Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite new teen authors and her Grisha Trilogy is not to be missed. The second book, Siege and
Storm, is one of our Best Teen Books of June and if you thought you were eager for book two after Shadow and Bone (and if you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for!?) just wait until you get to the end of this one!
Margaret Stohl, author of another of our favorites, the Beautiful Creaturesseries (with Kami Garcia) and the recentlyhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/0316205184/ref=blogs_omni_link_YA released Icons, sat down with Leigh
Bardugo to discuss Siege and
Storm, and the Grisha Trilogy.
Margaret: Let's talk about the Darkling. You've
written arguably the greatest villain-as-love-interest we've seen in YA. It's
as unlikely as if you'd written a version of Heart of Darkness where Kurtz is the hottie. Did you have an
inspiration for the Darkling in your own mind?
Leigh: First of all, thank you, and second, I
may require "Kurtz is the hottie" on a T-shirt. But I'm always wary
of the term "villain." The Darkling believes he's doing the right
thing for his people and his country, and I think you could make a case for
most of the choices he makes, even the despicable ones. He was inspired by
every really bad badboy I ever fell for in fiction. I'm not talking about the
wounded, pouty guy who's just looking for the right girl to give him an excuse
to be a hero, but the truly dangerous guys with an agenda"”Flagg (who appears in various
guises in several Stephen King books), Raistlin (Dragonlance), the Hound
(George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire), and"¦okay, I'll admit it, Jareth
the Goblin King from Labyrinth. (I don't know what his agenda was but it
involved very tight pants.)
Margaret: Is it a risk, allowing a character so
dark and powerful to be desirable? Do you see any strange responses to the
Darkling from your readers?
Leigh: I'm sometimes surprised by how easily
my readers let him off the hook. They seem to hold Mal and Alina to a higher
moral standard. But honestly, I think the Darkling's appeal is realistic in its
own way. Charm is a powerful weapon, so is beauty. I think it's worth asking
why we respond so strongly to those lures.
Margaret: Is it a truth? Does it speak to another
darkly honest aspect of real relationships?
Leigh: Maybe. It's always easier, at least in
the short term, to give up authority to another person. We see this play out
between Alina and the Darkling, and in a bigger way across Ravka. We want
heroes, we want saviors, we want great leaders, but it's always dangerous to
put yourself or your future so fully in someone else's hands"”whether it's a
love interest or a ruler.
Margaret: Is it a trend?
Leigh: Antagonists as love interests? I don't
know. Maybe it's that we're getting more characters who don't strictly adhere
to archetype. Personally, I like heroes who struggle and make mistakes, who
have to work at being good. And I like villains who don't just walk around
twirling their mustaches. That kind of makes it sound like all villains are
hipsters. Watch out, Portland.
Margaret: The other great love of Alina's life,
Mal, is the opposite, loyal and true and supportive. In real life, would you
fall for the bad or the good guy? Darkling or Mal?
Leigh: Girrrl, you know the falling is easy. It's
everything that comes after that's hard. And that's part of the struggle at the
heart of Siege and Storm. Mal is loyal and true and he would do
anything for Alina, but he has his own demons to fight and his own journey to make.
I'm not interested in characters who only exist for each other.
Margaret: Your books are so clearly about power"”supernatural,
political and emotional. I find myself writing about these same issues
compulsively, both in the Beautiful Creatures novels and Icons. Are these core issues for you personally, or is this part of
a larger teen narrative for you?
Leigh: Both, I suppose. We point to coming of
age stories and say that they're about finding your place in the world,
discovering who you are and how you relate to authority, but it's not like
that's a finite process. We still have to question what kind of power we give
up and be sensitive to the kind of power we wield. We still keep learning and
trying to get more comfortable in our skin. Maybe there's some magic moment
when you wake up and say, "I have arrived. I am an adult and a badass and
I'm going to go brew some tea and dispense wisdom." But I haven't gotten
Margaret: Can you send your trusty Grisha wizard
beautician over to my house to live in my closet and fix me up every day?
Leigh: If only the Tailor made house calls.
Genya would be in high demand.
own radiant good looks?
Leigh: Ha! You should see me right now. I
haven't had a full night's sleep in a week and there may well be corn in my
Margaret: Will you sing a little something for
Leigh: Always. I'm like Jane Krakowski's
character on 30 Rock. "Who me?
Sing? I couldn't poss"”GIVE ME THAT MIC." But seriously, if you'd like to,
listen to the Shadow and Bone-inspired
song, Winter Prayer. Also, I take requests.