Meg Burden is the author of Northlander, which was so super-fantastic that it made the 2007 Cybils SF/Fantasy shortlist. She went to college at age fourteen (which would make for a great teen novel if she ever feels like leaving the Borderlands) and lives in Nebraska (which would also make for a great teen novel -- when was the last time you read a book set in Nebraska?). Anyway, she's awesome. And so is her book. You should read it.
But read this first:
The first thing on my mind, naturally, is the sequel to Northlander. (Sequel? Companion?) Will Ellin be our narrator again, or will the book be from a different character's perspective? What else can you tell us about it? (Most importantly, when will we get to read it?)
The second Tales of the Borderlands book is indeed a sequel, and it takes place shortly after Northlander ends. The working title is THE KING COMMANDS, and it's told from two points of view: Ellin's again, in first person, and then Finn's, in third person.
As I see it, the happily ever after at the end of Northlander was really only a beginning, or a resolution of the immediate crisis. People don't change overnight, and racism certainly doesn't disappear overnight. More than anything, TKC is my attempt to continue the events of Northlander logically and realistically—to show that actions and decisions have consequences.
There's also some romance in TKC, which is a lot of fun to write.
When will you get to read it? Um...I'm still writing it, actually. To be honest, I've really struggled with this one. I've had a plan for it since I wrote Northlander (and didn't know if it would sell, let alone if it would be the first in a series), but the writing itself...yikes. I've heard that it's not uncommon for writers to freeze up and doubt themselves and freak out after they sell their first book, worrying that the next one won't possibly be any good, and I've definitely had issues with that kind of stuff. But I'm persevering, and I hope to be done with the manuscript within a month.
On your blog recently, you mentioned that you have mixed feelings about writing Northlander in first person present tense -- care to elaborate? You also mentioned that it was sort of a dare to begin with...
Sort of a dare/personal challenge. Several years ago, I was enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature writing course, and for my second assignment, I was supposed to write a short story. At that point, with the exception of the first assignment (which was a 700 word story for beginning readers), I hadn't written original fiction in ages—just fanfic, and almost all of my fanfiction stories were in third person past tense. That was definitely my comfort zone. So, with my husband egging me on, I decided to challenge myself and write Assignment Two in first person present (which I thought would be painfully, horribly awkward for me), just to see if I could do it. And, for whatever reason, it came very naturally.
When I decided to expand that short story (which is now the first two chapters of Northlander) into a novel, I waffled back and forth a lot about the tense and point of view. I knew first person present would be limiting, but I wanted the sense of immediacy it gives. I wanted the reader's perceptions to change along with Ellin's, since her changing beliefs are so very important to the story.
But. When I started outlining THE KING COMMANDS, I started to regret not using third person for Northlander. TKC is going to be a bigger book, not just the length but the complexity of the plot, and I realized that I desperately needed to tell things that Ellin doesn't know or see. I considered just flat-out switching to third person for the whole thing, then decided that would be too jarring if one read them back-to-back. And the lack of continuity would drive me nuts. So, I flailed for a bit and finally just decided to add another point of view character.
And I have a whole rant about how I've seen people say online that first person is the mark of a beginning writer and that present tense (especially first person present) is gimmicky and trendy, but I think I'll save that for my blog. Suffice it to say that I disagree, but hearing people say it still stings.
And now the standard prompts!
Book(s) Currently Reading:
Claudia and the Great Search, which is #33 of the Baby-Sitters Club series. I started re-collecting the BSC books a few years ago (after being obsessed as a kid), and they're what I read when I need to de-stress. I'm also privileged to be beta-reading Wayfarer as my friend R.J. Anderson is writing it--it's the sequel to her MG fantasy Knife, the Hunter, which will be out from Harper Collins next summer. Amazing, lovely, fantabulous books! And I recently finished Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay which, like everything of his, is breathtaking.
Music Currently in Rotation:
Right now, I'm obsessed with this band, Eisley, and their songs have been playing practically nonstop on my iPod as writing music for TKC. Thanks to my mom, I've also been into Tears for Fears lately.
I don't remember! I wish I could say Iron Man, but my husband and I keep meaning to go and haven't yet.
Literary Crush (fictional or real):
I'm a fangirl! Narrowing my list down is next to impossible! To name a few crushes I've had over the years: Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Foggy Nelson, Aragorn, Peter Pevensie, Dave from Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, Professor Lupin, Adaon from the Prydain Chronicles...
As for a real literary crush, I have to say Patricia McKillip. The Riddle Master Trilogy made me want to be a writer. I want to be her when I grow up. Or Susan Cooper. Or C.S. Lewis.
Really unnecessary quotation marks, like when you see a sign advertising a "sale" on "cheese." I mean, is it on sale for real, or is it the same price it always is? And, the scarier question, is it cheese or not? Another thing that gets me is when people write "breath" when they mean to use "breathe." It's so common to see Star Wars fanfics in which Darth Vader "can't breath," and my reaction is, "Of course he can't, BECAUSE IT'S A NOUN."
Writing (and freaking out about) TKC. Friday Night Lights. Working in my garden. And, as always, my cats. Lately, I've been doodling a comic about my Sphynx cat, in which she travels to Earth from her home planet and impersonates a few things (a snake, a baby, a rotisserie chicken, etc.) before realizing that she most closely resembles the species Earthlings call a "cat."
Starbucks dark chocolate espresso truffles. LUSH soaps and skincare products. (Not that washing my face is a guilty pleasure, but their stuff smells so good that it feels like one!) American Idol. My eighties nostalgia obsessions are also guilty pleasures--in addition to my BSC books, I've got a bunch of Sweet Valley High books and a collection of Rainbow Brite dolls. I'm such a nerd.
That I will never find a literary agent is a big one, though I'm not sure that's irrational. I'm terrified of sharks and other Big Underwater Things, to the point that I can't even play--or watch--underwater levels of video games. I'm also freaked out by big inanimate things, like models of mammoths and dinosaurs in museums.
Favorite Piece of Trivia:
Siamese cats are born entirely white. Their coloration is heat-sensitive, and they get darker color only on their "points"--ears, nose, tail, and paws--because those are the coolest areas of the body.
Other SBBT interviews today:
And, of course, check out the master list at Chasing Ray to make sure you haven't missed anything this week!
Varian Johnson at Finding Wonderland
Jincy Willett at Shaken & Stirred
John Grandits at Writing & Ruminating
Gary D. Schmidt at Miss Erin
Javaka Steptoe at Seven Impossible Things
Mary Hooper at Interactive Reader