M.E. Breen is the author of Darkwood. She lives in California, and grew up around animals.
I am extremely excited to present you with an interview that she took the time to answer:
Are you impressed with the cover for Darkwood? Were there any other choices for cover art?
There was only ever one cover for this novel. We all loved it from the very beginning, though I will admit I was shocked at first to see anothor person's idea of what Annie looked like. It’s not that I had such a fixed idea of my own, because I relate to her more from the inside out, the way you can inhabit someone else’s body in a dream but still feel like yourself. But seeing Alex Jansson’s illustration made Annie feel a little less mine, like she belonged to the world now and was going to go places I couldn’t necessarily follow. Which is good! It just took getting used to. Writing is such a private, loner pursuit that the whole “public” part of publishing takes getting used to, at least for me. And of course I love the cats on the cover. They look just like my cats, except skinnier.
How did you decide to describe the kinderstalk and the other creatures in the book?
The most important thing I had to decide about the kinderstalk was their name. They had to sound terrifying to the people of Howland. And they had to have black fur to match the night. And big teeth, to eat you with. . .
Is writing about a "made-up" world difficult?
You know that old term, “brain-pan”? I think it actually means skull, but I always think of it as a sort of dish at the back of the head that holds images and ideas. I dream a lot and I spend a lot of time out in nature and those things fill up the pan, though often I don’t know the ideas are there until I start writing. The hard part for me is making sure everything follows the logic of the invented world, especially since Howland is filled with “the real” as well as the imaginary. For example, I realized when I was working on a late draft that I had someone using a weapon that wasn’t around until about 1920. Even though Howland is a fantasy world, it’s clearly a pre-industrial world, so I had to research things from time to time to make sure they fit.
How did you think of names such as Trewitt, Prudence, and Mr. Gibbet?
One of my favorite plays is The Way of the World by William Congreve. All of the characters have names that tell you something important about their nature or purpose. A suitor named Witwoud, for example, probably isn’t going to be very clever, while a woman named Millamant, which in French means “thousands of lovers,” is likely to be picky about whom she marries. As for my characters, Prudence struck me as a trait you’d want in a guide, and a trait Annie herself sometimes lacks, while Trewitt evokes truth and wit, honesty and cleverness. The name Gibbet was inspired by the name of the character Inspector Bucket in Dickens’ novel Bleak House. As you might imagine, the Inspector is a practical, hard-working man who keeps plugging along no matter what. So what’s in a name? Gibbet means gallows, or, as a verb, “to put to death by hanging."
And lastly, if you could take Annie's place in the story, would you?
This is a great question. A friend sent me a note after finishing Darkwood with the line, “I want to BE Annie!” This friend has a thriving career, a lovely partner and family, and two dogs she takes hiking through desert canyons—a pretty enviable life. So why would she want to be Annie, who spends most of the novel on the run from, and toward, danger? I think most of us want to escape from our lives sometimes, not because they’re bad, but because they’re full of homework and bills and negotiations about what to cook for dinner and wondering whether you can get away with wearing the brown pants to work three days in a row. Annie has plenty to worry about, but she does not sweat the small stuff. On those days when the small stuff feels like the only stuff, yes, I probably would take Annie’s place, but only if there was an escape clause that let me come back to my own life as soon as Chopper showed up.
I found Darkwood extremely exciting. Though I must say, I did not think I would be reading about Annie watching a man fall to his death...it was a bit over the edge (pun intended). However, it was a fantastically written, well played out book, and definitely worth a re-read.
Check out M.E. Breen's web site: here
Check out all the blogs in this tour: A Patchwork of Books, Abby the Librarian, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Hyperbole, KidzBookBuzz.com, Never Jam Today, My Utopia, Through a Child’s Eyes, Through the Looking Glass Reviews