1. Mackie is such a unique and wonderful protagonist. What inspired you to write about a changeling who has been raised in the human world and wants to be part of it?
First, I have to say, I'm always so jealous of those people who get lightning-bolt story ideas, because I have to hang onto ideas for years before I do anything with them—it's like they need to cure or something. Basically, I had an English class where we read a lot of Colonial poetry and one of the poems was about a changeling. I was not the most focused student (very prone to daydreaming), and I started thinking about how that would play out in a contemporary setting. I carried the premise around with me for a long time before I actually sat down and tried to write about it. Discovering Mackie was another proposition altogether. I had to go through several complete drafts with him before I really started to know him. His default setting is to be extremely guarded and I kind of had to break that open.
2. Gentry haunted me – how did you create your novel’s striking setting?
The words: “The Lottery.” I read Shirley Jackson for the first time in high school, and she totally creeped me out. That story has stayed with me for years and I knew I wanted to do something with the idea of town loyalty and turning a blind eye. I wanted to use that same sense of absolute disregard for the sacrifices people are making in order to ensure that the town has prosperity. I think that was always the thing that upset me the most about “The Lottery”—you protect the town by sacrificing the town.
3. I LOVE Shirley Jackson!!! But moving on...in many ways your book is about family and loyalty. Was it important to you to explore the role of family in a paranormal setting?
Idon't think I initially set out to tell a story about family. I just knew that I wanted to write a changeling story, and I was pretty surprised when I realized that Mackie's family actually did love him. It hadn't occurred to me that that kind of acceptance was a possibility for him, and once it became clear that they were in it for the long haul, I had to figure out what that meant, because it changed a lot of what the story was about.
4. The myriad creatures of The Replacement are amazing. What kind of research did you do to create the slag heap and its inhabitants?
In order to populate the slag heap, I drew heavily on Celtic mythology, but I'll be the first to admit, my version of a lot of it is pretty unrecognizable. I wanted to show some kind of adaptation. Over time, things really don't stay the same—cultures evolve or falter based on their environment and the other civilizations they come in contact with. I wanted to look at the kind of effect that would have on people who are defined not by their own customs or geography, but by the way they interact with the human population around them.
5. Do you think of your novel as fitting within the ‘horror’ genre?
You know, when I wrote The Replacement, I really didn't think I was writing horror. I assumed that what I had on my hands was a contemporary fantasy that just happened to be pretty dark. When the editorial team at Razorbill first mentioned that it might fall under the category of horror, I was surprised. Then I started making a list of all the various creatures and the things that happen and I thought, “Well, of course it is!”
6. Will we see more of Mackie in the future?
Never say never (she says with a mysterious smile). The book I'm currently working on is another standalone, this time about demons, but that doesn't mean I'll never come back to the story of Mackie and Tate and Roswell. The world of Gentry has a lot of history and plenty of terrain to explore (aboveground as well as under), so while there's nothing planned for the immediate future, don't rule it out!
I'll keep my fingers crossed, Brenna! Thanks so much for answering all my questions :)
Don't forget, The Replacement hits stores September 21!!
To celebrate the upcoming release Penguin is giving away two signed copies of The Replacement! (U.S. only, apologies to international fans!) Just leave your name in the comments below and you could win!!!