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Holly Black on Fantasy, Faeries & Advice
Written by
She Writes
November 2019
Written by
She Writes
November 2019

Holly Black is the bestselling author of more than 30 fantasy novels for kids and teens, and this month she released The Queen of Nothing, the highly anticipated finale to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air young adult trilogy, which began with The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King.

In The Queen of Nothing, Jude, who was pronounced Queen of Faerie and then abruptly exiled by the Wicked King Cardan, now finds herself the queen of nothing. She’s wasting her time away watching reality TV when a dark curse is unveiled. Now it’s up to her break the curse, or risk upsetting the balance of the whole Faerie world.

On Fantasy

When she was a child, Black’s mother would enchant her with ghost stories, convince her that their house was haunted and even set up scavenger hunts for her to find little indications of faeries around their neighborhood.

“I grew up with a great deal of belief in the supernatural,” Black says. “It seemed very possible that the faerie world was always just around the corner. And when you really believe, it seems a lot scarier.”

Black went on to read, fall in love with and draw inspiration from the original folklore and art of faeries. Faeries, she says, are often portrayed like Tinkerbell – friendly and cheerful.  

“But the original folklore is pretty brutal,” Black says. Some faeries might “steal people, trick people, lead them astray, off cliffs and into the water where creatures will eat you.”

These are the kinds of darker faerie characters that Black explores in many of her bestselling faerie novels.

This excerpt was originally published on Book Page. Read the full interview here.

On Inspiration

Black, who dons pointy faerie ears herself, courtesy of a body modification artist, carries the world of faerie as a reoccurring theme in her work.

“I love that this world is not just about one being but about a whole ecosystem of trolls and goblins and nixies and pixies and sprites and dozens of other creatures. And I love that they're a bit like nature itself, with the wildness and pitilessness of a storm… but also with the warmth of a lazy summer day,” she says.

“But most of all I love that, unlike most other supernatural creatures, they are not human and have never been human. They may look a little like us, but they're not us.”

This excerpt was originally published on the author’s Goodreads page. Read the full post here.

On Setting

“I like to go for walks, especially when I am stuck on a plot thing,” says Black.  “And I like wandering with my family. There’s always something to see in the forest.”

It’s no wonder that Black enjoys spending time in the woods when much of her work takes place in the enchanted woods.

In an interview, Enchanted Living Magazine asked why those woods have made for such a compelling setting:

Woods are liminal spaces in fairy tales — the place where the witches and wolves are, the place where one hides from the evil queen, a place of danger and transformation,” she says. “But growing up in the suburbs, woods are liminal spaces too. Places you can play as a child and feel very far from your home, even if you’re only a few blocks away.”

She embraced the idea of the woods as a place where one can sneak away to, hence making them a resonant setting for many of her stories.

She continued:

“I think [the woods are] immensely useful as a symbol of the wild chaos of nature in opposition to the orderliness of town.”

This excerpt was originally published in Enchanted Living Magazine.

On a Writer’s Life

The struggle of being a writer and believing in yourself is something that Holly understands.

“I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know any writers, I’d never met a living writer, I didn’t know any adults who had followed any artistic job and have it be their profession,” she told Cinders Magazine. “And people always used to say to me, ‘If you believe you can do it, then you can do it.’”

However, believing in herself is where Black struggled.  

“So, I’ve always thought for myself, and other aspiring writers, the best advice is: you don’t have to believe in it. It’s too much to ask yourself to believe in it and do it. So just do it, and you’ll be fine.”

On Advice

For more advice, she offers the helpful advice that others shared with her:

“First, write to please your reader self and not your writer self. Second, finish what you start. Third, unless you’re totally against the idea, find a critique partner with whom you can pass things back and forth.”

This excerpt was originally published in Enchanted Living Magazine. Read the full post here.

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