Meet Karen Mahoney, a contributor to our upcoming House of Night anthology, Nyx in the House of Night, and author of The Iron Witch.
Karen Mahoney is the author of The Iron Witch, the first book in a trilogy that continues in 2012 with The Wood Queen. She has also published stories about a kick-ass teen vampire called Moth in The Eternal Kiss and Kiss Me Deadly. Karen is British and currently lives near London with way too many books, though she dreams of one day living in Boston. She doesn’t mind if you call her Kaz.
Q. In your new book, The Iron Witch, seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood just wants to be normal. But instead, she has to deal with knowing about a secret world she can’t even tell her best friend about–a world that caused her parents to go crazy after an attack, and her arms to be marked with unusual tattoos. If you could talk to Donna about her desire for normalcy, what advice would you give her?
A. That’s such a great question! I think I’d want to tell her that it’s okay to be who she is, and that the scars she bears and the terrible things she’s endured are all part of what makes her the amazing person that she is. We have to embrace the power we have within us–even when that power is born out of something bad–and turn it into something positive. That’s pretty much what Donna has to come to terms with throughout the book.
Q. One of the most important relationships in the book is between Donna and her best friend, Navin. Did friends play an important part in your life when you were in high school?
A. They did, because I often didn’t feel as though I fitted in. I was never one of the most popular or “cool” girls at school. I was lucky to not have any major experience of bullying, but I was quiet and sort of geeky. When I made a couple of friends at around 13 or 14, that helped me to come out of my shell more. And then again, at 16, I made a good friend who was my companion throughout the transition into adulthood. So although I didn’t have the biggest group of friends in high school, I didn’t feel alone–I had my little tribe and that was enough for me.
Q. Did you do any research on alchemy and fairies before writing The Iron Witch? If so, did you come across anything particularly cool?
A. I did a lot of research, especially on alchemy. To be honest, the fey stuff in The Iron Witch comes more from my imagination (although I’ve done a ton of reading on faerie lore in general) because I created my own beings in the wood elves. I used classic faerie lore to give a flavor of “reality”–e.g. their aversion to iron–but they are mostly from my own head. Well, I did take some bits and pieces from Norse mythology around more traditional elvish creatures–although Norse elves are very different creatures than the ones I created!
The alchemy was something I spent a lot more time researching, but not just for writing The Iron Witch. I’ve been interested in it for years, and I used to work in an esoteric/occult bookstore so I had access to some great texts for source material. Among my research I found out cool stuff like how some people believe Shakespeare based the magician Prospero, from The Tempest, on John Dee–one of the most famous alchemists in Elizabethan history.
Q. Can you tell us about your essay in the upcoming Smart Pop House of Night anthology, Nyx in the House of Night?
A. I’m so proud of my essay–I put in a lot of work and research (I always get carried away with research) because I’m fascinated with goddess mythology. Getting the chance to contribute to an anthology of essays based on P. C. and Kristin Cast’s popular series was an honor, and I hope people enjoy the book. I’ve focused specifically on the similarities and differences between the mythological Nyx and the version we see in the House of Night books. I’ve also looked at different night goddesses throughout world mythology, and how they might have influenced Nyx in the House of Night.
Q. Besides their awesome tattoos, do you think Zoey from the House of Night and Donna have anything in common?
A. Ha! Good question. I think they both have a strong sense of loyalty towards their friends, and they are also willing to make difficult choices in order to do what needs to be done.
Q. With all of this talk of tattoos, I have to ask: do you have any?
A. I do; I have three. They were all done a long time ago, but I’m quite tempted to have a new one to mark the publication of my debut novel. Part of me thinks I’m too old to get one now, but that’s only a small part. I’ll probably go for it! ;)
Q. If you were a High Priestess in the House of Night universe, what would your affinity be?
A. Hmm . . . I think it would have to be air. I’d like to say fire (because it seems more dramatic!), but I’m going to go with the element my birth sign falls under as I really think it’s appropriate for me. Air is all about movement and communication, and it doesn’t stay in one place for long–I’m kind of flighty like that, and my brain is always buzzing with ideas. Those all indicate an air affinity, I think.
A. I already sort of have read the diary I’d most want to–Charlotte Bront« is one of my literary heroines, and I’ve read a lot of her published letters and journals. They make for fascinating reading, especially for writers.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. I’m working on a short story for a forthcoming anthology of urban faerie tales. The anthology is called Wicked Pretty Things and should be out in September 2011. My story is about Xan from The Iron Witch, and it’s set about a year before the events of the novel.
Q. If you could recommend one book to readers this year, what would it be?
A. I’d love to see everyone in the world reading Sarah Rees Brennan’s novels (The Demon’s Lexicon and The Demon’s Covenant). The final book of her trilogy, The Demon’s Surrender, will be out this year and I can’t wait!
Thank you very much for having me, and for the great questions.