Here’s an interview I did with Melissa Marr last year for my (former) website e-Mo Magazine. Thought you might find it interesting!
Melissa Marr interview
e-Mo Magazine caught up with Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange.
eMo: Your work is often compared to that of Holly Black and Tamora Pierce, for your use of the fairy mythology and strong heroine lead. Who or what has most influenced your writing style?
MM: “Most” is like “favourite” for me: it changes daily. There are very few constants. Faulkner and Neil Gaiman are two of my literary loves. (I pretty much adore most everything they’ve penned.) Faulkner does brilliant things with structure and sensory data.
Gaiman weaves literary quality to gorgeous storytelling. I taught lit before this writing thing. I read across genres… so I guess I’d probably credit variety of reading as the biggest influence. I sigh over Tracy Chevalier and Christina Rossetti. I adore Kate Chopin. Myth, folklore, fairy tales, fantasy, classics, poetry, romance . . . I drink it all down.
eMo: So many novels portray women as either helpless girlfriends, or almost masculine and asexual – there is rarely a middle ground. However, your heroines manage to maintain their strength whilst not denying their femininity. Was this a conscious way of writing, or is it more a reflection of your own personality?
MM: It’s a reflection of my beliefs. Religiously, I’m goddess-faith. So, I suppose it’s logical that I embrace the notion that being a woman is beautiful. Strength doesn’t have to mean surrendering that which makes a woman soft. If I choose to like both, why not? Creator and Destroyer. Sin and Salvation.
It seems silly to me to suggest we have to only be one thing. If we choose to be one way, well, that’s cool, but if we want to be more complex, that’s pretty fabulous too. So, my characters sometimes are both vulnerable and fierce.
eMo: Tattoos are clearly a very important part of your life and influence your writing. What advice would you give to a teenager thinking of getting their first tattoo?
MM: The same advice I’d give an adult. Research. Ask questions. Assure that your artist is experienced, clean, and adheres to all safety precautions (including sterilization, new gloves at any contact with anything not sterile during the process, opens the needles in front of you, etc). Research is crucial.
Research the artist’s work too. For me, I also research the artist as person because when I pick an artist, I stay with him for years. If I’m going to wear his art on my skin for my life, I need to talk to him enough to know I respect him and he respects his art.
So, I guess the answer (if anyone asked) is to take your time to select the right artist, the right art, and the right part of your body.
We have only one body in this lifetime, so I think it’s critical that we weigh decisions carefully… whether that decision is how we decorate it or how we treat it (exercise/diet/chemicals/sex). For me, the choice of an artist is as important as the art. I take years to meditate on these choices-in part because I know I’m impulsive by default and love the experience of being tattooed.
eMo: Your novels are seeped in fairy mythology, with a modern take on traditional forms. What encouraged you to write about a land of Urban Fairies?
MM: I grew up with traditional folklore, and as an adult, I read it for fun. I think that’s a big part of why I write supernatural fiction: it’s something I’ve always been interested in, believed in, and read.
Why this sort? The old stories, the ones I like best, are grounded in our world. It’s about “that time Mr. McIntyre, you remember him? Keely’s uncle? Right, well, so he was walking home from the pub one night and…”or “Mother’s old music box, you know the one, it was going to be put in the grave with her but Aunt Sissy saw Uncle Mike’s spirit telling her not to so…” and “This old man was in the parking garage, and he said, ‘You won’t be wanting to go that way, miss. The Good Neighbors are riled up.'”
That’s the way folktales go. It’s the way storytelling in my family went. It’s the way I tell tales to my kids. It’s so much easier to suspend the disbelief if we have real world anchors. If you need me to believe in a world new dimension, I might struggle a touch more, but I’ve seen that pub, that music box, that path into the dark.
Those I know are real, so why not the Wild Hunt, the ghost, or the faeries? Wrap the impossible around the framework of the real, and we are off to a grand start.
eMo: Your next novel, “Love is Hell” is a compilation of short stories, written with four other writers. How has this compared to writing a full novel?
MM: It’s not been a collaboration at all. I wrote my text; they wrote theirs. I don’t know the other authors or have any contact with them, so it’s really been no different than writing my novels…except that it’s way shorter 🙂
eMo: You were voted “most likely to end up in jail” when at school, and yet you gained an MA, you teach literature and are a best-selling author. What advice would you give to teenagers who may not fit in at school, or who are cast in a negative stereotype?
MM: It’s all about choices. I include that detail in the bio because of what it means to me. I could’ve chosen to let other people define me, been what they claimed I was, OR I could define myself. We’re all categorized as we go about our days.
I’ve been scowled at sometimes when my tattoos show at the theatre. I’ve been scowled at in other setting when I’m dressed mainstream with no art showing. It still stings some day when it happens. That’s human. It doesn’t mean I need to change my looks. It also doesn’t mean I need to be the person they think I am when they scowl at me.
Be yourself. That’s hard to do, but it’s-imho-the only way to be.
eMo: You have lived in many places and experienced many things. What has been your favourite experience and place to live?
MM: As to experiences…wow. That answer changes depending on the day and mood I’m in. Last month, I was in Westray (Orkney Islands) curled up against a ledge watching thousands of seabirds (puffins, skuas, and guillemots et al) swoop over the sea.
This morning I curled up with my son and talked about the practicality of building a trebuchet. Life is a series of wonderful moments, so I don’t see any way to pick just one.
Living spots is easier, I suspect. My favourite so far has been Southern California, but if the universe is willing to cooperate, I have more years to live more places. Maybe that answer will change too.
eMo: What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
MM: If you truly want this, keep trying. Keep revising. You don’t need to know anyone to get you in the door (I didn’t). There isn’t a “right answer” for most all publishing industry or writing questions, so simply focus on your writing and your research (on the industry, texts, etc).
Find out more about Melissa Marr at www.melissa-marr.com