Jay Kristoff: The Nevernight Chronicles

Posted on Posted in Fantasy, Interview, Jay Kristoff, Writer

Jay Kristoff is the award-winning author of the fantasy series The Lotus War and The Nevernight Chronicles, as well as The Illuminae Files with Amie Kaufman. In this interview, our host Astrid quizzes Jay on Nevernight, Darkdawn and Godsgrave, the three books that make up The Nevernight Chronicles.

Jay has previously appeared on The Garret and you can listen to that interview, recorded with Amie Kaufman in front of a live audience at the State Library of Victoria, here.

Jay Kristoff_The Nevernight Chronicles_The Garret

TRANSCRIPT

ASTRID: Jay Kristoff, welcome back to The Garret.

JAY: Thank you for having me back, it's great to be here again.

ASTRID: Now you need no introduction. Your works - both for young adults and adults alike - have a phenomenal fan base in Australia and the US market. But we're here just to talk about The Nevernight Chronicles, which is, of course, Nevernight, Godsgrave and Darkdawn.

Before we get there, you have a phenomenal fan base, you have readers who tattoo your phrases and your characters on their bodies forever. What is it about this series that draws readers in?

JAY: I wish I knew, I wish I had an intelligent answer for that. I've been thinking about that a lot recently, and the short answer is I honestly don't know.

I think there's... something to do with the attraction of an anti-hero. I think as our contemporary world grows darker, we're attracted to darker stories and darker characters and characters that explore that aspect of our psyche. I think Mia does that. I think there's something to do with Mia's aesthetic. I get a phenomenal amount of fan art for this character, and the only way I can rationalise it is there's something 'id-y' about her aesthetically. There's something archetypical about her - the way she looks and the way she acts - that that plugs into something a little deeper than I maybe first realised when I was creating her.

But I am honestly blown away by the way people react to her. Like, the idea that someone could take words that I wrote on my couch in my track pants and boots, and those words to mean so much then that they're willing to put that phrase on their body for life. It blows me away. I am constantly humbled, and it's hard for me to pass sometimes. My wife fortunately keeps me pretty grounded, but I've got... My study in my house is wall to wall with fan art. Just amazing pieces of art that people have spent hours and hours of their life creating. I kind of walk in there occasionally and just look around at the walls and have to pinch myself. I find it difficult to get over sometimes.

But yeah, I don't know. I wish I had a more intelligent answer to that. Like I said, I think there's something in an anti-hero that we all love. There's something about the idea of exploring the darkness within that we enjoy, and there's something archetypal about Mia both in a story sense and aesthetically that appeals to something in us.

ASTRID: Do you feel a responsibility to your readers?

JAY: In what sense?

ASTRID: We're here to talk about a trilogy, the third one - which is coming out today, when we release it - and there are people who, you know, have your main character, have you words, on their bodies. I mean, maybe that's just scary for you, I don't know. What do you want to say?

JAY: It's definitely... yeah, I definitely try and view it as a responsibility. I get some pretty intense letters often, people that have written me that have told me that this character in the story got them through some really tough times. They're pretty heavy letters to read, and they kind of knocked me back on my heels a little bit.

So yeah, I definitely feel a responsibility to the fans of the story and the story itself. You know, I want to tell it well. I want to give it the ending that it deserved. I actually took a little longer to write this one than I was supposed to. I was late in delivering the manuscript because, I think I did feel a sense of that responsibility weighing on me.

It was it was a strange process writing this whole trilogy, because usually my process is that I have book two in the can before book one even hits the streets. That's just the way timing and publishing works, the lead time is so long. But in this one I was still working on Godsgrave while Nevernight was getting dropped in the world and I was getting initial reactions. And so those initial reactions in part inform the direction that Godsgrave went and Mia went as a character. And you know, Darkdawn was not even started by the time Godsgrave came out. So these books were a little more informed by the audience than perhaps some of my other series were.

ASTRID: That is a beautiful thing. I've been reading fantasy for decades and I'm going to just go on a limb here, I think that this trilogy is the best adult fantasy written in Australia for decades.

JAY: Oh wow, that's wonderful for you to say.

ASTRID: So congratulations. And I mean adult fantasy, I don't mean like YA, I mean adult fantasy.

JAY: Thank you. That's awesome of you to say.

ASTRID: Fantasy often has a bad reputation because it is full of tropes and well-worn rather boring parts. As a reader I felt you inverted most of them, or acknowledged them and then did your own thing with them. How did you do that?

JAY: I guess it's a matter of being well read in the fantasy genre and being so aware of the rules and the tropes that you feel confident enough to break them.

I've been reading fantasy since I was 8 years old, and I guess that shows in the text. But yeah, I think it's a matter of being well read and confident enough in your own abilities that you're aware of the rules and can see the lines and know how to colour outside them. There was something that... I can't say I went into the book with that intent, but I think I just naturally gravitate towards that kind of writing, that idea of breaking structures down. I try and do something narratively or graphically or typographically in every book that I make that colours outside the lines. Maybe 'm just contrary.

ASTRID: Well, I have questions about your typography but before we get there I'm going to read you the first line of the first book.

"People often shit themselves when they die".

JAY: Yeah.

ASTRID: Now, that is something that sounds more like Irvine Welsh or who knows than what you find in a typical fantasy book. You hark back to those lines in both Book 2 and Book 3.

JAY: Yeah.

ASTRID: You've obviously set out to make an impression on your readers. What is that impression?

JAY: Well, I mean Nevernight is ultimately a very dark story about a very troubled young lady who is on a path of destruction, both metaphysically and literally. And it's really an exploration of the dangers of revenge and the path that revenge can send you down. So, I didn't want it to be a pretty book. I didn't want it to be Tolkienesque epic fantasy. I wanted it to be down on the ground with the blood and the shit showing you that this life, while there's an element of romanticism to it, Mia is ultimately a very violent and destructive force in the world in which she lives. She doesn't make the world better because she wants it to be better. If the world is better after she's been through it that's incidental. She's a selfish character, she's vain, she's violent, she has anger management issues, she's she's not a typical hero, which is all fine, we're in love with the idea of anti-heroes as much as we are with heroes, but I didn't want to have a book where the main character herself was so troubled and so, so violent and so, in some senses, ugly, and yet have the story I was telling or the style in which I was telling it be that kind of epic Tolkienesque, wide angle lens view. I wanted to show that when people die they vacate their bowels. The last moments of someone who's been stabbed by a four foot long piece of sharpened metal are not pleasant. Sso here's nothing romantic about death or violence, there's nothing really romantic about Mia or her story. It's ultimately one that's quite ugly. So, I didn't want to put a veneer of civility over the story that I was trying to tell.

ASTRID: There was no particular civility in this story, but I want to talk to you about the narrator, the beloved narrator. This is a narrator who uses footnotes, which we are going to talk about Jay. However, I felt like - particularly by the third book, particularly by Darkdawn - the narrator is in love with Mia, and this is almost like a love letter written in three parts to Mia, or maybe what me represents. Is that just me reading into it?

JAY: No, I think... I mean the book three gets kind of meta, and it's difficult to talk about, it's that getting super spoilery.

So, Mercurio is the narrator. Mercurio goes through a journey himself in the third book and becomes essentially the new archivist for the Goddess of Night. So he's ostensibly immortal. But Mercurio is also a reflection of me. Some of some of the passages that Mercurio is speaking, particularly towards the end of the third book, is really my thoughts about the story and the character of Mia on the page, so there's kind of a blurring of the lines both in the sense that Mercurio becomes aware that he is a narrator in her story, but also becomes aware that this story is a story in and of itself.

ASTRID: So tell me about the public reaction to the narrator in just books 1 and 2, because I feel you went to a whole new level in book three maybe addressing some of that public reaction.

JAY: Oh yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, that's that's probably me having a little bit of fun, I guess. So Mercurio comments to the effect that 'what kind of wanker puts...'

ASTRID: I think I've marked the page... Would you like to read the first kind of paragraph of that footnote?

JAY: "Of fuck me, you were thinking, it's been a while. I wonder where all the footnotes went? Maybe the author got embarrassed by everyone in his own book taking a steaming shit on them and decided to refrain for the rest of the novel. Well fuck you, gentle friends."

ASTRID: That made me laugh aloud. Thank you.

JAY: I mean... yeah. I mean those comments in there, I think is it Bladesinger is commenting because the books Nevernight in Godsgrave exist as tomes in Darkdawn. People can read the first two books of the series in the third book, and some characters actually do and my comment to that effect. So, I think Bladesinger is talking about how she could tell that the sex scenes were written by a man, and Mercurio was laughing that only a wanker puts footnotes in a novel, and I think Mia says only a wanker reads her own autobiography, especially when it contains footnotes. So that's me taking the piss out of myself, and also maybe taking a piss out of people who got sent me angry emails or angry Instagram DMs or whatever. Some people got a little upset about the style of story I was telling and the devices I was using in it. So yeah, thats me just having some fun.

ASTRID: Technically what did having a narrator - particularly narrator who essentially breaks the first wall and is you and directly talking to your readers - what did that allow you to do with the overall story?

JAY: In terms of structure... I mean, I don't want to pretend to be cleverer than I was. I didn't actually know for 100 per cent certain who the narrator was going to be when I had started writing the first book. There was a couple of options that were in my head. One was Mr kindly and one was Mercurio. They were the kind of two frontrunners, but at one point it was going to be a Tric, at one point it was going to be Mia herself.

So yeah, I don't I don't want to create the illusion that I had some grand plan and I'm a terribly clever writer. I'm not. I'm a writer who makes things up as he goes and stumbles across the best idea, or what I think is the best idea, as I find it. But in terms of having a narrator who was aware that he is in the story in which he's telling and the fact that he is telling a story, I guess, it let me have more fun structurally, it let me do things like poke fun at the writing to show that that I'm not taking this as seriously as some other people do, that you know, those footnotes exist primarily... Well they serve two functions.

One is that they're world building devices. You know, I'm a person who grew up reading doorstop epic fantasy, big thick books where the authors would spend three or four pages talking about the particular style of chain mail that these soldiers are wearing or whatever. I like that level of granular detail in fantasy, but I accept that some people don't. It just bores the shit out of some readers. So, the idea first to put that level of world building in the footnotes was to give people an out. If it's not the kind of thing that you're interested in, if you don't give a shit why the coinage is named the particular way it is or where the style of sword fighting came from, you can just skip them and that's fine, you're not missing out on the actual story.

But also secondarily those footnotes were an opportunity to inject levity into the story. Because the narrator is aware that he is a narrator and he's telling you a tale, he can adopt a familiar tone with you that he perhaps can't in the main body of the book. And it is a pretty dark ugly story. So having some lulls, so to speak, in the footnotes was a way to kind of brighten the overall mood of the book and to give you a laugh in the middle of this, what is ultimately a pretty ugly and dark tale.

ASTRID: It is, but for lovers of books and words and fantasy, there are plenty of shout outs too that love itself. Here is another quote for you.

"Don't fuck with librarians, young lady, we know the power of words".

Now throughout you are basically calling out the power of words. You know, 'Mia is a girl with a story to tell'. You invent a goddamn bookworm that can kill people. I mean literally, there is an endless library that celebrates the banned and burned books of the world, with bookworms!

JAY: That will eat you..

ASTRID: This also feels like, you know, in addition to Mia's... a love story or a love letter to Mia, t is a love letter to the genre. It's like you explicitly say 'words matter'.

JAY: Yeah, and I mean a book is the device by which... I mean, I guess we can be spoilery, a book is a device by which our heroes, our ostensible heroes anyway, triumph over their enemies at the start of Act Three. They actually do a fake out through planting a fake book in the Library of the Dead and their enemies believe that they know exactly what's going to come - the danger of prescience, I guess.

So yeah, it is a love letter to books in that sense. It is a love letter to the power of words and the idea that words matter. But at the same time, I'm trying not to take it too seriously which is what I guess what I'm doing by injecting that level of levity and even poking fun at myself and my own writing style in the book.

ASTRID: So from language let's go to your sex scenes. Now, there are lots of sex scenes in here.

JAY: Are there? There's only like three.

ASTRID: There's more than three.

JAY: Really?

ASTRID: Yeah.

JAY: You did the count?

ASTRID: No I didn't count. OK, I just spent the weekend reading all three books, so it feels like I read a lot of Jay Kristoff smut in the of weekend.

JAY: Does it pass muster? Does it read like it's written by a man?

ASTRID: Actually, I read - as I said I read a lot of fantasy, and too much of that has been written by men - and I feel that you're really... I feel like you're almost a feminist. Are you a feminist?

JAY: It's an interesting question because the title feminist means different things to different people.

ASTRID: That's true.

JAY: It's a very difficult term to quantify. Do I believe that women are equal and deserving of every opportunity of happiness and the freedom to pursue their own agenda, their own lives, their own... the things that give them joy? Absolutely. Yes absolutely.

ASTRID: The thing I liked about your sex scenes is your sex scenes involve pleasure for women, which is often left out.

JAY: Yeah. I mean it would be remiss of any author who is writing a story with a female main character to leave out female pleasure from the sex scenes. Maybe some do. I don't know.

ASTRID: Yeah, yeah, some do. A lot do, actually. But my question to you is do you think you are good at writing sex scenes?

JAY: I don't know. Writing them is very... it's a very very strange process. I feel terribly sorry for the audio book narrator having read that stuff aloud. It's very odd.

I had an experience when I when I first decided I was writing sex scenes in the first book. I went to my wife, who reads a lot of filth. To be fair to her she reads a lot of smut. So, she's quite an expert on it. And I told her, 'Look, I'm a little bit... I want to do this properly. I want to do it well, because there's nothing worse in the world than a badly written sex scene'.

And of course everyone has different opinions of what is good and what is not, and you know, one person's gold is another person's garbage. But I wanted to do it as well as I could. And so I asked my wife to get the best smut in her library and set it aside for me to read. And she took this request super seriously. She actually got a bunch of her friends who also read this type of material together andI had a little pow wow, and I came home one day and there was a mountain of smut waiting for me on my living room table, and it was actually colour coded with little tabs. Green was FF and red was MF and blue was oral and whatever else, it was it was a cornucopia of filth. And so I just sat down and read pornography for four days. And at some point halfway through that a friend of mine texted me and asked just what I was doing, and I stopped and realised... I looked around what I was actually doing for a living now. That was a that was a moment that I realised I'd made it.

ASTRID: You have made it, and I'm going to say the lesson for writers is do your research.

JAY: Do your research. And so... it's very strange to write them. It's strange that... the thought that people are going to read them is omnipresent, and people are going to assume that whatever you write they're going to assume that's what you're into, which is not necessarily the case.

But you just have to divorce yourself from that and do the best you job you can. Pretend like there's no one else in the room. Pretend your mother is not going to read it - never think about the fact that your mum is going to read it. And then have critique partners who are going to be honest with you about it. All my critique partners are women. Four or five of my critique partners are also gay or bi, and Mia is a bisexual character. So between that gauntlet of honesty and brutality -  -requested brutality then a lot of the nonsense gets knocked out at the scenes.

But I'm pleased report there's not a lot that gets knocked out. I think I did enough research to know what works and what doesn't, hopefully anyway. But there are some people out there that hate them. I get mail about it all the time, and you know, the fact that these... the idea that you can tell that these scenes are written by men is omnipresent in some of the letters that I get sent, which is confusing to me. But like I say, one person's gold is another person's garbage.

ASTRID: So tell me about your love triangle, Mia, Tric and Ashlyn. Even in that you subvert the traditional one girl two guys. Here you have two girls one guy, and the girls choose each other.

JAY: Yeah. I mean, is it a triangle when... I thought traditional love triangle all three parties had to be all interested in each other. I thought that was...

ASTRID: See this is pointing out that you haven't read Twilight.

JAY: Oh, yeah I haven't. I mean, I guess.. I'm aware of Twilight. Edward and Jacob aren't into each other. I guess that's more a love V than a love triangle.

ASTRID: Yeah, a love V.

JAY: Yeah. It was... who was going to end up with Mia at the end was a question. I put a lot of thought into the promise that I had made in Book 1 and Book 2, and deciding who Mia ended up with at the end of this story was probably the most aware I was of the readers, the fans of the series, because on the one hand I want to tell the right story, on the other hand I want to give people the ending that they want.

I think Season 8 of Game of Thrones is a good example of what happens when you build up a tremendous amount of anticipation and then pull the rug away from your viewers or your readers. You know, you're trying to surprise and you're trying to shock, but ultimately what you do is just leave your fans a bad taste, because ultimately at the end of an eight series story arc you want the hero to complete the hero's journey. You don't want the hero to get killed at the finish line. You don't want this character that you've invested so much time and effort in to stumble at the last hurdle.

And I did feel there was an expectation that denying me a happy ending at all would be too much for some readers to take. She had to end up with someone, and the idea of straying back to probably what is safer ground in terms of heteronormativity with Mia and Tric... that didn't seem like the best choice to me in terms of the readership that have invested so much time in this character and the ending that I perceived that they wanted her to have.

That said, there's a lot of Tric fans out there. There's a lot of people who just hate Ashlyn and always will because what she did to Tric. And that's okay too. But hopefully... my goal in Book 3 was to show Ashlyn undergoing a journey and coming to acknowledge the fact that she had done wrong by Tric, even though she had every reason in the world to do what she did. And she was motivated... her motivation is probably purer than anyone else in the book, but ultimately she killed the boy that a lot of readers had liked and a ship that people had invested time in. So what I want to do in book 3 was show ash could be genuinely contrite about what she'd done, acknowledge the fact that even though she did it for the right reasons it was still a terrible thing to do. So hopefully I bring some readers around to the Ash Train. But you know, there are some people that are going to hate her forever.

ASTRID: I like the Ash Train. ell me about your language.

JAY: In what sense?

ASTRID: Well you don't shy back. You don't shy away from it.

JAY: No. I mean that's partly a reflection of who I am and the way I speak. I have a policy that I never trust anyone who doesn't curse. I think cursing is a very natural and very healthy impulse, and there have been tests to show that people who don't indulge in cursing are repressing a very primal part of their psyche. But I wanted... Like I think it harkens back to the to what I was saying before about giving a ground's eye view of the world. I wanted the world to feel honest. I wanted these characters to feel real. And the people I know everyday and hang out with, they talk this way - they don't necessarily act this way - but they certainly talk this way, they present themselves this way.

And you know, there's a degree of... Mia in particular as a character with a lot of front, she has a lot of swagger. And so I wanted to reflect that in the way that she spoke, and spoke to the people around her as well as her internal dialogue. But yeah, it comes down to authenticity and honesty, I think. I wanted these characters to feel real. I wanted them to feel like someone you could have a conversation with down at the pub. They're not high born gentry sitting on golden thrones. They are people down in the blood and the muck and the dirt. And so yeah, that's reflected in the way they speak as well as the way they act.

ASTRID: What about your typography? It's fucking beautiful.

JAY: Oh thanks. I'm glad. I mean, I'm a graphic designer by trade. That's where I started. I studied design at university and I was an art director for years as a day job. And so the visual aspects of all my books are important to me. So the idea being that, you know, the way that the typography moves in this book in particular is reminiscent of the way Mia's shadow powers work. So when she's teleporting around a page the typography is moving around the page. There's one scene in particular where she essentially flits across half an ocean, and the type is bouncing around through that entire sequence. I mean, I think I like the idea of of challenging the structure of the book, the physicality the book, and the limitations of the book as well as, you know, in a physical sense as well as a storytelling sense.

So book three in this series gets kind of meta in the sense that it's a book within a book within a book. But also I like the idea of breaking, you know, just the physical rules of the book itself. So the idea that all typography has to be 12 point Times New Roman, 14 point leading and probably twenty seven lines to a page. You know, it's very... there's an inbuilt sense of structure that... there's a part of me that just rails against it. And it's just more interesting to me to be evocative with the physicality of the book as well as what I'm writing in the book. So you know, we did that in Illuminae as well, and I certainly do it to a lesser extent here in Nevernight. But yeah, it's just a cool idea to me, the idea that I can evoke a sense of what is happening on the page both with what I write but also with what I do with the type on the page. Hopefully it gives the reader an extra level of granularity and enjoyment and immersion in the thing.

ASTRID: I think it's even character building as well. I mean Mr kindly and Eclipse, both characters in the series, and you know, one is in italics and one is in capitals.

JAY: Yes. I mean they're all in italics and ones in all caps and ones in all lowercase. And again, that's that's kind of evocative of the way they speak. Eclipse is a wolf and she growls and her voice sounds like it's coming through the floor, and Mr Kindly is constantly whispering. So yeah, again that comes back to that idea trying to trying to evoke a sense of place and mood and story with the physicality of the book as well as what I'm writing. It's not a crutch that I'm relying on but it's kind of adding icing to the cake, I guess I see it as.

ASTRID: It's not a crutch at all, and it's a bit of experience as a reader.

I'm interested in the influence of Roman history throughout the trilogy. I know that you wrote significant portions in both Venice and Rome.

JAY: I did. It was mostly Venice. I went away for a month in February of 2018, I think, when I was behind on my deadline.

ASTRID: Excellent time to leave the country.

JAY: Yeah. I just buried myself in the book for four weeks. I didn't know anyone over there. I didn't really speak the language. I had terrible internet. So I just kind of buried myself in the book for that entire month, and that was a really rewarding experience. That was that. Venice is really the place where I found out the kind of book that Darkdawn was going to be.

ASTRID: I am a student of the classics. The first century B.C. is... I have a thesis in it, as useless as that is. And so, you know, as you are talking about generals marching on the cities, and two consuls per year, and imperator for life, and the idea of a republic will die and you institute hereditary monarchy, and of course the gladiatorial games and the recreating the previous battles in history... all of that was kind of music to my reading soul.

JAY: Yeah, like that's one of the few topics in the world that I can actually speak on at a dinner party with any level of authority. It's like that and Marvel Comics.

ASTRID: Marvel Comics. T he two most important things.

But it's beautiful how you show a reverence for that, while picking it apart. And also, you know, I feel like it's possibly a bit of Renaissance Italy or something in there as well, which I am way less familiar with. But how much did that location but also history change or inform the story?

JAY: It informed the world building, certainly. Not perhaps not the story itself, but definitely the structure on which the story was being built. So you know, Itreya is a republic modeled after the ancient Roman Republic. And Julius Scaeva out you might be able to tell from the name is an analogue for Julius Caesar. He's a man who is trying to rip down the republic and replace the Senate and the position of consul with position of imperator, ostensibly for the security of the republic but essentially because he just wants power, and that's exactly what Julius Caesar did.

So, the whole series really... or the world upon which the series was built was a thought experiment it was the idea that, you know, what if Julius Caesar's rebellion... Mia's father is also a general who rebelled against the Senate, and he failed. He got caught and he got executed. So Mia's her is also an analogue of Caesar in the sense that the entire series was built around the thought what if Caesar was unsuccessful? And what would happen to his children? Caesar had a daughter. She died. She was married to Pompey and she died in childbirth, sadly, but that was the seed that planted the entire story. The daughter of a very famous but failed general in a setting of ancient Rome, and it all kind of spilled out from there. So real life history was the seed upon which this whole series was built.

And I kind of hearken back to events in ancient Rome all throughout the series. You know, there's a there's a Bridge of Follies in Godsgrave, which is a story based on something that Caligula did. And there's a couple of famous battles that I cite in the history of the texts that are based on famous battles in Roman history. So like I say, I mean I'm a huge Roman history nerd. I can talk about it for hours and that definitely at least informed the bedrock of the world that this story was built on.

And you know, anyone out there who is writing epic fantasy would do well to investigate the tides of human history, because there's crazier stuff that you can possibly imagine in your head has already happened in real life. And you know, George R.R. Martin a lot of his structures are built on the War of the Roses. So writers have been doing this forever. So history is a really rich ground upon which to to seed your own ideas.

ASTRID: Fantasy requires history but it also requires some form of believable magic and myth system. How did you go about creating... magic system isthe wrong word, but but creating the other?

JAY: It's really important to me that magic or power comes with a price. I don't like like magic systems like Harry Potter where you just wave a wand and something happens and hey presto you say some silly words and the thing happens. I hate that kind of magic, to tell you the truth. It makes no sense to me because magicians will just rule the world if that was the magic worked.

So any kind of power, any kind of other power that is granted in any of my texts, there is a price to be paid for it. And the idea of the tithe is one of the central ideas in this whole series - all power comes with a price. So you know, I had I initially started with the idea that Mia would be a person who could work with shadows, because shadows are just cool and it kind of tied in with the idea of her being an assassin. But if you're an assassin you can teleport through shadows and be invisible, you're a god. No one could touch you. So I turn that idea on its head by putting her in a world where it's just daytime all the time, it's never night. So great, you can manipulate shadows, but there aren't shadows to manipulate. So she is limited by the setting.

Marielle and Adonai are another couple of characters - the blood sorcerer and the flesh weaver. They're characters who have an incredible amount of power in the sense... in their own realms, but the price that they pay to wield that power is terrible. Adonai is essentially addicted to blood and blood is an emetic. So if you drink too much of it you're sick, and if you don't drink enough of it you're constantly hungry. So Adonai is in this constant state of torment. Marielle has the ability to manipulate the flesh of other people. She can make you into the most magnificent specimen that's ever walked the face of the Earth. But she herself is hideous and she can't change her own flesh. So, every time she manipulates the flesh of others she's constantly reminded of her own... of her own weaknesses.

So that to me is the central premise of the magic in this world. And it's an important idea to me in all of my work. The idea that power must come with a price is one of the central premises under which all my fantasy operates. Otherwise it's just boring to me. Characters very quickly become gods, they very quickly out level but the scenario that they're in and the only way you can bring them back is by introducing more gods. So, I think it's a more interesting exercise in terms of storytelling to put limitations on power immediately in your world building structures, and that way you stop the characters running away with the story. But also it's just a more interesting story to tell.

ASTRID: Fantasy as a genre is renowned for trilogies, and you have just completed a trilogy. You are very clear from the opening page actually that the first book will be Mia's birth, the second her life, and the third her death. You fulfil that promise.

JAY: Did I?

ASTRID: I think so. Wait for your other readers to make their call.

But fantasy as a general is also renowned for sequels and prequels and extra trilogies and all sorts of other things.

JAY: Yeah, yeah.

ASTRID: Will we go back to the world?

JAY: I don't have any plans to at this point. I'm working on a new series now and I'm in love with that series.

ASTRID: Vampires!

JAY: Yeah. Empire of the Vampire. I'm working on that today as it so happens.

You never say never. I know there's a lot of people out there who really love this story and love this character. I feel like I brought Mia's story to a definite end. There's no obvious way to me how I could continue it. You could certainly tell other stories in this world. Would that be as interesting without Mia? I think Mia is the most important part of this story and this setting, and is the thing that readers have fallen in love with the most. I mean, we all just fall in love a character, no one talks about how awesome the world building in a particular series was. That's just icing on the cake. The thing that people fall in love with is character, and I think that Mia's story, at least feels to me like it's been told. But you never say never, it's foolish to say never. But I have no plans to do it at this point.

ASTRID: Jay Kristoff, thank you so much for indulging me.

JAY: Thanks very much for having me back.