Feb 19, 2018

Sarah Glenn Marsh talks Reign of the Fallen, queer rep and #ownvoices narratives.

Reign of the Fallen is hands down one of the most exciting releases of 2018. The gloriously queer and beautifully captivating fantasy is a book I'll instantly recommend to everyone. The book's MC Odessa is so badass yet so relatable, and it's impossible not to love her. 

Today we have the author, Sarah Glenn Marsh over at the blog to talk about the book, and she revealed her inspiration, her view on #ownvoices narratives and some exciting insider info!

Title : Reign of the Fallen
Author : Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : January 23rd 2018
Synopsis : 
Odessa is one of Karthia's master necromancers, catering to the kingdom's ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it's Odessa's job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised--the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa's necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer's magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

1. Describe your book in 5 words.

 Dark murder monster queer romance!

2. What was your inspiration behind Reign of the Fallen? 

The idea for Reign of the Fallen was inspired by my grandmother’s stay in the hospital; thankfully, she’s fine now, but the situation got me thinking: how far would someone be willing to go to bring a loved one back from the dead? What sort of sacrifices would someone make in order to bring an important person back into their lives, and what consequences might that decision have? Those questions led me to the Greek mythological hero Orpheus, who attempts to rescue his wife from the underworld and is told by Hades that he can take her back to the living world as long as he doesn’t look at her until they’re both out of his realm. Spoiler alert: he takes a peek and loses her forever. Drawing from that mythology, as well as researching rituals surrounding death from around the world, helped me to start building the world of Reign, where the Dead must wear shrouds in the living world or else become monsters; where change of even the smallest sort is outlawed because the Dead fear it; where entering the spirit world demands a painful sacrifice of any living person who dares to go there.

3. Reign of the Fallen is an #ownvoices novel. Share with us your thoughts on the importance of #ownvoices books in YA and your experience as one. 

I think ownvoices books are incredibly important because they can offer the most accurate, in-depth portrayals of the identities they represent, and the last thing anyone needs is more books that perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Of course, since every individual’s experience is different, ownvoices rep for, say, bisexuality, and what it means to be bi, will naturally vary by reader and author, so one ownvoices book might have rep that speaks to certain bisexuals and not others—and that’s why we need a wide variety of ownvoices authors sharing their stories, so that all readers will be able to see themselves in books someday!

4. Odessa’s experience with grief, and the way she tries to escape it was so raw, heartbreaking yet realistic. How did you manage to portray such emotions so well?

I wrote this story from a hurt place—my grandmother was really sick, and since she helped raise me, she’s really special to me. And I think that helped with the rawness of the emotions on page. Another thing that helped the portrayal was telling the story in first person present tense—this POV forced me to stay in the moment with Odessa every step of the way, reacting to events in the moment, blow by blow as they unfolded. Last but not least, my amazing team of CPs and teen beta readers helped quite a lot.

5. What would you like to say about the need for more queer representation, especially the still underrepresented spectrums of bisexual MCs and f/f romances?

I would say that since reading builds empathy, something that is significantly lacking within certain parts of our society today, we need more and more queer voices and accurate queer rep to be published and shared. We need publishers to pick up the stories of trans authors. Of ace authors. We need stories about queer characters facing challenges for things other than their queerness, too- like fighting dragons. F/f stories are decidedly less common, and I don’t understand why that is, but I think we can begin to remedy this when publishers take on more work featuring f/f stories with good rep. 

6. I loved that this is a sex positive book. What’s your thoughts on this? Do you think we need more sex positive books in YA? 

Thank you! My thoughts there are: absolutely we need more sex positive books. We need only sex positive books! Your body, your rules, your choices- as long as you are safe and happy and consenting, no one should be shaming you for having sex, and our books—especially books for teens—need to reflect that!

7. The book has a large batch of secondary characters, yet everyone is special and lovable. ( I couldn’t even hate the villain ) Will we get to see more of these characters’ stories in the sequels? Who’s your favourite? 

You will definitely see more of everyone you love in the sequel. Promise. As for a favorite…when I tried to pick, Jax started sulking, Valoria wrote me an essay on why it should be her, Meredy acted like she didn’t care even though she totally does, and Simeon threatened to roast me (okay, that could be entertaining, but still!)…so I’m going to go with my favorite *animal* character in the book, which is Lysander the grizzly bear, Meredy’s companion!

8. Having read Fear the Drowning Deep, I can sense a sinister and gorgeously creepy tint to your stories and writing. Can I safely assume that this is your style? Or can we expect something totally different in the future?

 Thank you so much! I can firmly promise you all the creeptastic things in the future. I love fantasy and sci-fi, but horror is my other love, and I am always here looking for ways to blend those things together. Whatever I come out with after REIGN, you should definitely expect some horror elements in there somewhere, even in a minor way!

9. What advice would you give for aspiring authors?

Here’s my best advice for aspiring authors, broken into three parts:
1)      Get others to critique your work, but more importantly, offer to critique for others! Critique as much and often as you can. There’s nothing like finding the strengths and weaknesses in a variety of different authors’ work to teach you about how to edit your own stories.
2)      Read voraciously in the genre/category in which you want to publish. When you’re doing that, and you have a strong response to something- love it, or not so much- try to identify what it is you’re enjoying, or what’s not working for you about the story you’re reading. You’ll pick up things you might like to try in your own writing this way (for instance, maybe you’ll be inspired to try a new POV!), and will also identify things you may want to avoid (the things that don’t work for you as a reader).
3)      Seek community. In the online writing community, I’ve found like-minded people, learned more than I ever would have imagined possible, and made life-changing connections with wonderful authors and bloggers who I’m so happy to call friends. You have everything to gain by interacting with other book lovers online!

10. Can you share with us what you’re working on next?

Right now, I’m busy polishing the Reign of the Fallen sequel (title to be announced, hopefully soon!). In it, you’ll get to see Kasmira really use her weather working power, which was fun to write. You’ll get to see some of the wider world outside Karthia, and learn how other cultures treat necromancers and the Dead; you’ll also see plenty of familiar faces mixed in with some new favorites. Oh, and the black fever sucks. You might’ve gotten a hint of that in the first book, though…

As to what’s next after that: I’m dabbling on a new fantasy project which will include family bonds, queer people being awesome, ownvoices rep for bisexuality and anxiety, and…well, I’d better hush about it for now, but hopefully I’ll be bringing you some more fun reads in the future!

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