Ask to… Juliet Marillier

JM with Harry smallerBio:
Juliet Marillier was born and brought up in Dunedin, New Zealand, and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards including the Aurealis, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Sir Julius Vogel Award and the Prix Imaginales. Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. When not busy writing, Juliet tends to a small pack of waifs and strays. Find out more at

1.    How did the idea occur to you to write the Sevenwaters series?
The fairy tale The Six Swans was a childhood favourite of mine. I love the strong female character at the centre of this story, and the mysterious swan transformation. It’s a story full of drama and tension. I have often wondered what it would be like of the dramatic events of a fairy tale like this happened to a real family, and Daughter of the Forest was the result of my attempting to answer that question. Although the fairy tale on which the novel is based is a Germanic story, I chose the Irish setting because swans are so significant in Irish mythology.
The novel grew into a series when I realised that the impact of those dramatic events would affect the family for more than one generation.

2.    What is the reason that you love to write about myths, legends and mystics?
I’ve loved myths and legends, folklore and fairy tales since I was very young and have studied them all my life. I believe traditional stories have a lot to teach us about our own time and culture – the wisdom in them is universal. It felt natural for me to write stories that reflect those traditions and include themes that are important to me, such as how people respond to challenges – do they find their inner strength, are they damaged, how well do they cope?
I also love studying history, especially of those periods which have few written records. Those times and places are fertile ground for a writer’s imagination.

3.    How do you carry out the research for your books?
These days I am quite thorough about my research, though I made some errors in the earlier books. I read a lot of historical background before I start to write, and I study the mythology of the time and culture. For certain novels there are specific kinds of research required – for instance, when I wrote a novel called Heart’s Blood, in which the central character is a scribe, I had to learn a lot about calligraphy in the medieval period. For books with battle scenes I need to research weapons, armour and tactics of the period. And so on.
I also travel to the places where the book is set, if I can. Research has taken me to some unusual places such as Transylvania, Istanbul and the Faroe Islands. Going to see the locations adds a whole new dimension to the writing.

4.    What kind of books do you prefer to read?
I read quite widely, mostly general fiction – I read only a small number of fantasy books, usually by authors I especially like such as Jacqueline Carey and Joe Abercrombie. But most of my recreational reading is what you might call mainstream fiction – some of my favourite writers are Iain Banks, Kerry Greenwood, Kate Morton, Jodi Picoult, and also classic writers like Dorothy L Sayers and Daphne du Maurier. And I still read fairy tales and mythology!

Juliet, thank you so much for your time to answer the questions.

©Plien 2013

Photo copyright belongs to the author.

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