Victoria Aveyard on 'Red Queen' and 'Glass Sword': 'I feel really happy and evil turning the story on its head'
Red Queen author Victoria Aveyard will release Glass Sword — the second book in the series — on Tuesday. If you’re behind, the series follows Mare Barrow, who lives in a world divided by red and silver blood. If silver courses through your veins, you possess godlike supernatural powers — and can look forward to a lifetime of being served by peasant-like Reds. But when Mare ends up in the royal palace and finds out she has a secret power, despite having red blood, she has to hide her identity and pretend to be a lost Silver princess. Secretly, though, Mare is using her new position to aid the Red rebellion — the Scarlet Guard. Now, in Glass Sword, Mare is on the run, and learns that she’s not the only red-blooded impossibility, either.
In advance of this highly-anticipated sequel, EW caught up with Aveyard about Mare’s world and how her background in screenwriting helps with her novels.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you find your inspiration for the Red Queen series?
VICTORIA AVEYARD: I’m a visual writer, so it’s fitting that my first brush with Red Queen was an image. I had the idea of a teenage girl in an arena, a bit like Gladiator, and she’s about to be executed. But instead of being killed, she kills her executioner with lightning. I was really intrigued by this and thought ‘that’s a story I’d like to experience’, so I started brainstorming a world where that could be possible. Luckily I already knew I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel, so I filtered this story through that lens.
Did any books, movies, or TV shows influence you?
Tons. I’m a sponge when it comes to stories. I’d say everything influences me in some way, but for Red Queen in particular, I was really affected by the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. I loved how much he scared me — I have to cover the next page when I read those books — and how well he turned genre tropes on their head. I tried to a little bit of that with young adult fantasy and fairytale, while keeping in mind the gray morality that exists in ASOIAF and the real world.
Tell us about your writing process. Did you plan out the entire series before you began, or do you let the characters dictate what happens? Did you have to do any research to write the books, or did all the world-building happen in your own brain?
I did not plan out the whole series in any way, but I knew it would take more than one book to tell this story. I do outline before writing a novel, even though I hate that process, and break the story down into a three act, eight sequence structure so that I know the bones. I like to let the story flesh itself out, and usually the characters make their own decisions as things get under way. Dialogue especially seems to write itself once I’m familiar with the characters and their backgrounds. There’s a good amount of research involved just because the world of Red Queen is post-post-apocalyptic, so I do a lot of literal building on top of existing places as well as delving into predictions of what the world might look like several thousand years in the future. The superhuman abilities also require their own research, which involves a lot of Wikipedia.
You have a background in screenwriting — how has this helped with your novel-writing?
So much. Every inch of my writing career has been influenced by my screenwriting education. I was lucky enough to go to film school at USC, and I got a crash course in how to tell a story efficiently. I learned structure, pace, my style, how to know your audience, and most importantly how to take criticism and edits properly. The latter is essential to any career in creative writing.
What has been the most difficult part of the series to write?
Whatever part I’m currently working on. But really, the most difficult part has been balancing the professional part of writing with the creative side. Touring and publicity is amazing, but very intense and it does mess with your head a little when it comes to writing.
What have been the most fun parts to write?
I love writing the twists. Those are fantastic, and I feel really happy and evil turning the story on its head. And then a year later I get to enjoy readers freaking out.
What do you admire most about Mare?
I love her survival instinct. And I really enjoy writing a character who is so selfish. She’s got a gray morality and makes bad choices, which is particularly interesting to write. In my opinion, it makes her a bit more realistic, which is very important when writing fantasy. The world can be all-out insanity, but it won’t mean anything to us if we don’t believe in the characters as people.
Why did you want to write a Red Queen prequel, Cruel Crown, even before the sequel?
I was actually finished with the second novel by the time I launched into the novellas, but it was still a really interesting process. I got another angle on the world through a character’s long-dead mother, and then a prequel story that actually weaves alongside the narrative of Red Queen. For the latter, I actually had to make a story calendar so I could keep my characters straight and make sure everything fit together. It was a fun puzzle.
What are you most excited for readers to see in Glass Sword?
I’m really excited for the expansion of the world, as well as the expansion of characters we already know. It’s pretty cool to be writing a sequel. The groundwork is done, which means you can get a bit deeper into something that’s already familiar with readers. But it’s also a door into new places in the story. One of my favorite characters pops up in Glass Sword, and I can’t wait for readers to meet her.