Sabrina Blackburry’s debut, Dirty Lying Faeries, is now out in the world and if you need on reason to read it, make it this: For a writer who originally had no intention of writing this kind of book, Dirty Lying Faeries is a wholly entertaining new take on a familiar concept. But to understand how unlikely it is that this book came to be, we have to get into the funny story of how the book came to be, which Blackburry shared with us as we discussed morally grey characters, planning a book and how to make your characters relatable.
“When I started writing, I wrote for NaNoWriMo. That was how I got myself to write and finish my first stories” – Blackburry shared, which, instant relatability points. “Well, one year, I did not know what to do, and there was a thread of, if you don’t know what to write, tell us what you usually write, and the person below you will tell you [what to write] based off what you gave them. And it might be what you usually write, or it might be something you’ve never written before.”
Of course, what she got was number two. “I got the prompt for urban fantasy romance, and I was thinking, oh, I always write these big, high fantasy things. How do I make this an urban fantasy? So I had to think about that, and I thought, okay, the best way to approach this is faeries because I like faeries already.”
So, basically, we have a stranger on the internet to thank for this book, and if that isn’t one of the best origin stories for a book you’ve ever read, then I don’t know what is.
Of course, writing a book in a month is quite an endeavor, but that book can’t stay as you wrote it for NaNoWriMo. Blackburry admits she was more of a panster than she is now when she wrote the book, but she’s become much better at planning ahead. Even so, she shared that when she was writing the first draft, there were a lot of notes. Then “As I went, I would realize there was something I needed to know, and then I would have to stop and develop this whole thing about the world so I would have that answer before I could keep writing.”
But faeries, faeries came easily to Blackburry. “My first encounter with faeries was when my grandpa took me to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was very little. I was maybe five or six. And obviously, most of the story just went right over my head, but the faeries didn’t. So ever since then, if it’s got faeries in it, I’ll read it,” which is perhaps why it came so easy to her as soon as someone suggested she write urban fantasy.
Talking to Blackburry, however, was not just delving into faeries and the origin story of her book, it was also about discussing what makes a writer – and how they go about the process of creating the magic we call books. In this case, that started with the heroine. “I have an easier time writing a female main character finding a place in the world. I’ve really felt that, especially through my teens and 20s, that lost feeling of I want something, I don’t know how to get there. And I’m sure every main character I ever write will have that in some capacity.”
For Dirty Lying Faeries, Blackburry started there – with her main character, and from that, she went on to their motivations, their needs. And then, she wrote the world around it to make that thing they needed “attainable, but also challenging.”
Throw in some romance, and you’ve got yourself a book.
“I knew I wanted to have a romance in there. I also knew that the romance was not going to take up the entire book. This was not a romance book that had a fantasy skin over it. It was a book with a lot of things happening. The romance was just one of them.”
And when she says a lot of things happening, she truly means a lot of things – which culminate in an epic final battle, which Blackburry admits was challenging to write. “Any action scene I write is probably the most rewritten thing,” she told us, sharing that she has to “work on that harder than anything else.” She does have a trick, though. “I am one to take a blank piece of paper and draw the setting.” But this time, she went even further. “I borrowed some of my son’s little plastic colorful beads, and I made a map. I’m like, okay, the blue one is this character, and the red one is this character, and they’re here, but now they’re there. So I did have to use props. I had to use props doing that, which helped quite a bit.”
The other thing that helps quite a bit? Editing. Not just as you’re trying to keep track of who’s standing where during an action scene, but as you’re trying to make sure your characters are truly all they can be, all you need them to be, which is something you can’t always tell right away. “You know all of your characters better once you’ve written the last chapter than you did when you started writing the first chapter. So there’s bound to be things that change” as you go back and edit. This is especially important for a writer that, like Blackburry, is interested in the layers, in the morally grey characters – because people aren’t black and white in real life.
“I think we can better relate to characters when they both have good and bad things about them. Your heroes should have a flaw. Your villains should have a relatable reason.” And if you manage to write them like that, like three-dimensional people, while taking care of the setting and the motivations, well …the book will be worth reading, like Dirty Lying Faeries is.
Dirty Lying Faeries is available now, wherever books are sold.