Tag Archives: Claire Legrand

Author Interview #2: Claire Legrand on Furyborn

Claire Legrand author photo 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 see more about Claire and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Furyborn here on the blog.

 

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Furyborn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You’re just my kind of dangerous.”

cover art for Furyborn by Claire LegrandOnly two people are meant to have power over all seven kinds of elemental magic–a prophesied pair of queens. The Sun Queen will bring light and salvation. Her counterpart, the Blood Queen, will summon an age of ruin and destruction.

Rielle Dardenne should not be able to wield all of the elements. Her uncontrolled magic has already cost Rielle dearly. She isn’t eager to lose more. Terrified she may be marked as the Blood Queen, she hides her power from everyone.

When her best friend Audric, the crown prince, is attacked by assassins Rielle has no choice but to intervene. The kingdom believes Rielle to be one of the queens in the prophecy. But which one? To prove her loyalty and that she is the Sun Queen, Rielle agrees to demonstrate her control and her power by completing seven trials where failure will mean death.

One thousand years later, Queen Rielle is remembered as little more than a legend–a story from when magic and angels were thought to be real. Eliana Ferracora doesn’t have time for stories. Not when it takes all of her energy to keep herself and her family alive.

Eliana isn’t proud to be a collaborator with the invading forces of the Undying Empire. But she doesn’t have time for pride or regret or pity. Not when her work as a bounty hunter is the only thing keeping her mother and her brother Remy safe. Until her mother disappears.

To save her Eliana will have to form a tenuous alliance with a mysterious man called the Wolf and embark on a dangerous mission traveling across her country to distant shores and the center of a conspiracy closer to Eliana than she can imagine.

Two queens with the power to save their world or destroy it. Two young women pushed to desperate lengths for what they love. One war that has spanned millennia and demands that both Rielle and Eliana choose a side in Furyborn (2018) by Claire Legrand.

Furyborn is the dynamic start to Legrand’s Empirium trilogy. This high fantasy novel alternates chapters between Rielle and Eliana bringing both characters closer to dangerous realizations about their world and their own roles in it. Legrand expertly manages both story lines maintaining tension throughout even in the midst of a surfeit of fight scenes.

High action and lush writing create an evocative and sensuous setting with intricate world building. The dual narrative structure makes for a fascinating setup as readers are positioned with more knowledge than almost all of the characters except, perhaps, for Eliana’s perceptive younger brother Remy and my precious Simon.

Legrand’s characters are fully realized, complex, and often flawed. Rielle’s calculated self-preservation and Eliana’s ruthless protection of her family prove that there are no easy choices for these characters who exist in a world where good and evil often walk hand in hand.

Furyborn is a taut, dramatic story filled with action, adventure, and some hints of romance. This masterful series starter is utterly engrossing and sure to leave readers eager for the installment. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Frostblood by Elly Blake, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Be sure to check back tomorrow to read my exclusive interview with Claire about Furyborn too!

Author Interview: Claire Legrand on Winterspell

Claire Legrand author photoBack in February I read Claire Legrand’s YA debut Winterspell. I was completely drawn in by her dark, complex retelling of The Nutcracker. Since then, Winterspell has definitely been a book I keep thinking about–so much so that I knew I had to reach out to Claire about an interview. Today she’s here for a special Christmas in July interview all about Winterspell!

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Claire Legrand (CL): First of all, thanks so much for interviewing me, Emma! Excited to talk to you today.

I wrote a lot as a kid, but I didn’t seriously start thinking about trying to get published until I was quite a bit older. Just after I graduated high school, I got this idea for a story and couldn’t stop thinking about it for two years. In 2006, while in college, I decided to change my major—and my life path. I had to write this story and try to get it published. I spent a couple of years fiddling with it and then started writing in earnest in 2008. I began querying in 2009 and met my current agent, Diana Fox, in 2010. She had seen my query and requested the manuscript, and though that particular project wasn’t ready yet, she liked my writing and wanted to see more from me. A few months after we met, I wrote The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and sent that manuscript to her. I also sent it to a few other agents, and I received a couple of offers of representation, including from Diana. I knew I got along well with Diana and that her vision for my career aligned with my own, so I signed with her, we sold Cavendish shortly thereafter, and now here we are, a few books later!

MP: What was the inspiration for Winterspell? What drew you to The Nutcracker as source material? Did you always know that Winterspell would be YA and/or skew older?

CL: The inspiration for Winterspell was the ballet itself. I’d grown up watching it every holiday season with my family, and it was one of those stories that stuck with me from a young age. I didn’t actually read the original fairy tale by E. T. A. Hoffmann until much later in life, so I’d say Winterspell draws more directly upon the ballet than the fairy tale.

That being said, the Nutcracker production that I prefer above all others and have watched all my life—the Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker, premiered by the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1983—is truer to the dark, weird spirit of the original fairy tale than any other production I’ve seen. So even before I read the original story, I was unknowingly drawn to the bizarreness of Hoffmann’s tale through this particular production.

I always knew Winterspell would skew older, yes. The above production, and the original fairy tale, both fall a bit on the disturbing side, featuring erotic undertones and grotesqueries that are common for a lot of the classic fairy tales. As I explored these underlying themes, I decided I wanted my take on the story to explore Clara’s sexual awakening—coming to terms with her body and herself as a powerful young woman, with the curse and journey of the Nutcracker prince himself being essential, sure, but ultimately secondary to Clara’s own story.

MP: This book is set in 1899 New York (with a somewhat altered history to accommodate the Concordia syndicate) and the fictional world of Cane. How did you choose this historical era? How did you find historical details and choose which ones to include in your story?

CL: As I said above, I wanted this story to ultimately be about Clara’s sexual awakening. So I thought an interesting way to frame that would be to begin the story in the Victorian era, a time of repressed sexuality, a time when women were kept powerless. Clara starts out feeling like a victim of her corrupt, male-dominated society. But then she goes on this wild journey through the kingdom of Cane, ruled by a force of a woman, and grows stronger through adversity and through the power of her own choices. Eventually she’s able to throw off the shackles of the oppressive environment in which she’s grown up.

I did a little bit of research into Victorian-era clothing and society, and into Tammany Hall, the political organization upon which Concordia is very loosely based, but I didn’t want to linger in New York, since I knew the bulk of the story would take place in Cane. The most important thing to me was establishing the atmosphere of Clara’s New York City—downtrodden and dreary, infected with corruption, and run by men who controlled Clara and kept her feeling powerless.

MP: Cane is a fascinating world that is equal parts bleak and wondrous. Did any real locations help you envision Cane? Did any pieces from The Nutcracker particularly help inform Cane?

CL: Thank you! I loved building Cane. This was one of my favorite parts of writing     Winterspell, because I let my imagination run wild.

Music was my main inspiration when crafting the world of Cane. I listened to the Underworld, Sucker Punch, Red Riding Hood, and The Book of Eli soundtracks constantly, as well as music by Björk and Lamb. I was also inspired by the look and feel of the Underworld movies themselves, and also, strangely enough, the Borg from Star         Trek. Early on in the brainstorming process, I wrote down a note that said, “Faeries = If    the Borg were hot and wore Alexander McQueen.” So that idea of these technologically-    enhanced beings ruled by a powerful queen very much informed my interpretation of     faeries. I enjoyed turning the typical lore inside out and making these faeries dependent on iron and machinery rather than repelled by it. Lucy Ruth Cummins, the brilliant art       director at Simon & Schuster who designed Winterspell’s cover and overall look, said        that when reading, she was reminded of Gotham from Tim Burton’s Batman movies (Clara’s NYC), Narnia (Cane’s wilderness), and The City of Lost Children (Cane’s urban     centers). That’s spot-on.

And, of course, the Nutcracker itself was a huge inspiration. I can’t begin to count how    many times I listened to the ballet score while working on Winterspell. I liked inserting   nods to the ballet in Winterspell, like the moment in the ballet when Clara kills the Mouse King by throwing her shoe at him. A moment in Winterspell echoes that…but with a          darker twist.

MP: Clara is a great heroine. One of my favorite things about her is that she is incredibly capable but also often very afraid (a binary that is often not acknowledged). How did you go about balancing those two very different aspects of Clara’s personality?

CL: I’m so glad to hear you say this! It was important to me that Clara be afraid and show fear, and even be ruled by fear—at the beginning of the book and even as the story      progressed. So often in YA novels, the protagonist barely acknowledges her fear or, if     she does acknowledge it, she manages to grit her teeth and go about her business without too much fuss. And that’s all well and good—people often rise to the occasion when faced with danger. But when I see characters do that, I can’t help but think I—and probably many others—wouldn’t be able to dismiss our fear so easily. I wanted to write a heroine that realistically struggled with fear. After all, she’s only 17! Do you remember being 17? I do. I was brave in some ways and really afraid in other ways. If I’d had to go on a             harrowing journey like Clara, I would have been scared out of my mind.

For me it’s much more fascinating to read about a character who struggles deeply with      her fear and insecurities and ends up overcoming them, rather than a character who can get past those hurdles with ease and flair. That’s fun, yeah, but not particularly          interesting. So when crafting Clara it was just about being real. This is a 17-year-old girl whose mother was killed, whose father is a drunk, who’s being manipulated by corrupt politicians and sexual predators, who’s been taught by society that she should stay silent   and submit to the will of men. Who wouldn’t be afraid and seriously messed up after all of that? Yeah, she’s angry. Yeah, she’s sick of being afraid. But acknowledging anger and overcoming fear isn’t an easy thing to do in real life, and it shouldn’t be easy in books, either.

MP: It’s impossible to discuss Winterspell without also discussing Nicholas (Clara’s ally for most of the story) and Anise (essentially the biggest villain in the story). Did you always know that Nicholas and Anise would play such large (and equally important) roles in the story?

CL: I always knew Nicholas would be important to Clara’s story. He’s the Nutcracker prince, after all! And I always knew that the primary antagonist would be the ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy gone wrong. But it wasn’t until actually writing the book that I realized how these characters would be so ambiguous, full of both light and darkness. Nicholas isn’t the good, virtuous prince; and Anise is more than a power-hungry dictator. And as Clara discovers these nuances and deals with the consequences, she’s forced to make difficult choices that impact her own story and inform her tremendous growth from powerless to powerful.

MP: All of the characters here operate in grey areas with “good” and “bad” becoming extremely fluid. For that reason the idea of consent is incredibly important throughout the story as Clara chooses again and again who to align with. How did you go about writing a story where your main character is never entirely certain who she can trust?

CL: I addressed this a little in my answer above, so I’ll continue that train of thought by saying that this was one of the most challenging and most rewarding parts of writing     Winterspell. Clara is never quite sure who to trust—and frankly, neither was I. I had an    outline, but the story grew into something different as I actually wrote the book. Characters developed in interesting directions I hadn’t predicted. As the story evolved, I kept this one very important thing in mind: This is Clara’s story, and each choice she makes, each relationship she nurtures, each alliance she forges, every betrayal she engineers, should inform the development of her character—and I knew exactly the kind of powerful woman I wanted Clara to be by the book’s end. So keeping that in mind helped me navigate those ambiguous waters.

One of my favorite moments in the book comes in Part IV—when Clara makes this huge choice that could endanger her life and puts her at the mercy of someone else. At first you might think, “Wait, why is she doing this? She’s giving up control! She’s subjugating        herself to this person?!” But in fact I think this is a hugely empowering moment for Clara, because all the choices she’s made so far in the book have led her here, and she is the only one who can make this last, crucial choice. There’s an incredible power in that.

MP: While we’re talking about characters, did you have a favorite character to write in Winterspell? Is there any character you were particularly excited for readers to meet?

CL: Hands down, Anise was my favorite character to write. She’s a wild card. She’s    glamorous and unpredictable, sensual and sadistic. When writing one of her scenes, I always felt a little giddy, like, “Oh god what is this glorious monster going to do next?!” She’s the character I’m always most eager for readers to meet.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? Will we be seeing more YA titles from you?

CL: I just announced a new book releasing from Simon & Schuster in May 2016. It’s a middle grade novel called Some Kind of Happiness, about a girl named Finley who      creates an imaginary world to cope with her anxiety and depression. Writing that was a very personal experience, so I’m excited for readers to meet Finley and her complicated     family. I also have another upcoming project that I haven’t announced yet, so I can’t         share anything about it—which is such a tease, I know! But it’s maddening to keep things quiet for so long, so I can’t help myself with the teasing. Otherwise I might burst.

I definitely have more YA projects in mind—it’s just a matter of time!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

CL: The #1 piece of advice I always give writers is to read, read, read—read a lot, and read widely. More than anything else, reading thoughtfully and analyzing what I read has   helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses, what I do well and what I could do better.

Thanks again to Claire for this fantastic interview.

You can see more about Claire and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Winterspell here on the blog.

Winterspell: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Winterspell by Claire LegrandNew York City, 1899. Clara Stole’s mother has been dead for a year. Without the guiding goodness of her mother, Clara lives in fear of the greed and corruption that grip New York City and the Concordia syndicate that rules it with a firm and corrupt hand with her father as their mayor and figurehead.

Thanks to her godfather, Drosselmeyer, Clara is well trained in self-defense. But blending into shadows, picking locks and throwing a punch are little help when the mere thought of confronting the dangerous leaders of Concordia fills Clara with crippling dread. Despite her perceived weakness, Clara is determined to find out the truth behind her mother’s murder. But in uncovering that truth, Clara also finds shocking secrets about her own life.

On Christmas Eve Clara’s house is attacked and her father abducted by mysterious creatures not of this world. To rescue her father and keep her family safe, Clara will have to follow the creatures to Cane–a distant land ravaged by magic and strife–with only Nicholas, cursed prince of Cane, for help.

Clara needs Nicholas and therefore must work him but the prince has secrets and an agenda of his own–one that may do Clara more harm than good. With time running out as she moves through Cane’s ruthless landscape, Clara realizes she can trust no one but herself if she hopes to leave Cane alive in Winterspell (2014) by Claire Legrand.

Winterspell is Legrand’s first young adult novel. Readers can also pick up a companion prequel novella called Summerfall. An extended epilogue called Homecoming can be found on Legrand’s website.

Legrand delivers a sumptuous, rich fantasy in this dark retelling of The NutcrackerWinterspell stays true to the source material (even including epigraphs from the original story at the start of each section) while also pushing the plot in unexpected directions in this story about magic gone wrong, war and the strength that comes from realizing your own power.

While Clara knows she is strong and capable she is also hampered by her own fears and doubts as much as by the trappings of being a young woman of privilege in 1890s New York. Clara is terrified of her own strength (and her inability to use it at crucial moments), her own body, and especially her own sexuality. As much as this story is about magic and action, it is equally about Clara’s sexual awakening as she learns to embrace all aspects of her self even those society tells her she should hide away.

Winterspell is a sexy, gritty story that brings the world of Cane monstrously to life. Endpapers provide a detailed map of Cane (illustrated by Catherine Scully) while Legrand’s prose evokes the fearful cold and danger lurking around every corner.

The interplay between Clara and Nicholas adds another dimension to this story. Both characters rightfully have a healthy suspicion of each other but also an undeniable physical attraction. There is a delicious slow burn as these characters circle each other. This distrust and attraction coalesces into a thoughtful treatment of consent that works on many levels throughout the story.

Winterspell is a sexy, gritty story that operates in the grey areas between good and evil. With brutal heroes and sympathetic villains this is a multifaceted story sure to appeal to fantasy readers and fans of unconventional retellings.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, Winterspell by Danielle Paige, Jackaby by William Ritter, Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Never Never by Brianna Shrum, Everland by Wendy Spinale, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

You can also read my exclusive interview with Claire about this novel.