Monday, October 31, 2022

Megan Whalen Turner Interview - Moira's Pen: A Queen's Thief Collection

Photo Credit: Jeannette Palsa

Megan Whalen Turner is the New York Times–bestselling and award-winning author of five stand-alone novels set in the world of the Queen’s Thief. Return of the Thief marks her long-awaited conclusion to the epic and unforgettable story of the thief Eugenides—a story more than twenty years in the making. She has been awarded a Newbery Honor and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature. She has twice been a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.


Greatest thing you learned in school.
Some of those old books they try to make you read are actually pretty good.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
It’s been almost thirty years since I was first published and I don’t think I could really rank all the rewarding experiences in order. So, this is a random pick:

It was the summer of 2002. I was at the circulation desk of the Menlo Park Public Library ten minutes before closing time with tired, hungry children, a giant stack of library books and no library card. The librarian reminded me that I could still check the books out with a picture ID, but of course the whole reason I had no library card was that I’d left my wallet--with all my picture ID-- at home. The librarian was looking at me sympathetically, but with a very rules-are-rules expression on her face, so I said desperately, “Any picture ID?” And when she nodded-- I said I’d be right back. I hustled away to the children’s section and returned with a hard cover copy of The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, the entire back cover of which is my face. The librarian laughed, but she checked out my books.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
No. There are some embarrassing moments when I tried to be a writer, but thank goodness, you didn’t ask about those.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
There are so many things you have to worry about. Having a unique voice and style is not one of them. Just write what you want, see if you like it and then, if you want, see if anyone else likes it.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
When I was working on my series for roughly eleven billion years, talking about a book that was taking forever to write felt like an unkind way of teasing my readers. Now, I’ve gotten into the habit of “Not Telling,” so deeply I still don’t like to talk about projects while they are in process.

In your newest book; MOIRA'S PEN, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Moira’s Pen is a home for the short pieces I have written to go in the backs of various paperback editions. It’s also the solution to a soul crushing dilemma. It’s me flying my geek flag and also me heading out to explore the world of the Queen’s Thief with anyone who wants to come along.

As a reader, I know how much fun it can be to track down a rare book or a short story in an anthology. I remember gleaning little bits of world building from fan magazines and sharing the news with friends back when Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Arc were brand new and George Lucas and Steven Speilburg were still wunderkind. As a writer though, I don’t want it to be hard for my readers to find my work – no matter how rewarding that hunt might be for them.

So Moria’s Pen is the collection of many things all in one place with illustrations by Deena So’Oteh that are so gorgeous words fail.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
That would be “telling” and I try hard not to do that. I want readers to have the space to make up their own minds.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
Their hands.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing MOIRA'S PEN?
It actually came when I was writing Return of the Thief. I was horribly, horribly stuck. The end just wasn’t working and I knew the only way solution was to take something out. It was one of those situations where you can have one thing or you can have the other thing, and either one will work, but what you absolutely cannot have is both. And I wanted both. I wanted both a lot.

And that’s when my agent and my editor and first suggested this collection and I realized I could have both things I wanted, one at the end of Return of the Thief and one at the end of this final book. And this sort of unseen but perfect outcome? That, for me, is the magic of Moira’s Pen.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
How I would love to be a fly on the wall if Gen ever met Morpheus from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Gen knows a god when he sees one and he and Morpheus have a certain tension with their family members in common. I feel they might deal very well with one another.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Greece in the 1990’s when most of the tourists were at the beach and it was rare to see another human being, outside of the lone guard on duty, at an archeological site.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?

Best date you've ever had?
Valentine’s Day 1986. My future husband picked me up in a 1968 VW bug and we went to have crepes on the North Side of Chicago.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Again, a random pick: I used to love climbing fifty or sixty feet up in a tree to sit with all the branches around me flexing in the wind. I don’t know if anyone gets to do that anymore.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
Google says 1,149 miles by road. Looks like a surprisingly straight shot.

What were you doing at midnight last night?
Driving to the airport, stopping on the way to drop off cookies on the doorstep of a friend.

My house is filled with distractions and the older I get the more trouble I have ignoring them. The year we were living in Oslo, Norway, I realized that writing at home just wasn’t possible anymore. I needed a new place to work –and libraries are too quiet—so I went looking for a good café. This is a list of ten of my favorites.

Åpent bakeri — Oslo, Norway
I found the Apent Bakeri just a couple of blocks from the king’s palace. It is lovely space, filled light even on Oslo’s shortest winter days and rarely so crowded that I couldn’t occupy a table for as long as I liked. At that time a latte cost about $8 and it was worth it to have a space to work. I wrote most of Thick As Thieves here.

Letojanni Café — Piazza Durante, Sicily
Not every café is one you can work in. In some cafés you can sit chatting to a friend for hours, you can read a book, you can write in your journal, but pulling out something as gauche as a laptop will get your welcome mat rescinded. We were in Sicily for a writing retreat when we realized that every café in the small beachside town of Letojanni was made for relaxing – not work. One café made us welcome, though. The owner ran the café and his wife ran a tourist shop. He could only take vacations during the off season, and the off season was when his wife had to order inventory for the upcoming year. When he brought out our coffee he said he knew a working vacation when he saw one and said we were welcome to stay as long as we liked. We went back every day for a week.
Court Cafés

British Museum — London, England
Filled with light and the white noise of people passing through, the atrium at the British Museum is a wonderful space to work in. The round tower in the center of the atrium used to hold a few symbolic remains of the British Library. It had tall thin windows to admit the light and wooden tables laid out like the spokes of a wheel. It was a beautiful, and I miss it now that they’ve turned that into exhibition space, but I have to admit that for me, the bustle of the atrium is a better background for work.

Museum Café — Delos, Greece
The island of Delos is one enormous, unreconstructed, archeological site. If you want to visit, you come over by boat from Mykonos or Paros. You can wander through the ruins in any order you like, but eventually you’re going to be overwhelmed by it all. That’s the best time to go to the café. It has no atmo. It has cement floors and plastic seats. But when you are hot and tired and need a break, it has fresh squeezed orange juice and a covered porch. You can sit and write down your thoughts there about everything you have seen and it is one of my favorite places in the entire world.

Phoenix in Ohio City
This is one of my locals. It’s on Bridge Street. It is very small, but the coffee is excellent and they have a porch so you can sit outside on nice days.

Pannikin — Leucadia, California
We’ve lived off and on in Del Mar California and the Pannikin in Leucadia is our local when we are in town. The Pannikin is in a train station that has been converted into a café. They have the red winged horse from a Mobil Gas station that I find very inspiring. My only gripe is that there’s no indoor space and on a chilly day, it gets too cold to work.

Pannikin in Flower Hill Mall — Del Mar, California
The Pannkin in the Flower Hill Mall used to be our local. It was a bookstore and a café and on foggy days in San Diego it was the perfect place to sit and work, but sadly it closed and then the bookshop closed and now Flower Hill Mall is so spruced up I hardly recognize it anymore.
Caffè Settimiano di Mella Valter e C. S.a.s.

I just found the Caffee Settimiano this summer when I was in Rome signing copies of the Italian edition of The Queen of Attolia. The café is in Trastevere so it’s very busy, but they have a space inside with plenty of tables and the service is so incredibly slow that you have plenty of time to work before your coffee even arrives. Sip it slowly, order another espresso, and you can work uninterrupted for an hour and a half. By then it will be time to go sightseeing.

The Espresso Roma Café across from the Monterey Market in Berkely
This is another café we’ve visited for about thirty years. We always just call it the Monterey Café and we always have coffee there when we are in Berkeley. You can sit and work, people watch, meet your friends, and pick up something at the Monterey Market across the street before you head home.

Evinos — Paros, Greece
Okay, I’m cheating. This isn’t a café, though I am sure you could get coffee there. It’s a bar. It’s on a series of terraces overlooking the Agean on the island of Paros. You can sit here sipping a drink as the sun slips into the water. Think of it as a place to go to get inspiration. You can’t write without that.

Journey to the world of the Queen’s Thief in this beautifully illustrated collection, featuring bestselling and award-winning author Megan Whalen Turner’s charismatic and incorrigible thief, Eugenides. Discover and rediscover friends old and new, and explore the inspiration behind Megan Whalen Turner’s rich world. A stunning and collectible volume to return to again and again.

This collectible companion to the New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief series is ideal for longtime fans, as well as readers discovering Megan Whalen Turner’s epic and unforgettable world for the first time. The collection includes all of the author’s previously published short fiction set in the world of the Queen’s Thief, as well as never-before-published stories, vignettes and excerpts, poetry and rhymes, a guide to inspiring objects from museums around the world, and a very special recipe for almond cake.

You can purchase Moira's Pen at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MEGAN WHALEN TURNER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Moira's Pen by Megan Whalen Turner.

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