Q & A with debut YA author Mary Taranta

Hi Mary! Welcome and thank you for agreeing to chat with me!

I just love Twitter for keeping me in the know about upcoming debut novels. Speaking of, your debut YA novel UNTIL OUR BLOOD RUNS CLEAN is due out in 2017. It’s particularly exciting for me to talk with you now, since the query/sign/submit process is still fresh in your mind 🙂


Let’s start with the exciting news — How did you find an agent? How long was your novel on submission? Did that process leave you biting your nails?

I used sites like QueryTracker.net, Absolute Write, and Literary Rambles to research agents who represented my genre, and just queried! I actually signed with Adams Literary in 2013 for a different novel that didn’t sell, so by the time UOBRC went on submission, I already knew what to expect. That didn’t make it any easier, though; in fact, I probably stressed out even more, knowing failure was a real possibility! We went out on submission in early July and I got my offer mid-August, so a total of six agonizing weeks of waiting for that life-changing phone call!

UNTIL OUR BLOOD RUNS CLEAN is described as a YA dark fantasy. How much world-building did you have to do to create the novel’s setting? Are you always drawn to writing fantasy or do contemporary stories also tug at your imagination?

Worldbuilding is the primary reason why fantasy appeals to me as a reader, so I spent a lot of time trying to build a world that felt plausible but still surprising. There are two distinct locations in the novel – a thriving kingdom hidden in the mountains, and a dying kingdom spread across a desolated continent – so I needed to ensure both locations made sense on their own, and in context to each other as far as economics, politics, and history. A lot of the physicality of the world was based on real places (Iceland in particular), but the magic system and how the characters interact with it was completely organic; I “discovered” details as I wrote, and threw out the entire first half of the book at one point to make it work. Right now, I only see myself writing fantasy because I love finding magic in every day life, but I’ll always enjoy reading contemporaries.

You have an untitled sequel to UOBRC in the wings, as well as an MG fantasy. How far along in the process are you in completing these? What does your typical writing day look like?

The sequel is is dragging its feet, but my first drafts are always rough-cut and hard-earned. (: The MG fantasy is maybe 30% complete, but on standstill now that I have deadlines. When I’m knee-deep in a project, I like to write first thing in the morning, put in my eight hours at my day job, and then come back to the computer after dinner.

Your sketchblog is the coolest thing ever! I envy your artistic ability. When you sit Blog_eyeofthetigerdown to write a new novel, do the images come first or the words?

Thank you! 😀 I tend to sketch characters before I actually write anything down, as drawing is one of my favorite ways to brainstorm and figure out motivations and backstory. It’s like an outline, in a way; it’s a starting point, but the end product (the finished book) usually looks nothing like those first few drawings that sparked the story!

How did you become a contributing member of Kick-Butt Kidlit?

Last year, YA author Natalie C. Parker put out a call for an Agented Author hook-up, and assembled mini support groups of authors with agents but no book deals yet, to share our stresses, successes, and failures with other people who were experiencing the same thing. It’s been an amazing experience, and one I would recommend to any other newly agented authors.

Ok, now for the pop-culture question…which TV shows, movies and/or books help inspire your writing?

My (very lofty) lifelong ambition is to write a novel that gives me the same feeling as a Terry Gilliam movie – or an Of Monsters and Men music video. I would also cite (the stage version of) Into the Woods, and Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth. They’re both quite dark beneath the surface, but there’s always hope, humor, and an incredible cast of flawed characters to cheer for – something I strive to achieve in my own work!

Thank you so much for sharing your literary journey with me! Congrats on the exciting year ahead! UNTIL OUR BLOOD RUNS CLEAN is already on my Goodreads TBR list 🙂

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog! It was a lot of fun chatting with you!

For more information about Mary Taranta, please visit her website (which happens to be linked to her fabulous Sketchblog!) www.marytaranta.com 

To add UNTIL OUR BLOOD RUNS CLEAN to your Goodreads list click HERE


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