Author Spotlight: Sarah Glenn Marsh talks The Reign of the Fallen
I'm honored to be taking part in Penguin's official blog tour for Sarah Glenn Marsh's extraordinary YA fantasy, REIGN OF THE FALLEN! This book has been on my radar for quite some time, and Sarah is seriously one of the nicest, and most talented authors out there. In addition to writing kick-ass YA, she'll also be publishing picture books very soon!
Check out the list below for the full REIGN OF THE FALLEN blog tour, and be sure to click on the links to check out some amazing blogs, interviews with Sarah, reviews, and other fun REIGN OF THE FALLEN extras!
January 8 – A New Look on Books – Interview
January 9 – YA Books Central
January 11 – Twinning for Books – Q&A
January 12 – Becca’s Book Realm – Q&A
January 15 – Reader Rewind – Mini Review and Q&A on Instagram Page
January 16 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Review
January 17 – Once Upon a Twilight – Review + Q&A
January 18 – BookCrushin – Review
January 22 – The Novel Knight – Review
January 23 – Across the Words – Q&A
January 24 – The Lovely Books – Review
January 25 – Adventures in YA Publishing – Interview
January 26 – The Royal Polar Bear Reads – Author Interview Spot
January 29 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Review
January 30 – Good Choice Reading – Excerpt (and Review)
January 31 – Queership – Author Guest Post
February 1 – Megan Write Now – Interview
February 2 – The Life of a Booknerd Addict – Review and Banners with quotes
February 3 – Nocturnal Reads – Short Q&A
AND NOW FOR MY Q&A WITH SARAH!
Hi, Sarah! Welcome and congrats on the release of Reign of the Fallen. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi, Megan! Thank you so much for hosting me today. I’m happy to be here!
First, here’s a little about Reign of the Fallen: the story follows Odessa, a talented teen necromancer who raises the dead in order to keep the current ruling family of her country in power. King Wylding has been in charge of Karthia for over 200 years, and he keeps coming back from the dead because he loves his people—however, since the Dead fear change, his rules forbidding all science and progress are hurting them more than helping. When Odessa's fellow necromancers (her only family) start being picked off one by one, she's devastated, but she'll have to work through her grief in order to find the murderer and decide whether her crumbling society is worth saving...or if it's time to help Karthia change, for better or worse.
The idea for Reign of the Fallen was inspired by my grandmother’s stay in the hospital; thankfully, she’s fine now, but the situation got me thinking: how far would someone be willing to go to bring a loved one back from the dead? What sort of sacrifices would someone make in order to bring an important person back into their lives, and what consequences might that decision have? Those questions led me to the Greek mythological hero Orpheus, who attempts to rescue his wife from the underworld and is told by Hades that he can take her back to the living world as long as he doesn’t look at her until they’re both out of his realm. Spoiler alert: he takes a peek and loses her forever. Drawing from that mythology, as well as researching rituals surrounding death from around the world, helped me to start building the world of Reign of the Fallen, where the Dead must wear shrouds in the living world or else become monsters; where change of even the smallest sort is outlawed because the Dead fear it; where entering the spirit world demands a painful sacrifice of any living person who dares to go there.
As a fantasy writer, I’m always intrigued by unique magic systems. What’s your advice on the dos and don’ts when it comes to crafting them?
As a reader, I really enjoy magic systems that feel organic to a world, meaning I accept the rules of magic right away and can stay focused on the story’s plot and characters. That’s why I chose the eye-color magic system you’ll find in Reign (where people with blue eyes see gateways into the spirit world, people with green eyes see animals’ emotions as colors, and so on)—since magic is part of everyone’s lives in that world from birth, it doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.
That leads me to my first bit of advice: Make sure your magic system feels natural and relevant to the world in which your story takes place. For instance, since Reign is about raising the dead, and since bringing someone back to life feels like such a personal act to me, I went with a magical process where necromancers have to find the chosen spirit and physically guide them back into their body.
Of course, magic always has a price, as we know. So my second bit of advice is this: Think up realistic consequences for the price of any magic being performed in the story. And if you want magic users to be rare in your world, make the cost of magic really high. For instance, in Reign, a green-eyed person possessing the mind of an animal can become feral themselves. A person traveling to the spirit world to raise the dead is robbed of their fertility, though that can mean different things—seeds planted by your hand not growing, not recovering from sickness, fields withering.
Above all, be consistent! Set rules and stick to them, at least at first, so that when something magically out of the ordinary happens in your story, readers will know without you telling them that something incredible is going on.
I think it’s refreshing that you chose to set Reign of the Fallen in a world where gender equality and bisexuality are the norm. How did this influence your world-building process?
Thank you! This particular choice was a big part of my world building process, because as a teen, I loved epic fantasies like Lord of the Rings, yet I never saw myself represented in anyone going on the quests. Rarely were the heroes in those stories female, and even less often were they queer. So when building the world of Reign, I wanted to offer all teens a safe space where they could see themselves while exploring some heavy topics like death and loss and addiction.
After all, when building any new world, there is absolutely nothing forcing us to apply the gender norms of our society to a fictional one; the same goes for how we treat every sexual identity other than heterosexual. Why build a new world that holds all our old prejudices?
Do you listen to music for inspiration or while writing? What songs would we find on the Reign of the Fallen soundtrack?
I listen to music for inspiration, though I need silence (er, as silent as my house ever gets with three birds and four dogs in it!) when I’m actually writing. Here are some of the tracks from the Reign of the Fallen playlist—in some cases, I’ve noted which ones match up with certain characters:
Battlefield by Svrcina – Theme song
Is There Somewhere by Halsey – Odessa and Evander
Running with the Wolves by Aurora – Meredy
I Will Not Bow by Breaking Benjamin – Odessa
Forfeit by Chevelle – Jax
Bow Down by Chvrches – Valoria
Lover. Fighter. By Svrcina – Danial
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
The most challenging part of the process for me has changed over time. It used to be revisions that I found daunting, though after plenty of experience, I now love them.
Now that I have a publisher and write under contract, I usually have to think up a synopsis for a story ahead of drafting. And since the most magical part of creating a new book used to be discovering things about the world and characters as I wrote, I’d say that currently, the toughest part of the process for me is plotting in advance. However, I figured out a way to help myself plan ahead while working on the sequel to Reign—the index card method. I write out every scene I can think of on individual index cards—and not just scenes, but character building moments, pivotal moments in relationships, and so on—and then lay out all the index cards and try to put them into the order in which I think they belong. This allows me to see what’s missing from certain sections of the plot (ie: if I have three action scenes in a row, I’m clearly in need of a quiet, character-building moment in there somewhere), where I need to tie certain plot threads together better, and so on. Sometimes, my husband will take a peek and help me rearrange them. Having another pair of eyes is helpful even at that early stage!
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
The most rewarding experience has been—and probably always will be—connecting with teens through my work. Doing school visits and getting to talk with young authors inspires me! I especially love hearing that I’ve encouraged someone to take another look at their story, or start writing something new. There’s just something really powerful about your art inspiring someone else’s art, even in a small way. To me, it’s the highest compliment. (And if you’re reading between the lines here, YES, write that Reign of the Fallen fanfic. I’ll fangirl so hard.)
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Lately, I can’t stop talking about Erin Cashman’s book UNCHARTED, which- unfortunately for those of you reading this- doesn’t come out until September 2018! I recently read an advanced copy and loved it so much that I blurbed it. Here are some things to look forward to when it releases: ancient Irish legends come to life; an atmospheric coastal Maine setting; hot angsty boys; a brave heroine and female friendships; intense villains; beautiful writing. This is one of those stories where magic seems possible, and I think there’s something in it for everyone to enjoy, whether it’s the action, romance, myths, or mystery.
And finally, with two published books under your belt (and lots more under contract!) what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
There’s a lot I want to say here, so I’ll break it down into two lessons. First, from the craft side: Trust yourself. When I was just starting out, I’d go through multiple rounds of readers on a manuscript, and then try to apply *all* their feedback. Now, I only use feedback that really resonates with me. And as for how I know it resonates? Well, the feedback that makes me frown, the comments that get under my skin and stay in my head long after I’ve read them, are generally the ones I need to address.
My other biggest takeaway from the publishing process and being part of the writing community is more personal, and that is: Embrace who you are, quirks and all. Own it. I’ve found that being honest in my writing is what allows people to connect with my stories. And online, sharing certain things about myself, even when doing so takes me out of my comfort zone—like talking about my chronic illness, for one—allows me to connect with readers and other authors on a deeper level as well. Emotional honesty leads to meaningful connections.
So many thanks go out to Sarah for taking the time to discuss Reign of the Fallen, for her valuable writing tips, and the evergreen advice to embrace who you are (I love that!). Be sure to add Reign of the Fallen to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or through your local independent bookstore.
And, as always,