Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Mary Taranta Author Interview

Photo Content from Mary Taranta

Born the youngest save one in a family of ten, I grew up notoriously quiet but secretly wild, playacting my favorite stories and writing some of my own in the woods behind my family's farmhouse. Originally from a small (very small) town in Ohio, I moved to the larger (much larger) Orlando suburbs kicking and screaming at the age of fifteen. It turned out all right in the end and I'm still here, now with an adorable husband, an equally adorable son, and two useless cats. As a Midwestern Southerner, I've attained Level 9 Politeness and prefer my iced tea sweet.

Still notoriously quiet, though. Not nearly so wild.


What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Have backup hobbies for those days when writing feels like the worst decision you’ve ever made and you want to quit. Know that progress isn’t always measured in word counts or book deals. Be patient and kind—to others but mostly, to yourself.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that writing was not just a hobby.
I opted out on dinner with my in-laws one night so I could write. Later, my husband told me they asked why I didn’t pursue writing professionally and he had said I was; that I had actually written a novel, queried it, and had gotten a revise and resubmit from an agent, which is what I was working on that night. I was mortified that he’d told them, but it made me realize that it was more than a hobby. (And my in-laws have been huge supporters ever since!)

What were your inspirations for the character development?
Honestly, the characters sort of free-form their way into existence as I start plotting the world. Faris was always meant to be a fighter trying to save her sister. Bryn was always a piece of work, although she originally was more of a victim of Alistair’s plotting than vice-versa. They show up with motivations and I try to unravel the story around them.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing SHIMMER AND BURN?

I sold the book with this crummy, forgettable ending line, knowing I wanted to replace it with something better. Only nothing better came along. I was a few days away from turning in my first editorial revision when I jolted awake one morning with the current ending outlined in my mind. I had to get out of bed to write it down before I forgot!

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
I’m an introvert to the extreme, so engaging with other authors makes me geek out, but also, it makes me freak out. Just exchanging 140 characters on twitter with other authors makes me anxious; I can’t imagine the stress of working with someone on a contracted project! Not that I’m against the idea. Just terrified of it! ;)

What part of Faris did you enjoy writing the most?
As boring as it sounds, I enjoyed her practicality. Faris is a girl who understands that the guy with the magic tiger is cute as hell, but also, a complete stranger inviting her into his wagon after having murdered some monsters with his bare hands. She knows what she wants but she understands what she needs, and can differentiate the two.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
I loved Erin Bow’s THE SCORPION RULES and its sequel, THE SWAN RIDERS. From a writer’s perspective, THE SWAN RIDERS was such a beautiful, ambitious, complicated novel and I thought it was handled perfectly.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Cadence?
Cadence was relegated to the background in SHIMMER AND BURN and when I began SPLENDOR AND SPARK, I imagined this meek little girl shyly coming to terms with what had happened to her. Instead, I got Faris’s little sister: strong and sarcastic and ready to fight for the ones she loves.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My current project is kind of at a standstill as I’m a stay-at-home-mom to a 9 month old, and I work part-time when he’s napping/asleep. By the time I’m done with my day, I’m too exhausted to do anything but crash. But it’s another YA dark fantasy with a little more humor (I hope), an emphasis on a girl/girl friendship, and a third, male POV.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Tobek would probably have a good time commiserating with Michael Fisher, the apprentice in HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. And it’s been a long time since I’ve read INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher, but from what I remember, I think North and Faris both would have some interesting conversations with Jared, the tutor who makes an enormous sacrifice.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?

True love and heartbreak: my past has not been super shiny, and I’m a stronger person as a result. (It also might help that I don’t believe in One True Love. Like Faris, I’m too practical for that!)

When was the last time you cried?
I probably stress-cried at some point in the last month or two, but I can’t remember when or why. These days I’m more prone to get teary-eyed and sentimental. OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO gets me every.single.time.

Who was the last person you slow danced with?
My husband was listening to the new Ghost album and asked me to dance with him. It had been a long, long day so while the music choice was unusual, it was still a much needed moment.

What's your most missed memory?
I grew up in the country and ran wild exploring through the woods and the fields around our house. I miss hearing the snow fall, or reading with my feet dangling in the creek, or playing tag in the corn fields at night.

What did you do for your last birthday?
I was 8 months pregnant and in the hospital getting a nephrostomy tube sewn into my back!

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Not bad, considering I went to sleep with wet hair.

  • The original title was UNTIL OUR BLOOD RUNS CLEAN, but it was changed during edits for marketing purposes.
  • I started the first draft in December 2014; the book sold in August 2015. I have never written a book that fast before!
  • In my original pitch, Tobek was going to be the (appropriately aged) love interest, and North was more of a Mad-Eye Moody type of mentor.
  • The basic premise of the book was partly inspired by the musical Brigadoon and Jim Dale’s character in Pete’s Dragon.
  • Alistair Pembrough, the king’s executioner, didn’t exist in the first draft. In the draft that sold, there was an entire chapter between him and Faris that we had to cut for pacing.
  • SHIMMER AND BURN was originally going to be a middle grade frenemies novel, but I wanted kissing and cursing so I aged it up when I pitched it to my agent.
  • The only scene that stayed consistent from first draft to final book was when North excises poison from a little girl in his wagon.
  • SHIMMER AND BURN was the seventh novel I had written, and the third one after I signed with my agent.
  • Bryn had a secret lover in the book that sold, but I had to cut her character as she had ~5 pages of screen time and could not feasibly be brought back in any of the scenes that followed. Also, I realized that having a lover was a weakness and didn’t fit the ruthless, ambitious character Bryn needed to be.
  • There are only two books in the series, so if you read SHIMMER AND BURN today, you only have to wait five months for its sequel, SPLENDOR AND SPARK, to come out!

To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.


"Taranta’s debut opens the door to a magical new world filled with adventure, strong characters, and an intriguing plot....Readers can eagerly anticipate more of Faris’ story and adventures." Booklist

"In the first chapter alone, readers will experience a wide range of emotions, from heartbreaking agony to the sweetness of young love to the thrill of adventure — and back to agony once more. Both Faris and North are strong, complicated characters with good hearts. Other characters, including Alistair, are difficult to trust and yet impossible to write off completely. Taranta’s writing is nearly poetic and casts its own sort of magic. Readers should brace themselves for the last few chapters, and start stalking the internet for word on a sequel!" The Romantic Times

"Taranta takes all the best lessons from The Hunger Games and the Game of Thrones series and expertly uses them to create a dark, violent fantasy world. This first tale...reveres its strong female characters and does not shy from the gritty, gruesome realities of uneasy alliances. ...Readers will be swept up as the story unfolds. Against a sea of vastly similar offerings, Taranta’s story rises above the competition in exciting and unique ways." 

"In a crowded fantasy field, Taranta’s story stands out for its mature writing, inventive and scary creatures (and even scarier humans), and complex and often ruthless characters." 
Publisher's Weekly

You can purchase Shimmer and Burn at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARY TARANTA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Signed ARC Copy of SPLENDOR AND SPARK (Shimmer and Burn #1) by Mary Taranta. 


  1. "What is your biggest adventure?" This thing we call the great journey of life!

  2. My biggest adventure has been being a Mom! Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. My biggest adventure was traveling to Alaska.

  4. My biggest adventure was a trip to Hawaii with my mom.

  5. My biggest adventure was going through boot camp for the Navy years ago.

  6. My biggest adventure was traveling to Africa.