Tell us about The Falconer in 140 characters or less. It’s about a noblewoman in 1844 Scotland who hunts faeries. There are flying machines! Guns that shoot lightning! Epic battles! Romance!
We LOVE Derrick. Could you tell us a little about him – and how he came into your life and novel? Back when The Falconer was another sort of book entirely (Draft 1, which wasn’t a very good draft, I’m afraid), Derrick was Adam. Adam was a ghost that haunted Aileana’s house, and did a very good job of pestering her because she was a proper sort some of the time, and he was an unchaperoned boy hanging around her living quarters. Like I said, it was another book entirely.
In Draft 2, I decided it was best to just focus on faery mythology instead of Other Scottish Supernatural Things, and so Adam had to go to the character graveyard. But I did rather like the idea of Aileana having someone in her life who knew who she really was. Someone who knew she killed faeries and who would support her through an emotional time that her human friends just wouldn’t understand. A faery became an obvious, natural choice.
In addition to that, but no less importantly, I wanted an example of a “good faery,” and Kiaran wasn’t it. Kiaran represented the morally ambiguous end of the “good faery” mythology, the faery who helps a human for unclear (and possibly nefarious) reasons. Derrick was originally conceived of to show that some faeries were legitimately sympathetic to humans, and that some are capable of intense emotion and lasting friendships.
So, Adam became Derrick – though they are entirely different characters with different personalities. From the moment I decided I wanted a faery living in Aileana’s house, Derrick sprang rather fully formed in my mind. His strong personality, his delight, his courage, his unfailing faith in Aileana – one moment he wasn’t there, and the next, he was all I could think about. His voice is just an incredible, vivid thing that Adam’s never was for me. Derrick’s character was the final, perfectly fitting piece that made The Falconer into the story it is now.
Your main character, Alieana, is like a wonderful, sarcastic Jane Austen character. What brought her personality to life for you? I had a very difficult time (and sometimes still do) getting a firm grasp of Aileana’s character. It took me almost a year to get the sense that I knew her, and that was simply garnered through writing and rewriting the story as many times as I did (3 in full, and many, many, many rounds of edits aside from that).
Aileana is grieving her mother, and the effect of witnessing her mother’s murder is a special type of post traumatic stress wherein she possesses an extreme preoccupation with vengeance. I had to write these emotions that I had never personally experienced and keep her grounded and humanized. The thing is, Aileana is on such a thin line between “hero” and “unrepentant killer” that if I tipped too far to one side (which I did a lot in those early drafts), she became unsympathetic.
I had to throw away a lot of pages and lines and scenes and rewrite them to something more nuanced. She is a killer, yes. But she’s also a teenage girl dealing with the aftermath of losing a loved one and having almost no emotional support from her remaining parent and her peers. Once I had a firm grasp of the angry, vengeful girl being connected to the vulnerable, grieving girl, I was able to better merge those aspects of her personality into an overarching character who is also funny and sarcastic and fiercely loyal.
If you could have one writerly super power what would it be? I have thought a lot about this! I frequently wish I could connect my mind to my laptop so I can play out scenes in my head and have the words simply appear on screen, perfect and fully formed. This is because I loathe writing rough drafts, you see. . .
Do you have any specific writing rituals or places that you like to write? If the weather is a bit warmer, I like to go outside with my digital pad and find a beautiful spot to sit and write. I find that this takes care of my two biggest issues with writing – indoor work and isolation – and I get a bit of exercise out of it, too. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a lot of places to sit and admire nature, after all.
However, if the weather is inclement or chilly (not uncommon in Scotland!), I sit inside with the window open and the fire going, which is wonderfully atmospheric and calming for writing.
What is your current favourite TV series? Oohhh, I have to choose a favourite? 😀 Vampire Diaries if I need my supernatural soap opera fix (it’s the perfect blend of soap opera and batshit crazy, so I love it), Arrow if I need my comic book hero soap opera fix, Game of Thrones for my fantasy soap opera fix (are you sensing a theme here?), Orphan Black for some of the best scifi on TV, and Continuum for when I want my mind to be blown. I. . .obviously have many loyalties.
If you could invite any character from literature out for a drink, who would you pick and why? Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews’s Magic Bites. I feel like she and I would go have a few beers and get in a bit of trouble along the way.
Are there two authors you would like to recommend to everyone reading this interview – and why? Two authors I really dig right now: Rachel Hartman, whose debut novel Seraphina is superb dragon fantasy; and Lauren Beukes who wrote the fantastic Zoo City, which is an incredible, unique urban fantasy set in South Africa (a sadly underused location in genre fiction, and one I’d love to see more of) about people whose lives are magically attached to animals.
The Falconer is out where all books are sold on the 26th of September. Can’t wait till then? Read the first two chapters here: