An Interview With Mary E. Pearson + Her #ECCC Panel! @emeraldcitycon

Today I was lucky enough to interview one of my favorite authors, Mary E. Pearson. She wrote The Remnant Chronicles and the Jenna Fox chronicles. She attended Emerald City Comic Con just for April 9. I was able to interview her before her panel and signing, and I also attended her panel! Her new book Beauty Of Darkness is set to be released August 2!

What can we expect from Beauty Of Darkness? Any swoon worthy Rafe moments? I am a lover of Rafe and love his swoon worthy moments!

I don't want to give anything away about Beauty Of Darkness...but what I can say is...there's definitely swoony moments....I can't say from who....but there's swoony moments.

Swoony moments from Kaden?!

I can't say....But I think you'll be happy. I hope.

Are Kaden and Lia brother and sister? I get a Luke/Leia Star Wars vibe from their relationship.

When my daughter read the books she told me "Kaden and Lia better not be brother and sister!" And I can tell you they're not related.

I feel that there's definitely a connection between them in some way at least.

There is...just not familial.

What was the inspiration behind this series? Did you do any research for this world?

Well for my first series, Jenna Fox, I had to do so much research and so when I moved onto The Kiss of Deception I wanted to write a story I'd have to do less research for. But even then I had to research for the particulars of this world, and if I'm being honest I am known to use research as a procrastination tool. If I need a break, "oh I better research this some more".

And as far as the inspiration goes, one came several years ago when there was a power outage in San Diego - it only lasted about twelve hours. To me that's a long time but I have friends back East who's power goes out for days at a time, and here I am worried about a few hours. But during this power outage I started to wonder, what if it never came back on? What if we lost a lot of technology and had to start from scratch? How many of us would be able to do it? Could we make a simple battery, or learn how to make fires?

Oh man...I never thought of that....I would never be able to make a battery on my own.

Yes! See. We would all be in a rough spot. I'm not even sure I'd be able to bang two sticks together to get a spark. It would take a while, I'm sure! And so this idea helped sparked my “non-technology” medievalish world. But as you can see, one small spark of an idea diverged quite a ways from the final story.

How do you choose where to end a book that's part of a series? How do you know what the cliffhanger is going to be?

I run out of pages!

No. That's not it at all. When you're writing a book series you know you need cliffhangers, but you also want closure. Like at the end of Heart of Betrayal we see two characters get out of a dangerous situation but they enter into a bigger, more difficult situation. We get some emotional closure, but big questions remain. Same with The Kiss of Deception.

There definitely was a cliffhanger but I was lucky, when I finished The Kiss Of Deception I had The Heart Of Betrayal already, so I knew I would be getting to the next part right away. But when I finished Heart of Betrayal I didn't have the next book and I'm still freaking out over what will happen next!

I can tell you I didn't leave Beauty of Darkness on a cliffhanger...or at least not as big of one. You’re always going to have "cliffhangers", because everyone will always want more of some aspect of the story. What are the character's doing in 5-10 years after the book? What happens to so-n-so?

People are always wanting more.


Who's your favorite character in the book?

Lia. I really do love that she is able to speak her mind. But as for secondary characters Gwyneth. She's got a dark fuzzy past, and I like that about her. And I love Pauline.

What's your favorite quality of Lia's?

I love that Lia just says what comes to her mind. She's fearless and she says things that you want her to say, or that you wish you would say in that situation. But this also gets her into trouble. Like when she finally meets the Komizar in Heart Of Betrayal and he asks her "What do you think happens when a Komizar is killed?" and she blurts out, "Everyone celebrates?" In my head, I said Yes! You tell him! But...that's going to get you into trouble... I thought I should keep her from saying that, but I left it because that is who she is. But she definitely had to learn to tone it down in Heart Of Betrayal because she realized she wasn’t just risking herself, but Rafe too. Holding back was probably the most agonizing thing she had to do.

When writing a YA Romantic interest what qualities are important to you? And how do you make sure he's swoon worthy for audiences, yet lets the lead female be her own strong, independent character?

Eveyone’s mileage varies on swoonworthy. I try to write characters with a mix of strengths and flaws so they are real, but respect looms large in those qualities. As for keeping Lia strong and independent, no matter how much one falls head over heels for someone, I think it is important to keep a sense of self, and that’s what Lia does. Yes, there is some sacrifice and compromise by all the characters, but it can’t all fall on one person’s shoulders. Good relationships I think are an equal partnership—and to me that is swoonworthy.

In The Kiss Of Deception you kind of trick us.

I do?!

Well, with Rafe and Kaden. You start the book calling them Assassin and Prince, and then Lia meets them and they switch to Rafe and Kaden. And readers then make their own assumptions as to who is who. Was that difficult to write?

Well I wanted to show that not all good guys are completely good and not all bad guys are totally bad. I wanted the reader to give both an equal chance. Some people prefer the bad boy, some prefer the good guy and I wanted readers to get to know them both without that prejudice. I also wanted them to experience that same shock that Lia felt, that moment when she realized the truth.

Believe me...I felt it. I had to go back to the beginning and go "But it's written out for me...I get told who's the prince and who's the assassin before!" And then I realized that you really don't.

And that's exactly what I wanted. To fully be in Lia’s shoes.

Did you pull inspiration from people in your life for the characters in your book?

To me Lia is every strong woman that I know in my life - but really what is a strong woman? This is kind of what we're going to be talking about in the panel....I can't believe it's 2016 and we're still having this conversation. "Strong female characters".'s like what are the rest of us then?

Exactly! So, she really is a compilation of the strong women I know - so every woman I know. Take for instance my Grandma, who could be pretty fearless if properly motivated.  During the depression when she had two small children and nothing to feed them, she went into a farmer's field and took some ears of corn.  The farmer caught her and aimed his rifle at her, telling her to leave the corn but she wouldn't. She told him he could shoot if he wanted to, but she wasn't leaving without the corn because her kids were hungry. He let her take it. 

How do you come up with your characters names?

I like to have simple names that anyone can pronounce. But even that can go awry. I thought Rafe was a simple enough name but I get a lot of questions about how to pronounce it. For me, it rhymes with “safe” but many readers rhyme it with “taffy” which is fine with me.  I don’t own the words. I just write them down.

I like this Aunt and I are horrible with names in books. When I first read the Divergent series I read Tobias, yes it's a common name that EVERYONE knows. But for some reason my brain was reading it as "Toe-bee-sss".

Exactly. So I tend to go with more simple names like Rafe or Kaden. And Lia chops her name considerably!

I'm kind of glad she does because I mentally butcher it.

Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia.

The panel was such an important one - I thought at least. 5 authors came together to talk about Strong Female Characters Across Genres.

There were some very good points that these amazing authors made. Faith Erin Hicks, Mary E. Pearson, Scott Bergstrom, April Henry and Lish McBride all talked about Strong Female Characters across the genre. But they started off by asking why? Why do we have to call it Strong Female Characters? When we talk about men we don't say "Strong Men", we don't say "Weak Men". Why do we say this about Women?!

As a woman this panel was super important. It confounds me that we live in a society that as feminist as we claim to be, we tend to be the ones that end up putting us back into the hole. We're happy to have the "strong female leads". When people talk about The Hunger Games what's a big selling point? "There's a strong female lead?"

Faith made a point that strong female has become a buzzword. She says that when she gets approached to draw comics for certain writers and they start with "The lead is a strong female" she automatically knows that things are going to be bad. 

As a woman I never really thought about this. I should have but I didn't. I wanted more strong female's to lead stories. I appreciated it. But after this panel I realized I'm part of why things are still how they are for women. Why can't we just have a female lead who's awesome?! Why do we have to describe her as strong? Why do men and women have to fall into these stereotypes that society places for them.

Mary then went on to tell of how some readers saw that Lia, in The Remnant Chronicles, who runs away from her arranged marriage to take control of her own life, gets flack for that. She's called selfish for this move...yet Rafe, the prince she was arranged to marry, who then takes off after her-therefore leaving behind his responsibilities-gets no flack for it at all! How is that okay?

Lish has written books from the male perspective in which she gets asked "is it difficult writing from a man's POV?" and Lish said "They're humans too, they have feelings....I've written from the point of view of a werewolf too...and clearly I'm not that either..." so she thought that when she changed to writing women's POV she'd get less questions like that and everything would be easy. She said that's completely wrong...she gets more flack for writing in the perspective of a woman. She has also gotten more letters from fans asking if her next books will have more hand holding and kissing in them. She finds it endearing that her readers care about her books that much, but she also knows her writing style and her characters are too busy for hand holding. 

It was an interesting panel to see, I'm very glad that I did. It gave me a new perspective on things and I'm thankful for that!

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