Interview with Author Tessa Gratton

CM: How old were you when you wrote your first novel-length story?

TG: I started what I thought would be my first novel when I was in 5th grade, but of course I didn’t finish it, or the next, or the next. I actually completed a novel for the first time my senior year of high school.

CM: What are some (fiction) books that shaped your own writing and what did you learn from these books?

TG: Oh I love this question: my inspirational novel trifecta is The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and Beauty by Robin McKinley. I’d read them all by the time I was thirteen, and read them over and over and over again, out loud, recording myself reading parts of them, just getting into the story and language. Although I still love Jurassic Park and never stopped being slightly obsessed with dinosaurs and monsters, I think the other two influenced my writing more, because of the poetry and strange fairy tale like language and settings. I’ve loved almost everything McKinley and Rice have written in some way or another. The Witching Hour was a huge influence on my debut published novel Blood Magic and its follow-up The Blood Keeper in theme, style, and tone.

CM: In college you majored in Gender Studies, how did what you learned in that major affect your writing?

TG: The basic idea of Gender Studies is that it’s a lens through which you can analyze ANYTHING. So really, this major gave me a tool for living my life in a way to understand my world and work to make it better. Gender studies is about power and relationships, it’s about pop culture and politics and literature, but from a specific perspective that suggests gender is a cultural construct and also part of everything. So other than the ways my education has directly affected my writing (through character and storyline and feminist themes), it’s also taught me about layers of motivation, world building complications, conflict, and discourse. Literature is a conversation, and our modern American conversation must include gender (and race and sexuality and ability and and and) so I think my education gave me a leg up in a lot of ways.

CM: You write a lot of short stories, what do you enjoy about writing short stories?

TG: I love that they can be simple one-off thoughts that you expand to your heart’s content.

CM: Do you think it’s more difficult to write short stories or novels?

TG: Oh by time investment alone novels are harder, but that said, they’re so different and require such different skills it’s hard to compare. In any given moment of writing, they can be equally hard.

CM: What do you learn about writing when you write short stories?

TG: The Merry Fates project where my critique partners and I wrote a short story a week for a year was a really specific attempt to improve our writing, so it might not work in a similar way for writers who aren’t doing that overtly. But I learned so much about hooks in particular – what does and doesn’t work to get a person to drop everything and read right now. I learned how to succinctly characterize and especially honed my world building because I love huge world fantasies and in a short story you have to be able to build the rules hard and fast.

CM: What drew you to write young adult fiction?

TG: Mostly the fact that I love writing about passion and choices, and choosing who you’re going to be as a person is basically a teenager’ job. I love writing about formative choices, first kisses, first murders, first monsters. 😉

CM: Your United States of Asgard transposes Norse mythology to America. Why does this particular mythology appeal to you?

TG: I was drawn to Norse mythology in two ways: first via reading a story about Odin that said he created poetry. As a writer I loved the idea that a god of death and war could also be the god of poetry. The very idea delighted me, so I learned everything I could about Odin, becoming obsessed by the connections between sacrifice and art. The second way happened in graduate school when I dropped my gender studies classes to learn Old English. I was in a really terrible mindspace because of US politics and my dad had just been sent to Iraq, so I was angry and scared all the time, and very aware that in 2004-2005 the US had become overtly a warrior culture. Just like the Anglo-Saxons I was reading about in Old English poetry… and the Norse poetry before that. I love – and am disturbed by – that this ancient poetry about war and love and politics and sacrifice is still so relevant. That’s why I knew I needed to write about American mythology and Norse mythology at the same time.

CM: Why do you think so many authors and readers are drawn to mythological stories?

TG: Archetypes and universal human emotions! It’s like fairy tales and religion – you can find similarities across cultures. Writers want to communicate emotions and experiences to readers, and mythology offers a familiar way in to that, a language to use, interpret, and reinterpret.

CM: Now that The Apple Throne is out, what new writing projects are you planning that you can you tell us about?

TG: None! Haha, sorry, but other than to say I’m working on several projects, YA fantasy stand alones, and gearing up for another series, there’s nothing public I can say. That’s one of the downsides to a career in publishing – lots of secrets and secret projects and obligations not to talk about anything. I do have a book coming out in October with Maggie Steifvater and Brenna Yovanoff called The Anatomy of Curiosity about writing and how we write.

CM: What are some books you’ve read recently that you enjoyed?

TG: I loved Uprooted by Naomi Novak, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and the Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt.

CM: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

TG: Always have adventures when you can, and when you write, focus on being your most passionate, not your best. Best is for revisions.


Tessa GrattonTessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. Alas, she turned out too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for a someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in Gender Studies, then settled down in Kansas to tell stories about monsters, magic, and teenagers. She’s the author of the Blood Journals Series and The United States of Asgard Series as well as more than a dozen short stories.

Visit her at tessagratton.com, @tessagratton, tessagratton.tumblr.com.

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