“Why am I a writer? I write because I can’t not write. It’s frustrating, annoying, rewarding, and absorbing. Most of the time it makes me happy, occasionally it drives me crazy. It’s one of the most solitary and demanding occupations in the world. One of the nice aspects of the job is getting to talk to aspiring young writers. I tell them the best reason to do it is because your heart is in it–because you have stories to tell. Forget about being rich and famous!
“When I’m asked for tips on ‘how to,’ I say no amount of technique can make you a true storyteller. On the other hand, however gifted you are, you need technique to do the job well, so I suggest young writers read widely and acquire a strong foundation in the building blocks of language. You can’t break the rules effectively until you know how to use them.
“In my case, those building blocks came early. I grew up surrounded by books and music, with a strong emphasis on Celtic culture. My birthplace, Dunedin, New Zealand, was a kind of ‘little Edinburgh’ that had been settled by immigrants from Scotland. I read avidly from early childhood. From that developed my lifelong passion for mythology and folklore. The threads of these are strongly woven into my writing. I believe traditional stories provide insights into how to live our lives well and deal bravely with whatever fate throws in our path. They still strike a chord with us, even in this vastly different world. Despite constant change, we still face the same essentials of human experience: love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, the bonds of family and friendship, courage and fear, faith and disillusionment, hope and despair.
“I love to incorporate these high themes and heroic journeys into my work, and that may explain why I write fantasy, which lends itself to this kind of material. But the real heart of everything I write is human drama–the interactions between characters, their choices, their personal growth. That’s one reason the books are set, not in an imagined world, but in our world and in real history. Their magical elements are based on the folklore of the time and place. Most of my protagonists are young men and women dealing with the everyday challenges we recognize from our own lives. Wildwood Dancing, for all its fairytale trappings, is essentially a story of sisterly loyalty and the choices a teenage girl makes as she grows to maturity.”
Juliet Marillier lives in Western Australia. Her first novel was Daughter of the Forest, based on the fairytale The Six Swans. Since then she has written seven more historical fantasy novels for adult readers. Juliet’s books are published internationally and have won a number of awards. Wildwood Dancing is her first book for young adult readers. She is currently working on a sequel, Kybele’s Gift, set in Ottoman Turkey.