Q&A with Leigh Bardugo

Posted by Goodreads on August 7, 2017
Goddess of Love and War. Spirit of Truth. Themyscira's Champion. Warrior. Savior. The world knows her by many names, but in Wonder Woman: Warbringer she is Diana—and her journey is just beginning, thanks to the superpowered imagination of Leigh Bardugo.

The bestselling author of the Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows series brings her unique flair for pulse-pounding action, intoxicating magic, and powerful friendships to both Wonder Woman's origin story and the legend of the Amazons. A tale set apart from this summer's blockbuster film about the hero, Bardugo's novel is not just about one strong young woman, but two. While Diana is our Wonder Woman, it is Alia, a direct descendant of Helen of Troy, who is the Warbringer. Only together can Diana and Alia hope to save the world from an army of divine enemies.

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Wonder Woman: Warbringer is the first entry in a four-book series of YA novels, a collaboration between Random House and DC Entertainment that will feature the comic book publisher's most iconic superheroes as reimagined by some of the genre's biggest authors. Next up: Marie Lu's Batman, Matt de la Pena's Superman, and Sarah J. Maas' Catwoman.

Bardugo answers your questions about the myths and legends that inspired her take on Wonder Woman, the comic books she's reading right now, and the real-life Amazons of the YA world.

*BONUS: The Language of Thorns, Bardugo's illustrated short story collection set in the Grishaverse, also comes out this fall! Get an exclusive sneak peek here.*

Stacey: I love that Diana is going to team up with another young woman in Warbringer! What fictional (or nonfictional) female friendships inspire your characters?

Leigh Bardugo: I've been lucky enough to spend my life surrounded by tough, kind, generous women, and I have no doubt those relationships influenced the way I write friendship and the way my characters lean on each other. And those friendships are complicated, right? They ebb and flow. There are friends I speak to every day and others I only talk to once a year. But I still know they're my sisters in battle. They'll always have my back.

I also really love the way the core friendship in This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is depicted. It isn't entirely comfortable, probably because it so perfectly captures how culture impacts the way girls see each other and themselves.

Alina: Everyone knows that to be a good writer you should read A LOT. How do you manage to balance reading as much as possible AND writing AND, you know, living life?

LB: What is this "living life" you speak of? Honestly, I don't read as much as I used to, except when I'm on tour—I have a lot of trouble writing on planes, so I use that as an excuse to catch up on new books. Right now I have the sequel to Holly Black's Cruel Prince waiting for me on my reader, and I can't wait to dig in.

Anne: Your books mean so much to me! The characters you've created accompany me on this life of mine and help me feel less alone. If some of your characters were real people living in our modern world, what would they be doing?

LB: Thank you, Anne. That means a lot. I think Nikolai would probably be an inventor and entrepreneur—you know, an eccentric who donates huge amounts of money to charity and then accidentally crashes an experimental race car into someone's palazzo. Nina would run a body-positivity blog and make internet trolls cry. I'm not sure about the others, except I know Inej would still be fighting the good fight and Kaz would still be running scams.

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Mariah: How did the process of writing Warbringer differ from your other books? Did you feel the weight of sticking to Wonder Woman's narrative history, or did you treat it as your own new canon?

LB: Diana means so much to so many people, and I definitely felt the weight of wanting to do both her character and her history justice. I also wanted to put my own stamp on the culture of Themyscira, to create an Amazon mythology that would allow any woman from any culture who died bravely in battle to come to the island. And I wanted to show readers a vulnerable Diana—a girl learning how to be a hero. There are many, many different versions in the Wonder Woman canon, so I leaned into some things and left others behind.

The writing process was pretty different. There were a lot more people who had to sign off on what I wanted to do, and that sometimes meant compromising—which I confess isn't my specialty. But in the end it was worth it because I love Diana, and I get to be a tiny part of her story.

Nicole: If you could cowrite a book with any author, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

LB: Sappy answer is my grandfather. He wasn't a writer, but I'd get to see him again, so I'd step right through that loophole.

Maybe Stephen King. Or J.K. Rowling. Or George R.R. Martin. Or Louise Erdrich. Or Neil Gaiman. Who am I kidding? I'd be too intimidated to write with any of those people. I'd just sit there grinning like a creep and getting nothing done. I also think cowriting is a very risky kind of alchemy. Even if you love someone's work, you have no idea how that person's process will mesh with your own.

Cassidy: Your previous books have been infused with Russian folklore. Did myths and folktales influence Wonder Woman: Warbringer in a similar way?

LB: I drew heavily on the religious beliefs and rituals of ancient Greece, particularly the ideas of miasma and athanatos. The battlefield gods play a role, as does the wider mythology surrounding Helen, who is mostly remembered as Helen of Troy but who was so much more. I also drew on some of the real stories that may have inspired the myths of the Amazons and tried to weave them into the culture, history, and laws of Themyscira.

But it's interesting because writing a Wonder Woman story means you're in conversation not only with every Wonder Woman story that has come before, but also with the impact she's had on culture. I had a similar experience writing The Language of Thorns. The stories are all in conversation with the folktales and fairy tales we know and the archetypes that have arisen from them.

Miss: What's your favorite way to reward yourself?

LB: I celebrate every finished project with Korean food and a trip to Gold Bug (my favorite shop in Los Angeles, possibly anywhere) to buy something beautiful I don't need.

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Kirstyn: Was there ever a point in your life where you stopped reading and writing for a long period of time—and was there an author who reinspired your love of stories? You've been that author for me. You reignited my love of stories, and I will forever be grateful to you.

LB: What a beautiful thing to hear. I'm so glad you found your way back to fiction.

When I'm feeling blocked or I'm in a reading slump, I tend to turn to comics and graphic novels. There's something about the way the stories unfold that helps change the way I'm thinking about my own work. They also tend to be a master class in cliffhangers. I'm loving Saga and Monstress right now—and Bitch Planet, of course. Absolute Court of Owls is another favorite.

I think one thing to keep in mind is that, when we talk about writer's block, we're really talking about a few different things. Sometimes you just don't know where to go in a story, sometimes you're dealing with self-doubt or a loud internal critic, and sometimes the block is actually a symptom of something broader going on with your mental health. So I try to pay attention to what's really happening in my head and let myself off the hook a bit.

Daisy: Who are some of the "wonder women" in your life?

LB: There are so many. My ferocious college roommates, my crew of Los Angeles ladies who inspire me daily, and my amazing mama, who was a single parent for a big chunk of my childhood. And then there are the incredible women I've met through publishing. The YA world is dominated by women, and that means that you're going to meet a lot of Amazons.

Mihlean: If you lived in the Grishaverse, what kind of character do you think you would be?

LB: A poet who dies in a prologue? Or maybe a witch who lives in a mountain cave and scares the hell out of travelers. Everybody come over for brunch and we'll play a few rounds of Make the Hiker Pee His Pants.

Read more of our exclusive author interviews on our Voice page.

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