Monday, February 23, 2015

Juliet Marillier: A few on my favourite things...

The next author in the ‘Few of my favourite things…’ 2015 HNSA Conference interview series is Juliet Mariller. She will be appearing on a panel on how historical novelists weave history into fiction: Tall Tales and True: How Story Tellers Imagine History on 21 March 2015.

 Juliet Marillier was born and brought up in Dunedin, New Zealand, and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels and short stories for adults and young adults have been published internationally and have won a number of awards including the Aurealis Award (4 times), the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Sir Julius Vogel Award (3 times). Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Juliet is currently working on Tower of Thorns, second book in the Blackthorn & Grim historical fantasy/mystery series for adult readers. The first novel in the series, Dreamer’s Pool, was published in 2014. When not busy writing, Juliet is active in the animal rescue field, and she has her own small pack of waifs and strays.,%20Juliet

Juliet is a regular contributor to Writer Unboxed, an award-winning blog about the craft and business of writing. Her Facebook Author Page is here. Her Goodreads Author page is here. Her website is at

These are a few of my favourite things….

Book as a child and as a teenager?
Impossible to choose just one, as I was a voracious reader. Tove Jansson’s Moomin books stand out – the characters were so real with their anxieties and doubts, and to a child from the Southern hemisphere, the Nordic elements were as strange and enchanting as the magical ones.  I still love those books. As a teenager I read a lot of adult books but I did especially love the Marlowe series by Antonia Forest, which combined boarding school, music and acting, horses and hawks, and a memorable family of individuals. They are out of print now; I have managed to collect treasured copies of all but one in the series and I still read them once a year.

Writers who have influenced me include Dorothy Dunnett, who made history spring to life on the page, and who demonstrated how to keep a story tense and exciting throughout a six book epic; Daphne du Maurier, who packed such drama into her novels without ever becoming wordy or overwrought; Mary Stewart, whose clean, economical style was exemplary – she  could create a wonderful picture in very few words;  Iain Banks, a versatile, imaginative storyteller.

Period of history?
As a writer I favour the ‘grey areas’ of history about which not a lot is known, or about which historians and archaeologists argue. They provide great scope for a writer of historical fantasy! Northern Britain in the time of the Picts was the setting for The Dark Mirror and its sequels, in which I blended historically known fact (St Columba did travel up the Great Glen to tell the Picts about Christianity), informed guesswork (the Picts may have had matrilineal succession for their kings) and pure imagination (I created a Pictish religion – I did base it on archaeological evidence!)

Character in one of your own books?
My favourite usually comes from whatever I’m currently writing. Right now it’s Grim, the big, taciturn man who accompanies healer Blackthorn everywhere she goes in my most recent novel, Dreamer’s Pool, first book in the Blackthorn & Grim series of historical fantasy/mysteries. One reviewer referred to these characters as ‘Holmes and Watson in medieval Ireland.’ Grim’s been an interesting character to write, with his full backstory emerging very gradually. He’s a man with hidden depths. Getting his first person narrative right was a meaty challenge for me as a writer.

Scene you enjoyed writing?
I like writing the scenes at the end of a novel where everything is moving fast and I have to make sure all the pieces fall in the right places. In my work in progress (Tower of Thorns, sequel to Dreamer’s Pool) I am at that stage now and switching between a monastic scriptorium and a haunted tower in the forest. There’s a huge satisfaction in seeing the end of a book come out right.

Place to write?
No choice, really - the dining table. In Perth summers I need to be in the air-conditioned part of the house. It’s also nice to be near the tea-making supplies. But mostly it’s because my dogs and I like to stay close and that is where they hang out, using the doggy door to come in and out from the garden. I write full time, so they get to spend a lot of time watching quietly while I tap away at the laptop. Their job is to make sure I take breaks (for walkies and snacks.)

Step in the process of writing? E.g. researching, drafting, editing etc
I don’t have a favourite step – every step is good when it’s going well and frustrating when it isn’t. My un-favourite is editing!

Method of writing i.e. longhand or typing?
I gave up longhand years ago as it is too slow for me to keep pace with my workload. I’m a fast touch typist and I travel with my laptop. I do revert to pen and paper occasionally if I feel stuck. The change of medium can be a mental refresher.

TV program /movie?
NCIS Los Angeles. Great cast of characters, enjoyable even when it’s doing cheesy comedy.

Comfort food?
Earl Grey tea, and lots of it.

Featured book:,%20Juliet
Dreamer’s Pool

What if you were locked up awaiting execution and a stranger offered you a bargain that would set you free?  What if accepting bound you to certain rules of behaviour for seven years, rules you knew you were likely to break within days? And what if the penalty for breaking them was to find yourself back where you started, eaten up with bitterness and waiting to die?
Blackthorn chooses life, even though she must promise not to seek vengeance against her arch-enemy, Lord Mathuin. In company with a cell-mate, the hulking, silent Grim, the one-time healer and wise woman flees north to Winterfalls in Dalriada, where she settles in a derelict cottage on the fringe of the mysterious Dreamer’s Wood.  Blackthorn has promised her benefactor, the fey nobleman Conmael, that she will use her gifts only for good. But she and Grim are both scarred by the past, and the embittered healer finds her promise increasingly hard to keep.
At Winterfalls, Prince Oran of Dalriada has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of his bride, Lady Flidais, from the south. The lady’s portrait and letters have suggested she is his perfect match, the one true love he’s long been waiting for. But although Flidais proves to be as lovely as her portrait, the prince finds himself confused and disappointed. Has he made a terrible error of judgement? Or might there something Otherworldly in play?

Blackthorn and Grim find themselves swept up in a mystery that will require all their resources to solve: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and a readiness to accept the uncanny. Hardest of all will be grappling with their own demons.  

Juliet Marillier will be appearing in the following panel at the 2015 HNSA Conference:

21 March 11.15-12.15 pm Session Three
Tall Tales and True: How Story Tellers Imagine History
How do historical novelists weave history into fiction? What draws an author to choose a particular era, and what research do they undertake to bring past times to life? Jean Bedford talks with Isolde Martyn, Johanna Nicholls, Juliet Marillier and Craig Cliff about these choices.

Here's your chance to sit next to Juliet at the conference dinner on the 21st March. Book your Author Dinner ticket here.

For more information on all our panels, please visit our site for programme details. And you can buy your tickets here.

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The first 30 ticketholders to purchase a ‘Standard’ Whole Conference Ticket will receive a free copy of either The Lace Balcony by Johanna Nicholls, The King’s Shadow by Barbara Gaskell Denvil or The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans. 

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