Today is a special day for a couple reasons. 1) I’m blogging again, who would have expected that? and 2) I have a very awesome interview with author Alex London in honor of the release (which is tomorrow Sept. 3rd) for “Red Skies Falling” which is the sequel to “Black Wings Beating.” This is definitely one of the most highly anticipated releases this year and I know you’re going to love it. Here’s why….
Ever since I attended the Scottish festival and saw a falconry show I have been obsessed. Plus, Queen Mary of Scots was into falconry and she’s pretty incredible. It was inspiring the relationship of man and bird and to see how they work together. It takes a lot of trust and skill and honestly took my breath away. If falconry was a more common sport today I would totally sign up. Give me an owl and we’re good to go, oh wait, maybe that’s Harry Potter. haha
Anyway, this books series has it all, epic adventure, political court drama, falconry, and incredible characters that will hook you instantly. I don’t want to spoil anything but you definitely should check out this book. And a huge thank you to Macmillan for gifting me an advanced reader copy and to author Alex London for taking the time to answer my questions, which is why I know you’re really here. Are you ready?
ALEX LONDON INTERVIEW:
1.Your books deal a lot with falconry (which is really amazing), have you ever had the chance to try falconry yourself and what drew you to this topic?
Falconry is an ancient practice that just about every culture on Earth has invented at some point, where a person trains a killer bird to fly from their fist, hunt for them, and then, against all bird of prey instincts, surrender what they’ve killed. In early 2016, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In a metaphorical way, it just kept resonating. Falconry is the art of managing another being’s longing, keeping them just hungry enough to hunt for you and to return.
A bird of prey isn’t like a dog; they have no desire to please their master. Though a falcon learns to associate their tamer’s fist with food, they can and do turn on them at any time. They are alien minds with powerful talons and razor-sharp beaks, and as much time and care as a falconer pours into one, there comes this moment when they launch from the fist to the sky that the falconer simply has to trust that all will be okay. It isn’t always. Sometimes, that’s when the falcon leaves forever, gone for reasons that they might never know or understand. Birds of prey are very skilled killers, very fast, but also so light and delicate and sensitive. No sudden movements around them or they could fly off. I love that about them: The only way to unleash their violence is through deep care, gentleness, and rapt attention. Deep care, gentleness, and rapt attention is also a pretty apt description of love. I wondered what it would be like to build a fantasy world based around this practice, a violent world where power comes by ferocious love.
I wanted to explore that, but, in doing research, discovered so much cool stuff about birds of prey and about the cultures of falconry, that it seemed wild to me no one had made falconry central to a fantasy world. I didn’t want to just write killer birds as a metaphor for longing. I wanted to write a kick-ass world filled with actual kick-ass killer birds, sacred, deadly, and awe-inspiring predators.
Being a nerd, my research started in books. I read Helen Macdonald’s H is For Hawk and TH White’s The Goshawk. Then I got into more scientific books about birds of prey and more niche stuff about falconers and falconry. Eventually, I reached out to Master Falconer Mike Dupuy, who let me come out to his farm, answered my endless questions, showed me his falconry gear, introduced me to his impressive cast of birds of prey, and then took me out to fly one of his birds (the tamest one…). My agent and I took turns tossing the hawk from our gloves into the sky, then calling it back to our fists again to let it from our hands. It was a sublime experience.
2. What is something that surprised you or came about unexpectedly in “Red Skies Falling?”
Well, I’m terrible about following my own paltry outlines, so a lot surprised me! I don’t want to spoil anything, but the last scene was not planned and dealing with implications of it has definitely set a surprising course for the end of the series in book 3. In general, throughout the book, I really enjoyed getting to know the ghost eagle as a creature with its own will a lot more.
3. How have the twins, Kylee and Brysen, evolved in the second book and do you think you think readers will be surprised by any changes with them?
They are apart for the first time in their lives, so they are each coming into their own: Brysen learning to take responsibility for himself and his choices (and to make better choices, I hope) and Kylee to want things for herself, to stop sublimating her desires and her will to cleaning up her brother’s messes. She hid behind helping him throughout most of her life and his now finally getting to know herself without him and discovering who she really is. It can be an unsettling and thrilling process, as it is for anyone. Add a giant psychic killer eagle and yeah…growing up is hard to do!
4. As a writer, what has been the most challenging aspect of writing young adults novels and what advice can you give aspiring writers?
I’d say the biggest challenge isn’t specific to young adult novels, but to all writing (or any art): trusting your instincts and your vision. Craft can be learned and practiced, but having something to say and saying it your own way, even when you’re afraid no one else will understand or enjoy or care about what you have to say. The leap of faith that creating something takes is not a leap that gets easier over time, but it remains one hell of thrill. So to aspiring writers I’d say, learn your craft; study texts you love and texts you don’t, but remember that no one else has ever been you before. Sometimes you just have to toss your truth into the air and hope it finds a safe place to perch and that it comes back to you eventually. See what I did there? Falconry metaphor!
Until next time Book Lovelies, happy reading! <3