A Conversation with Sarah Rees Brennan, author of The Demon's Lexicon trilogy
Q: What inspired you to write The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy? SRB: I just think demons are terribly interesting! In Sumerian times, demons weren't seen as evil at all, just as incredibly powerful and very different from us: beings made of fire when humans were made of earth. In Elizabethan times, demons were seen as made of air, and so an Elizabethan audience would have readily identified Ariel of Shakespeare's The Tempest as a demon: a being enslaved by humans, and very sympathetic. At one point Ariel says that seeing people suffer, his heart would break if he were human. Which left me with an impression of demons as powerful but enslaved, unfeeling and yet feeling, magical and mysterious. I had to write about them.
I also saw a documentary about wolves that inspired me in another direction, but as that would completely spoil the book, people who have read it are going to have to ask me how!
Q: Why did you decide to write in the fantasy genre? SRB: I've loved fantasy since I was eleven and my parents sent me to the library because if I made them buy another book they'd have to remortgage the house: I was outraged that I was forbidden to go into the adult section and went sulkily to the teen section, where I found amazing fantasy by Tamora Pierce, Margaret Mahy, and Diana Wynne Jones. From then on, no story I wrote was complete without magic. Before I was eleven, I also wrote stories, but I focused on my main interests at the time: ponies and ninjas.
Q: Did you initially plan to make this a trilogy or did it turn into one as you developed Nick and Alan’s story? SRB: I always knew that I would love to write a trilogy, and that I had stories enough about Nick and Alan for a trilogy. I tried hard to make the first book complete in and by itself, because I feel anything else is cheating your readers, but also because I wasn't sure that anyone would want one book, let alone three! Thanks to the fabulous Simon & Schuster, however, I get to tell Nick and Alan's story the way I always wanted to.
Q: Why did you select England as the setting for The Demon’s Lexicon? SRB:I was living in England when I wrote the majority of the book, and I got the idea for it right after I came back from a walking holiday around England. My friend and I did a ghost tour in Exeter, where the book begins: We were taken down to see a skeleton in the cellar of a pub, and told how many bones were lying unmarked in the ground of the cathedral close. So I remembered Exeter as a terrifying city, exactly the place where dark magic could come and find you.
And then when I was living in England I was living near London, a city I love and that has as many secrets as an ocean bed has stones, and it seemed natural to continue the story there. I used to take day trips out to the other places in England where Nick, Alan, Mae, and Jamie travel. Taking notes at a pub in Salisbury, I was mistaken for a health inspector!
Q: Do you listen to music when you write and if so, what type? SRB:I have a confession to make—I truly love country music. I wrote a lot of the sequel to The Demon's Lexicon, The Demon's Covenant, listening exclusively to Taylor Swift.
Q: In The Demon’s Lexicon, you explore the sibling relationships between Nick and Alan, as well as Jamie and Mae. Do you have siblings yourself and why did you decide to explore family dynamics as part of the story? SRB:I do—I have three siblings, all younger, and all very unlike me. (One of my brothers is the Poker Champion of Ireland!) I think that sibling dynamics are a lot of fun, since with siblings you have people who are sometimes like friends, who you sometimes feel responsible for, who you didn't choose to have in your life, and yet who are vitally important. A lot of young adult books star orphans and only children, so I thought it would be fun and different to explore family dynamics in my book. It’s something that a lot of people can empathize with—having siblings themselves!
Q: Dancing plays a role in The Demon’s Lexicon. Do you like to dance? SRB: I love to dance, but I am extremely bad at it: My hips don't lie, but they have been known to knock over vases and other small but expensive objects. So dancing is in there both because I love dancing, and as a form of wish fulfillment—many of my characters are excellent dancers. Especially my hero. Can't sing. Can dance. Can handle a sword a little.
Q: YA series such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy are immensely popular with adults. Why do you think so many adults are reading books written for teens? SRB: Books for teens are amazing and compelling, I think, because they're generally set in a time in people's lives when they are uncertain about who they are, and who they love, and what the right thing is to do. We don't stop feeling that way once we're older, and if we feel it less often we can always recall with absolute vividness a moment when we felt balanced on the edge of uncertainty. Teenage books are about the fall, and landing somewhere wholly new, as someone wholly new. We all need that, always.
Also, I think everyone naturally loves a book that's fast-paced and full of both love and danger, and young adult books fit the bill: They're awesome, and who can turn down awesome?
Q:The Demon’s Lexicon is your first novel and you already have many fans in the U.S. before the book is even available in stores. Have you connected with your fans through blogging and writing online? SRB: I've been writing in my blog (www.livejournal.com/users/sarahtales) since I was eighteen—seven years!—and I’ve met people online who became my friends, and who from the start were into reading the movie parodies, stories, and even odd little accounts I wrote about my life. Having people interested in your writing is a wonderful boost for any writer, and has helped me a lot over the years. I've had lots of fun counting down to the release of The Demon's Lexicon with company. I hope to have lots of fun afterwards too!
Q: Can you give us a sneak peek at the next book in the trilogy? SRBI'd love to! In the next book there are duels, betrayals, magical knives and magical lightning storms, and two of the main characters fall in love. (Not necessarily with each other.)