Today I am so thrilled to welcome Laini to the blog for an interview. Let's get started, shall we?
One of my favorite parts of DAUGHTER was that Karou could travel the world via portals. If you were granted three round trips via the portals, where would you go and why?
I want a portal like Brimstone’s! It’s tricky to narrow it down, but a couple of mentions in the book really are my own: to step over to India to buy mangoes? Yes, please. I joke that I am going to go on a mango world tour, and it’s not really a joke at all. Here is leg 1 of the tour:
(A typical dinner for Jim and me in Chiapas, Mexico; note also cream cake and beer).
Between mangoes and India, which is prime a travel dream of mine, that tops the list.
I also envy Karou’s shopping sprees to the Paris flea markets, so that’s an easy one.
The last one, though … Last wishes must always be the hardest. Of all the places in the world … it would be somewhere beachy, I think. One of those perfect travel magazine beaches. Ooh, I know: Bora Bora, because it is so expensive to travel there (I’ve --ahem-- looked into it, longingly). Could my portal round-trip be a package deal and include an over-water bungalow for a week, please? ☺
Done! Speaking of international locations, what made you choose Prague as a primary location for the story? Was it easier or harder to write than the fantasy world part of the novel?
I first visited Prague in 1996, taking a night train across Germany from Amsterdam. I don’t remember what sparked my interest in the first place, but that trip settled it: I’ve seen a lot of cities, and I think Prague is the most beautiful, and on top of that, it’s got this awesome aura of strange.
It’s all Gothic and Baroque, domes and towers, on the side of dark and brooding, but with marionettes everywhere—that was such an unexpected bonus. I love marionettes! The golem is from Prague; mystics communed with angels here and alchemists strove to turn lead into gold—and were put to death for failure; and then there’s the Astronomical Clock. After it was finished, the clockmaker’s eyes were stabbed out so he could never make a better one. It’s that kind of stabbiness that makes Prague more than beautiful. It’s kind of creepy, in the best possible way.
My husband Jim and I went back in 2005 to research a graphic novel we were planning out, and we rented an apartment behind Tyn Church for nine days and basically spent the time “hunting vampires,” figuring out where we thought they would live and congregate and hunt, and where humans might hide from them. We ended up not doing that book, but the city was in my head just waiting for a story, and it made Karou’s perfect home.
For me, exotic settings are pure wish fulfillment. In Karou, I was imagining a life that I would have loved, as a teen—and now—to climb inside of. Prague and art school are only the beginning.
It’s definitely easier to take a real place that already has such a wonderful vibe of mystery and exaggerate it than it is to create an entire world from scratch. With Prague, I had the benefit of centuries of real history, artistry, war, mythology. The pleasure was in adding my own layer to what is really there: Poison Kitchen, the Art Lyceum, Mustache Bar, Zuzana’s puppet show, the vampire tours. I wish they were real. (Lenore's note: So do I!!)
There in fact are ghost tours, which were my inspiration for Kaz’s line of work. Jim and I went on one our first night in Prague and it was the perfect introduction to the city.
When I chose Marrakesh as a setting, unlike Prague, I had not been there. I was just jonesing to go, and after the edits were done: I did!
Here is a glimpse of the crowds in the Jemaa el-Fna, one of the book's central locations. It is here that Karou first glimpses ... you know who.
Karou's friends think her drawings of her chimera family come from her imagination. What fantasy things do you wish were real?
Ooh, I’ll take a portal, please. Also: wishes.
[quick explanation: The character Brimstone in the book is sometimes called “The Wishmonger” because in his trade with humans, he pays in wishes. They have their own denominations, the lowest being a scuppy, the highest a bruxis, but the cost of a bruxis is such that a person could only ever have one in a lifetime. Gavriels are the most powerful practical wish.]
Scuppies and shings for the little things—I want Karou’s hair situation!—and gavriels for the real stuff.
I would also like for dragons to exist, please. In the wild, like tigers, and with reclusive habits, so that one might go on a dragon safari in, say, Borneo, and hope to glimpse one. One *might* even come across an abandoned egg and hatch it and raise it. I would want mine to be not too big, but big enough to ride, and with a really good temperament. Like a snake, it wouldn’t have to eat all the time, because that could present some problems. Not that I've thought about this before ...
Also, I’ve said before that I would be first in line for wing graft surgery, but that’s a fib. I’m still waiting to make sure Lasik is safe! Ha ha. And anyway, as cool as it would be to have wings—so beautiful!—it would cut down on sleeping positions and I’d have to learn how to sew to alter all my tops and jackets. Best I guess to just have flight a la Superman, without the wings. Hm. Now I'm torn. Wings or no wings?
A particular fantasy creation I would love to have made real is Philip Pullman’s daemons. That is one of my favorite fictional creations of all time. I think my daemon would be a fox—not because it’s an especially good fit for my personality, but because I like foxes and would love to have one perch on my shoulder. (Lenore's note: SWEET!)
(I think my daemon wants in.)
I adore the stories in LIPS TOUCH. Which character from DAUGHTER do you think would be most tempted by Goblin Fruit?
I would say Karou, because in spite of her strength, she has such a yearning to be loved, to belong. That could make her vulnerable. There is this passage about her:
It was hard to imagine feeling that magical tingling sensation [butterflies] in the pit of her belly any time soon. Best not to worry about it, she thought. She didn’t need it. Well. She didn’t want to need it. Yearning for love made her feel like a cat that was always twining around ankles meowing pet me, pet me, look at me, love me.
Better to be the cat gazing coolly down from a high wall, its expression inscrutable. The cat that shunned petting, that needed no one. Why couldn’t she be that cat?
Be that cat!!! she wrote, drawing it into the corner of her page, cool and aloof.
Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and … cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid …
That’s really drawn from my own conflicted psyche at that age. I had an image in my mind of strong girls and women who were aloof and not attention-seeking, who strode through life with heads high, not concerned with who might be watching, and I admired that so much. I tried to affect it, but it never felt genuine, and also, in this twisted way, that very aloofness and “unneediness” was calculated to attract desire! Like Kizzy and Karou, I did crave recognition. If I could go back in time and whisper something in my own young ear, something that would really get through, it might be along the lines of Be that cat.
If young women could discover and create themselves without concern for boys, it would be wonderful—they can, of course, and do, but budding sexuality is a very powerful force, and goblin fruit is a very powerful temptation!
That passage really speaks to my teen self too! In fact, I pulled that last part of the quote for my review! So, last question: I know it's really, really early, but I am dying to read the DAUGHTER sequel. Can you give us a one or two word tease to tide us over?
Hmmm. Yes. I can give you two words:
Dust and starlight.
Ack! Must read NOW! Thanks Laini!
Thank you Lenore!!! Great questions.
For more about DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, check these resources:
Official website: daughterofsmokeandbone.com
Laini's site, www.lainitaylor.com, and Twitter feed, @lainitaylor