Author Spotlight: Laini Taylor Discusses DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS, Movie Adaptation News, Writing Influences & more!
We recently had the privilege of sitting down for an interview with Laini Taylor at the LA Times Book Festival, and she was incredibly charming and humble and gracious as she discussed finishing her Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, what’s new on the film adaptation front, and her writing influences. Check out our interview below, then scroll down to win a signed copy of Dreams of Gods & Monsters!
The ending to Dreams of Gods and Monsters could, for the hopeful minded like myself, be interpreted as a sort of beginning of a new story. Do you have any plans for a spinoff series?
It’s definitely possible. There was a time when I was writing Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the ending wasn’t a total surprise to me, but there was a character that had been briefly introduced in Days of Blood & Starlight, it isn’t until you really meet her again in this book, and in the chapter in which she begins to become real—I was so thrilled with the character and the things I was learning about her that I thought for sure I would write a spinoff. And then the end happened, and it definitely seems possible, I think there are a lot more stories to be told.
But right now I am going in a different direction. And I have a couple of other books I’m going to be writing next. But I’m really curious to see in a few years how I and my publisher and will readers feel, and if it might be something that happens. And if it isn’t a direct fourth book, maybe something else in the same world, probably with a different main character. It could be a character we’ve already met or it could be somebody completely new, it’s really hard to say how I’ll feel in a few years.
Will you bring back easter eggs from the first three books, or maybe cameos from Karou and Akiva?
Sure, if that happens. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. It would be nice if there was a demand for it and a conversation could be had.
Can you tell us anything about your new book(s)?
I’ve got a few. I just finished writing a short story for an anthology,and that was really fun to do a short piece. I love to be able to write without knowing exactly where it’s going, and to be able to do a short piece sort of just following inspiration as it leads. You can’t really do a novel that way, let alone a trilogy. That’s how Daughter of Smoke & Bone started, was a day of complete inspiration out of nowhere. Then I had to sort of figure out, “ok what do I have here, and where is this going to go?”
It was nice writing a short piece and being able to be really open, and find what it wanted to be. As I start a new novel, there are two I’m choosing between now, I think I’m leaning towards one that’s more science fiction. The other one is high fantasy, but very different from Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and I’m not quite sure what’s going to end up happening. I have my british book tour, and after that, I think I’ll have writing time.
We’re so happy there’s going to be a movie! Do you have any casting preferences? Can you share anything you’ve learned from the producers?
The producers are amazing, it’s the Roth company, they have the Maleficent movie coming out, they do gorgeous, gorgeous movies. The director is amazing, his name’s Michael Gracey. There’s a new final version of the script that just happened, and it’s at this pivotal point, and I’m just really excited to see what happens next. There’s a couple actresses that I like for Karou and Zuzana, but it’s not up to me, so I don’t like say who they are. And ask for Akiva, I have no idea. No idea at all.
You don’t have like a Pinterest board full of Akivas?
[laughs] No. No, I should! A secret one. When I see young actresses and actors, I always say “could that be Karou? could that be Akiva?” but as far as a perfect Akiva, I don’t know that that person exists. I think it’s a terribly cruel thing for an author to do, to write a character that’s supposed to be so impossibly beautiful because then whoever is cast in that role, no matter how gorgeous they are, you’re going to still be comparing them to the impossible ideal that’s been created in words. It’s a terrible thing to do to an actor. Like, Robert Pattinson, he’s a beautiful guy, but there was so much backlash. But now everyone loves him so it’s ok.
This one’s really easy – I would totally be a Kirin. Madrigal is just as much a wish fulfillment character as Karou I think. If I had to be a teenager again, I would be Karou, but if I had to be a chimaera I would be Madrigal. Who wouldn’t want to have wings?
Ooh yes, bat wings!
Bat wings – so much more awesome!
You are about to go through the last portal between Earth and Eretz and it will be sealed behind you forever. What three things do you grab to bring with you?
I’m going to Eretz?
Yes for the rest of eternity.
[laughs] What does Karou want, rubber bands, is that what it is? Maybe a really giant supply of chocolate until they can be taught to manufacture chocolate. Oh man, I’m really bad at these, what would I want? I keep thinking of practical things, because you’re basically going into a medieval world. Can I bring a doctor? Antiobiotics, a doctor, a pharmacy. I don’t know, that’s a really good question. What’s really essential for life, and if you were Karou, what could you not do without. Certainly medicine would be a critical one.
In this book, Karou and Akiva have a very stressful journey. They don’t really get a lot of “them time.” If you could give them a break from their fictional worries, and send them on a date anywhere in Earth or Eretz (or other worlds), where would you send them?
I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I sent them where I wanted to send them. I think the Kirin caves would be pretty awesome too. I’m having this moment where I can’t remember if something made it into the final draft or not, where Mik and Zuzana had a conversation about bringing people into the caves. I think they were doing it for free, they would be too jaded to charge, people couldn’t buy their way there. It would be people who deserve to go, to have a vacation in the Kirin caves.
I love how everyone in this book has their name and then a proper name, like Akiva is the Beast’s Bane, Thiago is the White Wolf, Karou is the Girl on the Bridge. If you had to write a proper name for yourself or a tagline for yourself, what would it be?
I’m not be able to come up with anything! Even if I got it in advance I would worry about it for a half hour and come up with nothing. I don’t know. What would I be, maybe “The Neurotic Writer.”
Brimstone has just gifted you a bruxis. What do you spend it on?
I’m not sure what the limits are exactly, but one would have to try to wish for health for your loved ones. Not immortality, that’s beyond his power. But even long life, which is what most people use their bruxis for, would you really want that if it was just you? One of my other stories, “Hatchling” in Lips Touch, the book before Daughter of Smoke & Bone, there was this conundrum where a character discovered that they had achieved this ridiculously long life, it was sort of like Highlander, only to see their loved ones die. It’s sort of a curse. There’s a resolution for it in that book that I think is good.
But yeah, I think health, but isn’t that the scariest thing of all, that something will happen, somebody will get sick. I can’t think of what’s worse than that, what’s the bigger fear. It definitely wouldn’t be my hair or anything like that. I would love to be able to fly, sure, but that would have to be if I had a violin case of gavriels.
Have you read any books lately that you would recommend to your fans?
This novel called Babayaga by an adult author, Toby Barlow. It was really good! It’s set in Cold War Paris, and the characters are American CIA agents and Russian witches. But it’s a literary novel, and it’s so beautiful and weird, incredibly weird, it’s so good. I just read a brand new YA release, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. It’s a YA book, but it feels like a magical realism story with a younger narrator.
Thank you so much. There are so many. Some of my favorite young adult novelists were writers that have gorgeous prose that I love. One of them would be Margot Lanagan. And Kelly Link, I love her writing. One of my favorite adult short story writers is Angela Carter, a British author who died probably like 20 years ago. She’s amazing, she did a lot of really cool literary fairy tale adaptations in the eighties when nobody else was really doing that. They’re very dark. She wrote a lot of novels too, she wrote a lot, considering she died far too young.
There was a movie when I was in high school ages ago called The Company of Wolves, and it’s a werewolf Little Red Riding Hood, from 1987, and you wouldn’t have thought that existed then. It was by Neil Jordan, and it’s kind cheesy now because it was so long ago, but it’s also totally awesome. It was based on a number of her different Little Red Riding Hood retellings. I remember seeing it in high school. I lived overseas, I was in Belgium. It blew my mind, it was so for me. I didn’t discover until years later that she wrote that. I fell in love with her writing separately and when I found out I was even more excited.
So you lived abroad, did you ever live in Prague?
I didn’t live there. I was a navy brat, so I lived in Italy as a kid and in Belgium. I went to Prague for the first time about twenty years ago, and then again ten years ago with my husband when we were researching a comic book that we wanted to do, that we didn’t end up doing. So when I started writing Daughter of Smoke & Bone it was kind of the perfect setting, so I used all the stuff from that other trip as inspiration.
Is the Poison Kitchen a real place?
No, unfortunately. I made up the Poison Kitchen totally for myself. I went to high school in Orange County in the eighties and there was nowhere to go for teenagers. Like zero, nowhere. The In & Out Burger parking lot is where teens would hang out. At least now there’s like Barnes & Noble cafe now, but there wasn’t even a coffee house, not a single one. Especially after living eighth and ninth grade in a major European city, it was such a shock. I think Poison Kitchen is a complete gift to my sad teenage self.
We would drive 45 minutes to Long Beach to get coffee. It was called Midnight Espresso. That’s where all the cool kids went from all around. I remember having a big crush on the barista, before anyone used the word barista in this country. He was a lit snob, he’d be reading Madame Bovary or something, and I’d think “I need to read that!” But then it was boring, but I read it many times. I did not get through James Joyce for that crush though, which never went anywhere. I didn’t like him that much. [laughs]
Well now I’m bummed I can’t visit the Poison Kitchen when I go to Europe!
I know! I really want the movie to happen so someone will create the Poison Kitchen. A designer can create that interior, I want to see that.
Do you think they might consult you for the set designing?
No, but I’m the executive producer so I get to be involved and see what’s going on. I did some art and I went to art school, but I never had that kind of visual imagination. I want to see what a concept artist would come up with, and how they would do it, because I know I could never do it as well as they could. I’ve seen some early character adaptations that the director has commissioned and they’re so beautiful, so amazing. There are people who can do this, and I’m not one of them.
I can’t wait to see what they do, this is just one of those stories that I know is going to be beautiful on the big screen, and I’m dying to see it.
I know me too! Absolutely.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us Laini!
Thank you so much!
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