We’re so happy for more Melinda in 2018! How’s it been going from one fantasy world to another? How did it feel to leave behind a world you’d spent so long in?
Well, I actually started working on what would become State of Sorrow in 2015, just after The Sin Eater’s Daughter was published, so it feels less like going to a new world, so much as holding a dual passport to them both! It’s weird to know I won’t be going back to Lormere again – at this time I have no plans to – but, in what seems to be a habit I’m developing, I’ve already started eyeing up a new world for after Sorrow. The strangest thing is that by the time the rest of the world was reading The Scarecrow Queen, I’d already long since said goodbye to it. That’s where the most dissonance comes in, for me. I’m living in the future of my worlds, and the reader is in the present of them.
You’re also one of the FLOORED authors – what was it like writing contemporary rather than the fantasy we’re used to seeing from you?
It’s such a different medium! Because it’s contemporary, there is no literal world building to do – it’s happening in our world, in our time. That’s not to say contemporary writers don’t have to world build, but a lot of the stuff I normally consider when I’m world-building: climate, geography (local, national and international), agriculture, industry, faith systems, government systems, social hierarchy, entertainment, how time is measured, and told, and world history, etc., don’t have to be invented and tested when I’m writing contemporary. They’re ours, they exist, and we know them, so it’s ok to assume the reader will know them too. It’s a more freeing way to write, I can focus solely on the plot and the characters, when I’m not having to make sure I’ve adhered to the rules of my own world! Even down to being able to use words like ‘automatically’, which I can’t use in my fantasy books, as automation doesn’t exist!
What about writing collaboratively – how was it working with so many other authors?
I’ve gotten so lucky with it, and I don’t think the others realise just how much more I’m getting from this deal than they are. I’m getting to have a go at writing contemporary whilst simultaneously piggybacking on the abilities of some of the UK’s best and brightest contemporary authors. As far as working together goes, I’m still waiting for the bit where it all collapses and our raging egos take over. At first I thought it would be once we got stuck into the first draft, and the novelty had worn off, but it didn’t happen. Then I thought it would happen during editing, but we’re about to send our edits back and everything is still fine. Maybe it’ll be during publicity? Publication day? Who knows.
The setting of State of Sorrow is described as being in ‘perpetual grief’ – should we take this literally?
Very literally. It takes place in a country that’s just come out of a long period of war, only to find any hope of rebuilding shattered when the son of the chancellor dies in a tragic accident. It’s that death that acts as the catalyst for the book, and so the mourning and grief, and the fallout from it, is very real. Think Queen Victoria after Albert died, but so much more fanatical and extreme.
Do you have a personal favourite character in State of Sorrow?
I do! I have a lot of soft spots this time; Sorrow, obviously. Her best friend, Irris. Sorrow’s surrogate father, Charon, is a good man. Probably my absolute fave is a man named Luvian Fen. He’s a young, career politician, and it was immense fun to write someone who is significantly cleverer than me.
Can we expect the usual amount of Salisbury twists?
You can expect that everyone has an agenda, and wants to achieve their goals, at any cost. I don’t know if that’s necessarily twisty, or whether the idea of it as a twist is a reflection of the fact we spend so much time centering ourselves as the main character of our own lives, that we forget everyone else is doing the same… What you see as a twist is the expected result of careful planning by someone else.
And finally… We loved reading your short story at the end of last year – can we expect any more shorter fiction from you?
I love writing shorts, so probably! I write most of them for fun – it’s important to me that I still spend time writing things that are not for particular projects, but just because I want to see how the story goes. It’s a good reminder that writing can be joyful and playful, which sometimes feels impossible when there are deadlines and expectations involved. I have a fun one about the origin of cats that I’d like to share.