Mundie Moms

Monday, July 2, 2012

Interview with Grave Mercy author Robin LaFevers

I am so excited about today interview. Robin's YA debut is one of my all time favorites, not just for this year, but as a whole. Today she's stopped by to answer a few of my questions about her book, Grave Mercy. You can read my 5 star review here.

Hi Robin! How would you describe your debut in 5 words or less?

Teen assassin nuns in medieval France. Hm. That’s six. How about: Newbie assassin nun finds love?

You have such a vivid historical setting, and some incredible references ie: the clothes your characters wear, how they act etc. I felt like I was whisked away to that time period. How much research did you do before/while writing Grave Mercy?

I’ve always been fascinated (read: obsessed) with the medieval time period and have researched it a lot over the years, just out of personal curiosity and then later for various writing projects. So I had some general knowledge of the time period and the setting, but for Grave Mercy I had to do much more detailed and focused research. Ha. I say had to, but what I really mean is, Igot to, because I adore research, that mini-quest for the perfect detail that will bring a scene alive, or that perfect fact that will connect all the pieces of the plot into a cohesive whole. The thing is, I always find it. The answers I need, even when writing historical fantasy, are always there hiding somewhere in the research.

So I researched what they ate, and the clothes they wore, and the bigger world view issues such as how big a part religion played in their lives (huge! Some people went to church two or three times a day!) what their concerns were, their superstitions.  

One of the things I find most fascinating about writing historical fantasy is really trying to understand the worldview of people living in earlier times. What was life like without technology, where there was little understanding of science or the laws of physics and so much of life felt random and out of one’s control? Since Ismae belonged to a convent that served Death, what would her faith look like? How would her devotion be tested? What sorts of rituals would her life entail? Those questions were in the forefront of my mind whenever I sat down to write and helped me get into the head of a 15th century girl—what metaphors and similes would she use? What points of reference would she have?   

I also tried to (mostly!) use words that were only in use prior to the 16th century or phrases that felt reminiscent of that era. I definitely fudged sometimes; when the choice came down to readability I went for that over historical accuracy every time, because my overriding goal was that the story and the voice of Ismae be accessible to today’s teen reader

You have a lively cast of characters, and it was fun getting to know each of them. Which character was the easiest for you to write and which one was the hardest?

Ismae was actually really hard for me to nail down at first. Partly because it took a while to get into the head of a 17 year old girl living in the 15th century, but also because it was such a complex story and took place on such a convoluted historical canvas that it was easy for Ismae to get lost among the crowd. I had to really work on finding HER story versus a story of the political events or the duchess or any of the other interesting things going on at the time.

The first two or three drafts of the story started out being in third person POV, but when I switched to first person, Ismae became more accessible to me, but I still kept running into a jam. Finally, in desperation, I started an Ismae Journal, where I would just journal her thoughts and feelings as if she were keeping a diary. For some reason I started that journal in 1st person present tense and the moment I did that, she became completely accessible to me. But oh the pain of having to rewrite yet again!

Sybella came very easily—she literally just walked into her first scene and practically took over the entire book. That was when I realized Book Two was hers. J Of course, being the contrary thing that she is, that was the only time anything ever came easily with Sybella. I now refer to her book, DARK TRIUMPH, as the Book That Nearly Killed Me.

What inspired your story?

You know, I just started getting this itch, this desire to write a great big, sweeping, epic romance. Not just in the boy meets girl sense, but in the tradition of the medieval tales that told of knights and chivalry, hard choices, and lives and kingdoms lost.

And then I thought, nah. You can’t write that kind of book for teens. But the idea stayed with me and wouldn’t leave. So just on a lark, I let myself start noodling around, researching the middle ages and different countries and milieus that might make an interesting backdrop for such a story. When I learned about Anne of Brittany, something clicked and I realized that maybe, just maybe, this might work. After all, the middle ages were a very young society—teens held positions of power and were making major life decisions. That might be the exactly right place to set a book with teens front and center.

I also knew I wanted to write the story of a girl who was utterly powerless and put her through all the trials and ordeals that would shape her into an instrument of power—not just physical power, but also the power to stand firmly in her own self and make her own choices and decisions.

Then I stumbled across another fascinating research tidbit and learned that many women in the Middle Ages preferred joining a convent to marriage because convent life gave them more independence and autonomy than they could ever have as married women! That kind of lit my imagination on fire and began to play with what sort of convent would be the best avenue for my heroine’s journey, and I decided on a convent that would give her power over life and death.  

What are some of your favorite historical reads (YA or adult)?

Some of my favorite historical reads are The Crystal Cave books by Mary Stewart, anything by Juliet Marillier or Jacqueline Carey, the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray, (and I am SO looking forward to her DIVINER series!) The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin. I would also include fantasy books that are so fully realized that they feel like historical to me, Megan Whalen Turner’s books, or Elizabeth Bunce’s books. But really, there isn’t enough historical fantasy in the world, which is one of the reasons I write it.

If you could add one of your favorite fictional characters into Grave Mercy, who would you add and why?

Oh what a fascinating idea! I’m torn between Katniss, whom I think Ismae would have a lot in common with, or Dumbledore, who would act as a supportive mentor and would have encouraged her to ask questions a lot sooner.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given, that you'd want to pass one to other aspiring writers?

You know that book you’re terrified to write? The one that is too hard, too scary, too weird, or too damn intimidating. Yeah, that one. That’s the one you need to write.We only acquire those writing muscles by working them, and it is only when we expose true parts of ourselves that we open ourselves up to genuine, authentic connecting with our readers. 


Thank you Robin for stopping by Mundie Moms today! 

About the Author:
Follow Robin on her: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

About the book:

Released on: April 3rd, 2012
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
Series:  His Fair Assassin series, Book 1

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? 

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. 

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?-quoted from Goodreads

Want to win a copy of Grave Mercy?! Check out my giveaway I have going on for my top 3 favorite YA debuts in 2012, which features Grave Mercy!

YA-Sisterhood Crush Tourney 2: Will's Advocate

It's the 2nd annual YA Crush Tourney at YA Sisterhood! Set to begin on July 6th, Cassandra Clare's characters will have a huge showing. 

Given that Jace won last year's tournament, he is not allowed to be apart of it this year, which is okay, because now we need WILL to win! I'm saying that, because I'm thrilled to announce that I'm Will's advocates!! I'm beyond excited to have Will (he's all mine *evil laugh). Okay, not really. I'm not doing this alone. With all that I've got going on and upcoming trip planned, I have enlisted the help of someone who loves Will as much as I do, Alyssa from TMI Source!! We'll be taking turns promoting the heck out of Will when he's up during his tournament rounds. WE WILL NEED YOUR HELP! Let's just hope that he never ends up against Jem, Simon, Magnus or Alec, because, well... I'm going to find it hard to choose between any of them. Personally I'm all for a 5 way tie. lol

Along with myself and Alyssa, there's a list of 4 other fans sites who have all claimed one of Cassie's characters they'll be advocating for. You can read the list of advocates here

1. Will – Infernal Devices - Katie @ Mundie Moms / Alyssa TMI Source
5. Jem – Infernal Devices - Pixie(Amber) and Stacey @ Pageturners
10. Simon – Mortal Instruments - Benji @ The Non Reluctant Reader
13. Magnus – Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices -  Michelle @ Oh! For the Love of Books
15. Alec – Mortal Instruments -  Steph @ Steph Likes Books
Alright ShadowHunters, let's show our support and help our Shadowhunter boys WIN!!  You can also follow along on Twitter under the #YACrushTourney2

Schedule for Round 1
Friday, July 6th, 2012
Match 1:  Will (1) vs. Vincent (32)
Match 2:  Zachary (16) vs. Alex (17)

Monday, July 9th, 2012
Match 3: Christian (9) vs. Adam (Shatter Me) (24)
Match 4:  Eddie (8) vs. Sam (25)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Match 5:  Four (4) vs. Tucker (29)
Match 6:  Magnus (13) vs. Tod (20)

Friday, July 13th, 2012
Match 7:  Finnick (12) vs. Kaiden (21)
Match 8: Jem (5) vs. Gale (28)

Monday, July 16th, 2012
Match 9:  Adrian (2) vs. Cricket (31)
Match 10: Alec (15) vs. Noah (18)

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Match 11: Simon (10) vs. Etienne (23)
Match 12:  Patch (7) vs. Percy (26)

Friday, July 20th, 2012
Match 13: Dimitri (3) vs. Archer (30)
Match 14:  Ash (14) vs. Aiden (19)

Monday, July 23rd, 2012
March 15:  Daemon (11) vs. Augustus (22)
Match 16:  Peeta (6) vs. Lucas (Starcrossed) (27)

Round 2:  The Sweet Sixteen
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Match 17: Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2
Match 18:  Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4

Friday, July 27th, 2012
Match 19:  Winner Match 5 vs. Winner Match 6
Match 20:  Winner Match 7 vs. Winner Match 8

Monday, July 30th, 2012
Match 21:  Winner Match 9 vs. Winner Match 10
Match 22:  Winner Match 11 vs. Winner Match 12

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Match 23:  Winner Match 13 vs. Winner Match 14
Match 24:  Winner Match 15 vs. Winner Match 16

Round 3:  The Elite Eight
Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Match 25:  Winner Match 17 vs. Winner Match 18
Match 26:  Winner Match 19 vs. Winner Match 20

Monday, August 6th, 2012
Match 27:  Winner Match 21 vs. Winner Match 22
Match 28:  Winner March 23 vs. Winner Match 24

The Final Four
Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Match 29:  Winner Match 25 vs. Winner Match 26
Match 30:  Winner Match 27 vs. Winner Match 28

The Finale
Friday, August 10th, 2012
Match 31:  Winner Match 29 vs. Winner Match 30

Happy Mundane Monday #143

Happy Mundane Monday! I'm seriously wondering how in the world it's already July and where the weekend went? It can't already be Monday. To make this day a little better, enjoy this Jace & Clary scene from COLS:

image found here

This time he drew back, letting his fingers linger on her check, her lips. "I want what you want," he said. "Whenever you want it." - City of Lost Souls, page 384-385

Must Have Middle Grade Reads

Welcome to this week's edition of Must Have Middle Grade Reads, a weekly feature here on Mundie Moms where I spotlight last week's middle grade books I reviewed on Mundie Kids. It's been awhile since I've shared some of the MG books I've read. I took a little break from MKs recently, because of all that I've had going on. I'm looking forward to posting more MG reviews this week on Mundie Kids. Here's a few books I've read over the past couple of weeks that I'd recommend picking up.

Illustrated by: Stephen Gilpin
Published by: Disney Hyperion
To Be Released on: June 19th, 2012

Ages: 9 & up

5 stars: I Loved It!

Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In 2012, a documentary crew descended upon Westside Middle School to detail the life of an average seventh grader and his classmates. What they uncovered, though, was far from average. Mostly, it was upper average along with moments of extreme average, highlighted by several minutes of total epicness. 

This is the story...

Trevor Jones--perfect attendance award recipient, former neurotic (he hopes)--has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer. But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby (proud neurotic, in a color-coding sort of way), drops on him: he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day.

Trevor decides he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes when he meets mysterious new student Molly (excessive doodler, champion of unnatural hair colors). Trevor starts to think that going to the dance maybe wouldn't be the worst thing ever. But what if she says no to his invitation? More important, what if she says yes?! -quoted from Goodreads

A fabulously written, relatable middle grade coming of age story, The Classroom is a hysterical read with witty, well grounded characters and a quick, engaging plot line. It's been awhile since I've read a truly fun book, and Robin Mellom's middle grade debut is just that! With a documentary crew descending on Westside Middle School to document the life of an average 7th grade boy as he learns to navigate his way through MS, Robin was able to give a creative writing spin to her book by telling it from a documentary point of view. This not only allows readers to get to know the main character Trevor better, she also introduces readers to a variety of other characters through various interviews that take place in the book. You can read my full review here 

Published by: Scholastic
Released on: October 1st, 2011
Ages: 10 & up

4 stars: I Enjoyed It

Purchase from: Amazon 

Few know the story of the Japanese invasion of Alaska during World War II--until now.

GHOSTS IN THE FOG is the first narrative nonfiction book for young adults to tell the riveting story of how the Japanese invaded and occupied the Aleutian Islands in Alaska during World War II. This fascinating little-known piece of American history is told from the point of view of the American civilians who were captured and taken prisoner, along with the American and Japanese soldiers who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of hand-to-hand combat during the war. Complete with more than 80 photographs throughout and first person accounts of this extraordinary event, GHOSTS IN THE FOG is sure to become a must-read for anyone interested in World War II and a perfect tie-in for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor -quoted from Goodreads

I was really quite shocked when I sat down to read this book, as I hadn't heard anything about Japan's invasion in Alaska during June of 1942 through August of 1943. Quite honestly it made me angry to learn that this invasion could have been voided, and also was covered up by our own country. I thought Samantha Seiple's account of the invasion, and what happened before, during and after this time was well done. I felt she did a great job showing all sides of this story not only from personal accounts, but all recorded accounts as well. You can read my full review here.

By: Naoko Stoop
Published by: Little Brown Kids
Released on: June 4th, 2012
5 stars: This is a MUST Have!
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Red Knit Cap Girl is a little girl with a big dream -- to meet the Moon.
Red Knit Cap Girl lives with her animal friends in an enchanted forest. There is so much to see and do, but more than anything Red Knit Cap Girl wishes she could talk to the Moon. Join Red Knit Cap Girl and her forest friends on a journey of curiosity, imagination, and joy as they search for a way to meet the Moon. 

Gorgeously illustrated on wood grain, Red Knit Cap Girl's curiosity, imagination, and joy will captivate the hearts of readers young and old as her journey offers a gentle reminder to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us
-quoted from Goodreads

If there's only one children's picture book you pick up this year, this is the one to get! Naoko's beautiful illustrations and heartwarming story capture the heart of imagination for those both young and old. It's a lovely story about friendship, adventure, and captures the essence of childhood perfectly. Red Knit Cap Girl and her woodland friends want to meet the moon. How does one go about doing that? You'll have to jump into this story's delightful world and take the journey with Red Knit Cap Girl to find out. I promise the journey will be worth it! You can read my full review here

Published by: Balzer & Bray / Harper Collins Children's Books
Released on: May 8th, 2012
5 stars: I Loved It!
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Jake and Lily are twins. Even though they seem pretty different—Jake is the calm one and Lily has a temper; Lily is obsessed with trains and Jake collects cool rocks—they feel exactly the same, almost like two halves of one person. When one of them gets hurt, the other can feel it. They can communicate without words. And mysteriously, every year on their birthday, they sleepwalk to a train station in the middle of the night.

But the year they turn eleven, everything changes. Their parents announce it’s time for separate bedrooms, and Jake starts hanging out with a pack of boys on the block. Lily is devastated—not to mention really, really mad. And as she struggles to make friends and get a life apart from her twin, Jake finds himself dealing with a neighborhood bully and has to decide what kind of person he really is.

Beloved author Jerry Spinelli has written another perfectly on-target, humorous, and brilliant story about the struggles of growing up and discovering who you are. 
-quoted from Goodreads

A fabulously told MG contemporary that is laced with humor, touching moments and the important lessons we all face when we start to grow up. Jake and Lily is a story MG readers and adults alike will enjoy. I loved having the chance to sit down and read this story, as well as having the change of getting to know twins Jake and Lilly. Though they're just a eleven years old, they've spent most of their life doing everything together, until now. As the twins make new friends, and develop different tastes, they learn that it's okay to let go and try new things with out the other.  You can read my full review here

Middle Grade Monday:
Don't miss my Marvelous Middle Grade Monday meme on Mundie Kids, a weekly meme hosted by author Shannon Messenger's. You can check out this week's Mundie Kids feature here