Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr

Marlene P: Tell us about WICKED LOVELY

Melissa Marr: Wicked Lovely is the story of a faery king's search for his destined queen. It's the story of a mortal girl who can see the faery world and wants nothing to do with it. It's the story of a once-mortal girl who exists to oppose the faery king. It's a story about choices made and un-made, love fated and un-fated. And at the core, for me, it's a story about refusing to let anyone or anything steal your choices.

Marlene P: What was your inspiration for this story?

Melissa Marr: One of the most important reasons for writing this was hearing my kids remark on the great frequency of "weak" girls or male characters who seemed not to struggle with the difficulties of doing the right thing. Some fabulous folks have given us strong female characters and thinking male characters, but there's still not enough. So I wrote a book.

Marlene P: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Melissa Marr: Beginnings are awful. I don't know the beginning until I write the ending, and sometimes even then, I'm still not sure of it. I enjoy middles a great deal: the rush of charging forward to see how the story ends is great fun. Endings are entertaining because they allow me to see where I need to change the rest of the text. Beginnings stress me out terribly.

Marlene P: What one question do you wish an interviewer would ask you but never has?

Melissa Marr: Did you know there's tea/coffee/chocolate shop that just opened near your house and delivers 24hrs a day?" No one ever asks me that. I live in hope though. . .

Marlene P: What are you working on now?

Melissa Marr: I turned in the second novel (Ink Exchange) mid-February. The next day I was invited to write a story for a new anthology (also for HarperCollins). I'm toying with a few different stories for that to see which one amuses me most. My hope is to get that sorted out before I get my revision notes from my editors, but my editors (I have 2 because the books were co-acquired by Harper US & Harper UK) are both perversely prompt people.

There's another project I'm working on too, but my agent has made me promise to practice discretion and not share details while we're still in negotiations for it. It's fun though--enough that I'm working on it before the contract is in order. I was positively gleeful over it when the offer came and am quite hopeful that the contract can be sorted out to everyone's satisfaction.

Plus, of course, I'm starting to jot random sketches for the third faery novel. My notes are still rudimentary, but they're in process. I'm looking forward to this one a great deal.

I like to be active. Now that I'm not teaching, I need many writing tasks to allay restlessness.

Marlene P: Tell us something about you that no one knows.

Melissa Marr: No one? I'm not sure. How about this--I once went on a date with a guy because he recited a bit of Lord Byron's poetry to me . . . in a cemetery . . . where he was smoking a cigarette . . . while lounging against the door of a mausoleum. He was a total stereotype, but quite lovely. I have a weakness for interesting people (and places).

Marlene P: How did you become a writer?

Melissa Marr: I really don't know how to answer this. I've always wanted to write, but I wasn't planning to truly try until I was 40. But when I was about thirty, my spouse suggested I could write now. My "I'm not 40" objection was not very logical, so I decided to give it a go. I allotted myself 3 years to try it. I wrote a bunch of stories, poems, & two novels.

Alternately, I could admit that when I was a smallish mammal I told stories nonstop. By 12, one of the good Sisters handed me a creative writing book and sent me to the library to write. I wrote poetry from then until now.

I wasn't ready to write a novel though. I wrote stories, but I shredded or burnt them all. I had this theory that not destroying them would trap the words in the wrong order, so I still destroy or delete texts that don't feel right. When I wasn't able to destroy Wicked Lovely, I knew I finally had the right story.

Marlene P: What is your favorite passage from this book?

Melissa Marr: I don't have the same one from day to day, but there are a few sections that are often my favourites.

At one point, Ash (the mortal MC) and her best friend (Seth) are talking. He's telling her a story.

[Ash:] “Does [the girl in the story] live happily ever after?”
[Seth:] “Shouldn’t there be something in the middle?”
"I like to read the ending first.” She waited, curled up in her bed, to hear his assurances, to believe--for a minute at least--that everything could be okay. “So did she?”
That's why storytelling matters to me--that moment, however brief, when we can suspend our disbelief, when we can hope and believe that everything will be okay. Ash is dealing with some serious stress, but she's still looking for reasons to believe. Stories are where we find that sometimes.

Marlene P: Was there any part that you struggled with or avoided writing?

Melissa Marr: Yes. There's a couple scenes with volition issues in them. They're some of the most important scenes to me as a writer and as a person, but they were unpleasant to write. I'm a rape survivor, but that doesn't mean that dealing with it is ever entirely comfortable. There are emotions I needed to allow myself to feel in order to do justice to the topic. They aren't on the list of emotions I like feeling though.

Marlene P: What's on your nightstand right now?

Melissa Marr: A Brief History of Death (Davies), Psyche & Death (Herzog), an empty water bottle, alarm clock, a squirt gun, flashlight, and a rather gaudy lamp I found in an antique store.

Marlene P: What are your hobbies?

Melissa Marr: I really enjoy tattoos--getting them, seeing them, reading about them. My current artist has even taught me about the assembly of the tattoo machine. What else? Roaming pleases me. Museums, deserts, streets, beaches, paths in national forests--wandering is good.

Marlene P: Have you ever wanted to quit writing? Why?
Melissa Marr: Sure. Sometimes I'm certain my writing isn't ready yet and/or it takes too much time from my family. I rant and rave (or pace and sulk). My spouse is sane and wonderful though: he takes me to a museum or the beach or sends me to take a bubble bath when I freak out too severely.
Marlene P: Melissa, thank you so much for writing this book and for being our guest this week!
~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions, fire away! Melissa will answer as many as she possibly can. Congrats and confetti are always welcome, too!


Rachel Vincent said...

I'm looking forward to the book, Melissa!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview! ROCK ON!!!!

MaryP said...

Melissa, I am fascinated that you LIKE middles. (for me they are the hardest part! I love beginnings otoh--no baggage yet! ; )

When you are at the middle, do you have a firm idea of where the story is going? What is your process? Quick and rough first drafts? Revise as you go? I'll trade you a beginning for a middle any day.

Congrat on WICKED LOVELY. It sounds wonderful. I think stories about choice are so empowering.

Melissa Marr said...

Thanks for the kind words, Rachel, Kelsey, & Maryp. :)

Maryp, if you only knew how tempting a beginning/middle swap was for me . . . *sighs longingly* . . .

RE: "When you are at the middle, do you have a firm idea of where the story is going?"

Actually, it is very much not firm--which is why I like it so much. I'm prone to the feline/Pandora/et al "what's that? Whatcha got in the box? Ooh, then what?" compulsion. This doesn't always serve me well in day-to-day life, but it's handy in writing. The need to sate the curiosity is a driving force, so middles are good fun.

RE: "What is your process? Quick and rough first drafts? Revise as you go?"

I write several different threads (Don, Ash, & Keenan in WL), so I write forward with Donia (for example). When I get to the end of what I know right then with her story, I go back to where I need to intertwine the next thread--which has usually come into clearer focus by writing her thread. I repeat the process, writing Keenan's thread forward. Then I either resume Donia's or go to Ash's.

The process means that as I write, I'm constantly revising and tweaking so that by the time I reach the end the text has already been revised frequently. My agent & editors can pinpoint which sections I wrote first & which are last b/c of the amt of revision needed in those sections when they see it.

The trouble is that to figure out the "key event" that sets the whole thing into motion I need to reach the ending. With the novels being several characters' tale, finding that revelatory starting sequence feels impossible until the ending . . . or revision notes sometimes. (I have a file of alt starts for WL & for INK.)

RE: Choices
Thanks. That's one of my fav topics to ponder. Choices, paths, perspectives, relativity . . . that's my fodder for pondering.

Paula said...

Hey Melissa. Is it considered cheating to ask anything because I already "know" you? :-)

Years ago when Stephen King was honored there was a great deal of animosity among the literary community who felt King was far too commercial to deserve any honest-to-goodness lit award.

Because you come from a literary background, as a lit instructor/prof, I'm curious - where do you believe literary snobbery stems from?

The written word takes so many forms that it's a creative outlet that can truly be enjoyed by anyone. Yet, you'll always find people who believe there is one type of fiction better than another.

Sorry, if my question is too broad. But I'd love your insight as someone who taught lit but is writing more contemporary fiction.

Melissa Marr said...

In RE: Paula's remarks

I've pondered this a great deal. Some of my friends responded to my book sale with "are you going to write a real book too?" It stung, but those same friends find my equal love of museums and tattoos befuddling. Their response is not unexpected, but it did make me think. I believe that this sort of valuing one sort of text over others is what we learn in Soc 101: we define ourselves by our in-groups and out-groups. Some people use "lit" or "commercial" or "romance" or "fantasy" or "chick lit" to do their grouping. It's human.

I think it's useful to also admit that it's also not just the lit/commercial grouping that's guilty of this. There's other pervasive types of text snobbery though--genre that looks down upon "cross-over," adult that insults YA, Genre Q that belittles other genres. It's not so different that cliques in high school: each exclusionary group is defining their way/music/art/clothes/stance as the superior choice.

My texts have been called fantasy, romance, contemporary, "chick lit for goth girls" (Michael Stearns), and literary (a few librarians). I like that it doesn't fit neatly into any one group. Boxes bother me. Once upon a time when I taught Freshman Comp & Lit, I started my poetry unit with song lyrics from Tupac Shakur and the Cowboy Junkies. My theory was that if I could show the students that they were already "reading" poetry when they queued up their songs, they'd be much readier to believe they could read Browning & his ilk. (It worked.) Literature is what speaks to the soul. If one readers' soul seeks Chaucer and another seeks Tupac, so be it. My soul is moody. I like both.

Admittedly, I think money is part of the equation too: if a text makes money, it's a case of "selling out." Real artists are starving artists. On the lit/commercial front, a glance through the canonical figures undermines the argument pretty quickly. Faulkner wrote a lovely, disturbing, brilliant novel that he classified as a pot-boiler. Dickens wrote serialized novels. Plenty of authors wrote for or had financial gain from texts. Other acknowledged literary authors had alternate motives too. It wasn't just art for art's sake. Barrett Browning wrote a number of texts from a political agenda. Shelley's initial bit of FRANKENSTEIN was part of a contest with Byron & PB Shelley. They weren't setting out to create serious literature. They had other goals--including money. I've taught all of those authors in "literature" courses. My colleagues deem them literary.

Art, at its very core, is magical. If we define and dissect it, I believe we'd kill it. If we reduce visual, textual, or auditory arts to one kinds being The Art and the rest being lacking, we will not reach as many people. I think that's foolish . . . but that's just one chick's opinion and (I suspect) a sort of social in-out-grouping, too.

(Thank you, Paula. That was fun to answer.)

MarPerez said...


I'm really fascinated that you like middles and endings. The middle is always the worst for me. I like beginnings and endings.

And I really liked hearing about your writing process. Mine seems to change from book to book.


Little Willow said...

I have had customers and friends alike who read the ending first. I will always associate that habit with one particular friend. :)

Melissa Marr said...

Mar (or anyone else), can I ask why you like beginnings? Both you & MaryP prefer beginnings, so I'm curious. Care to elaborate?

As to process . . . Hmm, I don't know that my process will stay as it is right now (I hope not). I get restless if it stays too much the same too long. I feel good with these three books unrolling this way as they inter-relate in content & structure. I don't want the fourth book (which I hope will be unrelated to these ones) to echo the first three though. Variety is good.

Little Willow, reading the ending sooner than later is often how I read too. When I shelf read, I like to read a few pages from a number of spots to see if the text can hook me at a few passages, not just the first few pages. And when I get far enough into the book that I am invested in the story, I do flip back and read the ending. A girl never knows when catastophic events will interfere with reading, so I figure it better to sate my curiosity just in case meteors start falling. :)

MarPerez said...


I think I like beginnings because that's when I'm first getting to know the character. It's kind of like a first date, full of anticipation and a certain amount of trepidation. I am, however, a plunger at heart, just diving in when a voice starts talking in my head. Although I'm becoming more of a plotter than I used to be. Kind of a combo now.


MaryP said...

"A girl never knows when catastophic events will interfere with reading, so I figure it better to sate my curiosity just in case meteors start falling."

ha! I love this. Sort of the eat dessert first, theory which I often subscribe to--but oh, the horror--never with books! Only with ice cream ; )

As to your question, why I like beginnings, I guess that has to do with my process. I usually let a book simmer in my mind for months before I allow myself to write a single word. It has to really nag at me and be persistent before I trust that it will sustain me through a whole book. So it is a giddy joy when I finally write the first words, hearing just what this character has to say. And I have a clear path before me, just listening and discovering the details of this person's life. The discovery is so much fun! But after a while--around the middle--there are so many details that have to come together. They need to start feeling like they were there for a purpose. Now the "easy listening" is over, and the "hard listening" begins--oh and the juggling! Lots of juggling. Because so much has been introduced and at that point I can's just leave all those intros dangling. I have to pay the piper, so to speak, or start doing some cutting. It just all becomes very complicated, and sometimes in all the middle maze, I feel like I forgot what that initial spark was that nagged at me in the beginning--it is a very lost feeling--and I have to go back and rediscover that. whew.

But the beginnings have none of that baggage or responsibility--just listening--and I love that.

Melissa Marr said...

So I'm looking at the beginning-loving crowd and pondering what makes a writer dig the beginning. There's Mar's sense of "anticipation and a certain amount of trepidation" and MarpP's "giddy joy" and discover of "a clear path." Objectively, it sounds fabulous. It's fun to see how the process is conceptualized so differently.

For me, I'm enthralled by chaos. The middle is where I find chaos & confusion. If we take up the dating metaphor, I was never a fan of first dates. I like it best when it's complicated. (I secretly suspect that my desire to marry Spouse--I proposed to him after a couple weeks--was because he was the first person I'd dated who seemed to get more complex by the day. I love that.) I'd rather be in a swirl of chaos than anywhere else. So far, middles give me that rush, that dizzy blur where nothing seems like it will ever resume order. I'm struck with the sense that the book is dismal and I am a horrible writer, but . . . just as suddenly that "ooh, look at this. If I do this it all makes sense" assails me. There's a flash in the chaos, a glimmer. That, to me, is IT--good fun. It's a rollercoaster; it's the sick rush when the plane escapes gravity. Middles offer that for me. Beginnings are the stuff I need to wade to in order to reach my kicks. And, at the end of the day, that's what I'm seeking: the emotional flux.

This was fun to ponder. Thanks for sharing your process thoughts. I enjoyed reading them.

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting to see how different authors fare with different writing sections...

I'm not a writer, but very much of a reader. I have seen reviews of Wicked Lovely and am already convinced I will love it. However, I'm going to have to read the end first to see... :)

I am a very weird reader. I love reading almost anything... Provided there is a good ending. I have read fantasy, YA, adult, science fiction, romance and other styles, but if the book ends badly, I can't take it.

I read exactly as you mentioned, Melissa: snippets here and there, and once I feel I get where the story is headed, I read the ending. It's so true that sometimes we have to go through a lot of hectic and stressful times and when we can finally manage to get away from that, it definitely feels good. :) At least, at the time.

Anyhow, I very much look forward to reading Wicked Lovely! I wish you much luck in keeping the fans away once people get their hands on the book! ;) Good luck with things! :)

Mary Catherine :)

Melissa said...

Mary Catherine,

First, lovely name! There's 2 people named "Catherine" in my family (and had my son been a daughter, there would've been a third with that as part of the name).

RE: "I read . . . snippets here and there, and once I feel I get where the story is headed, I read the ending."
*smile* Yes! Snippet reading is my fav way to narrow in on my book purchases & reading choices. There's something satisfying abt being able to get snagged repeatedly. John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA was one I read last yr that totally did that for me. I swear my Spouse was ready to hide from me when I was reading it. There was so many sentences I had to read aloud. Ian Banks' WASP FACTORY was like that too--except Banks' text was utterly disturbing whereas Green's was not at all disturbing/disturbed. Both were entrancing though.

It why I taught & why I read: to feel that sensation of pulling pulled in to the text and consumed by it. I like it.

RE: "ends badly"
I don't mind a bad end (a consequence of teaching classic lit, perhaps), but I do mind a tedious or too-tidy one. If the ending is too orderly/convenient/obvious, I'm disappointed because life is so rarely that way. I want verisimilitude in an ending. I don't care if it's romance or fantasy or SF or history: I want to be convinced that the ending could happen in the world of the text.

I've been pondering this a lot as I do revisions on INK (bk 2), and I suspect that my need for this is a driving force behind my doing multiple povs--not everyone can win and winning isn't always so easy to define. I like that idea.

I enjoyed reading your post. I do love when people make my mind stretch & squirm; it feels good.


Mary Catherine said...

Hi, again, Melissa!

I'm going to go ahead and post even though it's been quite a while...

I'm glad my post managed to spur something positive! :) I may not be an author, but it makes me quite glad to hear my thoughts or writing makes someone else think or happy. :)

I just wanted to clarify something: a 'bad ending', to me, is just as you mentionned. I didn't mean a sad ending, necessarily.

RE: I don't mind a bad end (a consequence of teaching classic lit, perhaps), but I do mind a tedious or too-tidy one. If the ending is too orderly/convenient/obvious, I'm disappointed because life is so rarely that way. I want verisimilitude in an ending. I don't care if it's romance or fantasy or SF or history: I want to be convinced that the ending could happen in the world of the text.

This description is my thought exactly, I guess in just clearer and more eloquent terms. :)

Again, excitement builds as time grows closer to 'Wicked Lovely' 's release date...

Just a question from the Bookdivas community online (, is there to be a whole series started with 'Wicked Lovely'? If this is the case, how do you know when to end the series? It seems to me the most difficult part of series writing is just what we were discussing: the ending!

It is late, so I will go off to sleep. Thank you for the great reply, and very appreciated comment on my name, Melissa! :) Keep writing! I know I will definitely keep reading!

Mary Catherine :)

Melissa said...

Mary Catherine,

I'm slow to reply, but I do try.

In RE: "Just a question from the Bookdivas community online (, is there to be a whole series started with 'Wicked Lovely'?"

My editor isn't so fond of that word, but sorta. It's not a series in the sense that the same MCs keep being the narrative focus. There are other books in this world. INK EXCHANGE & a manga series are contracted as of now. Each is about a different set of primary characters, and each should be able to be read apart from the others. The goal,for me, is to write books that will inform each other when read together--or be able to stand freely. I'm a Faulkner girl by nature, so I think I'm unable to avoid this model just now. I like meeting Quentin in ABSALOM and S&F & "That Evening Sun," BUT I also liked meeting different people in that world. There's something fascinating to me when I think of a city wherein different voices will speak--as opposed to following one particular character. I liked the sense of a larger world. So, I guess, it's just me indulging my personal taste for a few books. Same world, but not the same people.

RE: "If this is the case, how do you know when to end the series? It seems to me the most difficult part of series writing is just what we were discussing: the ending!"

Since I'm not doing sequels, it's merely a matter of how many characters interest me. :) Sometimes my attention span is . . . unpredictable. I'll do the manga series (INK is done) and at least 1 other, but I'm not sure.

I think this is a hard question with sequels. How many times can there be a world-ending crisis? An Apocolypse? Whedon had some fun with that in BtVS (my all time fav TV show--the only one I've bought on DVD & seen every epi of). I'm not interesting in following just one character though. Even when I read a really good series, I get bored after a few books. (I pick up later ones just to check in on the plot.) I'm more interested in character & theme, so I don't want to do proper sequels right now. Maybe later I'll do that, but not this year. :)


Mary Catherine said...

Hi again Melissa,

Wow! I did not expect you to reply! I felt for sure that I was waaaay too late in replying to your reply...

Anyhow. All that to say, thanks so much for replying!!! :D

As for your ongoing work, how do you mean you'll be working on a manga series? I know manga is a mix of storyline and image: are you also working on the drawing aspect? How does it work?

Otherwise, I can see how the progression will work out of Wicked Lovely. I think it's actually a very original idea in terms of 'series' writing. Often, there is more than just one interesting enough character in a piece: it's great to finally get a glimpse of what he/she is thinking during, before or after the events occur!

Again, we're all eagerly awaiting the release of your first book! I hope things go great for further releases as well- in other words, I wish you many great future endings! :) Bye for now,

Mary Catherine :)

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Anonymous said...

I have not read Wicked Lovely yet but I asked the library to hold it for me when they get it and I can not wait. I am a writer too and I love to hear other writers stories.

Anonymous said...

I just read your interview and I have something to say,

Anonymous said...

uhm i know it's kind of random but
how'd you choose the title of the book? how does it relate to the story? heh;; it's for my homework .__."
weee i love the book ^^

Anonymous said...

nevermind about the title;; haha;