Monday, January 18, 2021

Molly Ringle

Molly Ringle was one of the quiet, weird kids in school, and is now one of the quiet, weird writers of the world. She likes thinking up innovative romantic obstacles and mixing them with topics like Greek mythology, ghost stories, fairy tales, or regular-world scandalous gossip. With her intense devotion to humor, she was proud to win the grand prize in the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one (intentionally) terrible sentence. She's into mild rainy climates, gardens, '80s new wave music, chocolate, tea, and perfume (or really anything that smells good). She has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of her life, aside from grad school in California and one work-abroad season in Edinburgh in the 1990s. (She's also really into the U.K., though has a love/stress relationship with travel.) She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, kids, corgi, guinea pigs, and a lot of moss.

Ringle's new novel is Lava Red Feather Blue.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title was originally Lava Red and Feather Blue, but my publisher suggested it was more poetic and intriguing without the “and,” so we went with that. Other than that, the title hasn’t changed since early draft days, and I like it because it fits some of my central criteria for a good title—people can pronounce it and spell it—and also because it has multiple meanings for the story. Lava red and feather blue are the royal colors in the fictional country of Eidolonia, where the book takes place, and it’s mentioned that they represent, respectively, the powerful fae and the delicate humans who share the island. But in addition, “lava red” and “feather blue” could each represent various characters. A red-haired prince, a half-fae human born with blue feathers on his skin, a fire faery who can attack with lava, a gentle faery who can turn into a blue bird…readers have options for how to interpret it.

What's in a name?

I have fun with names; I like looking up their meanings so they fit a character, as well as trying to pick ones that are euphonious. You have to be careful in fantasy especially—made-up unpronounceable fantasy names are a notorious pitfall! So in this book, while the humans have relatively human-world names like Merrick and Larkin and Cassidy (because it does take place on modern Earth, just with one magical country added), the fae names and some place names are less familiar. All of them are, I hope, pronounceable and easy enough to keep track of, but they also weren’t entirely made up from scratch. Since Eidolonia is a Pacific island, I took inspiration from native languages in and around the Pacific: Hawaiian, Maori, Aleut, Inuit, and so on. Thus, for example, there is a volcanic expanse of cooled lava called the Kumiahi Desert that plays a large role in the story, and (if the internet is to be trusted) “kumiahi” in Maori means “overflow,” and “ka umu ahi” in Hawaiian means “furnace.” An apt name for such a place, was my hope!

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I think my teenage self would be surprised that the book is so open with LGBTQ identities and romances—in the ’90s, such things were far less understood and spoken of than they are now, or at least, at my age and in my high school they were. But I think I would have been fascinated by it, as someone who’s always been into a variety of love stories. Fantasy has always been one of my favorite genres, too, with the Oz books being among my earliest reading memories, so the part where I created a fantasy country with fae and witches and unusual animals would probably not have surprised me as much.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I definitely rewrite beginnings more! Midway through writing Lava Red Feather Blue, I went back and added a “200 years ago” prologue at the start, because I decided that it would play much better to see Prince Larkin being put into his enchanted sleep than just to hear about it in the modern day, when the rest of the story takes place. Besides, who doesn’t want a little glimpse into 1799?

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

The news and politics influenced this book in the sense that when I started plotting it, back in early 2017, I was really tired of the problems and the mood of the modern USA, and didn’t want to set a story here. So I decided it was time to take that back-burner idea I had of making up a country on a big island in the north Pacific, and start giving them some of the advantages and adventures that we can’t have! Magic being, of course, chief among those advantages—although magic causes problems too. Aside from that, the environment is also a fairly clear theme and an inspiration. The fae in the story are sentient forces of nature, essentially, and I spend a lot of time, in real life as well as in this book, pondering the question, “Are we humans getting along with the rest of nature as well as we could? Couldn’t we and the rest of nature learn to take care of each other a bit better?”
Visit Molly Ringle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue