Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Juliet Marillier Interview - A Dance with Fate

Photo Credit: © Alex Cearns-Houndstooth Studio

Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, a town with strong Scottish roots. She graduated from the University of Otago with degrees in languages and music, and has had a varied career that includes teaching and performing music as well as working in government agencies. Juliet now lives in a hundred-year-old cottage near the river in Perth, Western Australia, where she writes full-time. She is a member of the druid order OBOD. Juliet is active in the field of animal rescue and shares her home with a small pack of waifs and strays. She is the author of the Blackthorn & Grim novels and the Sevenwaters series. Her historical fantasy novels and short stories are published internationally and have won a number of awards.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I loved to write even as quite a small child, and was an avid reader from early on. Fortunately the children’s library was just down the road, as I borrowed a lot of books! I’ve been writing fantasy stories since I was about seven, starting with one about rampaging killer robots. The realization that writing fiction was my calling didn’t happen in a sudden dramatic moment, but crept up on me very slowly. I went off and did other things for quite a few years – teaching and performing music, raising children, working in day jobs that left little time or energy for creativity – and then came back to the writing craft with absolute joy when circumstances made it possible.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The best reward for me as a writer is to know that my work has touched a reader and been understood by them. I receive some wonderful messages from readers to tell me a book of mine has helped them through a rough patch, or that a book has gone with them on their travels and adventures. Also, I love to hear that my work has inspired others to do their own creative work, or got someone back into reading for pleasure.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently finishing A Song of Flight, Book 3 of the Warrior Bards series. It feels a little weird that it won’t be published until this time next year, but the wheels of the process turn quite slowly. The publisher is already asking me for cover suggestions, and I’m looking forward to more beautiful art from Melanie Delon.

I have a small book of four fairytale-based stories, Mother Thorn and Other Tales of Courage and Kindness, coming out in November 2020 from Serenity Press. It has illustrations by the wonderful Kathleen Jennings. The collection includes my versions of The Princess and the Pea and The Tinder Box. Mother Thorn is suitable for lovers of fairytales from about age 12 to ninety-something. What’s next? Still undecided, though I have plenty of ideas.

In your newest book, A DANCE WITH FATE; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
A DANCE WITH FATE is Book 2 in the Warrior Bards series, following THE HARP OF KINGS – the series is best read in order. It’s set in a magical version of early medieval Ireland, and follow the stories of brother and sister pair Liobhan and Brocc, both talented musicians and fighters, and chieftain’s son Dau. All three have trained to be members of an elite team of warriors and spies based on Swan Island. In this book Dau suffers a catastrophic injury during a display bout and his kinsfolk hold Liobhan responsible. No longer able to fight, Dau is sent back to the family he fears and loathes, and Liobhan goes with him as a bond servant. When Dau and Liobhan start to uncover dark family secrets, they find themselves in deadly danger. Parallel to this runs the story of Brocc, who now lives in the Otherworld and has his own quest to pursue, one that sets him at odds with his fey wife. The book has fighting, music, intrigue, drama and a cast of interesting characters, both human and fey.

Meet the Characters
Liobhan is our main protagonist – that’s her on the cover. She’s aged nineteen at the time of this book, and is tall and athletic with long red hair. Not only an excellent fighter, but also a talented musician – she plays the whistle (think Irish folk music) and she has a rich, deep singing voice. Liobhan is passionate about justice and fairness, and has a tendency to speak her mind without thinking first. She’s physically able, courageous and not averse to risk-taking. Liobhan is the daughter of Blackthorn and Grim, the protagonists in my previous series. She’s been brought up in a happy, though not wealthy, household, and has been allowed to pursue her ambition to become an elite warrior.
‘Fear never won any wars.’

Brocc is Liobhan’s adopted brother, brought to their parents’ doorstep as a newborn infant by their fey friend. He has a pale complexion, blue eyes and dark wavy hair. Brocc is just a few weeks older than Liobhan and they’ve grown up together, sharing a love of music. Brocc has an unusually beautiful singing voice and plays the harp (think Celtic folk harp, the kind you hold on your knee.) In the first book he left the Swan Island team and went to live in the Otherworld with a fey queen and her strange clan of uncanny beings. Along with keeping his clan safe, Brocc wants to learn more about the mysterious Crow Folk who threaten the safety of animals and humans alike with their random attacks. He feels torn between his human family and his Otherworld community.
‘It’s all right to feel sad sometimes. It’s all right to weep. It’s all right to worry. If you can, just let it pass. The sun will rise again tomorrow.’

Dau is the third son of a chieftain. He looks like a storybook prince – tall, strong and handsome with golden hair – but is emotionally scarred from childhood abuse. He can come across as arrogant and aloof, but during the training period on Swan Island and the mission that followed, he began to trust his comrades and to work well with them, Liobhan in particular, as she doesn’t take any nonsense! In this book, Dau is forced to confront his worst nightmares when he is injured and has to return home.
‘I see Dau standing there, tall and quiet, dignified and strong, and I realise this is a tale of triumph. He is a survivor.’

Writing behind the scenes
I write full time and I work from home – you could see that as an ideal situation for an introvert who loves books! I do have things set up quite professionally. What was once a bedroom in my house is now a study, where I work on a desktop computer with a big screen – for my first few books I hand-wrote my first draft, then typed it up. I know some writers who still use pen and paper, but I found that was too slow. I am a fairly quick touch typist. In my study are two dog beds, one on each side of the heater. I have only one dog at present, but Reggie the miniature poodle moves from one bed to the other, depending on how the mood takes him. He makes sure I take plenty of breaks, and expects frequent snacks.

It usually takes me a year to write a book, from initial idea through research and planning, to the actual writing, to editing and polishing before the manuscript goes to my publisher. By the time the publication process is underway I will be working on my next project. Right now, with the second book of Warrior Bards being published, I am getting the manuscript of the third book ready for submission. Compared with some of my writer friends, I am fairly slow. I do a lot of planning before I begin writing a book, and I revise the earlier parts as I go rather than doing a series of complete drafts. You could call it one continuous draft.

I’m careful about choosing character names, having made some errors in my earlier books by selecting names that were wrong for the period in question (all my series except for Shadowfell take place in a slightly alternative version of real world history and geography, so the names need to work in that context.) I own various books of historical Irish names, and I research other cultures as required, such as Brittany (Armorica), northern Britain in the time of the Picts, Transylvania. Three characters in my current manuscript were named by followers of my Facebook author page, who delved into early medieval Ireland and came up with Scoithín, Sealbhach and Ruairi. Don’t worry, I will include a pronunciation guide in the book!

What was the first job you had?
Library assistant at the Children’s Library in Dunedin, New Zealand. My best friend’s mother was the chief librarian. That was an excellent casual job for a book-loving student, and I never cease to be grateful for it. I had been borrowing books there since I was about four.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
When I was doing research for a book named Foxmask, set in Viking times, I travelled to the Faroe Islands, which are in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland. I hitched a ride on the helicopter that delivered mail to the westernmost island, Mykines, and stayed over there for a few days. Population of Mykines: 15 humans and a whole lot of puffins. The landscapes in the Faroes are full of extremes – pounding waterfalls, enormous rock stacks, buffeting winds and crashing waves.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I discovered Druidry during a particularly difficult period in my life. My self-esteem was at rock bottom. I attended a workshop by a senior member of a Druid order from the UK, at which he told us the Welsh story of Taliesin and the cauldron of knowledge, and explained to us the concept that god/goddess/spirit exists in all living things, so each of us contains a spark of the divine. Along with that goes the belief that in order to reach out to others in friendship and understanding, you must first learn to love and accept yourself. That was completely life-changing for me. I did later join OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.) Without the experience of that workshop and what it led to, I probably wouldn’t have found the creative energy to write my first novel, even though I had done a lot of writing when I was younger.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
One thing in my own life? I wouldn’t go back far, only to 2016. I would not go out for a walk with my dogs on a certain evening, and thereby I would ensure my little dog Harry did not get mauled to death by an off-lead rottweiler. Harry would have had the opportunity to live a longer life and continue to charm everyone with his sweet personality. He was a brave dog and undeserving of such a cruel death.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
Being on a cruise liner, watching my children swim in a pool on the upper deck (the sort of thing we would never have been doing in real life.) The ship hit a big wave and tilted sideways, and everyone in the pool was washed into the mountainous seas. Fortunately, I woke up at that point!

A young woman who is both a bard--and a warrior--seeks to repay her debts and settle scores in this thrilling historical fantasy series.

The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau's family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau's home as a bond servant for the span of one year.

There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.

When Liobhan and Dau start to expose the rot at the center of Oakhill, they place themselves in deadly danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them a hope of survival. . . .

You can purchase A Dance with Fate at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JULIET MARILLIER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Dance with Fate (Warrior Bards #2) by Juliet Marillier.


  1. "How would you describe yourself in three words." Kind. Sweet. Adorable.

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