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>> A romance from hell...

A romance from hell...
10/07/2018

A romance from hell...


When teenager Zoe is rescued on a frozen lake by a mysterious stranger, X, she is determined to find out who he really is. We asked JEFF GILES to tell us more about their story in THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING and THE BRINK OF DARKNESS.

After Zoe and X's lives collide In THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING, they fall in love - but love is forbidden to those from 'the Lowlands', X's home, and being together could cost them both dearly.

Zoe and X's story continues in THE BRINK OF DARKNESS, with X back in the Lowlands and trying to escape, while Zoe has her own impulsive plan to rescue him - a plan that could cost them everything.

We asked author Jeff Giles, former deputy managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, to tell us more about THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING series and the second and final book, THE BRINK OF DARKNESS.


Q: How involved were you with YA fiction in your former life on Entertainment Weekly?

A: I was deeply involved. My daughter was just hitting her teens at the time and she was a hungry reader. Her passion for YA opened that whole world up to me.

Entertainment Weekly started doing small pieces on YA authors, and the response was often far greater than the response we got for anything else. American magazines were almost completely ignoring the books, so for a couple of years (until Twilight exploded and NO ONE could ignore YA anymore) we had the field to ourselves.

The first time anyone in the world saw a picture of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, for instance, was a cover picture we shot for Entertainment Weekly. I was really proud of that.


Q: Who are your YA stars?

A: I love the novelist A.S. King, especially her book Still Life Tornado. She's a great, weird, adventurous, empathic writer who doesn't sound like anyone else.

I also worship Laini Taylor, who's weird in her own way. I think Laini's a magician and on a whole other level than the rest of us. There's a lot of others but I don't want to hurt any of my friends' feelings, so I'll stop there, if that's okay?


Q: What has been your most memorable career moment to date - perhaps an interview you did or article your wrote?

A: As a journalist, I just loved interviewing the Lord of Rings cast and crew. I got to follow those movies from early on and I got to know the director, Peter Jackson. He even made me an extra in The Return of the King, which was a blast. I got all dressed up as a Rohan soldier with the chain mail and the leather skirt and everything. In the middle of the scene, he came over to me and I thought he was going to give me acting advice but he just said, "You look silly".

Peter later read The Edge of Everything for me, and wrote the kindest blurb imaginable. That was another big highlight.


Q: What brought you into writing your own novels, and how different is your life as a full time author from what it was before?

A: My life is totally different. I worked very long hours at magazines in New York City for many years. I loved it but it was intense and exhausting. I'm living in rural Montana now, which is beautiful and peaceful and I'm writing exactly what I want to write.

It's a huge privilege. I miss the city and I miss journalism sometimes, but it was time to see what kind of novels I had in me - and I was lucky enough to get the chance to find out.


Q: The Edge of Everything and its sequel The Brink of Darkness are set in the contemporary world with a fantasy twist; one of the main characters, Zoe, is from Montana, while the other, X, is from the 'Lowlands' inside the Earth. Why did you decide to give X this 'other world' background.

A: The very first image that came to me was of a girl seeing a young man from another world trying to drown someone in a frozen lake. Those people became Zoe and X, so fantasy was built into the story from the beginning. I wanted to explore how two people with such different lives - and carrying around such different kinds of pain - could bond and help each other.


Q: What was it like switching between the characters, as the novel focuses on each of them in turn, and why did you decide to write it like this?

A: I loved switching between characters, partly because X's hellish life in the Lowands got pretty dark at times, and it was a relief to be able to return to real life and inject some humor into the story.


Q: How did you decide how X's home, the Lowlands, would function and how did the world develop?

A: I knew I didn't want to recreate the standard version of Hell. I decided to look at it as an underground prison. I researched prisons from all eras and read up on what it is that makes so brutal - and often it's more about the isolation than it is about physical punishment.

One idea I loved was that Hell, if it were to actually exist, would have people from every time in history all jumbled together and speaking a thousand languages and knowing radically different things. I was inspired by that. And I knew that X needed a kind of family so that he had SOME hope and love in his life down there, so I created that family for him one person at a time.


Q: There is a brilliant mix of ages, personalities - and periods - among your characters in the Lowlands. How did you decide which characters to include - and can you tell us more about your favourites?

A: Ripper, my favorite, died in 1832 in London, and she's sarcastic and brilliant and fierce - and ultimately incredibly loyal to X.

Once I'd thought her up, I knew I wanted someone completely different that she could spar with and be annoyed by. And the opposite of a incredibly smart Brit seemed like a lunkhead American who talks in dude-speak. So that became Banger.

As for which periods from history I chose to draw characters from, I honestly just picked the ones I thought would be the most fun. I love writing dialogue so often it was partly about whether or not I could capture their voice in a way that felt vivid and convincing.

The Russian guard, who has a big part in the new book, is a bit of a stereotype but he was a blast to write and let me bring so much humor into a dark park of the book. I felt guilty that I gave him a track suit and aviator sunglasses, which Russians always seem to wear on TV, so I also gave him a Master's Degree.


Q: Given the glimpse into 'hell' the novel provides, it could be read as a cautionary tale for young adults - be good or face the consequences, and the guilt. Did you have that in mind when you wrote it?

A: I didn't mean to scare anybody, I promise! I was more interested in showing how important empathy and forgiveness are - and how everybody's carrying around pain that we don't know about.


Q: Why did you choose Montana as the setting in the 'real world' and why did you want to use a setting that you were familiar with?

A: It's funny, I'd visited Montana a lot when I began writing The Edge of Everything but I didn't live here, so there was a lot I didn't know about it yet. Still, it's so wild and empty out here that it seemed like a great backdrop for a fantasy.

I love writing real-world characters and dialogue. I don't know that I'd ever want to write a novel set solely in fantasy worlds, though I've loved reading those kind of books since I was a kid.


Q: Where is your favourite place to write and how does your writing day go?

A: I wrote The Edge of Everything at a desk overlooking a huge, gorgeous meadow and a mountain range. That was the best, though it was very solitary. There are times when I just have to be around people, so I write at a library or a cafe. I sometimes like a little chatter in the background, a little energy. It keeps the blood moving.


Q: What are your top three tips for young writers?

A: Well, you have to chocolate around, obviously. It's pointless to pretend you don't - you'll just end up going out to buy some.

I'd also suggest setting yourself a daily word count goal. I made myself write 1,000 words a day on the first novel just so I knew I'd get the book done and I wouldn't stare into space constantly. On the second book, I didn't do that and I ended up staring into space kind of a lot.

I think I owe you one more tip. If you have writer's block (which all writers have - ALL of them), try doing something random and physical, like washing the dishes or mowing the yard. If you stop trying to come up with an idea, an idea is much more likely to come.


Q: What are three things about you that our members won't know?

A: I don't think they'd know what my son named his cat (Homework), how much I sleep (too much and yet I WANT to sleep even more) or where I keep the chocolate (not telling).

Thank you so much for the great questions!
Jeff
 
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