The Way Past Winter is your third book - did the writing process differ at all from The Girl of Ink and Stars or The Island at the End of Everything?
Absolutely - my process is constantly evolving and it certainly keeps me on my toes! The Way Past Winter was a far-more thought-out book, whereas my other two have meandered in their quest for a narrative! But the similarity across all my books is that they always start with a map. I’m not great at drawing but it allows me to plot my novel visually, which I find very helpful.
Your books read like new myths and legends. Do you draw on any specific myths while plotting your stories?
I love myths, and how they inform and explain cultures. I grew up on norse and indian myths, and The Way Past Winter drew heavily on the Russian folk tale of Koshchei the Deathless. It’s always exciting to take an established story and re-examine it.
The Girl of Ink and Stars was set on a volcanic island, while The Way Past Winter is set in a frozen landscape. What draws you to use extreme weather and natural phenomena as part of your settings, and how do you research them?
I love reading books that use weather as prophecy, or as a character. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favourites, and I admire how Marquez uses phenomena as a bellwether for his characters’ state of mind. My books are often rooted in real places, and of course I’d love to visit all of them, but otherwise Google Maps is a very useful tool! As are the myths and stories of the place.
You're interviewing Kevin Crossley-Holland about folktales as part of the literary festival. What role do you think folktales play in modern children's literature?
Folktales have always been used to instruct and terrify, but I love how contemporary writers use them to encourage and stimulate original thought. I grew up on Kevin’s book The Seeing-Stone, even receiving an obsidian from my grandparents as a talisman, just as Arthur does in the book. I think contemporary use of folktales offer a template for the world, offering rules, and encouragement to outgrow them.
As well as writing novels, you're a poet and playwright. Does your writing process differ between these three mediums?
Not really! I tell stories, and the story informs the structure and the audience. It’s very liberating to work across mediums, and allow the tale to find the shape it needs.
With The Way Past Winter published, what's next?
I have a YA novel coming out in September from Hachette: The Deathless Girls, a reimagining of the origin story of the so-called brides of Dracula. In February 2020, my first book for adults, The Mercies, is published by Picador.