Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Chat With Tessa Gratton, Author of THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR

I'm proud to present Tessa Gratton here on my blog! She's releasing her exciting novel, The Queens of Innis Lear, on March 27, and it promises loads of awesome feminist themes and royal politics. Today, we'll learn a little about her inspiration behind the novel, her favorite books, and more. To learn more about her novel or background, click here or visit Tessa's website.

Tessa Gratton is the Associate Director of Madcap Retreats and the author of the Blood Journals Series and Gods of New Asgard Series, co-author of YA writing books The Curiosities and The Anatomy of Curiosity, as well as dozens of short stories available in anthologies and on

Though she’s lived all over the world, she’s finally returned to her prairie roots in Kansas with her wife. Her current projects include
Tremontaine at Serial Box Publishing, YA Fantasy Strange Grace coming in 2018, and her adult fantasy debut, The Queens of Innis Lear, from Tor March 27, 2018.
(taken from
Gratton's website)
What sparked the idea for The Queens of Innis Lear

I’ve toyed with writing a King Lear book since I was in high school and first read (and hated!) the play. Most of my story ideas come from anger I experience about the world in which we live, and I was furious at Will Shakespeare for this play. Unlike most of his plays, where women—even villainous women—are layered, developed characters, in King Lear all three daughters are caricatures who represent various types of womanhood, and exist not for their own sakes and own stories, but for Lear’s redemption arc. I hated it!

It took me years to figure out how to pull apart my relationship with the play (and with the toxic patriarchy that it inhabits, that WE inhabit). Even as a teenager I knew how to get into the character of Edmund the Bastard (Ban the Fox in my book), but I needed a way into Cordelia (Elia in mine) and her sisters. I had to learn more, experience more, and understand better the interplay of gender, power, and systemic oppression before I could even begin to write a book grappling with the people and issues in King Lear. In the summer of 2014 something happened to me, career-wise, and I suddenly understood what I think Cordelia felt in the beginning of the play, and voila, my window!

If you could pick one song that best fits the book, what would it be? 

Oh, how about several? I have massive playlists for most of my books, and the Innis Lear playlist is 67 songs long. Here are six of the most played, most thematic:

“The Breaking Light” by Vienna Teng (ft Alex Wong)

“I’ll Keep Loving You” by David Guetta (ft Birdy and Jaymes Young)

“Imagine” by A Perfect Circle

“Dark Runs Out” by Amy Stroup

“Is Your Love Strong Enough” by How To Destroy Angels

“Night Vision” by Transviolet

In your opinion, which is more challenging: starting to write a new novel or finishing the final draft?

I suppose if I had to choose one, I’d say starting a new novel because drafting is the part that requires the most complicated, solo work. It’s just me and a huge idea, trying to dig my way through to a clear path. A final draft is probably my 5-7th draft, depending on the book, and by that point I’ve been working with an editor for at least 2-3 of those rounds and have had multiple readers to help guide me. I can see what I’m trying to do, and know what the book is about. So even if it’s hard and complicated, by the end, I know what the book should feel like. The first draft is chaos and messy.

Who is your favorite character in The Queens of Innis Lear

This is almost impossible for me to answer because even though I like some characters more than others, in order to write from a character’s point of view I have to find a way to love them on some level—to dig into my empathy and understanding of who that person is and why they are the way they are. I have to find love for Gaela’s hardness and Astore’s misogyny (ugh) just as much as I get to love Elia’s clarity or Regan’s passion. My favorite character to write was Ban, I think, because he thinks in such a unique, hurt way, and his priorities are wild. He is so filled with longing it twists his heart in surprising ways. The most surprising favorite was Regan. I LOVE her. I want her to win, I want her to get everything she wants, I want her to be happy. I’m most proud of Gaela, though, because I think I got her right but it was a struggle because I’m the least like her and had to really work on finding her perspective and her core truths.

Did you have a writing schedule while you worked on this novel? What did your average day of writing look like? 

I try to schedule my work like a regular US work week. 9-5, M-F I’m working. Sometimes that’s writing, sometimes that’s tending to things like this interview or my emails. Sometimes it’s reading, because that’s part of my job, too. I very frequently work on Saturday as well, since I’m my own boss I am usually a hard-ass. (Plus I’m the associate director of Madcap Retreats and that takes a lot of time, too.)

When drafting my goal is 10,000 words a week. Sometimes I get more than that, sometimes less, but on average I hit it. I’ve been drafting the stand-alone companion to The Queens of Innis Lear, titled Lady Hotspur and I’ve been drafting since last June. It’s just at 220,000 words and I’m only about a week from finishing.

What is one underrated book you would like to recommend to everyone?

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine. This is a brilliant YA retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” — which is a hard play to love because of how it tends to focus on the love story without the context. But Caine tells it from Benvolio’s point of view, and takes very seriously that these teenagers were raised to duel at any time, knowing their rival family wanted them dead. It’s filled with moral gray areas, violence, and extreme passion. I loved it.

Release Date: March 27, 2018

A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood.

The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king's three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm's only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided. (taken from