Today marks the U.S. release of internationally acclaimed and best-selling novelist Juliet Marillier’s latest work, Heir to Sevenwaters. Juliet, who’s also a valued contributor here at WU, is known not only for the uniquely detailed worlds she creates in her epic fantasies–featuring her signature blend of well-researched mythology and magical realism–but for her mellifluous prose and characters that all but breathe through the page.
We’re eager to learn more about her new work and happy she took time out for this Take Five interview. Enjoy!
Q: What’s the premise of your new book?
JM: HEIR TO SEVENWATERS has a theme of identity and alienation. There are several strands dealing with the relationship between parent and child. It also includes something quite dear to my heart, the power of storytelling to help people solve real life problems. A storyteller named Willow tells three tales near the beginning, but the characters listening are slow to pick up the fact that this is more than after-supper entertainment.
The great strength of the protagonist, Clodagh (that’s pronounced kloh-da) is her capacity to accept difference – something not all the characters are so ready to do.
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
JM: HEIR TO SEVENWATERS is a stand-alone novel but shares the same setting as my first series, the Sevenwaters Trilogy. In other words, it’s set in Ireland in early Christian times. It’s a blend of romantic historical novel and folkloric fantasy. People need not have read those earlier books to enjoy this one. The first person narrator is the daughter of an Irish chieftain, whose world is turned upside down when a devastating event befalls her family at the birth of a long-awaited son. Clodagh’s main skill lies in household management. She likes her world orderly and calm. Now she must undertake a desperate journey into an unknown realm in an attempt to put things right for her family. Her companion on this quest is not the highly suitable young man she likes, but a more mysterious character who has far too many secrets to be trusted.
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
JM: There are plenty of physical challenges, and these test Clodagh to the limit – she is not a physically adventurous person, but her innate practicality helps her. The challenges to attitudes and perceptions are bigger hurdles for some of the characters: learning that everyone deserves love, however physically or emotionally flawed he or she may be; coming to terms with one’s own weaknesses; learning that friendship can triumph over jealousy; learning the strength of a mother’s love for her child.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
JM: It was definitely a challenge going back to the Sevenwaters setting after so long – I wrote seven other books in between CHILD OF THE PROPHECY and HEIR TO SEVENWATERS. During that time my style and general approach to writing have changed a lot. For instance, I’m much more rigorous in my historical research now, which made certain aspects of the Sevenwaters setting difficult(I solved this by placing the entire action within Ireland.) Once I got started on the book it flowed extremely well. I’ve always loved writing an unashamedly romantic story, and this book certainly is that. I believe it shares some qualities with the earlier Sevenwaters novels, but has key differences as well.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
JM: Proving to myself that I could go back to the setting of a much earlier series and write a book that was artistically satisfying. Working with Irish folklore, which I’ve always loved. Creating a fascinating, charismatic antagonist for Clodagh. Reintroducing the Old Ones, my rather eccentric version of the Irish mythological race, the Fomhoire.
Thanks so much, Juliet! Readers, look for Heir to Sevenwaters at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and at other bookstores nationwide.