Today, I’ve got Rachel O’Laughlin, the super sweet author behind THE COLDNESS OF MAREK, which hit shelves on August 6th 2013. She’s got some amazing in-depth answers to my questions that I’m excited to share! And be sure to stay till the end, I’ve got a giveaway too.
Rachel O’Laughlin:You’ll laugh, but the story was almost an alternative history. The theme that kept coming to me was, what if the American Revolution went wrong? The colonists didn’t have a whole lot to complain about compared to other groups in history who had rebelled before them or have rebelled since. What if their good intentions went awry? As soon as I decided to do the story as an Epic Fantasy instead of an America thing, this image of cold, jagged cliffs and the rugged people who live there sort of embedded itself in my mind. It wasn’t what I planned on, but I went with my instincts.
The backstory came in naturally. I had been really into politics in my late teens, so I used that interest in changing the world as a basis for my seventeen-year-old main character and just let her fill in the blanks.
Serengard was a little tricky. The revolution is the driving force of the plot, but shaping the country was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I drew on countries that went through significant revolutions at one time or another — mainly Russia and Italy — but I had to tweak things to make it work. The people who inhabit the cities and countryside are similar in culture to peoples who lived in the Ukraine and Prussia in the 13th-14th centuries, and the cliff people were based roughly on the Kyrgyz nomads of southern Afghanistan. National Geographic is pretty much my favorite source of fantasy research. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron…haha.
Mikel was a character I had wanted to write years ago, but I could never figure out a way to work him into a story without him coming off as a self-righteous jerk. Pitting him against Trzl worked out perfectly. He’s still snobby and harsh — but then, so is she. They’re equal of mind and opposite in their motivations. Totally wrong for each other. Totally right for the forces of nature they become.
IceyBooks: No matter how great a plot may be, readers are always looking for a connection with protagonists. Tell us more about your protagonist, Trzl, and what makes her unique.
Rachel O’Laughlin: To be honest, writing Trzl as a main character was a little scary. She’s impulsive, power hungry, conniving and ruthless. But she’s also passionate, independent and unafraid to stick up for herself. She was raised by her grandfather, who is a major figurehead for the brewing rebellion in Serengard, and her goals revolve around bringing down the current monarchy and replacing it with a more just regime…as long as she gets to help run it.
Her priorities do change, though. Years later, she is fed up with power, and all she wants is to keep her son safe from his horrible father. The title of the book implies that the cold figure is Marek. The twist is that even though he is cold to her, she is capable of being just as cold, if not colder.
IceyBooks: Trzl is a name I’ve never heard of – can you tell us how to pronounce it and if there’s a reason behind the name?
Rachel O’Laughlin: I pronounce it “TURR-zull”, but a friend of mine pronounces it “Teer-ZEEL”, and I like both (maybe they pronounce it differently in northern Serengard? Lol). I was advised by a lot of people to change it, and seriously debated doing just that, because it is certainly weird. But there IS a reason behind it. While most of my characters have invented names — such as Otreya, Hodran, Pier, Gernan — they all have vowels, except hers.
The significance would definitely be spoilery, but I can say this: her strange name has to do with her bloodline. Serengard is surrounded by three other countries and twice as many races, and where she comes from ends up being important as the plot thickens.
IceyBooks: You’re a mom and a writer – is it difficult to balance your time between running a household and writing?
Rachel O’Laughlin: It’s definitely challenging! My kids are still really young, so I have to be with them every second. I typically spend my mornings doing housework, entertaining the kids with friends or errands. I can’t write with distractions. Twitter, yes. Blog-surfing, yes. But writing? No. My mind just goes blank, because I’m on alert, and then someone says, “Mama?” and it switches gears and I can’t get back. Naptime is my saving grace. I don’t know what I’ll do when the boys are too old to nap. Lots of Pixar, or something, haha.
Fun fact: I was pregnant with my second kid when I drafted COLDNESS. The raging hormones made recreating teenage angst really fun. REALLY FUN.
IceyBooks: Give us the three:
-Movies you can’t wait to see:
Rachel O’Laughlin: RED 2 – because the first one was freaking awesome. What’s not to love about retirees running around kicking butt?
The Wolverine. Besides Batman, he’s my favorite superhero, and I’ll never get over him.
Anna Karenina. Still haven’t seen it because I’m trying to bribe hubby to watch it with me. I shall prevail in the end.
IceyBooks: Snacks you’re craving right now:
Rachel O’Laughlin: Oreos. They’re my old stand-by when I really need to spoil myself.
White Cheddar Cheez-Its, because I’m always craving them and ignoring it. They’re just so yummy…and unhealthy.
Vanilla soft serve ice cream in a sugar cone. There is never a good reason to turn down vanilla soft serve. (Also, did you know Maine — cold as it may be — is actually the country’s #1 consumer of ice cream? Isn’t that weird?)
IceyBooks: Books you can’t wait to read:
Rachel O’Laughlin: RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo. It’s the final installment of the trilogy and I’m biting my nails.
BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler. I’m not a huge contemp fan, but I’m a huge Dahlia fan, and I know I will love it.
TWO by Leigh Ann Kopans. The sequel to ONE, which I adored. I honestly have my breath bated. IT’S COMING IN OCTOBER!!!
Obsessed with all things history, Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories and only recently fell in love with fantasy as a genre. She lives in New England with her husband and children, grows roses and tweets often. She adores lattes, The Fray, long drives in the country, and any dark story with a good twist. Her first novel, an epic fantasy titled COLDNESS OF MAREK, will be released in August 2013.
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Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries — centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that its people no longer believe in. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is dedicated to turning the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion.
As the rebellion escalates, her choices have an eerie impact on the revolution at large, elevating her to a position of influence she has only dreamed of attaining. But there are downsides to her new power that entangle her in a dangerous web of emotions, appearances and alliances. Even as she plays to the attractions of Hodran, a rich nobleman who wants to aid her cause, she is drawn to Mikel, a loyalist farmer who hates the rebellion but just might be winning her heart.
By the time Trzl realizes she is in too deep, she has an infant son and a dark mess of betrayal and lies. She runs to the furthest corner of the kingdom in hopes that she will be left alone with her child, but she has created too many demons. A figure she once trusted will take her captive in the chilling Cliffs of Marek, throw her back into the political upheaval she helped create, and leave her at the mercy of a man she never wanted for an enemy.
And now for the giveaway! Rachel has so generously donated a signed paperback of COLDNESS OF MAREK with 5 bookmarks and 2 postcards to one lucky US, UK, Europe, Australian reader! Just fill out the Rafflecopter below – good luck.