By Zoraida Córdova
I am super excited to have Melissa Grey with us at Latin@s in Kid Lit! I love fantasy, and I especially love when Latinas write fantasy. The Girl at Midnight has already received wonderful praise and starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist! To celebrate tomorrow’s launch of The Girl at Midnight, we are going to get to know the magic behind Melissa.
Zoraida: Tell me about The Girl at Midnight and your inspiration for it.
Melissa: In The Girl at Midnight, there’s a magical race of creatures that live beneath the streets of New York called the Avicen. They have feathers for hair and their existence is very much a secret, but they take in a human girl who goes by the name of Echo. Echo has run away from a bad home life and finds a new family in the Avicen, so when they’re threatened by a centuries-old war, she takes it upon herself to find the firebird, a mythical entity prophesied to end the conflict once and for a all.
The book really started with Echo and the firebird. I’m a huge fan of the ballet and the legend behind it, so my research into the folklore involving the firebird gave me a lot to think about when I was developing the plot. Echo was the first character to exist and she kind of predated the story. I came up with her first and eventually found a world for her to inhabit.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s not specifically writing advice, but it can be applied to writing. When I was at art school, one of my professors told me not to be precious with my work. It was the first time I’d ever heard the saying “Kill your darlings” and it really stuck with me. I can be a perfectionist, so not treating my work as something delicate and inviolable was an eye-opening change of strategy. To me, it means not being afraid of scrapping drafts or whole chapters or even characters that aren’t working to the benefit of the work as a whole.
What was the hardest scene in your novel (if it’s not too spoilery)?
The last chapter was a struggle. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, but as a writer, you do want to leave people wanting more, especially if you’re writing a series like I am, so I tried very hard to strike a balance between giving readers closure and enticing them to come back for the sequel.
How does your culture play a part in your fantasy (if at all)?
Well, I’m Puerto Rican and food is a huge part of that culture. I don’t include Spanish food specifically in the book, but Echo’s life pretty much revolves around food. It’s the foundation of a lot of her relationships, which is definitely something I can relate to.
Where would be your dream writing location?
A secluded little cabin in the Scottish Highlands.
Are there any lessons you learned while writing TGaM, and how is that helping you with book 2?
I learned that I have to trust my gut while not giving into my inner perfectionist. I also learned that I didn’t need to take every single criticism I received on the manuscript as gospel because sometimes my writing partners (and even my agent and editor) didn’t agree, so I had to trust my instincts.
What books are you reading right now?
What do you wish to see more in YA?
That’s tough because I can only comment on what I’ve read and I don’t want to make it sound like I think YA as a whole (which is a super broad categorization) is lacking, but I will say that I love seeing books like Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn that deal with the gray areas of morality and are peopled by characters that aren’t necessarily likable but are still deeply compelling.
Who would attend your magical fantasy tea party?
Echo, naturally. And some of her friends from TGaM. If it’s a magical fantasy, I assume I can invite anyone, real or fictional, so I’ll say Hermione Granger (Harry and Ron can come, too), Door from Neverwhere, Kell and Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic (Rhys can come, too), Tana and Gavriel from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Finn, Petey, Roza, and Sean from Bone Gap. Oh, and all of the Raven Boys.
What is your favorite line from your book? (Or a couple of favorite lines. I know it’s hard to choose.)
At one point, Echo is backed into a corner and she basically has to bullshit her way out of it so she says to herself, “When in doubt, bravado.” I feel like that idea has carried me through life pretty well.
The Girl at Midnight debuts tomorrow, April 28th, 2015!
ORDER A SIGNED COPY FROM BOOKS OF WONDER
Find Melissa on Goodreads.
Praise for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT:
“Grey’s energetic debut offers a strong protagonist…[and the] well-built world, vivid characters, and perfect blend of action and amour should have readers eagerly seeking the sequel.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“Sparks fly…This first novel will please fans of Cassandra Clare and Game of Thrones watchers with its remarkable world building; richly developed characters…[and] a breathtaking climax that…cannot come soon enough!”—Booklist starred review
“Inventive, gorgeous, and epic—Grey dazzles in her debut.” — Danielle Paige, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die
“A stunning debut. Equal parts atmosphere and adventure … positively divine.” – Victoria Schwab, author of A Darker Shade of Magic
About THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT:
For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants … and how to take it.
But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. After earning a degree in fine arts at Yale University, she traveled the world, then returned to New York City where she currently works as a freelance journalist. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow @meligrey on Twitter.