Author Interview: Brenna Yovanoff

I am so thrilled to introduce one of my favorite authors, Brenna Yovanoff! If you happen to recall, I reviewed her latest release The Space Between recently, which you can view here.

Brenna Yovanoff has an MFA in Fiction from Colorado State University and is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Replacement. She is also apart of a writing group called The Merry Sisters of Fate with famed authors Tessa Gratton and Maggie Stiefvater.  Besides being such an amazing author, she is also gifted in playing soccer and violent video games and making very flaky pie pastry. To see one of her latest creations click here— it’s very life-like! She currently resides in Denver. If you would like to learn more about Brenna, check out her blog where she discusses high school, zombies, dessert, and much more!

If you had to give a summary of The Space Between to our readers in 15 words or less, what would you say?

A girl (demon) leaves home (hell), and discovers danger, secrets, and true love.

I absolutely adore the gothic and metallic edge to The Space Between cover! Who designed this amazing cover, and were you able to give any input on how you wanted it to look?

First, I just want to say that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the best cover designers in the world! They do all the brainstorming and all the work, and I couldn’t be happier.  As I understand it, the initial designer for The Space Between is the same one who did the concept for the cover of The Replacement.  Her name is Natalie Sousa, and she’s a genius!  The execution is by Nekro, who’s been responsible for a whole slew of beautiful covers recently, like the one for Anna Dressed in Blood. (Also, you should all read Anna Dressed in Blood. Just saying.)

The world-building and character development that you have done in The Replacement and The Space Between is magnificent. I never imagined myself caring so much for a demon girl or a changeling boy. How are you able to make these creatures so appealing to readers?

Oh, what a lovely thing to say! I’m always so happy when someone really connects with one of my characters, because they tend to be very strange, and as you point out, often slightly inhuman. I think the important thing to remember is that no matter how different a person is from you, on a very basic level, you probably still have quite a bit in common.  In both The Replacement and The Space Between, most of the characters really just want to have meaningful relationships, which is probably one of the most human desires there is!

As far as the world-building goes, are you inspired by any films or artwork while you write?

I draw visual inspiration from SO many places.  To me, Pandemonium is very much influenced by the Art Deco feel of Metropolis and Gotham City in the old DC Comics, and maybe even more than that, the gritty, hard-edged sensibility of Frank Miller’s Sin City, both the graphic novel and the film. I wanted to soften that a little, though—make it more otherworldly—hence, the bazillion flowers. However, I think the nice thing about fiction is, no matter how you describe something, everyone’s picture is going to be a little different, so the most important thing is really just to capture the right feeling.

What message do you hope that readers take away after they read The Space Between?

I think one of the central themes of The Space Between is that you’re not your home, or your past, or even your family. That no matter what, you can still be the person who does the right thing, or who helps others because you can see that they need it. Even if your history and your past actions are all stacked up against you, they never have to determine what you choose to do today.

How did you come up with the idea to begin this novel with the controversial story of Lilith and the Garden of Eden? I have always been fascinated with this story, and I loved how you spun it to make Lilith more of the ‘White Witch of Narnia’ type of character.

The story of Lilith is one that I didn’t know anything about until I took a mythology class in college. I was really fascinated by the idea of someone essentially choosing to run away from paradise, and I started wondering what she might be running to. Then the wondering just sort of spiraled out of control and I realized I had a novel on my hands, even if it wasn’t directly about Lilith. I decided to start the book there, because although it happens way before Daphne’s even born, it’s still such a huge part of where she comes from.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Hmm—this is always a tricky one, because the bane of my authorial life is tinkering!  I can guarantee without even looking that if I opened The Space Between to just about any page, I’d find some sentence I want to fuss with. I think the secret is that no matter how much a particular character or sentence or scene might drive you crazy, you still have to let that book go and move on to the next one.  If your regret over a particular writerly choice is big enough, that just makes you extra-careful to get it right with the next book!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I want to say up front, to all aspiring writers who may be reading this: The Replacement was not the first book I queried.  Repeat: not the first one. And once I did sell The Replacement, I did a lot of revisions. I mean, a LOT.  In fact, I think the biggest challenge with The Replacement was really figuring out how to take it from something that was just okay to something that was actually pulling its weight. And that kind of work? Well, it is always a challenge.

Do you have any preferred writing habits or routines? (Creating a playlist, etc)

I’m honestly kind of capricious and not driven much by routine.  I can generally work just about anywhere, but my ideal situation is to have my headphones on, something hot to drink, and a nice big comfy chair. Then I’m good to go.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Okay, this is going to sound weird, but my harshest criticism and my best compliment are actually the same moment, which is when one of my college writing professors called me into his office one day and told me that it was obvious I had talent, but I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I made the mistake of confusing being talented with being any good.  That moment was crucial to me, because for the first time, it made me really think about raw inspiration versus hard work.  I immediately resolved to spend every day from then on working hard, because I wanted to be good, rather than just continuing to run on flashes of inspiration.

I am so excited for the Merry Sisters of Fate anthology to be published! When can your fans expect to see it in stores? Can you tell us any ‘inside’ info about the compilation or the content?

Although we don’t have a firm on-sale date yet (so don’t hold me to this!) it’s looking like you can expect it in stores this coming fall, so keep your eyes open!  Most of the manuscript is safely in place, but we’re still putting on the finishing touches.  So far, the process has involved the three of us locking ourselves in a hotel room with magic markers and scratch paper and tea, and just generally engaging in very productive merriment.  A lot of the stories are ones that originally appeared on our website, but rest assured, the book will be filled with tons of bonus material.  I can’t say much about it yet, but I suspect readers will gain a lot of new insight into how Tess, Maggie and I write fiction!

Since we are on the topic of future releases, can you tell us anything about your upcoming novel, Paper Valentine? A teaser, perhaps? What is the release date?

Again, I fail you with specifics!  Paper Valentine is scheduled for Spring of 2013, but I can’t be any more detailed than that. And since I’m furiously writing it right now, the finer points are all subject to change, but I can say that it has a ghost, a serial killer, a little sister, green hair dye, and a town very much like the one I grew up in.

Please give us three “Good to Know” facts about you. Examples being: Your first job, the inspiration for your writing, etc. Any fun facts will do!

Fun facts about Brenna: 1) When I was little, I lived in a tent in Arkansas.  2) In college, I worked in a photo lab and was in charge of printing crime scene photos for the local police (yielding an insider perspective that may or may not factor into Paper Valentine).  3) I’m missing two of my top teeth (they just never grew in), and I think that’s why teeth seem to be a recurring theme in my stories.

If you were a flower, which one would you be and why?

This is an excellent question—I love flowers of all kinds, and name all my electronic devices after them!  (For those keeping track at home, I have a computer named Azalea and a game console named Primrose and a very old and very cherished ipod named Iris, and also pretty much every other device I’ve owned for the last ten years has also been named after some kind of flower).  So, I think if I were to be a certain kind of flower, it would have to be one I haven’t used yet.  I’m going to say a lily-of-the-valley, because they are small and unobtrusive and delicate-looking, but also very durable.

Thanks so much for being so willing to do this interview, Brenna! We really appreciate your thoughtfulness, and cannot wait for Paper Valentine and The Merry Sisters of Fate anthology to come out!

Thanks so much for having me!

Kristin J.