The Queens of Innis Lear
By: Tessa Gratton
Publication Date: March 27th, 2018
A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood.
The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.
The king’s three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.
Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.
1) What about KING LEAR inspired you to write a retelling? What from the original did you especially enjoy and felt compelled to add? What aspects did you feel really needed to be retold?
I hated King Lear when I first encountered it in high school! It felt like a betrayal because all the previous plays I’d read or seen by Shakespeare included compelling women. Lear only has three women, the daughters of the king, and the eldest two are cruel and two-dimensional, while the third is personality-free and exists for her father’s redemption. I did love Edmund the Bastard, who has some of the most pointed speeches in the play, and is morally ambiguous, but that’s basically the only thing I liked. Re-imagining the story was about developing real people to fill the roles that Shakespeare left so sparse, in order to really investigate the themes of the play from all angles.
2) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
Between selling Queens to my editor at Tor and now, I added 100,000 words. There’s very little in the way of cut scenes or anything that didn’t make it. I did write some letters from Elia, the youngest daughter, to Ban the Fox, that we ended up not putting into the text, but that’s about it. When I cut scenes, it was usually to rewrite them from a different angle or point of view, so even though I cut a scene, some other version of it is in the book.
Here’s a bit of dialogue I saved because I loved it, between Elia and her friend and companion, Aefa:
Aefa bit at the princess’s finger. “I was born under a star that disappeared three days later, and reappeared in a scatter of freckles across my left shoulder.”
“The sky was all clouds your birthday, I heard,” Elia teased back. “Giving you your sunny disposition.”
“No, that’s from the way all the squirrels laugh at me when I walk past and steal threads of my hair for their nests. Nothing to do but laugh with them.”
3) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
I loved writing Ban the Fox because he is a very complex, but wild, thinker so working through his motivations was always fascinating. It’s fun to write someone who appears unpredictable, and extremely passionate, which makes everything he thinks, says, and does more vital.
I had the most trouble with Gaela because while I share a capacity for conviction with Gaela, she sets herself on a path and doesn’t deviate or re-evaluate, and she’s extremely sharp-edged in a way that refuses empathy for others. I understand empathy on a very deep level, and so writing a character who does not is a challenge for me.
4) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
I can’t really answer this because of how I write and edit. I don’t let scenes live if I’m not proud of them, if I don’t think everything pulled together on every level. Weakness gets thrown in the trash long before the final version is published. There are moments in every single scene that I am extremely proud of. Perhaps there are moments I don’t care about, but they’re present to do work that ties the more important moments together and weave a story with tension that ultimately leads to the emotional climax I’m trying to hit.
5) Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
In many ways, every single scene was difficult. I challenged myself with this book, and with every character. My editor challenged me even harder. If we found something easy, we pulled it apart to find ways to make it do more work. I powered through the entire last two rounds of editing, and both my editor and I were existing on fumes of hope and desperation. As for scenes that make me emotional, there are several, but they’re all huge spoilers! Basically, all of Act Five makes my heart hurt, as well as a bunch in Act Four. Sorry I can’t be more specific.
Tessa Gratton is the Associate Director of Madcap Retreats and the author of the Blood Journals Series and Gods of New Asgard Series, co-author of YA writing books The Curiosities and The Anatomy of Curiosity, as well as dozens of short stories available in anthologies and on merryfates.com. Though she’s lived all over the world, she’s finally returned to her prairie roots in Kansas with her wife. Her current projects include Tremontaineat Serial Box Publishing, YA Fantasy Strange Grace coming in 2018, and her adult fantasy debut, The Queens of Innis Lear, from Tor March 27, 2018. Visit her at tessagratton.comFind the author:
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