Some Frequently Asked Questions (And a Local Book Signing)

First, a thank you to every single person who's emailed me. I read every email and I love every email. I wish I could respond to every email!

This post will be my first attempt to answer a few of the questions I've received.

FAQ disclaimer: I enjoy receiving questions about subtext, so I'm not saying don't send me questions about subtext. But just know this: I won't answer them. :o) The book serves as its own explanation; you come up with your own interpretations. Make sense?

Spoiler status: The following FAQs are, by most standards, spoiler-free for people who have not yet read Graceling. However, if you are psychotic about spoilers (like me) and haven't read Graceling, only read questions 1, 2, and 6.

1. I've always thought of fantasies as world-building books where the authors create the characters after building the world. But that doesn't feel like the case in Graceling, because the characters seem so real. Which came first: the characters or the kingdoms?
Well, thank you, and you're right -- the characters came first in Graceling, completely and absolutely. I knew Katsa, Po, and Raffin fairly well before I ever began to build a world around them. Of course, they came with their special powers and their situations intact, so they brought pieces of the world with them from the beginning; but without a doubt, characters were the genesis of the book. If you're curious about how Graceling grew, I talk about it a bit in this interview. And if people have more specific questions, please feel free to email or comment -- I'll add them to my list.

2. How do you pronounce Lienid?
Really and truly, I don't mind how people pronounce the names of characters and places in my books. In fact, my own pronunciation of Katsa has changed because everyone else seems to pronounce it differently from the way I do. So please, say the words however you want to say them.

That being said, if you want to say them the way I say them -- I pronounce Lienid LEE-uh-nid or LEE-nid, like the Leonids, the meteors that occur every year (in real life, in our sky) around November. That's where I got the idea for the name, actually. It struck me as the perfect kingdom to name after falling stars, even if the association was only in my head (because in the seven kingdoms, of course, there are no yearly meteor showers called Leonids...).

While I'm on the subject, I pronounce Katsa to rhyme with POT-suh (or, at least, I used to, until I heard everyone else pronouncing it to rhyme with PAT-suh); Randa to rhyme with HAND-uh, Raffin to rhyme with LAUGH-in, Oll to rhyme with doll. And I speak with an American accent. But that doesn't mean you have to!

3. The villain in Graceling is really creepy and disgusting. Was it hard for you to write him?
Actually, quite the opposite. I tend to enjoy writing creepy, bad stuff. I suppose Freud or Jung or somebody would say that society represses our natural human tendencies toward deviance, and creating a deviant character could be a kind of release. Or something? Whatever the reason, I would much rather write about a creep being creepy than about someone bland being bland. Or landscapes. I don't much like describing landscapes. :o)

4. Can you tell us more about the villain? His backstory; parentage; anything about his eye?
I can and do in future books.

5. Are Raffin and Bann lovers?
This is, hands down, my most frequently asked question. It's also a perfect example of a question I won't answer. :o)

6. Kristin! How is your car running? (A question frequently asked by my Dad.)
Dad! My car is running GREAT. The right rear bumper is hanging slightly loose but I'm holding it on with Obama stickers. I get 35 mpg, my odometer reads 174,880 miles, and I'm thinking of commemorating 175,000 with a new clutch. I love my car and here is the plan: I am going to live to be 101 years old, and I will drive this car for the rest of my life.

Silliness aside, I'll tackle more questions soon.

Also, for any of you in north Florida: This coming Thursday (Oct 23), at 7pm, I'll be reading from Graceling and signing books at The Bookmark in Atlantic Beach, one block from the sea. The Bookmark is in the Beaches Town Center, 299 Atlantic Blvd, Atlantic Beach 32233. Phone: (904) 241-9026.

Have a nice week, everyone!


Anonymous said…
Yay, thank you for getting around to answering #2! That was a burning question and it makes me happy to finally know. xD I hadn't even thought of some of the other questions but those answers are good to know too.

Hooray, thank you for making my day. :D
Anonymous said…
Oh wow! You picked some of mine. ***Awwwee Gush!***

Re #1 - That's amazing to get the level of detail in both the world & characters and in 400 pages. That's an accomplishment!

Re #4 - Well, now I have a whole year to form "missing eye theories." I love to speculate about my fave fiction.

Re #5 - I sort of figured you'd decline to answer. But I think this is one of those situations where I can know the truth in my heart and be satisfied. :)

Re #6 - Way to conserve Kristin! Good for you!

You're so cool to answer our questions. Graceling is really taking off and I'm so happy for you!

Can't wait for Fire,
NoGrandmother said…
Here is a question: when you come to Houston on your book tour, will you let me take you out to dinner?
*takes a sigh of relief*

well im glad you didnt answer the question relating to whether or not Raffin and Bann were lovers because in my mind their not and if you had said they were then it would have ruined it for me!
Anonymous said…
Now I have what might be a meta-subtext question. To what extent do you work out details about relationships, personal history, world history, etc. that aren't directly relevant to the story?

There are various minor characters who are important to the lead characters in Graceling but who are not important to the story. (I'd be more specific, but I'd rather be paranoid about spoilers.) Do you work out details like whether the minor characters are married, the name of their spouses, how many children they have, that sort of thing?

Do you ever find that, say, you're working on a scene between two characters, and you need to work out some details of one character's childhood in order to make the scene work, even though their childhood doesn't actually come up?

I guess another way of phrasing it is, how much backstory do you need to develop in order to write the story?
Anonymous said…
Oh, I didn't know about leonids (the meteors). A lovely and apt inspiration for naming that society in your book...
Kristin Cashore said…
Thanks, everybody, for your comments. Mr M, at the risk of sounding obstinate, I'm afraid I can't answer those questions, either! I don't want to think quite that closely about my process. I'm afraid of jeopardizing my process with over-introspection.

And thanks to you all for understanding that I really don't want my comments, as the author, sitting outside the text, to affect your interpretations of the text. That's important, I think. (Though I'm getting myself confused with my own sentences....)
Anonymous said…
I kind of expected that you wouldn't have an answer to my question.

I have a tendency to overanalyze things, which can be fun, but can also get in the way of actually doing whatever it is that I'm overthinking.
Anonymous said…
Hello Kristan. I was just wondering why you won't answer the question about Bann and Raffin? As a fan of yours and a gay person, I would like to know why?

Kristin Cashore said…
Hey there Sethanel, check out my FAQ Disclaimer at the top of the post. I try not to answer any questions about what things mean in my books, no matter the topic, because I want the book to be its own answer :o). I feel that the author is the last person on earth who should be interpreting the book for other people! And I think it's fascinating that people have different interpretations about different things! It tends to surprise me, because I guess I expect people to interpret things the way I do -- but if I answer the questions, then it will make them interpret it the way I do, and I don't want that. The author can't be outside the book explaining the book, if that makes sense!

Thanks so much for writing.
Anonymous said…
Sigh, well I guess there goes some good representation. Sorry, that sounds worse then what I mean but it is the only way to say it. But maybe that is just due to my orientation.

Anonymous said…
Sethanel, as a literary critic who is always, always looking for more gay representation in books, I disagree. The world of YA needs far more blatantly gay characters than it has now, but each author has to write the book that is right for her, as she sees fit. That's why she's the author.

Nor is she obliged to interpret the book outside the book. Some authors will do that (opening large cans of worms), but no author is required to. After the book's done, the author hasn't any more authority to interpret it than does anyone else, in my opinion.

I understand being frustrated in a case like this. I understand seeing Raffin and Bann as lovers, and I understand wishing deeply that the text made it blatant. But the text doesn't make it blatant; that's the book that this book is. Your implication that that the author is irresponsibly neglecting an opportunity, just because she refrains from verbally writing "more book" after she has already written the whole book, is not fair.
Anonymous said…
*spoiler alert*

ummm, in the book it says that Katsa would never marry anyone. Po said: "I find myself wondering why you haven't wanted to marry giddon, and if it's because you've intended to marry Raffin, and if so..." But isn't Raffin her cousin? Why would she intend to marry her cousin??

question aside, I really like the book!

curious reader
Kristin Cashore said…
Hi curious reader! Good question. In a lot of older novels (like Jane Austen's Mansford Park) and even in some present-day cultures, it's not uncommon for people to marry cousins. In particular, it's not an uncommon trope in stories that take place "long ago." So, in the Seven Kingdoms, it wouldn't be considered strange. Actually, just coincidentally, I happened to read an article a couple weeks ago that talked about how recent science has shown that there's not necessarily anything wrong with having kids with your cousin. Again, I'm not saying go do this, and I personally would not marry any of my cousins (no offense, guys! ^_^). But in the world of my book, the fact that Po would say such a thing so nonchalantly suggests that it's considered acceptable in their culture. Or at least, that's what I meant to suggest! :o)
Anonymous said…
I understand now:)
Thank you for answering my question.

Curious reader (well, not anymore :)

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