Author Interviews

Interview with Claire Legrand

I am a MEGA FAN of Claire Legrand ever since before Furyborn. And then Sawkill Girls stole my heart – I am still waiting for it back. So when I had the chance to interview Claire in regards to Extasia – which is a thrilling story which I finished in a few days – I may have shrieked. Please keep reading to see the author interview of my dreams!

Extasia Summary

Her name is unimportant.

All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain–an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.

She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.

Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?

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Find Extasia on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.

Author Interview

How much of the ending did you know when you began drafting? The whole last quarter had me shrieking!

I’m glad you enjoyed the last quarter so much! It was a blast to write. As a general rule, when I write, I always keep in mind the kind of stories I would want to read. That informed every decision I made while planning Extasia, especially the ending, which is very complicated and untidy (as is real life). I always know the ending when writing my books, and Extasia was no different. I like outlining my books from start to finish and in great detail before I ever begin drafting. That outline evolves quite a bit over the course of drafting and then revisions, but the major plot points—including the ending—usually stay consistent. It’s all that tricky connective tissue between plot points that I refine (read: agonize over) during revisions.

I loved the relationship between Amity and Blessing. Did you always know Amity would have a sister? Did much change about Blessing through drafting?

I always knew Amity would have a younger sister, but their relationship evolved quite a bit during revisions. Originally, Amity was very hostile toward Blessing, and their relationship was a source of strife rather than solace. But my editor and I decided that Amity needed more hope and joy in her life, despite all the horrible things happening around her. Amity and Blessing’s relationship therefore became softer and kinder—a sanctuary for both girls when things got especially tough—and making that change was absolutely the right decision.

How was writing Extasia versus Sawkill Girls? Do you consistently discover new things about yourself as a writer as you write?

Writing Extasia was a wildly different experience from writing Sawkill Girls. First of all, Extasia is a much darker story. In Sawkill, the main characters are fighting a girl-eating monster, which is a pretty straightforward conflict. They quickly figure out what has to be done, and they do it. In Extasia, Amity and her friends are fighting a much more insidious evil. The call is coming from inside the house, as it were, and there are no easy answers for them. Also, in Sawkill, I often used humor to offset the horror elements, but I couldn’t do that in Extasia due to the setting and overall tone. And finally, I revised Extasia during the pandemic and while dealing with difficult personal challenges. So all of that made for a much messier creative process, which feels appropriate, since the central conflict—and the choices Amity has to make—are similarly fraught.

Which side characters were the hardest to write? How was writing the characters of Samuel and Amity’s dad?

I loved writing Samuel. He’s an important person in Amity’s life, and I enjoyed crafting the twists and turns of their relationship. I also liked exploring the contradiction of Amity caring deeply for Samuel while also being angry at him for making horrible decisions—which is a confusing, frustrating feeling to which we can all relate. Amity’s father was the most challenging character to write. Amity loves him deeply, but there’s a distance between them, too, and as the story progresses, she becomes less and less sure of who her father is, which then makes her less sure of who she is. As you can imagine, that was a challenging dynamic to construct, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Where did the name Extasia come from? How about Haven? The power of names is huge in Extasia, which names were the hardest for you?

I’m loath to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the book yet, so I’ll simply say that the title Extasia is also the name of an important story element. For both the title and this element, I wanted to convey a sense of mystery, power, and beauty, as well as a sinister quality. The word extasia derives from the Latin word for ecstasy, which, depending on its usage, can have connotations of extreme happiness—or something more dangerous, like delirium or rapturous frenzy. That word fit my needs perfectly; it just felt right. The road to Haven was a much simpler one. This village is an idyllic sanctuary for the people who live there, so they named it accordingly. Of course, this being a horror novel, Haven is not a haven for long. In general, it was a simple process to name things in this book because I had such a clear sense of my desired aesthetic and tone. When those pieces fall into place, names come easily.

Would Amity get along well with your other characters from your books and which would become her best friend?

I think Amity and Eliana from the Empirium Trilogy would relate very strongly to one another. Amity wouldn’t know what to make of Rielle (also from the Empirium Trilogy), and she would feel very protective of Finley from Some Kind of Happiness. Those two would enjoy sharing fantastical stories. I think Amity would most of all love Marion, Zoey, and Val from Sawkill Girls. She would fit in perfectly with their fierce little coven. Out of those three, I think Marion would become Amity’s best friend. Marion’s a steady, calm presence—very sensible and clear-headed while still having an eye for the extraordinary—and after everything that happens in Extasia, Amity would be grateful for that kind of friend.

The theme of truth and perception, stories and lies is huge in this book. What stories are your favorite to unpack and what did you enjoy about exploring this theme in Extasia?

I love unpacking stories similar to the ones I write—stories about complex girls and women, stories with a touch (or more) of magic, stories with messy, complicated, sometimes uncomfortable endings. With every story I write, I learn more about myself—what I believe, what’s important to me, what frightens me, what I desire, how I lie to myself, how I lie to others, and why all these things are what they are. Amity does the same thing, albeit more extreme, in Extasia. She has to reassess literally everyone in and everything about her life—what stories she’s been told, what stories she wants to tell, what she’s willing to risk, what her moral code forbids and permits, how she can seek out and protect and communicate truth. By doing this, she grows stronger, wiser, and more empathetic. On a smaller scale, every book we read does this for us. An evergreen hope of mine is that my books—especially Extasia—inspire readers to consider the same questions about themselves.

Find Extasia on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.

About the Author

Claire Legrand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for young readers, most notably the Empirium Trilogy, as well as The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, the Edgar Award-nominated Some Kind of Happiness, and Sawkill Girls, which has been nominated for both a Stoker Award and a Lambda Literary Award. She lives in New Jersey.

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