An Interview with the Author of Ironskin, Tina Connolly

by Madeleine Rex

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I’m enormously excited to have had the opportunity to interview Tina Connolly about her debut novel, Ironskin (which I reviewed
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earlier this week). It’s the first interview I’ve done in a long while, but Tina was such an amiable interviewee that her awesomeness compensated for my rustiness.

But you’re not here to listen to me…

——

1. There’s no denying that there are many similarities between Ironskin and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (which I love). Was this intentional? If so, what inspired you to take Jane Eyre and give it a new, fey-ridden twist?

I love Jane Eyre too! The novel grew out of a short story, which was not specifically like Jane Eyre, but did feature a governess going to a creepy mansion. Someone pointed out the similarities to Jane Eyre, and when I decided to expand the story into a novel, I started playing with those threads more openly, using Jane Eyre for structure as well as playing with the thematic similarities. I really loved working with the Jane Eyre story—you might say the book is sort of an homage to Bronte’s book.

2. In the past few years, paranormal creatures have become a common feature in YA fiction. Were you daunted by the task of making your fey book stand out among the rest? How did you make it happen (because you did)?

Thank you! I confess that was not one of my fears (although I certainly have a plethora of fears and daunts!)—I think I was more focused on trying to make sure my fey were even understandable, because in many ways they are so alien to our usual conception of the fey. Sometimes my short stories are so weird they go off the rails, so I tried to temper the weirdness with a (hopefully) relatable, if unusual, protagonist in Jane.

3. As I read, I could never pinpoint what time-period Ironskin is set in. There’s the foggy English moor and dilapidated mansion that are reminiscent of the mid-1800s, but modern (and even futuristic) technology is mentioned. Did you have a specific time-period in mind?

It’s tricky, yeah! Ironskin is not exactly alternate history. It’s set 5 years after a Great War between the human and the fey, and so to help give it a sense of place, I ended up doing a bunch of research into post-WW1 Great Britain. However, it’s a different world really. For one, humans have been trading for all this cheap clean technology with the fey, so the tech in Ironskin is both ahead and behind (as you mentioned) of where it might be in our world.

4. The book, similar to Jane Eyre, is full of ominousness and a creeping feeling that something, well, creepy is going to happen. The book definitely delivers. Did you look at other books as inspiration for the scariness and drama of the climax?

Thanks! I didn’t look at anything specifically, but I’m glad the ending worked for you. I had a very similar ending in the original short story, so it’s kind of been in place for a long time. I had a lot of creepy elements to tie up at the end, so it’s perhaps inevitable that they resolved in a creepy fashion. :)

5. Have you always been interested in writing YA, or have you explored other genres? If so, what made you settle on YA?

Well, Ironskin is actually under the regular Tor label (not Tor Teen.) However, I absolutely love middle-grade and young adult books, and so I’m sure some of that came through in writing Ironskin. I know a lot of young adult fans have been picking up the book! Ironskin and the forthcoming sequel are like the 7th and 9th books I’ve written, I think? I have a couple definite trunk novels in there, but then I do have 2 MGs and 2 YAs, and a couple of them I really love. So maybe we’ll see them someday!

6. Do you have some favorite YA authors and books? What about classic novels (aside from Jane Eyre, of course)?

Recent YAs—I love Kristin Cashore’s books! I’ve got Bitterblue on my nighstand and haven’t had time to read it yet, though I’m dying to. Other recent favorites: Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, Rae Dawn Carson’s series. Not fantasy, but I absolutely loved E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

A couple recent favorites by friends–EC Myers’ Quantum Coin series (twisty SF YA), Leah Cypess’ dark/high fantasy books, Merrie Haskell’s books (MG high fantasy/interesting fairy tale retellings), and an e-release I recently blurbed for K. Bird Lincoln, Tiger Lily (a genderbending historical fantasy set in Japan.)

And classics! My all-time favorite is actually Pride & Prejudice (I love Jane Austen to bits), as well as Charlotte Bronte’s books (Villette is probably my favorite.) Other faves include Edith Wharton, Saki, Roald Dahl (for any age really, but his kids’ books edge ahead with Quentin Blake’s wonderful illos), Margaret Atwood, Noel Streatfeild (best known for Ballet Shoes), and ohhh…. So many more. We moved this year to a 1940′s fixer house, and one of the best bits is it has a library for my 2000 books.

7. Did you study English or Creative Writing in school, or has it been a longtime hobby? Have you ever had to deal with people who discouraged you from pursuing novel-writing?

I did study English Lit at college and loved it (hey, a degree where you get to read all the time! What could be better?) But I actually didn’t start writing till after college, when I ended up in a job with night shift hours and I couldn’t do theatre. My formal creative writing training is that I went to the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2006 (an intensive 6-week program in Seattle), and I highly recommend it. I am lucky in that my family and husband have always been encouraging, because pursuing any creative path is generally long and uphill!

8. What was your experience as a first-time author? Was the journey, from query letters to signing contracts to publicity, smooth or an adventure?

Tor has been absolutely fantastic. Things there have been perfectly smooth since the beginning two years ago, when my awesome agent sent Ironskin to my wonderful editor and she made an offer. Now for the adventure part…. I got the offer for Ironskin + an unwritten sequel in Nov 2010. In Dec 2010 I had a baby. (!) So I had to learn to write the sequel while raising a brand-new baby (our first). I haven’t gotten a ton of sleep over the last two years, but I did turn in my sequel! :)

9. If you had 50 words in which to impart wisdom to aspiring authors, what would you say?

My favorite piece of advice is to figure out all the things you love most, and put lots of them in. Said another way: Write the book you want to read. I’ve sold about 50 stories and poems now, and it always turns out that the weird ones I wrote and thought no one but me would like–people like those the best.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Madeleine!

——-

She’s great, right? Now run of and read Ironskin over the weekend!

For more info on Tina, check out her website, http://tinaconnolly.com/

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