I got very lucky that when Lauren Skidmore went looking for bloggers to read her third book, she emailed me. I broke with tradition and did an interview this time, but will post my review later.
1. The series has focused on a new character in each book, but always in the context of The Chameleon. This is something that reminds me both of Lord Voldemort and Darth Vader. Was it always your intention to make the person we originally saw as the villain the focus of the entire story arc?
Yes and no. When it comes to villains, one of my favorite characters of all time is Prince Zuko from The Last Airbender series. I thought it would be fun to write a redemption arc like that, and the Chameleon ended up being a good outlet. My primary focus for each book though was the narrator’s own character development, since I still wanted each book to be able to be read on its own. It just sort of worked out by the end that the Chameleon was a tidy link between stories.
2. As a follow-up to that, this is the third book and there is a natural conclusion to the trilogy. On the other hand, the ending leaves a whole different set of adventures as a possibility. Will there be a fourth book?
I don’t have a fourth book planned right now. I just like endings that hint at what’s to come after that book’s story is complete. Plus I have commitment issues, so it’s nice to have the possibility to go back and write more in this world again.
3. "The Fairest Poison" is a departure from your previous title trend. I think you told me about having a different title in mind. What was it and where did you find the eventual title?
Yes, originally the title was going to be What Is Found, but my publisher wanted a title that hinted more at the fairy tale I was playing with, as well as make it more accessible as a stand-alone read.
I settled on The Fairest Poison basically by googling various Snow White references and seeing what words were associated with the fairy tale. “Fairest” and “poison” were naturally popular, though I didn’t really see them together, so I tried it out and liked it. I think it has a sort of lyrical sound, and it ended up tying in nicely with certain parts of the novel.
4. I remember enjoying the Japanese influences in your last book, but enjoyed returning to Venesia as well. What was your favorite thing about making us more familiar with the first book's city?
I really liked being able to explore palace life from the side of the royal family, as opposed to the servants’ view from What Is Hidden.
5. I always say to world-build about three pages for every one page of what makes it into the book. Are there things about the court or Venesia in general that you'd like to share as an interesting tidbit?
Previously, the royal family did not speak at all, except to the Speaker, who would then relay everything to those not of royal blood, which is how things worked in What Is Hidden. After the events of that book, and as the prince took more control, that tradition was basically abandoned for purposes of practicality. I wish I could have included more about that shift in particular as it happened, but it just didn’t work out with the timeline. It really made the royal family appear more human to outsiders, and not these untouchable beings dressed all in white. Which, in turn, made them more vulnerable.
Also, a tour of the Venesian palace in general would have been fun for me, but probably not so much for a reader.
6. As the title and cover art both indicate, there's a bit of murder afoot. What did you research to create your various assassination attempts? (My favorite was the razor-sharp combs, personally.)
So many poisons! I used mostly made up names for the poisons I used, for safety reasons, but I researched lots of different types of poisonous types of plants and venoms and basically anything that could kill you from the inside out. The most difficult Snow White murder attempt to work in was that bodice, since the original was magically cursed to tighten, and there’s no magic system at work here. Also a few other things that I can’t really talk about without giving stuff away to those who haven’t read it yet, but royal assassination attempts in general were super interesting to read up on.
7. Were there any plot changes that you had to make based on editor feedback? From start to finish, did you make any major plot changes on your own?
The culprit actually changed a couple times. As I fine-tuned the motivation for the attacks and the characters, it made more sense to change the original to what ended up in the final copy.
8. What's next for you?
I’m taking a little writing break right now to recharge, but I’ve got a few ideas in mind for future books. Right now I’m leaning towards a high fantasy with dragons, but we'll see.