Please welcome Mareth Griffith
to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. Court of Twilight
is published on October 17th by Parvus Press.
Please join The Qwillery in wishing Mareth a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Mareth: Thank you, very pleased to be here. I started writing seriously in 2009, a few months after being laid off from a job at a theater. I had worked in theater as an audio engineer for several years, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, leaving the world of theater meant that I needed to find some other creative outlet. That outlet turned out to be writing.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Mareth: I tend to be more of a pantser, but my process changes from project to project. I am definitely a fan of the concept of zero drafts. That is, a draft where you have absolutely no idea where the story is going (or maybe where the story is going but no idea how it’s getting there) and you blindly charge forward anyway, writing enough to get a sense of what the narrative arc looks like, what motivates your characters, and what the emotional high points are. The first draft of Court of Twilight was written this way - entirely in the dark. For example, I didn’t consciously know the ending until about a day before I wrote the scene. Once the first draft was done and I knew what the story was about, I went back and wrote an outline, and then rewrote the story to fit that outline – which cut a few scenes I’d written and didn’t need, and added in a few scenes that were absolutely essential.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Mareth: First drafts. I seem to be an outlier in that I find the editing and revision process a ton more fun than churning out new material – I think because in the editing process, you actually get to see the story get better and better. First drafts, for me, are like army-crawling across a white carpet wearing very muddy clothes (how’s that for an image?) If you look back, you can see where the story’s going, but nothing about it looks pretty, and you know it’ll take forever to clean up…
Participating in my first National Novel Writing Month was hugely beneficial to me, because in addition to producing the first draft of Court of Twilight, it also helped me learn how to write drafts without looking too hard at the mess I’m leaving behind me as I work.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Mareth: I am a huge fan of Connie Willis and Barbara Hambly. You can pretty much wring emotion out of any chapter of anything they’ve ever written. Also Laurie R. King, whose Beekeeper’s Apprentice was the first novel I read as a teen where I identified heart and soul with the narrator. In particular, Barbara Hambly’s Windrose books and Connie Willis’ Blackout both had huge influences on Court of Twilight – and where Ivy’s story is headed in future books – though I don’t know how much of that actually shows up in the novel. Doctor Who – the Tom Baker era as well as the modern series – is also a big influence. I have a rule that I don’t watch television – partly due to lack of opportunity, partly to make time for writing – but I always make an exception for Doctor Who.
TQ: Describe Court of Twilight in 140 characters or less.
Mareth: 20-year-old Dubliner discovers her flatmate’s a runaway fairy ruler, who’s due to be murdered in days.
TQ: Tell us something about Court of Twilight that is not found in the book description.
Mareth: Let’s see – that covers quite a lot!
The fist sentence in what was to become Court of Twilight was written somewhere in a hostel in New Zealand during the six months I was there on a working holiday visa. It was: ‘Your lot had a very good king - he only had to die but once. Ours are very wicked kings, so nothing will suffice but that we kill them over and over.’ In one evening, I wrote two pages of dialog between Hunzu and a young narrator who would eventually turn into Ivy. Following that evening, I did nothing else with the story for nearly two years.
TQ: What inspired you to write Court of Twilight? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?
Mareth: The original idea for Court of Twilight came from reading two works of real-world ethnography back to back – Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland by Eddie Lenihan and Carolyn Eve Green, and Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and their Journey, by Isabel Fonseca. Both books dealt with the idea of outsiders – groups of Others who are literally or figuratively invisible to the predominant culture around them. It got me thinking about how the some of the elements traditionally ascribed to fairies – they’re invisible, they’re often malevolent, and unwary human visitors can sometimes get trapped in their world – might play out as cultural, rather than magical, differences.
Also, Court of Twilight is a contemporary fantasy only by accident. As I’d originally conceived the story, it was set in the year prior to the potato famine. Then, on impulse, I decided to write the first draft during National Novel Writing Month. It quickly because apparent that I would never be able to do the amount of research necessary to set the story in a historic period, and also finish the draft. So, the story got bumped into the modern day.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Court of Twilight?
Mareth: As mentioned above, time for research was in very short supply. I did very little research specific to the story, (other than spending a ton of time on Google Maps looking up various Dublin neighborhoods, average bartenders’ salaries, local haunted houses, and believable public transit options). Most of what else shows up in the story came from things rattling around in my head. It helps that I’ve lived in both Scotland and Ireland (the North, though, not the Republic), so I was able to draw a lot on those experiences.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Court of Twilight.
Mareth: The cover was done by Lovely Creatures Studio, and they did an amazing job. The cover doesn’t depict an event from the book, but more the idea of an observer looking at something – a stained glass image of two figures – and the idea of a meeting of something historic with something modern. And the fact that the figures are translucent also works very well with the images in the text.
TQ: In Court of Twilight who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Mareth: The trows were all pretty much a ton of fun to write, because they all can be a bit oddball, and all of the characters have their own angles and motivations. Ivy has good reasons to distrust all of them at one point or another. Hunzu especially was fun to write – he was a bit of a rascal in the early drafts, but as I got deeper into working on the book, the heart of the character is that he’s basically a nice guy who’s continually in over his head. Demi was probably the hardest to write – because she has to be compelling enough to justify Ivy’s friendship with her – while still being true to the fact that she’s hiding huge secrets at the start of the book.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Court of Twilight?
Mareth: I think of Court as more of an adventure story than as any sort of issues book – that being said, I also don’t think writers are serving their readers well by ignoring such issues in other sorts of fiction. (Anyone who’s not convinced of this should spend some time with @heidiheilig’s Twitter feed.) One thing I deliberately put into the narrative were female authority figures – Ivy’s bosses are both women, and the authority figures in the trow world are female as well.
Otherwise, all I can say is that there is more to the trows’ world – and the story of how the trows’ world intersects with our own – in future books that definitely enters into societal issues territory.
TQ: Which question about Court of Twilight do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Mareth: Ok, here goes - Why is the story all about a girl trying to save her flatmate, as opposed to a best friend, or a girlfriend, or a close relative?
There are lots of stories about a protagonist going on a quest to save their child, or parent, or romantic partner – and a ton about protagonists who are on mission to save the whole world. But in real life, I think we very often have more opportunities to save or damn complete strangers or casual acquaintances than we do close relations. It changes the stakes in an interesting way – Ivy has to really consider how much she’s willing to risk herself for the sake of her friend, (as opposed to a situation where she’s so close to the person at risk that her throwing herself into danger is sort of assumed). How far she’s willing to go down Demi’s rabbit hole changes over the course of the book as Ivy calculates and re-calculates the stakes – as well as how closely she herself is involved.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Court of Twilight.
Mareth: There was someone here, mingling with the shadows and the stone, and Ivy’s very life depended on not seeing him, because that’s how you save yourself from the monsters. You stay under the covers. You shut your eyes and never, ever look.
I have been free at least, and happy at times, though the two are not nearly as synonymous as many would believe.
TQ: What's next?
Mareth: I am currently turning the zero draft of Court’s sequel – currently titled Changeling - into a first draft that is actually coherent enough to send out to my lovely beta readers. Right now, it’s mayhem.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Mareth: Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure.
Court of Twilight
Parvus Press LLC, October 17, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 342 pages
Explore the hidden world of ancient magic within modern Dublin.
Six months ago, Ivy stumbled into the deal of a lifetime – great rent in a posh Dublin neighborhood and a flatmate, Demi, who was only a little weird. It didn’t matter that their flat is packed with exotic plants or that her flatmate does all her shopping on-line but refuses to meet the delivery man at the door?
Now, though, Demi’s gone missing, there are strange men hiding in the flower boxes, and a lot of strangers have suddenly taken interest in the whereabouts of her peculiar flatmate. When the police won’t help, Ivy knows she’s going to have to solve this mystery on her own.
Ivy dives headfirst into a secret Dublin, hidden in plain sight, and discovers that the longer she stays in, the more she risks losing the world she always knew. Can she save Demi without losing herself?
Mareth Griffith bounces between summers along the Alaskan coast and winters in various warmer locations. She lives in Seward, Alaska, and continually tells people that the winters there aren’t as bad as people think.
When she’s not writing, she works as a naturalist and wilderness guide, leading adventurous souls on epic quests to seek out glaciers, bears, and whales in the wilds of coastal Alaska. She’s also lived and worked in Scotland, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland – where her nearest neighbors included two thousand puffins and the ghost of a spectral black horse.
Originally from West Virginia, Mareth attended Smith College in Massachusetts, and the University of Glasgow in Scotland, studying music and theatre. Prior to moving to Alaska, she worked as an audio technician for several east coast theater companies, eventually discovering that while she loved working in theatre, she didn’t love living in cities.
Mareth plays classical violin well and rhythm guitar badly, and her writing has previously been featured in the Redoubt Reporter
, Alaska Magazine
, and Pen the Kenai
, an essay exhibit documenting life on Alaska’s Kenai coast.Twitter