Melissa Grey’s debut novel The Girl at Midnight released a couple of weeks ago and has been widely anticipated and buzzed about. I’ve had the joy of reading it already and found it to be such a fun read with so many elements I adore in urban fantasy.
Beyond Melissa’s talent for writing she is also an incredibly skilled artist- she creates the most beautiful nail art inspired by books. I had the pleasure of asking her about her book as well as her art.
About the Book
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
Available now from Delacorte Press
Thank you Melissa for taking the time to answer my questions.
In The Girl at Midnight magic is present in the everyday world though just out of the reach of most people. This gives the reader the feeling that if they look close enough they might glimpse some magic in their own lives. Do you search your life to see little bits of magic and have you always been drawn to fantasy in general?
Fantasy has always been my jam, ever since I was a little kid being read bedtime stories about fairies and wizards and trolls that lived under bridges. I don’t think I’ve ever been content with the world we live in, the real world, so creating new and exciting worlds with fantastical elements has always had great appeal to me. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I do think there’s magic to be found in the everyday world (how you want to define magic is up to you!) if only we stop to look for it.
Your main character, Echo, was such a delight to read about. I loved that she had made her home in a library and surrounded herself with books. Though my life differs greatly from Echo’s I still found her to be very relatable. Which character was easiest for you to write and/or relate to?
As much as I see bits and pieces of myself in Echo (her love of books, her appreciation of food, her use of humor as a defense mechanism), I have to say the easiest character for me to write was Dorian. He’s just so Over It, you know? He’s tired of dealing with everyone’s crap and harboring inconvenient emotions that he just can’t shake, but under all the layers of curmudgeon, he’s actually pretty squishy. He’s more sensitive than he appears though he tries very hard to hide it. I definitely know what that’s like.
I loved that you created a world with dragon people (Drakharin) and bird people (Avicen). Could you tell us a little about each and which you are more drawn to yourself (if you could even choose between the two)
The Avicen have feathers for hair and they live beneath the streets of New York. They’ve been around longer than human beings have and they’re too stubborn to leave their home, even if cohabitating with humans drives them to live in secrecy. They’re a vibrant people, who believe in community over the needs of individuals. This is reflected in the structure of their society, where everyone has a role (Ivy is a healer, Rowan is in the military, the Ala is a seer) based on their strengths and their government which is run by a Council of Avicen elders. They don’t think power should reside with a single person because people are inherently flawed.
The Drakharin (who have scales the way humans have freckles which are faint and iridescent against the skin), on the other hand, have a more traditional power structure in some ways. They have a nobility that comes together to elect their monarch (kind of like the way Polish kings were chosen before that monarchy went kaput), who goes by the title of Dragon Prince. Qualities that are prized in Dragons Princes are strength, first and foremost, with wisdom and cunning close behind. Their use of the word Prince instead of King is important on a few levels. They don’t have a word for princess in their language (Drakhar) so anyone can be a Prince regardless of gender and “prince” implies that the position can be fleeting. Kings might cling to power with absolute authority, but prince implies something more ephemeral. It’s a title that be bestowed but also taken away if they find you undeserving of it.
In TGaM Echo can travel quickly between locations with the use of magic- this allows you and the reader to venture many places within your book. You did a wonderful job changing the atmosphere of each of these settings and really made each feel like a different place. Have you done a good amount of traveling to draw inspiration from or did you pull from research?
The book is pretty much a love letter to all the places I’ve been, even the not so nice ones (like the desolate train station in Appenweier, Germany when Echo and her friends head to the Black Forest). I’ve lived in Japan, England, and France, so I had to throw Kyoto, Paris, and London in there. I combined my own experiences with research to make sure I got things right (memory is a funny thing sometimes). I hadn’t been to Scotland when I wrote the book, but I modeled the Drakharin stronghold after a place that already exists — Eilean Donan Castle – so I relied on travel blogs and firsthand accounts from friends for that. The only place I haven’t personally visited (yet) is Taiwan, but that’s where Google street view comes in handy.
Can you give us any hints about the sequel to TGaM?
I can tell you that it’s called The Shadow Hour and it deals with the consequences of what happens at the end of Book One. Echo’s personal journey is only getting started in The Girl at Midnight, and I plan on putting her and her friends through the ringer before everything is said and done.
Those that follow you on Twitter (if not you really should be) have seen your beautiful nail-art creations. Can you tell us about how you got started doing this and share a few of your personal favorites?
Procrastination is the mother of invention. Seriously. I got bored one day and didn’t feel like doing the work I was supposed to be doing so I started painting my nails to look like the nearest book, which if I remember correctly, was The Ring and the Crown by Melissa da la Cruz.
I had a great time doing the character manicures for The Girl at Midnight and the video tutorial for nail art inspired by the cover. I think my favorite designs for books I haven’t written are the ones I did for Rainbow Rowell’s Landline and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap .
If you’ve not visited her Tumblr for nail-art you must do so (right now).
Thank you to Random House for providing a book for giveaway. U.S. only