YA readers already know Tahereh Mafi from her Shatter Me series, but soon another audience — the middle grade set — will get to experience the wonder of her tales, too. Mafi’s forthcoming book Furthermore, out Aug. 30, follows a pale-skinned and light-haired girl named Alice, who lives in Ferenwood — a world where color and magic are inextricably linked. Alice is an outcast among her peers, who are brightly colored and magical. But when she and her new friend Oliver set out to find Alice’s missing father, they must travel to the foreign world of Furthermore, where nothing is as it seems.
Below, Mafi explains more about Furthermore and how she unwittingly transitioned to middle grade fiction — and check out EW’s exclusive first look at Furthermore‘s cover.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the inspiration for Futhermore come from?
TAHEREH MAFI: I spent three years writing the Shatter Me books, confined by the dark, cold, broken world wherein my protagonist was mentally and physically trapped. I love those books and their revolutionary importance in my life, but it was hard to stay dark for so long, especially as I stretched and evolved as a person. I wrote Shatter Me when I was 22. I wrote the first draft of Furthermore when I was 25. Today I’m 28. I feel worlds away from the person I was when I wrote SM, and writing Furthermore — a story rich in color and magic and wonder — represented not only a vital shift in my life, but an important part of my growing up.
Can you explain a bit more about how color and magic are related in Ferenwood?
The answer to this question is, essentially, the life-blood of the entire book, so in effort to stay spoiler-free, I will try to be concise: Color and magic are thought to be one and the same; where there is color, there is presumed to be magic, and this is precisely why the protagonist, Alice, struggles the most. She was born without any color at all.
How is Furthermore different from Ferenwood?
Furthermore is to Ferenwood what Knockturn Alley is to Diagon Alley. (Except, of course, that Furthermore and Ferenwood are large worlds comprised of more than one alley.)
Why did you want to write a middle-grade novel, as opposed to continuing with YA?
I didn’t want to write a middle-grade novel. I had every intention of writing another YA novel. In fact, when I wrote Furthermore I thought I’d stumbled into writing an adult novel. It’s funny to me now but, at the time, I did not think I was writing a book for children. It was my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, who wisely pointed out that the heart of my story was middle grade through and through. It was only after I realized how much of this book was a love letter to my favorite middle-grade stories — Anne of Green Gables; Alice in Wonderland; The Secret Garden; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; everything by Roald Dahl — that I understood how very right she was.
Do you and your husband Ransom Riggs discuss your work with each other, or do you keep your ideas separate? What advice have you shared with each other?
We read each other everything we write as we write it, but we rarely give each other advice. Mostly we just offer support and encouragement during those critical, fragile hours of initial creation. I love his work; he’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read.