Q&A with Leah Bardugo
Nicole: If you could cowrite a book with any author, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?
LB: Sappy answer is my grandfather. He wasn’t a writer, but I’d get to see him again, so I’d step right through that loophole.
Maybe Stephen King. Or J.K. Rowling. Or George R.R. Martin. Or Louise Erdrich. Or Neil Gaiman. Who am I kidding? I’d be too intimidated to write with any of those people. I’d just sit there grinning like a creep and getting nothing done. I also think cowriting is a very risky kind of alchemy. Even if you love someone’s work, you have no idea how that person’s process will mesh with your own.
Cassidy: Your previous books have been infused with Russian folklore. Did myths and folktales influence Wonder Woman: Warbringer in a similar way?
LB: I drew heavily on the religious beliefs and rituals of ancient Greece, particularly the ideas of miasma and athanatos. The battlefield gods play a role, as does the wider mythology surrounding Helen, who is mostly remembered as Helen of Troy but who was so much more. I also drew on some of the real stories that may have inspired the myths of the Amazons and tried to weave them into the culture, history, and laws of Themyscira.
But it’s interesting because writing a Wonder Woman story means you’re in conversation not only with every Wonder Woman story that has come before, but also with the impact she’s had on culture. I had a similar experience writing The Language of Thorns. The stories are all in conversation with the folktales and fairy tales we know and the archetypes that have arisen from them.
Miss: What’s your favorite way to reward yourself?
LB: I celebrate every finished project with Korean food and a trip to Gold Bug (my favorite shop in Los Angeles, possibly anywhere) to buy something beautiful I don’t need.
Kirstyn: Was there ever a point in your life where you stopped reading and writing for a long period of time—and was there an author who reinspired your love of stories? You’ve been that author for me. You reignited my love of stories, and I will forever be grateful to you.
LB: What a beautiful thing to hear. I’m so glad you found your way back to fiction.
When I’m feeling blocked or I’m in a reading slump, I tend to turn to comics and graphic novels. There’s something about the way the stories unfold that helps change the way I’m thinking about my own work. They also tend to be a master class in cliffhangers. I’m lovingSaga and Monstress right now—and Bitch Planet, of course. Absolute Court of Owls is another favorite.
I think one thing to keep in mind is that, when we talk about writer’s block, we’re really talking about a few different things. Sometimes you just don’t know where to go in a story, sometimes you’re dealing with self-doubt or a loud internal critic, and sometimes the block is actually a symptom of something broader going on with your mental health. So I try to pay attention to what’s really happening in my head and let myself off the hook a bit.
Daisy: Who are some of the “wonder women” in your life?
LB: There are so many. My ferocious college roommates, my crew of Los Angeles ladies who inspire me daily, and my amazing mama, who was a single parent for a big chunk of my childhood. And then there are the incredible women I’ve met through publishing. The YA world is dominated by women, and that means that you’re going to meet a lot of Amazons.
Mihlean: If you lived in the Grishaverse, what kind of character do you think you would be?
LB: A poet who dies in a prologue? Or maybe a witch who lives in a mountain cave and scares the hell out of travelers. Everybody come over for brunch and we’ll play a few rounds of Make the Hiker Pee His Pants.