Victoria Aveyard wrote her debut novel, Red Queen, at the age of 24. Her novel, the first in a trilogy, follows 17-year-old Mare Barrow in a world were those who bleed red are considered the impoverished lower class. They serve the silver blooded upper class who have supernatural gifts they use to control their world. Read Aveyard’s Q & A with Publishers Weekly.
It’s ambitious to tackle a series with your debut not knowing how people will respond. What made you decide to launch your writing career with a trilogy?
That’s a good question and one I haven’t gotten before, so, thank you! I’m a very indulgent writer and I always want more than a standalone, so I came into the novel knowing I wanted to write a series but I didn’t know that I would get a chance to. All my favorite books and movies are franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, so that was always the dream, that maybe I’ll get to write a series of my own. And it happened!
Did you feel like you were under any different kinds of pressure than an author writing a one-off?
The first manuscript I wrote on spec so there was no pressure besides the fact that I had better make this good enough to sell. The second one is almost done, and in writing that I found it was more about being aware that you have to interject things that previously happened. Like when you read the fifth Harry Potter book and they have those obligatory chapters about “Here’s what’s happened to Harry so far…”
So you had the entire trilogy plotted out from the beginning knowing that you wanted this to be a series?
You would think that! (laughs) If you ask the people that created Lost or if you ask George Lucas about Star Wars, they’re going to lie to you and say they knew where it was going to end from the beginning. I just knew it was going to take more than one story. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through the second one that I thought, “Now I know where it’s going.” And you start interweaving things that are going to come into play in the third.
Dystopian settings have really been de rigeur in YA lately. What got you interested in the genre?
I think because I created the story to service the visual image I had – a teenage girl who could control lightning – I selected the world around that. I was inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire and I wanted to play with a modern Dark Ages, where technology existed yet you don’t exactly know what happened to get to this point. I don’t know if the readers really see much of that, but just as a tonal reference in my head it helped to build this world that felt like a dystopia but leaves it open to interpretation: is this our actual world or a completely new fantasy world?
Several of your characters are grappling with their identities and struggling with power in every sense of the word. Why did you choose those as the central themes?
Both of them, to me, are very, very intertwined. The power allows these very young characters to have more control over their lives than a reader of their age. I wanted to blow up the typical teenage identity crisis into something a little more weighty. It’s something everyone goes through at 17, but these characters aren’t just choosing a college major or a career.
Were you inspired by any dystopian books or authors while you were writing?
One of the authors and stories that I really drew on, not necessarily for direct influence but in terms of cast, was the Game of Thrones series. I am totally enamored with how George R.R. Martin bends and twists the tropes of fantasy. I tried to do a little bit of that on my own with YA books and fairy tale tropes as well, immediately knowing where my twists would be.
Can you give an example of a trope that you twisted?
Nothing too spoilery, but the idea of the poor common girl becoming betrothed to a prince and it being the ultimate fairytale dream. There’s literally a point where Mare’s like: “This is a nightmare.”
Red Queen also seems to share some traits with classic superhero tropes, perhaps most notably the X-Men. You’ve been busy between the books and writing and selling a screenplay, Eternal, a project with Marvel mastermind Stan Lee. Were you a big fan of his comic books growing up?
I’ve always been a huge fan of the movies. I unfortunately never got into the comic books. I was such a Harry Potter freak so those I was just mainlining those at all times, but I was definitely inspired by the X-Men and it was a kick-starter. I thought, okay, 100 years into a war with people and superheroes, there’s no way they’re going to be running from the government. They’re going tobe the government. If you have a mind controller, they’re not going to sit at home and twiddle their thumbs.
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