Ask the Author: Holly Black

“I’m answering questions from 3pm-4pm GMT on Wednesday, August 13th, as part of #GollanczFest, especially those about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and Darkest Part of the Forest!” Holly Black

Answered Questions (45)

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Holly Black It came out this past September and the third book will come out next September!
Holly Black I think about doing it a lot, but I haven't found the right project yet.
Holly Black I think my biggest tip is that once you've figured out how your world works, figure out how people in that world exploit the systems or resources you've made up. See if there are models in our human history you can use to add resonance and suggest things you might not have thought of. Remember how people really behave.
Holly Black Yes, we've planned out the whole series. We know the big turns of what's going to happen in the remaining two books we're writing. (The third one is written, just not out yet.)
Holly Black The Bronze Key!
Holly Black Yes! There's a new series, tentatively titled Folk of the Air. I am working on the first book, Cruel Prince, now.
Holly Black My answer is going to be a little bit less useful to you because, since I'm not my own publisher, I have deadlines that I can't extend.

I do a lot of revisions, both as a means of getting closer to the story I want to tell and also as a method of procrastination. I go over earlier chapters many times and later chapters many fewer times. But, basically, a book has as many revisions as it needs. Sometimes I have known what a story was and the revisions were about language and characterization. Sometimes I was changing my mind about who the villain might be four different times, resulting in four different drafts (I'm looking at you, Darkest Part of the Forest). Only you know when your book is fully cooked and you've got to revise it until it is.
Holly Black I do write almost anywhere and at any time (although its super hard to write when exhausted), but that's not luck, that's deadlines! I have playlists that I can listen to, which are helpful for getting me back into the headspace of the book, but other than that, its the writing itself which gets me back in. Once I write for a little while, the writing gets easier.
Holly Black The protagonist of The Iron Trial is Callum Hunt. The two other kids in his apprentice group are Tamara and Aaron, so he's stuck with them, although that's not always a bad thing.

I do think it's easier to co-write a book, because there's someone else to lean on.
Holly Black Thank you! I actually have some specific links to helpful research books on faeries on my site, here:

In addition, Katharine Brigg's Encyclopedia of Fairies is a great place to start, if there's one at your local library.
Holly Black It's not strength that drives a story, it's desire. A character that wants something, especially something specific, drives a story. Whether it's revenge, to get into a good college, the love of a specific individual, or to save the world, that desire is going to motivate the character to be a tiny, plot-generating machine.

As for overcoming obstacles in character development, I think it depends on the obstacle, but I recently read a blog post by Cat Valente, here:

She said "Take one (1) unformed character, be they protagonist, antagonist, comic relief, or BFF.

Give them something to want.
Give them something to hide.
Give them something to fear.
Give them something to obsess over.
Then hurt them."

I think that's pretty good advice.
Holly Black Maybe! But if I do write another story in that world, I think it will be about Tana.
Holly Black Hi, Shveta! I still struggle with plotting too. In fact, I like to talk about plotting because I struggle with it so much. But the thing that I feel like I've learned between when I taught your Clarion class and now is to remember that plot is what moves your characters along in the story, but is also the thing that readers will forget first. What gives readers pleasure is character stuff -- their pain, their secrets, their choices, their sacrifices -- and so the plot that gives us the most of that is going to be the one that works best for the story.
Holly Black I do! Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS is super creepy vintage ghost serial killer horror. Robin Wasserman's THE WAKING DARK is an old-school bad town book that's beautifully told and a stand-alone and just amazing. And Maureen Johnson is almost done with her third Shades of London book, the first two of which, NAME OF THE STAR and THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH, are great creepy fun. Oh! And I almost forgot Barry Lyga's fabulous I HUNT KILLERS (and sequels).

Hopefully, those will get you started!
Holly Black I am so glad! I thought a lot about vampire novels and tried to string together a bunch of vampire stuff I loved into a single, madcap book. Road trip? YES. Decadent and sinister house party? ALSO YES. How about a different party that goes on forever? YES THAT TOO. How about one where everyone is dead? YEAH, SURE.
Holly Black For me, most of the time I have an image in my head that gives me a feeling and a ton of what I'm doing in terms of figuring out the story is actually trying to discover a story that fits with the image and which gives me the same feeling. Occasionally, though, I start with a particular set of circumstances and exploring those is what gets me started. But it's all about having an the piece of business that does inspire you.
Holly Black Thank you so much! All of the Spiderwick Chronicles that I did with Tony DiTerlizzi would be appropriate for 10-11 year olds and so would my new book, co-written with Cassandra Clare, The Iron Trial.
Holly Black Thank you! I do have another idea for the characters, but it's up to my editor whether that's my next project or not. Most of the ideas in Coldest Girl in Coldtown came from me asking myself: what's all the stuff I like in vampire books? how can I have ALL OF IT?

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