I'm so pleased today to welcome author Maria Dahvana Headley to the blog to answer a few questions about her newest release, Magonia. I tried to reach through my computer screen and yank this book into my grabby little hands the minute I saw its gorgeous cover, and now that it's out I can't wait to dive in and explore all this world has to offer. I hope you all enjoy the interview!
One of my favorite things about the fantasy genre is the world-building and the way it showcases the limitless nature of an author's creativity. If you could go on a YA fantasy world-hop, spending a few days in one world before bouncing to the next, which three fictional worlds would top your list to visit?
Ooh, what a great question. I'm gonna grab a classic world first, out of Peter Pan. I have a lot of objections to Neverland - and part of what caused me to write Magonia was that I've never gotten over being aggravated about what happens to Wendy. I always wanted to be Peter, or at least Tinkerbelle, but even Tinkerbelle has a rotten time and nearly dies. Neverland is a crummy place for girls. It's also a crummy place for people of color. The only people who really have a good time there are white boys. Ah, classic fantasy. There is so much wrong in it, but I'm still seduced by the magic of Peter Pan. I mean, come on, they fly out a bedroom window in London, and end up in a sky kingdom. So if I was visiting, well, I might have to kick some ass. It wouldn't necessarily be a vacation. I'd be starting a Neverland revolution. Next I'd like to visit the utterly weird Moby Dick-based world China Mieville's makes in Railsea, partially because I helped fiddle with that world when it was in draft! I'm pretty smitten by the giant moles instead of whales, and by the edge of the map he ends up at, the actual sea rather than a country crisscrossed by trains and rails. It's so awesome. The Railsea world clearly informed Magonia - though Magonia is a skysea. China helped me tons on it, and if you were to read both of the books in succession, you'd probably be able to see where we worked on each other's worlds. Magonia is dedicated to him, so it's only fair that if I were world touring, I'd visit his world too. Damn, apparently I'm visiting middle grade worlds. Hmm. Let's go Through the Looking Glass. I can't help it. I've always wanted to go there. In this trip, I wanted to visit wildly fantastical places, not so much dystopia. I've read some amazing dystopic worlds too, but I think I'm feeling that long winter we just had in NYC, and now I want to visit places with spectacular monsters and creatures. Lewis Carroll's world obviously is full of wonders and surprises. I love being startled by weirdness.
In Magonia, Aza is no longer plagued by the lung disease that crippled her in her world. What's one thing she would say she learned about herself once she was free of the illness that was such a defining part of her life?
A major illness can function as a fence around your activities, and though you can be really tough within the fence, it's a different matter when the fence is gone. So Aza, I think, learns to be strong outside the boundaries she's been controlled by before. She enters a much larger arena, which requires much more strength and drive. Previously, she had limits, and in Magonia, she doesn't. For the first time in her life, she has to choose things actively.
One of my favorite types of romances is one that begins between longtime friends like Jason and Aza. What is your all-time favorite best friend romance?
Hmmm. I think the one that influenced me most here is the one between Meg Murray and Calvin O' Keefe in Madeleine L'engle's Wrinkle In Time series. I read those when I was small, and they busted me for any other kind of romance. At the beginning of the story, Meg is an angry mess of brain and rage who comes from a loving family, and Calvin is a popular athlete who comes from a painful family, and they bond over braininess. Pretty much from the get-go, Calvin can see Meg clearly, even though she initially dislikes and mistrusts him. Their friendship is a total collaboration of equals, though later in the story things go rather skewed, in terms of gender roles. I love the beginning of their friendship/romance. That made me expect more from boys who met my strange self. I always wanted boys who could see my brain. That's what Jason sees in Aza, and it's what Aza sees in Jason too.
I'm fairly confident I would be an absolute mess on a ship, regardless of whether it was sailing the seas or skies, as likely to send myself overboard as anyone else. Graceful, party of one. If you had to work on one of the trading ships of Magonia, what set of skills would you bring to the table (or not, if you're anything like me ;-)?
I guess I could potentially become a tattoo artist. Sailor tattoos are a thing, and I have a steady hand and a notable weird fearlessness when it comes to permanent ink. I have a lot of tattoos myself. I even have a sea monster.
If tomorrow someone close to you pulled you aside and told you they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that another world besides ours existed, what would your initial reaction be and what's one thing you would hope this other world has that ours doesn't?
I'd say yes, and I would want to visit immediately, provided the parallel world were not, say, Hell. Oh, I'd even visit Hell, who am I kidding. I'm interested in hell. I'm the kind of person who goes to magic shows and doesn't want to know how the magic tricks are done. I prefer to just believe they're actually magic. A friend of mine recently referred to my version of New York as Narniyork, and that's pretty accurate. I see parallel universes everywhere I go. But if there really was another world beside ours, man, let it have equality between its people. I wish that weren't something that was considered utopian, but was just basic. We're not even close yet.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Maria!
• • • • • • • • • • •
Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?
• • • • • • • • • • • •
MARIA DAHVANA HEADLEY