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IFOA: Descendant finds heroine Mason Starling stranded in Asgard. What sparked your interest in Norse mythology?
Lesley Livingston: I think I first fell in love with these stories when I stumbled across an illustrated book in my elementary school library: D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. It was full of all these strange, cheerfully grim tales of gods and monsters, and the illustrations were weird and compelling and vibrant. I think I was the only kid that took that book out of the library for a full year because I just kept renewing and renewing it. I think the school librarian thought I was a little nuts.
IFOA: This is the second book in your Starling trilogy. What do you find most challenging about writing a series?
Livingston: As the story begins to grow beyond the pages of book one, it sometimes gets a little hard keeping track of all the threads you’ve set upon the loom. At the same time, though, I usually find that when it seems like I’ve written myself into a corner, all I have to do is look to the first book and find the places where I have already (sometimes completely unconsciously) left myself breadcrumb trails (and loopholes and wiggle room and secret keys!), and then the story falls back into place. How’s that for a paragraph chock-full of mixed metaphors?!
IFOA: How do you select names for your characters?
Livingston: Generally speaking, my characters tend to arrive with names already attached. Mason Starling, for example, was always that and it was only later on in the writing process that I discovered that her name is actually obliquely significant to her story. Fennrys, of course, was named after the legendary Fenris Wolf of Norse myth, so that one was a no-brainer. On the rare occasion when I’ve given a character the wrong name at the outset, I find them really hard to write about. Heather Palmerston originally had a different first name and it made it almost impossible to work through her scenes because it was just so jarring to her real character. Once I realized where I’d gone wrong, I started to hear her voice very clearly.
IFOA: What did you like to read as a young adult?
Livingston: Everything! No, really, I was a voracious reader and I could usually make my way through anything from comic books to thrillers to romances to history books. Of course, it’s probably no surprise that my favourites could usually be found shelved in the fantasy and science fiction sections of the bookstore. I have always had a love of that kind of story—everything from fairy tales and mythology to high fantasy to urban paranormal to space operas. The books that had the most impact on me as a teen were Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry (a marvelous, epic high fantasy), Firelord (a realistic retelling of the Arthurian legend) and Anne McCaffery’s Pern series—yay for space dragons!
IFOA: You’re a founding member and principle performer of Tempest Theatre Group. What do you love most about acting?
Livingston: In fact, I haven’t been able to do any acting for the last few years because of all the books I’ve been writing! I admit that I’m getting a bit itchy to get back on the stage. The best thing about acting is being able to slide completely into the skin of another character—it’s like writing, only in real time! Also, most of what I performed was Shakespeare and those really are the best plays in the world for an actor to sink their teeth into. The words, the character, the worlds—it’s a banquet.
Lesley Livingston is an actress and author of the award-winning Wondrous Strange trilogy for young adult readers. She will be reading from her new novel with author Evan Munday on October 29 at 10:30am.