What if Ireland’s faeries aren’t the mischievous, sometimes malevolent figures of lore, but just a race of travelers from somewhere else looking to be left alone?
In COURT OF TWILIGHT, Mareth Griffith ’06 turns Ireland’s rich history of faerie stories on its head. Twenty year old Ivy’s roommate rarely leaves the house and has an unusual fascination with plants, but Ivy’s willing to overlook it because the apartment is posh and surprisingly affordable. But when her roommate disappears, Ivy can’t just shrug and let it go. She sets off to find her, and in the process she finds a whole Dublin underworld — a world she has no business interfering with.
Equal parts amusing and unnerving, COURT OF TWILIGHT is urban fantasy with a sci-fi kick, perfect for readers who are ready for a taste of something beyond angels, demons and shadow hunters.
Mareth was kind enough to answer some questions about the book, her process, and her time at Smith — check out our interview below. And don’t forget to enter to win a copy! (Giveaway open to US residents only, sorry.)
An Interview with COURT OF TWILIGHT author Mareth Griffith ’06
BBS: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience at Smith?
MG: I first attended Smith through a pre-college program the summer before my senior year. I loved the campus, the fellow students, and the faculty. Prior that program I wouldn’t have considered applying – but I applied, was accepted, and loved it! I lived in Sessions House all three years I was on campus. It’s a beautiful house with some very interesting history. I majored in music, and worked for the music department recording concerts at Sage Hall, and was also the sound intern for the theatre department my senior year.
I spent my junior year abroad, studying music and recording engineering at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland. It was my first time living abroad, as well as living in a place where I was cooking for myself, dealing with flat mates, and living in a city. I enjoyed it so much that I went back to the UK after graduation, this time in Northern Ireland. I drew on a lot of my experiences of living in Glasgow when creating a believable urban setting for Ivy and the Court of Twilight gang to inhabit.
BBS: COURT OF TWILIGHT has been called urban fantasy, but that seems like a simplistic description of a plot that features inter-dimensional travel, futuristic gadgets, and an antagonist straight out of a horror novel. What genres do you draw inspiration from?
MG: I am an avid reader of all sorts of fantasy fiction and sci-fi. Barbara Hambly, Connie Willis and Laurie R. King are three of my favorite writers, and Hambly’s work – particularly her Darwath and Windrose books – have had a huge influence on Court of Twilight. I also think that urban fantasy is such a broad category, that there is room for anything from Patricia Briggs to China Miéville. I suppose for my own work, I don’t see a hard and fast line separating urban fantasy from other sorts of speculative fiction. I think I’m very lucky, as a debut author, to have found a publisher that’s open to publishing a novel with aspects that don’t fit neatly into one specific genre.
BBS: There are some challenging scenes in this novel that are all the more unnerving because the protagonist, Ivy, never directly addresses them. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
MG: I am a huge fan of storytelling by implication. In some instances, writing around something is more effective than writing about it. So, I deliberately left a hole in the narrative and gave it a horse-shaped outline. I suppose I’m asking readers to bring a little more to the table, but I think the payoff is putting them in a place where they’re puzzling things out along with – or in places, slightly ahead of – the protagonist.
BBS: In your acknowledgements you reference National Novel Writing Month, am event where writers across the country attempt to write a draft of a novel — 50k words — in the month of November. Did COURT OF TWILIGHT start as a NaNoWriMo novel? How do you fit writing into your other endeavors?
Court did indeed start as a NaNoWriMo novel. I came up with the general idea of the novel while I was travelling in New Zealand, and decided very impulsively that I was going to use the idea as a NaNoWriMo project. This was back in 2013. It was the first time I’d ever done NaNoWriMo (though I’d previously written two still-unpublished novels). By the end of the month, I’d written by 50,000 words, and had a story in which I saw potential. It wasn’t a finished story by any means – I spent over a year revising it before I started to submit it anywhere.
As far as how I fit writing into my other endeavors? Awkwardly, as I’m sure is the case for many writers with day jobs. In my case, I work as a wilderness guide in Alaska. I tend to do the bulk of my writing in the winter, when I’m home and have far more free time. In the summers, I try and do as little work as my publisher will let me get away with.
BBS: Is there a book by a Smith alumna you have especially loved and would recommend to our readers?
MG: A Pearl in the Storm, by Toni Murden McClure, is an amazing adventure story, as well as a gripping memoir. The book narrates the story of two attempts McClure made to cross the Atlantic by rowboat, as well as her challenges growing up trying to shield her developmentally disabled brother from abuse. I had the opportunity to meet the author during a wilderness first responder course I took a few years ago, and she is just as inspiring in person as in her memoir.
BBS: One last question — when can we expect the sequel!?
MG: I’m working on it, but sadly, not any time soon. I wrote a very rough version of the draft during 2014, before I’d even found a publisher for Court of Twilight, because I, too, wanted answers to all of the dangling questions at the end of Court. The story’s still a giant potential-filled mess; I’m working this winter on turning it into a draft good enough to send out to my beta readers.
Our thanks to Mareth for answering our questions, and to her publisher Parvus Press for supplying a copy of COURT OF TWILIGHT for our giveaway! You can follow Mareth on Twitter @magpiemareth to keep up with her writing and wilderness adventures.