Aprilynne Pike’s debut novel, Wings, is a paranormal fantasy featuring an entirely new twist on the mythological realm of faeries. I recently published a review of Wings, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to conduct an author interview with Aprilynne Pike, a fresh new voice in the young adult urban fantasy genre.
Damian: Your debut novel, Wings, manages to weave an intricate alternate history into a realm of faerie tale fantasy set in a modern world. You indicated in your bio that you have been “spinning faerie stories” since you were “a child with a hyper-active imagination.” Where do you find inspiration for your characters and their stories?
Pike: My brain has always been a well of strange—and often very strange—ideas. I can’t really say that I know where they come from. But I think one thing that helps is that I am always pondering, “what if.” Often about simple things like, “What if I had worded that question differently?” Or, “What if I had turned around two seconds earlier.” But sometimes it wanders more. “What if that guy really wasn’t human; what if the love of her life had to kill her.” Constantly juggling “what-if’s” leads to all kinds of fantastical answers and every answer can be developed into a story.
I also draw inspiration from my teenaged self. I think that for me—as the perpetual nerd/loner in school—I always liked to write about the person I wished I was. I thought I wanted to be the popular cheerleader with perfect hair and clothes and the hot boyfriend. Now that I’m an adult, I take a slightly different spin on it. I like to write about characters I wish I had wanted to be. You will rarely find uber-popular main character in my novels because that is a world I am completely unaware of. But I consciously try to write characters who are confident and willing to do things that are un-popular simply because they want to. They stand up for themselves and their values and quirks. And even if they aren’t that strong at the beginning, I like to help them make that journey throughout the book or series. One thing I am really excited to do with Laurel is take her from a slightly uncertain young woman who doesn’t know where she belongs, to the incredibly strong, visionary heroine she will be at the end of the series.
Damian: Wings is geared towards the young adult market. Young adult fantasy fiction appears to currently be taking the publishing world by storm. What compelled you to write about teenagers as main characters? How do you manage to relate to and stay true to the unique youthful identities of your teenage characters without slipping into melodramatic stereotypes?
Pike: I love teenagers. I always have. Teenagers are the most concentrated source of potential in the world. Their whole lives are in front of them and they get to decide what to do with it! What could be more exciting? I think that it is this excitement that keeps any author’s teenaged characters from becoming stereotypes. The fact is, I don’t know a lot of teens who really fit the stereotypes. They are so much more than that. And when I write my teens, I consciously try to capture that “more” quality, rather than simply what you see. I also try to avoid the word “just” when I am thinking of them. I never think, “Oh, they’re just teenagers; it’s just high school.” There are few periods in our lives as pivotal as high school. There’s no just about it!
Damian: What do you read in your spare time? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Pike: I have been exploring the young adult genre in a way that I really haven’t been able to the last few years as I’ve been taking care of my young children. I have a fondness for mystery—Mary Higgins Clark especially—but I find that I really do gravitate more toward YA as I discover new debuts, old favorites I haven’t read yet, and timeless classics that just beg to be re-read! Recently I have really enjoyed Bones of Faerieby Janni Lee Simner, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, and Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson. Favorite authors? Way too many to list!
Damian: In Wings, you write about supernatural characters, and you do so with surprisingly fresh interpretations on traditional paranormal archetypes. Do you have any personal beliefs regarding supernatural phenomena?
Pike: Thank you! I personally believe in the possibility of there being more mysterious and amazing thing out in our world than we dare to believe . . . and I hope that I’m right!
Damian: This is your first published novel. What were some of the jobs you held prior to becoming a writer?
Pike: I like to joke that my daughter was made of Burger King hamburgers. I worked in the food industry for seven years before I quit to raise my daughter, and while I was pregnant with her I was the Assistant Manager at a Burger King. I don’t like to eat there anymore. Soon after she was born I had the opportunity to evaluate manuscripts for a small religious press and I learned so much from reading other people’s manuscripts, both good and bad. I also learned to look at manuscripts from a business perspective which has been invaluable in the very business-y world of publishing. I’d like to think it helped me get to where I am now.
Damian: How much of your plot-lines, scenes, and character development were preconceived before you began writing, and how much developed during the writing process? Was there anything that surprised you as it unfolded during the writing of the book?
Pike: I have written books both flying by the seat of my pants and with a detailed outline. Wings was somewhere in the middle. However, when I started it, what I had was a mythos, a main character, and a wisp of a story. I got to a point almost a hundred pages into the book where I slowly began to realize that I was off-track. Waaaayyyoff-track. I actually had to back up about fifty pages, delete half the story, and start over. That was when I realized that I prefer to write—perhaps not with a detailed outline—but with a very solid storyline in my head. However, that experience did give me my best surprise in the Wings series, and that’s Tamani. He didn’t even exist yet (David did!) and I just named him off-handedly as one of the guards at Laurel’s old home. But when I backed up and started again, he stepped forward and became not only a main character, but one without whom the series could not be complete. I’m so glad for that total de-railment that brought me one of my main characters!
Damian: Wings is the first in a new series featuring faeries and trolls. Where does the series go from here? For readers looking forward to future Aprilynne Pike books, are there any hints you can provide about what is next on the horizon?
Pike: I can tell you that in the next book, readers will get a chance to enter Avalon with Laurel. We will see Tamani in his own environment, explore Laurel and David as a couple, and see lots more of Chelsea. I am so excited for readers to get ahold of book two!
Damian: I find myself constantly pondering and exploring the topic of creativity. In a past blog post, I asked readers if they practice more than one form of art, exploring multiple venues as a means of expression, or if they have committed to one definitive media, to the exclusion of all others. Besides writing, do you express yourself via any additional creative outlets? What are some of your other interests and pastimes?
Pike: Writing is really the only medium in which I create art. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a huge enthusiast. I love music and theatre, art—especially paintings and sculpture—and have also found that I really enjoy good photography. I feel like enjoying creative arts that I didn’t have to work to create is like refilling my bucket. Without being surrounded by beautiful art, I would have none of that passion and appreciation to draw from to write my own stories.