A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Hello, all! It’s Laura Lam here, and I have the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth May for her debut The Falconer, out TODAY!
LL: It’s the dreaded first question: To those who don’t know, what’s your book about?
EM: It’s about a young noblewoman in an alternate 1844 Scotland who hunts and kills faeries. There are flying machines and pistols that shoot lightning and romance and elegant balls and bloody street fighting.
LL: You’re a PHd student studying anthropology – How has your PhD research influenced the world and mythology of The Falconer? How much, if at all, have you changed the folktales for Aileana’s Edinburgh?
EM: Quite a lot. Scotland has legends that are full of violent, bloodthirsty faeries that prey on humans. While some can be helpful, most consider humans to be expendable. So faeries kidnap people, steal children, poison crops, and kill people. They’re not kindly, and they’re not gentle.
Edinburgh actually has its own faery myths that contributed a great deal to The Falconer’s plot and world building. Most notably, the story of the Faery Boy of Leith, about a lad who was drummer to the fae. He would enter their world through Calton Hill and join them in their underground dwelling. According to legend, if you press your ear to the bare ground at Calton Hill, you can hear the boy still drumming for the faeries. So The Falconer draws very heavily from the idea that the fae are underneath the city, that they lurk in the shadows and wynds for their victims.
LL: Aileana is no quivering maiden and one of her driving forces is rage and anger. She is just as bloodthirsty as the fey she kills, but for different reasons. Was this a conscious parallel or did she burst onto the page, snarling and covered in blood?
EM: She definitely did burst onto the page that way! But the parallel was also conscious on my part. To the fae, Aileana is the bad guy. She’s someone who is slaughtering their kind mercilessly for hunting humans – because the fae think of humans the way we think of deer. Aileana’s preoccupation with vengeance is not a noble thing. And her similarity to her victims allowed me to explore the idea that heroes can be villainous, too. That just because she saves humans in the process of killing the fae doesn’t mean her actions are entirely altruistic.
LL: Can you tell us a little bit about your publication journey?
EM: The Falconer, to my surprise, was picked up fairly quickly. I signed with my agent in August 2011, and the trilogy had sold to multiple countries by the end of October 2011.
But before that was an incredibly long, incredibly frustrating journey that included 9 manuscripts that I wrote and trunked. One of those manuscripts I queried agents with and it collected rejection after rejection. It was heartbreaking then, of course, but now I’m really grateful that I had all that writing experience, and that I became familiar with rejection. You get it a lot in this business.
LL: What’s your writing routine – i.e. what time of day do you write the most, how many cups of coffee per hour, what’s your magical food that helps creativity?
EM: I’d say my output is best around mid-afternoon. I try to limit my coffee to about 2 cups, because if I have more than that, I start getting jittery and crash mid-writing session. I don’t really eat much while writing – I’m more of a coffee/beer/wine/whisky drinker.
LL: So this is your debut and it’s all new and scary, I’m sure. How do you feel aside from wanting to hide on an island somewhere and swim with turtles?
EM: Horrified, nervous, excited. But, mostly, terror. That turtle island is starting to sound really nice.
LL: Can you tell us anything about the sequel?
EM: It will be very different from the first! You learn more about the fae – their past, their rise to power, and ultimately, how they came to be trapped beneath Edinburgh… J
Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth! I learn more about The Falconer, check the cover copy:
Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.
Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.
Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.
But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?
ELIZABETH MAY is an occasional book cover photographer, a fantasy novelist, a lazy PhD student, and an accomplished coffee drinker. She resides in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she can frequently be spotted skulking about dark wynds with a camera in hand.
Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.
She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.
Her YA fantasy, Pantomime, debuted in February 2013 through Strange Chemistry Books, with the sequel, Shadowplay, following in January 2014. She can be found on www.lauralam.co.ukor on Twitter as @LR_Lam.