Welcome to Debut of the Week, our series celebrating some of the most exciting new voices in YA. This week we welcome Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow.
In a debut already acclaimed for its richly built fantasy world, a looked-down-on caste of death dealers find themselves at the precipice of an epochal change. If Fie, leader of the Crows, manages to protect the Crown Prince from the ruthless queen, he promises to protect her lowly crew when he takes the throne. But his devoted bodyguard, hungry for a path of his own, may throw their bargain into disarray. Here’s author Owen on inspiration, what she was like as a teenager, and the books that built her.
Tell us a bit about The Merciful Crow.
MO: The Merciful Crow is a story about a ferocious girl from her society’s bottom caste, who is asked to go on a dangerous road trip to save the heir to the throne; she only agrees once he makes a binding oath to be the first of his dynasty to protect her people, and then about a hundred pages later, it all goes horribly wrong anyway.
What was the spark that became this book?
MO: An article I read about the lives of medieval European executioners! It outlined the peculiar rules about how they could live, how they could be paid, and who they could interact with, and I found that all really interesting and compelling.
What were you like as a teenager?
MO: Awkward, loud, messy, and a huge nerd! I constantly had a notebook and a giant bag of Prismacolor markers and pens and a sketchbook on hand, because if I wasn’t writing (usually fan fiction), I was drawing (about 50% fanart.) I was also known for making some fashion choices that would be generously described as “bold.”
What were the books you had to read throughout your life in order to write it?
MO: Oh, all of them, I’d say. Even ones that I didn’t like, to help me figure out why I didn’t like it. I do remember reading Sabriel by Garth Nix when I was younger and adoring it. Then, as an author, whenever I worried if something was too gross or gory, I could look at where Sabriel drew the line.
What YA book have you loved recently?
MO: I recently read and loved loved loved Tara Sim’s Scavenge the Stars. (No one told me one of the perks of being an author is sometimes you get amazing books ahead of everyone else!) If you like angry knife girls and sweet disaster bi boys, Scavenge is the Count of Monte Cristo retelling you need.
What has been the most surreal part of your debut experience?
MO: ALL OF IT, but really the moment that kicked it off was when I heard the auction was done and I officially had a book deal. It was the start of my workday so I sprinted into a phone room to properly scream with excitement, and I was practically pirouetting the rest of the day!
The Merciful Crow is on shelves now.