I was first introduced to Leah Cypess’s young adult fantasy novels by the wonderful Gail over at Ticket to Anywhere after she had sent me both Mistwood and Nightspell, signed.
I have yet to read Nightspell but when I saw Death Sworn up on Edelweiss I could not pass it up. YA + Fantasy + written by Leah Cypess = win. And let me tell you one thing: Death Sworn has a kickass MC.
So I thought I’d go ahead and ask Leah some questions regarding Death Sworn, mostly because some explaining needs to happen – short and sweet.
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Q: You’ve written MISTWOOD (and its following companion NIGHTSPELL), which was your first fantasy. Upcoming in March you now have the start of a new fantasy duology DEATH SWORN. What do you love about the fantasy genre and what were the authors, books, or worlds that inspired you to create your own worlds?
Leah: I’ve always loved fantasy. I don’t remember my first fantasy novel, but I do remember reading the Belgaraid and the Mallorean by David Eddings approximately 15 times as a teen. I also devoured Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dave Duncan, and Anne McCaffrey. Even now, about 80% of what I read is fantasy or science fiction. There’s something about speculative fiction that seems to allow authors to extend their imaginations to the fullest, and there is also a thread of pure fun in the genre’s culture that places an emphasis on writing books that are fun to read.
Q: Now, to clear up the confusion, is DEATH SWORN a) set in the same world as the Mistwood novels, or b) a completely new fantasy world, with new lore and characters? How different (relating to either a) or b)) is the world of DEATH SWORN compared to that of the Mistwood novels and what could readers expect?
Leah: I’m sorry about the confusion! DEATH SWORN is a completely new fantasy world, with new lore and characters. The world of DEATH SWORN is dominated by a very powerful empire, and DEATH SWORN itself – the first book in the duology – is set almost entirely in a secret cave system inhabited by a sect of assassins sworn to fight that Empire.
Q: You’ve now written stories featuring three different female protagonists—Isabel in MISTWOOD, Darri in NIGHTSPELL, and now Ileni in DEATH SWORN. How does your newest heroine, Ileni, differ from Isabel and Darri?
Leah: Ileni is very different from Isabel and Darri in many ways, but the most interesting is that she is almost completely powerless. While Isabel was inhuman and infallible, and Darri was a better fighter than at least some of the people around her, Ileni’s entire power lies in her ability to perform magic — and she is slowly losing that ability, just as she is thrust into a cave full of trained killers. With Isabel, it was a challenge to find ways to put her in danger; with Ileni, it was a challenge to find ways to involve her in the action without having her just get killed immediately.
Q. Will the second novel of the Death Sworn duology have a new protagonist? Or is it continuing Ileni’s story?
Leah: The second novel of the Death Sworn duology continues Ileni’s story directly.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers of the fantasy genre? How do you go about fleshing out your world and characters?
Leah: Read history. (Well, read fantasy, of course. But read history too.) Especially if your book is set in a pre-technological society, there are hundreds of little details that you wouldn’t think of that are going to need to be included to make your world work. And it’s important to realize that people at different times thought and felt differently from people in our time. You don’t have to use all those details or be historically accurate, of course, but knowing those details and differences will be a huge asset when you’re inventing your own world.
Thanks, Leah, for answering these questions!
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I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).
After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother’s importuning to be practical and majored in biology at Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I sold my first novel to Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).
I live in Brookline, Massachusetts (right outside of Boston) with my husband Aaron, a researcher and doctor at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and our three children.
Death Sworn publishes from Greenwillow on March 4th, 2014. Add it to Goodreads here.