Once I finished reading Tina Connolly's Ironskin, I immediately had to seek her out and ask her to join me on the blog to talk about her fantastic debut. She graciously accepted and now I want to share with you Tina's thoughts on imperfect characters, how Ironskin began, information about the series' sequel, and more. You can also read my 4 1/2 star review of Ironskin here.
Cat: First, I want to ask about Ironskin's striking cover. As an author, how much input do you have in the overall cover design?Tina: It's a really lovely cover, isn't it? It's by Larry Rostant, and I feel very lucky to have him. I'm not sure how much input authors generally have, but at least in this instance, Tor sent me a sheet to fill out a description of what Jane looked like. They ask if you have any suggestions, or if there's anything you particularly don't want to see! Additionally in this case Jane has the mask, so my editor asked if I could describe or sketch out a picture of that. So I sent along links to dress ideas, mostly with a very 30's feel, and then I ended up sketching a picture of Jane in the mask, in a 30's style dress. I either sketched or mentioned that in my mind there was the ruined chateau in the back and blue mist blowing around. So...the book cover ended up being a very beautiful rendition of what I had in mind!Cat: In your acknowledgments, you mention that someone pointed out the similarities between Jane Eyre and your original novelette that later became Ironskin. Did you not originally plan to write the story as a spin on the Jane Eyre classic?Tina: I know, right? But no, the original story was written for a themed anthology looking for gothic romance novellas. I had an image in my mind of a girl who goes into a studio late at night and sees a beautiful version of her own face looking back at her. Slowly she puts the clay mask on. . . . One thing led to another until I had a novella about a governess and a tormented artist. Although I've always loved Jane Eyre, I wasn't specifically thinking along those lines until someone pointed it out. So when I was developing Ironskin into a novel, I started pulling on the Jane Eyre threads more openly, as a way to both structure the story, and to develop some of the themes and ideas I had more fully. I do love retellings, so I'm sure subconsciously my brain was interested in weaving the two stories together long before I realized it.Cat: I always find myself most fascinated by tortured, damaged protagonists like your Jane Eliot. What do you think it is that readers find so appealing about these imperfect characters?Tina: Good question. One of my favorite characters on TV (back in the pre-toddler days when I could watch TV!) was House. And I'm fascinated with House partly because the show (and the brilliant Hugh Laurie) did a good job of showing that the qualities that were his strengths were his weaknesses, and vice versa. And that's something that's consistently interesting to me. Then in addition to his internal damage, he had the very visible damage of the limp. Which made it very plain what sort of pain he was going through, and you had more sympathy for him when he got all arrogant and grouchy. So there's a mixture there, with frustration with House and sympathy for him that I think is a very interesting dynamic to watch.Cat: During the story, Jane makes a trade and lends out a book that is very precious to her. What book from your collection would you have offered?Tina: Oh, what a fun question! Well, if I were going for an exciting swashbuckling adventure (a quality that makes the recipient of Jane's trade eager to read it) then I dunno, maybe The Princess Bride?
And if just going to a dear favorite...well, I do by and large enjoy lending out my books, but a couple I probably would have a hard time lending would be some of the hard-to-find ones from my Noel Streatfeild or Diana Wynne Jones collection. Oh, speaking of DWJ, perhaps *the exact copy* of Witch Week that got me hooked on her, long ago at my public library. (Yay for library discard sales!)Cat: Will the sequel to Ironskin continue being told from Jane's point-of-view or will it feature a different character?Tina: It actually switches to Jane's sister Helen! I wanted Ironskin to tell a complete story and character arc. Yet clearly life goes on at the end of Ironskin; it's plain what Jane is off to do next. So I still had more story in the world to tell, but I wanted to explore a new character's growth and relationships. We only see Helen through Jane's eyes in Ironskin. And I'm fascinated by what we fail to see in each other, even when we are fairly close. Jane does not always understand Helen and vice versa, and I tried to fairly represent that. But I knew Helen had her own story and I wanted the chance to show what she's made of. So the sequel picks up 6 months later. Jane is there, working on her plans from the end of book 1. But now we see her through Helen's eyes, and as Helen tries to help her sister, she gets deeply entangled with the fey in a way she never intended.Cat: What heroines (from novels, movies, or real life) have been influential to you?Tina: Let's see, from books I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Bennet. And from real life, I'd probably say my grandmother, who was wonderful and whom I miss very much.Cat: Thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions. I thought Ironskin was a fascinating story with an intriguing mystery and the sequel can't come soon enough!Tina: Thank you so much for your kind words, and for having me on the blog!
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Tina Connolly lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her novel IRONSKIN is forthcoming from Tor Books in October 2012. She frequently narrates for Podcastle, runs the flash podcast Toasted Cake, and her website is tinaconnolly.com.
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