Amanda Foody is the author of YA novels Daughter of the Burning City and The Shadow Game series (Ace of Shades, King of Fools, and Queen of Volts) and middle-grade series Wilderlore: The Accidental Apprentice. Christine Lynn Herman is the author of YA novels about magic, monsters, and growing up, including The Devouring Gray, The Deck of Omens, and the upcoming The Drowning Summer. All of Us Villains is Foody and Herman’s first collaboration and they recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.
What was your inspiration for All of Us Villains?
Our inspiration for All of Us Villains started with a conversation about our favorite YA tropes. As avid YA readers-turned-YA authors, we're both very passionate about the category in general, and we both confessed a deep love for the death tournament trope...but admitted we were too intimidated to tackle it on our own. So instead, we tackled it together.
Are Alistair, Briony, Gavin, Isobel, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?
None of the four protagonists are based upon genuine individuals or characters from other works of fiction; however, a major running theme throughout All of Us Villains is fairy tales—specifically, the power of stories to influence our actions and our identities. With that in mind, our four characters were originally inspired by fairy tale archetypes: Alistair, the boy obsessed with being the villain; Briony, equally obsessed with being the hero; Isobel, the princess; Gavin, the true underdog, the character too insignificant to be worthy of a tale at all. Over the years of working on the novel, the characters developed into people far more complex than their original archetypes, but the echoes of our initial inspiration for them still appear on the page and remain something we love about these characters and the story.
How did the two of you determine you wanted to write All of Us Villains together?
When we came up with the concept for All of Us Villains, we were already best friends who had spent a lot of time talking to each other about our solo novels. We were also critique partners—aka, people who swap their books with each other to give feedback and cheer each other on throughout the publishing process. All this meant we were both very familiar with how we approached storytelling and had built a lot of mutual trust and respect. Co-writing felt like a natural next step in our professional relationship.
What was it like to co-write All of Us Villains? How did you collaborate on the writing process? What was that like?
It was a blast! Logistically, we opted to work in Google Docs, as we didn't live close to each other when we first started writing All of Us Villains, and that allowed us to work simultaneously in real-time. We also decided to split up the characters: Christine wrote two and Amanda wrote two—though by the time revisions finished, we had both edited each other so much that both of our writing is all over the manuscript, regardless of who initially drafted what. We spent hours on the phone. We share a mutual Pinterest board and Spotify playlists. It took a lot of planning and a lot of work, but the end result was a book that neither of us could have written solo and that we love so, so much.
Would you consider collaborating on another project together?
We’d absolutely love to.
Are there other authors with whom you would like to co-write a book?
Never say never, but now that we know how much goes into co-writing, it's even harder to imagine collaborating with anyone else!
How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?
Most published novels change a lot from the first draft to the final, shiny version in a bookstore, but All of Us Villains went on a particularly long journey. Over the three years we spent revising it, we wrote and rewrote, challenging ourselves each time to make the book better. Because we worked on it for so long, the final version of the book feels like the story we wanted to tell—nothing we truly loved was lost. We're also pretty lucky in that our core cast of characters stayed the same throughout, even though the story around them changed a great deal.
If you could choose, would you want to be a spellmaker or a cursemaker? Would you want to be more gifted in casting spells or crafting them?
Oooh, this is such a fun question! Christine would want to be more gifted in crafting spells than casting them, and would probably be a spellmaker who specializes in more whimsical, niche spells, especially ones involving nature. Amanda would also want to be more gifted in crafting spells, as she loves cooking and that feels very adjacent. And she'd probably specialize in spellmaking involving engineering or problem-solving, as numbers will always feel like what she knows best.
All of Us Villains ends with several cliff-hangers. Will there be a sequel or is this the beginning of a new series? If this is the first entry in a new series, do you know at this time how long the series will be and how many books will be necessary to tell the story you want to tell?
Don't worry, there will be a sequel. We can't leave our readers in suspense like that forever. All of Us Villains is a duology, which means it'll be two books total, and the final installment should be hitting shelves sometime in fall 2022. We can't wait to see what people think of the whole series.
What’s currently on your nightstand?
Amanda is currently reading Into the Dying Light by Katy Rose Pool, the final book in the Age of Darkness trilogy.
Christine is currently reading The Archive of the Forgotten by A. J. Hackwith, sequel to The Library of the Unwritten.
Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?
Christine: This is more of a general thing—I was such an avid reader that I would constantly have to hide books from my parents...under the dinner table, in the car, staying up late to read under the covers...yeah, I was that kid.
Amanda: My Nook in high school made it very easy to read whatever I liked without parental oversight, but there was very little I would've felt the need to hide from my parents. At worst, they would've thought I was a huge nerd (And they'd be right).
Is there a book you've faked reading?
Christine: I definitely pretended to read The Catcher in the Rye in school. Oops. I think I literally put a different library book inside it and read that one instead.
Amanda: Sense and Sensibility comes to mind, though truthfully, the list is quite extensive. I rarely connected with my literature classes the way I did the books I picked up on my own.
Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?
Is there a book that changed your life?
Christine: So, so many, but The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine fundamentally changed me as a kid. It completely rewired how I thought about grief, love, siblings, and storytelling.
Amanda: Not really! I have many that made a profound impression on me as a writer or made me want to be a writer, but no one story has distinctly altered who I am or my path in life.
Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?
Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?
Amanda: Murder on the Orient Express. I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan, and I managed to totally avoid spoilers when I finally grabbed this one. I had a whole spreadsheet and everything trying to figure out the answer.
Christine: Honestly, I don't know! There are so many books that have sucked me in and it would be cool to feel that exact same sense of falling in love with a story...but there are so many more books to read that I know will make me feel that way, too.
What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?
Amanda: My partner and I recently finished the third season of Sex Education, and I love the way the show approaches relationships and communication. It's the type of content that I find very endearing and entertaining as a show, but also quite grounding.
Christine: I've done a lot of listening to Phoebe Bridgers this year, and it's definitely had an impact on both me and my writing. Her music really gets at this level of emotional depth and pathos that I aspire to give each of my characters.
What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?
Amanda: I'm torn between two contrary answers: the perfect lazy Sunday with lots of cooking and reading, or a beautiful day at an amusement park or autumn fair, which I've been craving so much after all this time spent indoors.
Christine: There's a picnic in the woods with my best friends where there are magically no bugs and we have one of those deep hours-long conversations that you know you'll always remember. And then, after the sun sets, the moon is just...really big and beautiful, and it's chilly but not too cold to be outside, and the world feels quiet but not empty.
What is the question that you're always hoping you'll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?
Christine: I wish more people would ask me about food, actually. What food is All of Us Villains? Probably something red and poisonous that you're really not supposed to eat. A fairytale-style apple.
Amanda: I love to blabber about the nitty-gritty details of craft, but I rarely have the opportunity to dig deep into them apart from blog posts, and even then, I can't talk too intricately about the mechanics of a specific project because spoilers and also… who cares but me? So I usually share these thoughts with my very patient partner. Lately, word choice has been uniquely on my mind. I'm in the process of creating a huge spreadsheet or portfolio of all my favorite words for when I need some inspiration.
What are you working on now?
Christine: I'm working on the All of Us Villains sequel with Amanda while gearing up to promote my next solo YA novel, The Drowning Summer (out April 19, 2022). I'm also drafting an adult spec project that's too secret and strange to talk about just yet, but I hope I get to share more about it one day.
Amanda: Like Christine, I'm currently working on the sequel to All of Us Villains. I'm also working on my children's fantasy series, Wilderlore, whose second book releases on February 1, 2022.