While I can often come up with content for my “For Writers” and “For Artists” blog posts, I sometimes have trouble figuring out what readers are interested in. Do you want character sketches? Deleted passages? JK Rowling-style exposés on secret and possibly irrelevant backstory?
This month, instead of guessing, I decided to let you all tell me what you’re looking for. I finished out September with an Instagram Ask Me Anything, which I promised to answer in this month’s blog post. See your questions and their answers below!
It should go without saying, but there are MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS for the entire trilogy below--continue at your own risk!
@barkleybrigid asked: “Who is your favorite ‘side’ character?”
I’m going to skip a few of my more frequent choices—usually Rou and Colm, but let’s face it, they’re really main characters, even if they’re not narrators—and go with Rana Maczatl, Gemma’s mother. Rana has gone through a lot of iterations since she first began, but ultimately she emerged as the salty, revolutionary scientist she is now. In the first draft of Creatures of Light, she had much less page time, and my agent was one of several readers who pointed out how compelling a character she is and suggested I expand her role. Her background in entomology was drawn from my dad, and her penchant for political table-flipping from my mom, so she also feels like a familiar fusion of my own parents. I love the juxtaposition of her bitter, ballsy attitude with Gemma’s milder personality and seeing how Rana’s defiance starts to manifest in her daughter. Plus, this political cycle has made "Angry, Tired Mom with a Chip on Her Shoulder" just... so relevant to my life.
@sydneyakers05 asked: “What was Gemma’s life growing up?”
Idyllic, up to a point. She and her mother lived in a whimsical cob house on the outskirts of Callais, and Gemma would often traipse after Rana while she conducted field research and illustrated scientific texts. It was an intimate, rosy life until the Prelate caught wind of the clandestine political meetings Rana was hosting. After that, Gemma’s childhood became much more structured and schooled, with the Prelate realizing she could groom her niece into a perfectly-tuned queen to the Seventh King.
Riley asked: “When was Mae and Valien’s first kiss?”
In their teens---she jumped him at the archery range after watching him hit all his targets for the first time since he started shooting left-handed.
Nora asked: “Does Colm feel bad about hurting Mae’s shoulder?”
Is the Pope Catholic?
Guys… Colm has so much guilt over just existing. Yes, he feels bad.
Caroline asked: “Will Colm ever come back to Lumen Lake?”
Once his exile sentence is complete, he’ll come back for visits, but with the founding of the university and being starry-eyed for Gemma, his life is in Alcoro now.
Hannah asked: “Do you have a Creatures of Light playlist you wrote to?”
When I was writing the trilogy, I actually couldn’t work to anything other than instrumental music. I chalk some of this up to both my kids and my house being very small at the time, and I needed something to drown out Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. So for the trilogy, it was mostly ambient music or instrumental folk. But for The Outlaw Road, things have changed—my kids are now in school, and our house is big enough that I can’t hear every word spoken in every room. So for this duology, it’s been mostly melancholy lady folk, like Sarah Jarosz and the Wailin’ Jennies, particularly “Run Away” by Sarah Jarosz and “Storm Comin’” by the Wailin’ Jennies.
Libby asked: “What are the characters’ Hogwarts houses?”
Oh man, this is tough for some of them. Right off the bat, I think the easiest are Valien- Gryffindor (egregious sense of justice, chivalric by default), Mae- Slytherin (cunning, “do what it takes” attitude), and Colm- Hufflepuff (I mean, seriously). Arlen’s probably Gryffindor—all that impulse. Gemma is like… Hufflepuff software running on Ravenclaw hardware. Lyle is definitely Ravenclaw, though the Sorting Hat probably almost chose Slytherin. Rou… doesn’t seem like your typical Hufflepuff, but I think loyalty is his strongest characteristic, though he’s a lot braver than he likes to pretend. Celeno is a Ravenclaw whose friends are all Gryffindors, so he’s always out of his element. Sorcha told the Sorting Hat she wanted to be in Gryffindor, though it probably would have placed her in Hufflepuff otherwise. Ama is a Gryffindor. And Mona… Mona might also be a Slytherin. Yes, I think she must be. If Mae is a “sneak around and tell half-truths for the greater good” Slytherin, Mona is a “so help me I will rewrite the laws of this country to achieve the same end” Slytherin.
Edit: My best friend and Harry Potter aficionado disagrees and says Mona is a Gryffindor. I can see that also, though I'd argue that Gryffindors are reckless in their crusade for justice, while Slytherins are cooler and more methodical. But there's no doubt that Mona's goals extend to pretty much everyone except herself, which moves her out of the "in it for my own gain" region and more firmly into the "scrupulous selflessness" category.
What are your thoughts? Did I Sort this crowd correctly? Where would you place them? Tell me below!
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator