worked and what didn’t work. When I sat down to write the current version, I’d so deeply internalized the rhythm of the alternating storylines that the draft unfolded relatively smoothly.
It’s interesting that you say Rielle and Eliana don’t have much choice in the matter, regarding which Queen they’ll be–the Sun Queen or the Blood Queen. A Queen of light or a Queen of darkness. One of the themes I explore in this trilogy is that there isn’t only light or only darkness in anyone. The choices facing my protagonists aren’t as black-and-white as the prophecy in Furyborn might suggest. That being said, I’m definitely a Sun Queen. Darkness makes me grumpy; I much prefer sunny days to cloudy ones. Plus, think of all the gold, glitter-spangled gowns one could wear as a Sun Queen. I can’t resist bling.
MP: While we’re talking about characters, did you have a favorite character to write in Furyborn? Is there any character you were particularly excited for readers to meet?
CL: I love writing all of my characters, but writing Rielle, Simon, and Corien has been (and continues to be) particularly entertaining. Rielle has been so fully, insistently herself since the moment I met her. She’s passionate and brash in ways I am not, so it’s exciting to step into her shoes and explore that. Simon is a man of many secrets, and is so deliciously snarky, which is always fun to write. And Corien is cruel and charismatic, full of contradictions. When he’s on the page, everything feels electric. I always feel wired after completing a Corien scene.
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? What can readers expect in book two?
CL: After Furyborn, my next book is Sawkill Girls, a queer feminist horror novel for young adult readers. It’s about three girls who live on the island of Sawkill Rock, where girls have been disappearing for decades. There may or may not be something terrible and hungry living on the island, and it may or may not be kept secret by people who may or may not be complicit in a supernatural plot. Sawkill is scary and sexy and weird, and I’m so excited to share it with readers. It releases October 2, 2018 from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.
I just finished the first draft of Furyborn book two, and all I can say right now is this: brace yourselves. Book two is bigger, sexier, and scarier than book one. The story is expanding in ways that I think will be both unexpected and delightful to readers. I wish I could say more! But…not yet. I shall exercise restraint.
Thanks again to Claire for this fantastic interview.
You can also read my review of Furyborn here on the blog.