Interview with Megan Whalen Turner

Everyone welcome Newbery Honor Award winner author Megan Whalen Turner, author of The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings, the fourth book in her Queen’s Thief series that continues with the story of Sophos the King of Sounis.

1. Hello Megan. Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to stop by Damsels in Regress to talk with us. It’s no secret I adored this series. And I must get some gushing out of the way first and tell you these are without a doubt one of my favorite children’s books series, in fact I think they rank number one. I have been waiting (impatiently!) for the release of A Conspiracy of Kings, and I must say the wait was worth it, because you’ve written another wonderful story. What I’m dying to know is: Did you always plan for the Queen’s Thief series to be a series? And how many more books will there be, if any?

There was always more to the story than fit into The Thief, but I thought I was writing a stand alone story at the time.  It wasn’t until after The Thief won the Newbery Honor that a librarian named Barbara Barstow demanded another book and I decided to write one.  I think that there are going to be six books in the series when I am done.

2. Sophos first appears in The Thief and is mentioned several times in the next two books. Did you always know Sophos would get his own story?

He always had his own story, but he didn’t always have his own book.  I’d originally thought that his story would happen “offstage” and only be summarized in the text somewhere.  I worried, though, that his growth as a character wouldn’t feel real if the reader didn’t get a chance to watch closely while it happened.

(So maybe you should take the “there are going to be six books” statement with a grain of salt.)

3. One of the really striking things about your books is how genuine the world is, despite being fictional. How much time and effort goes into the creation of elements that aren’t even in the books, so that you can allude to them in a way that gives your made-up world this kind of authenticity? Do you have a complete history, either written down or in your head, of the three kingdoms and the larger world of your books? Is their history based on the real history of the cultures on which you’ve fashioned some of the other elements contemporary to your characters?

I like that. “Time and effort” makes me sound so hardworking!  Creating backstory is more self-indulgence than effort for me and I have to be very careful that I don’t overweight the story with details just because I like them too much.  Too much history is just as dangerous.  Certainly there are historical details in my stories, but they go in the way the shiny bits a magpie collects fit into its nest-making. They are so thoroughly divorced from their context that I can’t say the story is “based” on anything historical.

4. Do you ever find yourself “trapped” in later books by things you’ve written in earlier ones, not knowing where the story would eventually go?

So far, I haven’t put in anything I regret, but I did cut things from The Thief because they weren’t relevant to the story I was telling then.  Oops.

5. For the most part, your books would probably qualify as “alternate history,” except for one element that pushes these stories into the realm of fantasy – the gods. For the most part they play small roles, and all of the stories could work perfectly well without their inclusion as real, active entities. What made you decide to make the gods “real” as opposed to keeping them as just part of the mythology of the world?

I think I could rationalize that decision in a lot of ways, but it’s closer to the truth to just say, “I wanted it that way.”

6. I’m a firm believer in “knowing” the rules of writing, but I also believe they should be treated as guidelines. You went against all conventional norms and did something I’ve never seen done in a series. You wrote one book in first person, two in third person, and yet another in both first and third person, which I thought worked. Why and how did you make the decision to disregard convention and use different POVs?

Parlay!

Yes, you, me, and Barbossa are on the same page there, I believe.

Seriously, I didn’t set out to break a lot of rules.  Each time, I picked through the options to see which one would work best for giving the reader the information I wanted the reader to have.  I don’t see the changing viewpoints as particularly transgressive.  Certainly there are other authors who have done so before me.  I know that Diana Wynne Jones wrote in both first person and third in the course of her Dalemark Quartet.

7. Every great adventure story has to have some romance thrown in there, and you didn’t disappoint. I love how you portrayed the King and Queen of Attolia in the second and third books. Everything was subtle, sweet and believable and worked seamlessly into the story. You captured that same element again in A Conspiracy of Kings. I think it’s some of the most well written romance I’ve read in children’s novels. How hard was it to write that understated romance? Did the natural balance you created come easily, or did you have to spend a lot of time revising and working those scenes?

You do realize that my head is swelling to the size of, I dunno, Kansas?

8. I’m curious, did you have any part in the design of the book covers? I think they are some of the most appealing book covers and love them as much as the story!

Aren’t they beautiful?  I am so indebted to the people at Greenwillow and Vince Natale, and no, I can’t take any credit at all for the covers.

9. Lastly, I thought the audio versions of the first three books were very well done and really enjoyed them. You wouldn’t happen to know when the audio is going to be released for A Conspiracy of Kings?

I’m sorry, I don’t know.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with the Damsels!

For more information on Megan and her books, visit her website: http://meganwhalenturner.org/

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6 Responses to Interview with Megan Whalen Turner

  1. Tricia says:

    Fun interview! I’m glad to see there are more books coming in this series. 😀

  2. Emilie says:

    I think Jennifer has herself a celeb crush:) Thanks for the interview!

  3. Audry says:

    It’s too bad she didn’t really answer the question about the gods. I mean, she did, but it was kind of a cop-out. I love this series as much as anyone, but the points where the gods suddenly pop up as real are almost distracting, and I think the stories would have worked at least as well without them.

    Actually, as I’m sitting here typing and thinking about it, I realize that “I wanted it that way” is probably a very good, true answer… it explains why they’re there even though they don’t really serve a very useful purpose and arguably even detract from the stories. Well, they’re her books, she can do what she wants. I take it back, she did answer the question.

  4. Audry says:

    Don’t take that last post as being too critical, I’ve read (and listened to) a few interviews with MWT and I think she’s great. Very funny and honest and gives good thoughtful surprising answers too. And I loved the first 3 books in this series 😀

  5. mwt says:

    That wasn’t a cop-out! It was a dodge. *Totally* different animal!

    Really, I couldn’t answer that one in less than way, way, too many words. Every shorter answer was misleading in some way, except the one I gave. So it isn’t a complete answer, but it’s a true one. I weighed a lot of things in the balance and decided that I wanted those gods to be real to those characters, but not as real to others, because I *liked* it that way.

    ps. the answer to #7? *that* was a cop-out. I apologize damsels. I don’t know where my brain is, but it hasn’t been here lately.

  6. […] about why the deities in her books are written the way they are, Turner generally responds, “I wanted it that way.” Fair enough. Though the gods of Eddis are many, they display some characteristics that strike me as […]

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