Interviewing Kathy MacMillan

Kathy MacMillan was nice enough to stop by and discuss Sword and Verse (out January 19).

How long would you last in the Resistance?  (I’m always curious about this; if this were a movie, I would probably die before the opening credits.)

Either I would die immediately, or I would be one of the last ones standing because my extreme cowardice would involve lots of screaming and running away. (The first time I played Dungeons & Dragons, I beat all the D&D veterans because of this tendency.) I imagine I could be pretty brave if my son were being threatened by a dragon or something. I’d definitely save him. The rest of you are pretty much on your own.

Your cover is absolutely gorgeous.  Can you talk about that?

Thank you! I also adore the cover, and am so grateful to the team at HarperTeen for giving the story such an iconic image. I am not a terribly visual person (which is incredibly ironic, given that my day job is American Sign Language interpreter!), so the only request I had was that the cover not feature a girl in a pretty dress. There are some lovely girl-in-a-pretty-dress covers out there, but that would not have fit Sword and Verse at all, not least because Raisa never actually wears a pretty dress in the story! I was shown an early version of the design and was able to give some feedback on it, which led to some tweaks that made it fit better with details of the story. I actually love the cover so much that I had a phone case made of it.


Incidentally, the artist who did the cover, Colin Anderson, has more beautiful imagery on his website at

What was the inspiration for Sword and Verse?

Many years ago, I was researching ancient libraries for an article on book burning, and I came across a reference to ancient libraries composed entirely of letters. In the margins of my notes, I scribbled “What if the letters were all written to the gods?” And the Library of the Gods was born from there. The story went through many iterations over the years; in fact, there are only about three scenes in the final book that look anything like the first draft. But it has always been about the question of who controls knowledge.

Can you share the first sentence/paragraph?

I never knew Tyasha ke Demit, but her execution started everything.

On the day the king sentenced her to die, I was with the other palace slave children, cleaning the high friezes in the Library of the Gods. Naka and Linti wouldn’t stop talking about the execution—in low voices, of course, so the guards far below would not hear and shake our precarious platforms. The Qilarite guards never liked being assigned to the Library on cleaning days, and strictly enforced the rule of silence.

“How long before she dies?” whispered Linti anxiously, brushing her white-blond hair out of her face.

If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be and why?

Just one? I guess I will go with The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. She is a master of the craft and that book is possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever read. Not enough people have heard of it!

What are your five favorite books?  You can do authors if it’s easier.

Well, I think I will be sneaky and do series.

1) The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

2) Watership Down by Richard Adam: the first book I loved so much that I made someone else read it

3) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: never get sick of rereading this

4) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: writing Harry Potter fanfiction is what led me to writing original stories

5) The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer: This is an older title, but it will always be one of my favorites. Kate is such a funny, smart heroine and this book is so much fun to read. And reread. :)

What 2016 releases are you excited for?

So many!

Some I have already been lucky enough to read:

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison: This is the second book in the Tyme series, and the things Megan is doing with weaving favorite fairy tales together are like nothing I have seen before.

The Reader by Traci Chee: In a world where books really are magic, Sefia carries a heavy secret.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: The son of a disgraced Pentecostal minister, an up-and-coming fashion blogger, and an epic fanboy struggle through their senior year in a small town.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan: A beautiful novel in verse about a class full of kids trying to save their school.

And some I am looking forward to reading just like everyone else:

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski: I love love love this series and can’t wait for this third volume.

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers: The title alone does it.

Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley: About a girl with no digital footprint who is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Sounds chilling and awesome.

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman: Pirate romance? Yes, please.

Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk: A cupid-in-training tries to fix the situation after changing a girl’s life with his arrow.

And that’s just the shortlist! 2016 is going to be an amazing year!

Thanks, Kathy!


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