Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Tessa Gratton

Today’s Eleven Up interview is with Tessa Gratton, whose killer debut, Blood Magic, is out today!

So, first, about the book (which, for the record, is as amazing and haunting and beautiful as the cover):

For Nick Pardee and Silla Kennicot, the cemetery is the center of everything.
Nick is a city boy angry at being forced to move back to the nowhere town of Yaleylah, Missouri where he grew up. He can’t help remembering his mom and the blood magic she practiced – memories he’s tried for five years to escape. Silla, though, doesn’t want to forget; her parents’ apparent murder-suicide left her numb and needing answers. When a book of magic spells in her dad’s handwriting appears on her doorstep, she sees her chance to unravel the mystery of their deaths.
Together they plunge into the world of dark magic, but when a hundred-year-old blood witch comes hunting for the bones of Silla’s parents and the spell book, Nick and Silla will have to let go of everything they believe about who they are, the nature of life and death, and the deadly secrets that hide in blood.
(May 24, 2011, Random House Children’s Books)

Interview with Tessa:
One of my favorite things is to browse the shelves of a bookstore reading first lines, and yours is KILLER. In addition to that, you weave together the stories of Silla and Nicholas (and the people from the diary) in a way that seems so effortless. Did you know when you started how the story would unfold? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants, or do something in-between?

Thank you!
I tend to draft with a combination of those things – I know some specific scenes, and I usually know what ending I want. And beyond that, I write scene to scene, no real outline. Then comes the most important part: REVISION! For revising, I outline in about 3 different ways (plot, character, theme), I look really closely at pacing and how all the story-lines thread together. And I rewrite a lot. I rewrote BLOOD MAGIC 5-6 times. The first draft is absolutely unrecognizable, other than some names being similar, there being a tie to history, and body-snatching.

Was there an inspiration behind the story for BLOOD MAGIC?
… no? LOL. Not something specific. But one day I was out walking my dog and had an idea for a story in which a brother and sister could switch bodies at will. Which… basically has nothing to do with the current incarnation of the novel. It started from that, though.

Okay, I have to say. The magic? So cool. But besides the actual magic, the way the magic works is so interesting. Did you do any research for this or is it all your own mythology?
I’ve always loved magic, so I’ve basically been a life-long researcher for this book! I wanted a magical system that was as realistic as possible. So, when I was finally writing, I looked at American folk magic (Appalachian, Pennsylvania-Dutch) and European medieval magic because of what I knew the origin of it was. I pulled pieces from Neo-Paganism as well, and Western “old earth religions.” Basically, from anywhere that a) interested me, and b) fit in with the origin of this magic. It’s my own, but culled from all kinds of places into a system that made sense to me. If magic was real, this is how I genuinely think it would work.

What was your path to publication like? Do you have any advice for other debut authors?
When I dropped out of grad school I decided I was going to be published in 5 years, and devoted all my energy to that. I wrote 6 novels in that time, and with the last, got my agent and my book deal – almost exactly 5 years after making the decision. My plan worked like this: Once I felt ready with my 4th novel, queried the 5 agents I wanted, and after they rejected me, I wrote a new novel and used what I’d learned to query the 5 agents I wanted (some same, some different). After THEY rejected me I wrote BLOOD MAGIC, queried one agent… she signed me and after a few rounds of revision, several editorial close-calls, about 8 months later my book went to auction and I lived happily ever after!
My advice: Have adventures! Know what you want!

Without giving anything away, can you tell us what’s coming next?
The sequel to Blood Magic comes out next year. It’s called THE BLOOD KEEPER, takes place 5 years after the events in Blood Magic, and deals with the fall-out and some brand new characters.

Finally, since this is the Apocalypsies blog, we need to know: do you have any special skills that will help you survive the apocalypse?
If you are bitten by a zombie, I will not hesitate to shoot you in the head. And I’m a long-term planner.

(Best. Answer. Ever.)

Thanks for having me! And congrats to all the Apocalypsies! You’re in for a wild ride!


  1. Tessa, I found this really fascinating. Thanks for the glimpse into your process!

  2. Yay! I'm so excited for BLOOD MAGIC and my burrito!