This week, we’re hosting author Rebecca Hahn on our blog. The following is an interview conducted by Jaimie Eubanks. If you would like us to host you on a blog tour or share an interview, please contact the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Hahn is the author of two young adult fantasy novels, A Creature of Moonlight and more recently, The Shadow Behind the Stars, which was named one of the Best Teen Books of 2015 by The Kirkus Review. Hahn was kind enough to join me for donuts at Glam Doll in Minneapolis.
JE: Before you published your first novel, you were an editorial assistant. How did working in publishing change the way that you thought about writing?
RH: I think that a big part of it was that I was reading a lot of submitted manuscripts. A lot of them I didn’t like at all, or they just didn’t work for me, or there were a lot of problems with them. Reading so many manuscripts that weren’t polished and weren’t super publishable taught me a lot about what I didn’t like and what I thought was really important to a book. When I was writing my own stuff, it helped me get rid of the ideas that I previously thought should be in a book. After seeing all these manuscripts that didn’t work, I could see, “Oh, I don’t have to do this and this and this and this.” I don’t have write this book in a specific way. I should write what I want to write, and focus on the things that mean a lot to me when I read a book.
JE: Absolutely. The consensus for both The Creature of Moonlight and The Shadow Behind the Stars is that your work diverts away from popular tropes, like dramatic love triangles, despite the fact that you write from the point of view of adolescent girls. Do you intentionally avoid these tropes?
RH: Just the romantic tropes?
JE: And other things, too. There are a lot of dystopian trilogies in young adult fiction today.
RH: Right. Yeah. I think both. It is something I’m drawn to— not having romance in every book— but I think it was also a product of having read all these books and feeling like, “I want to do something different.” I feel like it was something that was needed. Even if a lot of those books are very popular, the ones based around romances…. I don’t know. Maybe it’s snobbish of me, but I feel like we need to give young girls other stories to feed them, to feed their minds and show them what possibilities they have in life.
And the trilogy thing— I think that’s just me. I like to have the whole story contained in one books. Or at least I have recently wanted for my books. I like to have the character, plot, themes, all intertwined in a way that they’re complete and finished by the end of the book. Some of these trilogies seem like, “Well, you could have done it in one book. You just wanted to have a trilogy for no reason.”
JE: Well, maybe money.
RH: Oh, yeah. Money is nice. I should probably care more about money.
JE: In The Shadow Behind the Stars you turned to the Fates of Greek mythology to design your world. What inspired you to draw from mythology?
RH: Good question. There were fairy tale tropes I pulled on in The Creature of Moonlight, like the dragon-princess trope, which I was sort of turning on its head. There are the magical woods, which are something of a trope. I added my own stuff to it. With The Shadow Behind the Stars, I was drawn to the character. I had an image of the youngest Fate, distanced from humanity, but still connected to it through her work. I thought that had the potential to be an interesting story. I liked that tension. That was the entrance into the story. And then I had all this Greek mythology, and I love Greek mythology, so that was nice. I did build and reinterpret it in my own way, because I didn’t want to be stuck with what was already out there. So I had ideas that came from the mythology. I feel like I still had to world build in a different way. I had to interpret what their magic was, and how it worked.
JE: Did you feel obligated to stay true to the spirit of those myths, or did you enjoy putting your own twist on them?
RH: When I started writing it, I was a bit freaked out. It’s Greek mythology! What if you get that wrong? What if everybody says, “You did not live up to writing a book about the Fates.” But as I was writing, I began to feel my own interpretation emerge. Then I was like, “People can think whatever they want. This is my book. These are my Fates.” I think whenever I did stay true to the Greek myths, it was because of my love for them, less than feeling out of obligation. I felt inspired by the myths, and that’s where I stuck to them. I tried to make the land, the pseudo-Greece, historically accurate, as much as I could. They were supposed to eat the right foods and wear the right clothes. Things like that.
JE: That’s awesome. Okay, this is last question that I’ll ask you. You consistently write young adult fantasy. What is it about that particular genre that appeals to you?
RH: Well, I like fantasy. I like not having limits. I like writing about fantastical things like dragons and magic and stuff. That feels meaningful and beautiful to me, and I feel like there’s a metaphorical power in fantasy that makes sense to me. A lot of really good fantasy writing happens in children’s books. There is some good fantasy in adult books, sure, but a lot of the really interesting, well-told fantasy happens in kids books.
Also, I feel like books were really important to me when I was growing up. Maybe especially when I was becoming a teenager. It felt both an escape from the world, and an expansion of the world. I could explore things that I couldn’t explore in my own life. I felt a freedom through reading these books. I feel like books are very important at that age, so it feels meaningful to write books for young readers. They can have such a big impact.