May 05, 2015

Ensnared by Sarah J. Maas’ new romantic fantasy

Sarah J. Maas swept readers away with her wildly popular Throne of Glass series, a high fantasy partially inspired by Disney's Cinderella. For her new series, Maas draws from a whole new set of fairy tales—and takes the romance to a new level. We contacted Maas to talk about myths, world-building and other sexy things.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses introduces readers to a world filled with fae bearing the weight of a terrible curse. When 19-year-old human huntress Feyre accidentally kills a faerie, she's whisked away by a dangerous creature to live forever in the faerie lands. But this creature reveals himself to be a powerful, beautiful High Lord named Tamlin, and while he and Feyre fall into an intense romance, it's clear he's keeping secrets from her.

This book started out as a fairy-tale retelling over several myths, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” and “Tam Lin,” and it still bears strains of all those fairy tales. What was your process for mix and matching these different classic fairy tales?
Honestly, I read as many versions of those tales as I could before starting, but they were all such favorites from growing up (“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” might be my all-time favorite fairytale) that I already had them internalized by the time I began drafting A Court of Thorns and Roses.

In some ways, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” had a greater impact on the book than “Beauty and the Beast” (which is in the same folktale family)—the overall structure of Feyre and Tamlin’s story, the shift from pure love story to Supreme Badass Action, the presence of a dark, wicked queen, all shaped and guided the creation of this book. I definitely drew more heavily from the evil faerie queen and her relationship to the hero in Tam Lin for Amarantha’s inspiration, though both EotSWotM and “Tam Lin” feature women coveting/cursing men—and then going head-to-head with the heroine.

In all three fairytales, actually, the element of female strength was what initially drew me to them, and helped me shape ACOTAR. These are all heroines who persevere, who are empowered in their desires and wants, and who are willing to face countless dangers to save the ones they love.

There are countless faerie mythologies out there. Where do your faeries fit in?
My faeries kind of come from everywhere. I drew from traditional Irish/English/Scottish mythology, but I also borrowed creatures and ideas from other cultures—the naga, for instance, were inspired by Hindu mythology. I didn’t want to be confined to one mythology when I created the world of A Court of Thorns and Roses, so it became a blend of creatures that interest and frighten me. Which has really given me the freedom to do whatever I want with Prythian and its inhabitants.

There’s a lot more mature content in A Court of Thorns and Roses than in the Throne of Glass series, making it appropriate for a slightly older teen audience. Are you intentionally writing older, to stay with your huge fan base? If so, do you think you’ll move into adult fantasy at any point?
To be honest, when I write my books, I don’t often think about where they’ll wind up on a shelf. I just write the story as it unfolds, write the characters as they speak to me and see what the finished product looks like when I’m done. I knew from the start that the world of ACOTAR would be a darker, more sensual one—so the mature content just sort of happened as a result. So, no, I didn’t intentionally write older to stick with my audience—I just wrote the story in my heart, which happened to be a bit more sexy than the TOG books. I think it’ll probably be that way with any other book or series I write: I’ll leave where it gets shelved in a store or library to my publisher. 🙂

You’ve said in previous interviews that you grew up with fantasies like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, stories that put heavy emphasis on the world-building aspect of fantasy writing. What are your favorite and least favorite elements of world-building?
Least favorite parts? Keeping track of everything and making sure everything makes sense and is consistent. If my characters are eating a certain kind of fruit, I need to account for how that fruit got onto their table, especially if it’s out of season. Sometimes that stuff makes it onto the page, sometimes it’s just information that I need to know. But the consistency of world-building is always intense.

Favorite part? Getting to do whatever I want (within reason—see the above answer). I love sitting down at my computer and discovering new places within the worlds of ACOTAR and TOG—places that I didn’t know existed until that moment, when they suddenly have been there all along, and they fit in perfectly and add extra depth to the characters and world. I’m a big believer in world-building and character-building going hand-in-hand (we’re all products of our world/culture/upbringing), so I often discover a lot about both while drafting. It’s awesome when it all clicks.

Speaking of that mature content, what do you think are the sexiest scenes to write?
Oh, God. Such a hard question. (…*awkwardly winks*) I think the sexiest scenes are the ones where the emotional and physical arcs between the characters perfectly tie together. So, for me, it’s often that Big First Kiss scene. Feyre and Tamlin’s first kiss still makes me cry whenever I read it, perhaps because it’s as much about their physical relationship as it is about Feyre’s own emotional healing and growth.

If you had one night with any of the A Court of Thorns and Roses characters, who would you choose, and what would do with him/her?
Um. Rhysand. Definitely. And as for what I’d do with him . . .  I’m a married woman. But . . . you know. It’s Rhysand. So . . . *smiles innocently*

What’s one bad habit you have no intention of breaking?
I watch an ungodly amount of TV and will never apologize for it. (I feel like I should list “Netflix” as my religion.)

True love—fact or fiction?
Fact. Though I do think that love takes work—and requires trust most of all. But I also believe that there are all kinds of true love. The love between friends can be as strong and life-changing as romantic love. My relationship with my best friend (aka YA author Susan Dennard) is as important to me as my relationship with my husband—and has impacted me as greatly, too.

Get the Book

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

By Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781619634442

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