Margaret Rogerson: “She’s aspirational for me because she’s badass without sacrificing her idealism”

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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Margaret Rogerson and ask her five(ish) questions. Margaret’s novel Sorcery of Thrones is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Margaret: After finishing my first novel, An Enchantment of Ravens, I succumbed to the dreaded sophomore slump. For the first time, I had to come up with a book idea while under contract and with a deadline. I had no idea what to write next—and the pressure I felt to write something good was enormous. I spent the next year and a half laboring over several different manuscripts, gradually coming to the awful realization that despite the work I had put into them, all of them felt lifeless.

I still remember the exact day that I scrapped yet another failed novel and sat down to figure out what had gone wrong with my writing. After some soul searching, I realized that I had been writing about topics I found interesting, but didn’t feel passionate about. I needed to find a way to enjoy writing again. I asked myself, “What is something I really, really love?” Books sprang instantly to mind, and the idea for Sorcery of Thorns followed quickly from there.

What character do you most relate to and why?

Oddly enough, I don’t have a lot in common with any of the characters in Sorcery of Thorns, but I would love to be like the heroine, Elisabeth. She’s aspirational for me because she’s badass without sacrificing her idealism. She’s great with a sword, but what truly makes her strong is that she remains relentlessly hopeful even when her circumstances could easily shape her into someone who is cynical or jaded. That’s a quality that I find important in today’s world more than ever. And Elisabeth also grew up in a magical library where the librarians carry swords, which I wouldn’t mind having in common with her either.

Why do you feel fantasy young adult books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

As a teen, I loved female authors like Tamora Pierce, Patricia Wrede, Robin McKinley, and Diana Wynne Jones. But most of the fantasy books I consumed were written by men, had male protagonists and heavily male-centric plots. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. When I started writing, however, I found that writing female protagonists actually posed a significant challenge for me. I found it difficult—on some deeply buried subconscious level—to conceive of a girl or woman as a fantasy hero. Now I understand how important it is for young people to see themselves reflected in the media they consume.

I think YA is popular because it’s a space where girls, and increasingly people of color, are being celebrated as protagonists. It’s unsurprising to me that YA resonates with adult women, too, because so many of us lacked that element of empowerment in the fantasy we read as teenagers, so it can be tremendously cathartic to experience that later as an adult.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Sorcery of Thorns is about a girl named Elisabeth who’s an apprentice at a magical library where the books are alive and the librarians carry swords. When an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire as an ink-and-leather monster called a Malefict, Elisabeth’s desperate intervention draws her into a centuries-old conspiracy that could see the kingdom’s libraries destroyed—and the kingdom along with it. She has no choice but to turn to her sworn enemy, the powerful sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, for help; even as she questions everything she’s been told about the libraries, magic, and even herself.

Readers can expect dramatic acts of spellcasting from Austermeer’s Most Eligible Bachelor (it’s in the papers) Nathaniel Thorn, a reluctant romance in which the very tall, sword-wielding heroine has an inch or two on the hero, a gothic setting filled with libraries, sorcerous grimoires that whisper on the shelves, spit ink, and rattle beneath iron chains… and love and are loved by a girl whose connection with books might prove powerful enough to save the world.

What’s next for you in the book world?

My current project is still under wraps, but I can share that it’s another YA fantasy. I came up with the idea for it after speaking to a psychic at the Renaissance Fair, who suggested I write a book about ghosts.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

My favorite new (to me) author that I’ve discovered this year is Martha Wells. I binged her Murderbot Diaries novellas so single-mindedly over the course of several days I’m not sure I even slept. The titular character has an unforgettable voice and the novellas are hilarious, action-packed, and deeply and unexpectedly moving. My life is currently devoted to counting down to the full-length Murderbot novel being published next year.

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