2016 Debut Authors Bash – Kiran Millwood Hargrave – Author Interview
Posted by kirstyes
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
From this young debut author comes a beautifully written and lyrical story of friendship, discovery, myths and magic – perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Frances Hardinge or Katherine Rundell.
Released in Hardback in the US on Nov 1st 2016.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a poet, playwright and novelist. Last year she graduated from Oxford University’s Creative Writing MA with Distinction.
Kiran was born in London in 1990, and now lives in Oxford with her mad artist boyfriend and mad writer friends.
A huge thanks to Kiran for such a wonderful and open interview.
I’m very lucky to have already have read The Cartographer’s Daughter, however, in the UK it’s called The Girl of Ink and Stars. Can you tell us about the process of titling the book initially and in different countries?
The original name was The Cartographer’s Daughter – I chose it as a homage to Philip Pullman’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter which was one of my favourite books growing up. Chicken House (my UK publisher) decided the title should reflect the fact that Isabella is very much defined by her own terms, and so we settled on a title that places focus on that. When I sent a UK copy to Pullman he wrote back saying how he loved the title and hoped the US had left it alone (unlike his) – I didn’t mention that it was actually the UK who had changed it! I love both titles though, and it’s been fun seeing how the book is marketed and packaged so differently. I wish I’d chosen shorter titles – it makes tweeting nigh-on impossible.
How do you feel the title of a book can influence readers?
Hugely. It’s a bit like a first line in that it sets the tone for the book. I started out writing poetry, and titles have to work hard for you – I don’t think novels should be any different. My favourite titles are either really short, like Skellig or long, like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
In real life female friends fight and Isabella and Lupe are no different. Have you ever had a fight with a friend that has affected your life in such a major way?
Yes. In Year Nine at secondary school my best friend decided she didn’t want to be friends anymore. She’d heard a chinese whisper rumour about something I’d confided in someone, and on a Tuesday before gym class (can you tell it traumatised me?!) she took me aside and said she didn’t want to be friends with a liar. It set a whole chain of events in motion, from the rest of that friendship group taking her side, to my whole class effectively stopping talking to me. It was the most alone I’d ever felt. I self harmed and acted out and generally lost my way a little. It still makes me feel a bit sick to think of.
Then I got fed up of crying in the toilets at lunch time and started hanging out with another class in my year. In that class was Izzy, who is still my best friend and who my main character Isabella is named after. She’s also going to be my maid of honour when I get married next year! I did make up with the first girl and friendship group eventually. Things got easier, but in the case of that particular person we’ve not talked for ages. People move on.
Also, which gift given to you by a friend do you particularly treasure?
Recently, my friend Jessie made me a black-out poem from the first page of an old copy of The Water Babies for my birthday. It’s a beautiful object and I love that she took the time to do that. I always treasure books, and my friend Sarvat got me a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated… by Catherynne M. Valente which was a game-changer for me.
Maps are obviously an important part of the story. What inspired that?
Growing up, we had this huge, heavy, hardback atlas that my brother and I would heave out and open on a random page. Then we’d make up stories set in the places we landed. So maps have always been a way into stories for me. I also find it fascinating how the first cartographers managed to envisage the world like that – as one of my characters says, ‘to leave space for where [they’re] about to be’.
My parents, especially my dad, have an almost childlike wonder and enthusiasm for how things work. My dad is a geologist and he still stops the car by the side of the road to pick up a rock and tell us what it is and how old. I’m not that enthusiastic, but I am interested in how and why things are the way they are, and maps are an important part of how humans have visualised our place in the world.
Also, how are your map reading skills and tell us about a time you got lost.
In a recent interview I said my map reading was terrible, but since realised that is an unfair reflection on myself. Whenever I go away with friends they put me in charge because I’m pretty good. That said, one of the scariest moments of my life was getting lost in a forest in La Gomera with my family. It’s this beautiful, wild national park and there aren’t many signs. We’d been walking for hours, had run out of water and not seen a soul. We eventually got rescued by German tourists who had a satellite phone. It was one of the seeds for the story, imagining a girl on an island before Google Maps!
I read that you ‘Never meant to write a book’. Now that you have please tell us there are more to come.
Yes, of course – now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m editing my second story, and writing a third and fourth. I have no intention of stopping. Writing’s a compulsion now, I feel irritable and useless if I haven’t written for a while.
I also read that you wrote ten drafts – what tips can you give about the editing process? What have you learnt working with editors that you will take into your future independent editing practice?
You have to be open to the idea that other people sometimes see your manuscript more clearly than you, without compromising on what you think it should be. As long as edits are in line with your final picture, try them and see. I made major changes to GOI&S and they are often the things people are most complimentary about.
This was the first story I ever tried to tell. I have no manuscript languishing in a drawer, and I’d only written poetry before it – all my mistakes were made (and hopefully corrected!) within the landscape of this book’s world. I threw everything I had at it. It was an exercise in self-indulgence. It used to be double the length. My major influences for the first draft were The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and boy – that confusion showed. I made error after error and I’m so grateful to my agent and editors for seeing through all that. My next books know what they want to be.
One copy of The Girl of Ink and Stars and Five Bookmarks
Good Luck everyone.
Posted on June 11, 2016, in Author Interviews and tagged 2016 Debut Authors Bash, Books, Family, friendship, Giveaway, Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, Maps, The Cartographer's Daughter, The Girl of Ink and Stars. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.