I am thrilled to welcome to the Inkpot Sarah J. Maas, whose debut novel THRONE OF GLASS, which hit stores yesterday, has been getting a lot of buzz. Maybe it’s the idea of Cinderella as an assassin, or the fact that the novel became a hit on fictionpress before acquiring a publisher, or the rave reviews the galley has been getting…
Hi, Sarah! You famously published Throne of Glass on fictionpress before finding a publisher. How did that experience affect your writing the book -- did you get feedback from readers as you went along? Do you think it helped you find a publisher?
As a young and aspiring writer (I was sixteen when I began sharing the first draft online), FictionPress was an amazing place to get started. Because of the way the site is structured (anyone can leave a review), I had instantaneous, unbiased feedback—so I could usually get a sense of what was working and what truly wasn’t (which was super-useful when it came to revising).
It was also an amazing source of encouragement—hearing that readers from around the world connected with the story not only gave me the motivation to finish writing it, but also the confidence to eventually get it published.
As for whether or not my FP background played a role in finding a publisher… Definitely. The main reason why I stuck with the story for so long (through mannnny rounds of revisions over the years) is because of the ongoing support I received, even years after taking the story off the website. Everything, honestly, comes back to my FP readers—and I’ll never stop being grateful for them. :)
There are so many sources for inspiration and information about assassins -- both fictional (Robin Hobb and Anne Logston are my muses!) and historical (given that the name comes from an actual medieval sect). Was there any source in particular that made you decide to write about a main character who was an assassin, or any sources you consulted along the way?
Oh, good question. The original idea actually came from listening to Disney’s Cinderella soundtrack and thinking that the music that plays when she flees the ball would be much better-suited to a story where Cinderella had done something TRULY bad—like try to assassinate the prince. I honestly have no idea how I made that leap from damsel-in-distress to assassin, but I think when I began writing the series, I was (unknowingly) in a perfect storm of high fantasy/assassin inspiration.
The first Lord of the Rings film had released just a few months before, and had rejuvenated my uber-love for epic/high fantasy. I remember my favorite part of Fellowship being the moment when Arwen faces the nine Nazgul—and remember wishing that she’d had an even bigger/more kickass role in the film. As someone who had always been more interested in slaying dragons (instead of waiting in a tower to be rescued), just seeing a little bit of screen time dedicated to female badassery (and in an epic fantasy setting!) meant SO much to me, and definitely got my creative juices flowing.
A few months later, I saw Chicago (the musical) on the West End in London, and LOVED how unapologetic the murderesses were in “The Cell Block Tango”—especially Velma Kelly. Oh, Velma’s arrogance and fierceness made me want to write about a woman like her—about a woman who never once said sorry for being talented and determined and utterly in love with herself.
Those two things combined (plus a lifelong love of strong heroines, like Garth Nix’s Sabriel and Aerin from Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown) were probably the most influential in those initial months of creation/plotting—and gave me enough courage to try writing a story like that on my own.
Honestly, though, I think I decided to stick with the assassin idea because it provided me with the perfect opportunity to write about a heroine who got to do all of the fun stuff that only guys typically get to do (slay monsters, partake in epic battles, swagger about…). If I wanted my heroine to be able to realistically do those epic/badass things, then she’d need YEARS of training—or else she’d never survive. (Not to mention, having her be an assassin made for some interesting character exploration/development). AND I should probably stop right here, because I could spend all day talking about this stuff.
I love the idea of the "glass slipper" of Cinderella being expanded into an entire glass castle*. Was it difficult to figure out how that kind of castle would work?
You know, I actually figured it out as I wrote the series (and revised it again and again). It’s hard for me to talk about the creation/function of the glass castle without giving away spoilers for the rest of the series, but…let’s just say that it was a LOT of fun to figure out. :)
You have a large fanbase who loved Throne of Glass when it was first published on fictionpress... but we all know how much revision can change a story. Are you worried about reactions from people who liked the "first version" better?
Oh, totally. I owe so much to my FP fans that the thought of letting them down terrifies me. But at the end of the day, I ultimately had to write the story that was in my heart—the story that is the closest to my vision (even if that’s not what was originally on FP). Lots and lots of things have changed since that FP draft, but I think the spirit of the story remains the same. I really, truly hope that they love this version just as much as the FP draft!
Thank you so much for stopping by, Sarah!
Thank you so, so much, Leah, for the interview! As a BIG fan of Enchanted Inkpot, it is an absolute HONOR to be interviewed by you guys!
You can read more about Throne of Glass at Sarah’s website, http://sarahjmaas.com/.