Interview With an Author: Carrie Vaughn

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Carrie Vaughn and her latest book, Ghosts of Sherwood
Author Carrie Vaughn and her latest book, Ghosts of Sherwood

Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling Kitty Norville series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. She's written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Her latest novella is Ghosts of Sherwood and she recently agreed to talk about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Ghosts of Sherwood

The idea had been simmering in the back of my mind for years. It started with the end of the classic film, The Adventures of Robin Hood. I'd also been reading about the history of the period, and I realized just a couple of years later, the villain of the film, the evil Prince John, becomes the rightful king of England, and Robin would then necessarily become one of his sworn barons. What happens then? Well, if you know your history, in 16 years King John is forced to sign the Magna Carta by barons demanding more legal rights, and you just know Robin's going to be in the thick of it. What I was really interested in, though, were Robin and Marian's children, who would be nearly teenagers by then, and what sort of adventures they might have. It turns out King John's heir, the future King Henry III, is around the same age. The possibilities for some really fun, YA-flavored stories just blossomed from there. (Henry appears in the sequel, The Heirs of Locksley.)

How did the novella 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?

I had the idea of writing about Robin Hood's children for years. It took a long time to find the core of an actual story about them: they're kidnapped by Robin's enemies. After that, the actual writing went quickly. I kept adding rather than taking things out. For example, I knew I absolutely needed some kind of archery challenge. Can't have a Robin Hood story without an astonishing feat of archery, so that went in.

Do you have a favorite version/retelling of the Robin Hood legend (novels, film, or television)? A least favorite? One that you think it is so bad, it is actually good?

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley. It's a really great telling of the story that hits all the classic notes, but also has some imaginative twists. Her Robin Hood is a reluctant hero, but because of that, he's very down-to-earth and relatable. I love spending time with her characters.

There've been some really awful film versions recently, which may be part of what spurred me to finally finish my own retelling.

What is it about the Robin Hood legend that keeps people returning to it after so many centuries?

I think it's such a pure expression of the fundamental adventure archetype. There's a hero, he has lots of friends, they're all really competent, and they're fighting against clear-cut villains. He's a trickster figure, but he's also honorable and speaks to the urge so many of us have to run off to the woods and have fun while also doing good. It's a template that transcends time and place. I think Robin Hood stories will be with us for a good long time to come.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

Right now I'm reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Next up is A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

I had a couple: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell in particular. I read lots of horse books.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

My family reads a lot of science fiction, and I remember as a kid there were the Robert Heinlein novels I was allowed to read and the ones I was not allowed to read. To this day, I still like his "juvenile" novels better. I had a friend whose mother got really freaked out when she caught us reading Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume, which just seems so cliche now. But my parents never seemed all that bothered, and pretty early on I just stopped asking them what was okay to read.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Ray Bradbury and Robin McKinley made me want to learn to write. Lois McMaster Bujold taught me everything I know about writing a series. Ursula K. LeGuin, for everything. And let's say Charles Dickens just because.

What is a book you've faked reading?

I have a hard time admitting I haven't read Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, because it's such a science fiction classic and I've read most everything else by Clarke and somehow just missed that one.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Wild Cards Vol. V: Down and Dirty, edited by George R.R. Martin. The original cover from the 80s. It's this stylish airbrushed collection of characters, and it didn't look like anything else on the shelf, so I grabbed it. I became a huge fan of the series, which is still going strong, and now I'm a writer for it. So that worked out well.

Is there a book that changed your life?

I'm going to say Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, because it was the book that made me want to be a writer, that really showed me how powerful words can be in the right hands. I felt so many moments of that book in my bones.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

That's a tough one for me because as a former bookseller I'm all about finding the right book for whoever I'm talking to, depending on what they're looking for. I can usually find a suggestion for just about everyone. But if I have to name just one, I'll say The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. It's short, beautiful, and everyone should read it.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. It's still the novel I re-read the most.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

Gosh, I'm not really sure! Sometimes the most perfect days are the unexpected ones. But I do love going to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park to hike, where I see elk and deer, and coming home to relax with coffee or wine.

What is the question that you're always hoping you'll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

You know, I never know how to answer this question! I'm not quite sure what else people would like to know about me!

What are you working on now?

I'm putting the finishing touches on a novel about a high-tech fantasy gaming resort that goes horribly wrong, and also working on a fantasy novel with a Neolithic setting. It always feels like I'm working on about five different things.

The Ghosts of Sherwood
Vaughn, Carrie