Stolen Songbird by Danielle Jensen is one of my favourite books, ever, and was my first read this year. Let’s just say it set the bar really high for everything else and I’ll be hard pressed to find a book I fell more in love with, or a couple I so badly wanted to see get together. Stolen Songbird is an amazing books in a thousand ways (see my review here) and offers us with a rich world, fantastic characters, a love-story to fall head over heels with and a whole heap of court intrigue and upcoming revolution. I simply loved it, and I would recommend it to every fantasy fan out there, be they young or old!
For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.
1– Let’s start with the basics: who is the woman behind Stolen Songbird? Does she prefer cats or gods, salty or sweet, rain or sunshine? Is she more of a night owl or an early riser and what gets her going on the days a blank page looks like the enemy?
We discussed pets one twitter one day, didn’t we? I have a very intense allergy to cats, so I have to avoid them. But they love me! Whenever I’m at a house with a cat, the darn things are always trying to climb on me. It’s like they know. Fortunately, I’m more of a dog person anyway. I have a labradoodle named Elmo, but he lives with my parents because I’m out of town so much. My mom won’t give him back.I like sweets after dinner, but salty snacks like chips the rest of the time. I am a total night owl, and the alarm clock is my nemesis.
Blank pages… If I’m really frustrated and stuck, the best thing for me is to turn off the computer. I can’t think with a cursor blinking at me. I go do something mundane and think about the problem until a solution pops into my head. Then I turn the computer back on.
2– Stolen Songbird is your debut novel, was it something you had been working on for a long time, that took hours of planning and thinking about, or did it more come to you, either all in one go or as you were writing it?
My natural inclination is to be a pantser rather than a plotter, although I always have the ending figured out very early on. I have to know where I’m going, but not necessarily how I’m going to get there. Stolen Songbird was written and edited over the course of two years or so. After my agent read it, she asked for revisions, which took me about six months to get through. She signed me based on that version, but then we went through about another seven rounds of edits before it went out on submission. So in all, it was about three years of work. By contrast, I only have a year to write and edit the sequel into something I can give to my editor.
2a—Does that one year seem really short compared to the time you had before and is it daunting to have a deadline on your work? Or do you feel that you have learnt enough from the first time to be able to work through this faster?
It seems really short and very daunting. I’m not a fast writer – NaNoWriMo is so not my thing. When I force myself to work that way, I almost always end up chucking everything I write. I require almost as much thinking time as I do keyboard-pounding time. Experience has given me better coping mechanisms, but I can’t see myself ever being a person who can write more than one novel a year. Plus I don’t write the shortest books!
2b—What is your favourite part of the writing process? What do you hate the most?
I like drafting and big picture edits. I hate line-level editing – it’s tedious.
3– There are elements of the world of Stolen Songbird (mainly the names) that are reminiscent or French culture: was this purposeful or did it sort of just happen when you were writing?
It was purposeful. Names have strong associations, and I think they do as much to set tone, feel, time, and place as an info dump description. By choosing to use French names, I was capitalizing upon readers’ preconceived associations with historical French culture, particularly their revolutionary history, in order to build my world.
4—So readers can expect some revolution one way or another in Stolen Songbird, then? The book seems to capture the world of Cécile and Tristan at a turning point of history, not just for themselves, but for the world itself. Can readers expect the concept of revolution to show up in more than just the broader sense of it, but also within characters?
Revolution is certainly stirring in Trollus, and a large portion of Stolen Songbird is dedicated to understanding why. I very much intended for the reader to feel as though the characters are standing on the cusp of a major turning point but whether things will turn out for the better or worse is uncertain.
5—Stolen Songbird is a YA second-world/epic style fantasy (heaven knows there aren’t nearly enough of those!), but did you always intend to write a YA book or was that more accidental? And do you consider there to be a major difference in between a YA Fantasy book and the books found on the ‘adult’ shelves?
I intended for this novel to be for teens from the moment I started writing it – it was my second attempt at YA, the first of which was a post-apocalyptic novel that got close to being agented, but ultimately ended up being shelved. Knowing that I wanted Stolen Songbird to be YA drove the age of the characters and certain aspects of the plot, but I wouldn’t say it affected my writing style (prose, word choice, etc.). As to whether there is a difference between adult and YA, I’d say that it depends on the novel. I think there are some books from both sides that could easily be cross-shelved and others that are firmly in the adult or YA camp. Explicitness is obviously a factor, but I’d say the biggest difference that I notice is time scope. Adult epic fantasy series often span years of time, whereas YA series tend to take place over shorter periods of time, but that’s just a general observation.
5a—What made you want to write especially for teens? Are you driven by the desire to write something you would have wanted to read at that age or is it something else?
I think it’s a sign of my subconscious refusal to grow up 🙂
I like the pacing, character focus, and genre blending found in the YA market, and I also enjoy writing about first love.
6—Cécile and Tristan are forced into marriage and are pretty much stuck together from the get go, which gives a very different dynamic to that usually found in YA literature. Cécile isn’t exactly a wilting damsel either. What can readers expect from Cécile? And what about Tristan?
Beginning a relationship with a forced marriage and mind-bonding is never a good start, especially when both individuals think the other has RUINED EVERYTHING! So it’s true that Tristan and Cécile’s romance is a bit different because they start out in extremely negative territory. What brings them out of that negative territory is that they both admire characteristics the other possesses. Certainly attraction and lust factor in, but neither of them are the types to be blinded by libido. They start out as enemies, then become allies, and it is what they witness in each other during this stage that makes them fall in love. Cécile is brave and Tristan is clever, and they have all the makings of the perfect team. Unfortunately for them, authors are evil and we like to throw a wrench into perfect workings from time to time 🙂
7—As I said in my review, Cécile and Tristan remind me very strongly of another couple in YA: Tessa and Will from Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices, and as such are one
of my favourite YA couples ever. Were you inspired by an author or book in particular when it came to Stolen Songbird?
I LOVE Tessa and Will. They are totally one of my favourite YA couples, and as I read Clockwork Angel while I was writing Stolen Songbird, I’d absolutely agree that I was inspired by it. I think I’m a bit of a mental packrat when it comes to inspiration. My brain is the equivalent of junk shop or hoarder’s house full of stuff I like, and when I’m writing, I take a browse through my collection to see what I can use.
8—If Stolen Songbird ever was to become a movie, who would be your ideal actors for Cécile and Tristan?
I’m refusing to divulge that information because I want to know who READERS would cast as my characters. Who would you cast?
So I thought I’d pop my answers here! For Cecile I imagined Molly C. Quinn would be an awesome actress. For Tristan, I’d be tempted with Kevin Zegers. I’d love to hear what other people think too!
9—When you’re writing, do you do so in silence or with some music or TV on? Any particular tracks or shows that are now forever associated with Stolen Songbird?
Either in silence or with classical/instrumental music playing quietly. This is Stolen Songbird’s theme song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLJllk-0o6c
10—To wrap things up, if you could only take three books with you to a deserted island, what would they be?
The Raven Boys, because I love those guys
Lord of the Flies, in case anyone else showed up on my island who I didn’t like
War & Peace, because it would take the rest of my life to finish
Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.