In this week’s episode, Marissa chats with Hanna Alkaf and Margaret Owen about their YA murder mystery anthology, THE GRIMOIRE OF GRAVE FATES. Topics covered in this super-fun episode include: how the project came out of a tweet, the challenges and joys of writing an anthology with so many authors, the politics of choosing contributors, using Google docs, forms, and spreadsheets to stay organized with multiple stories and so many details, the unexpected administrative work of doing a multi-author anthology, and so much more.
Trekking the World game: https://www.underdoggames.com/products/trekking-the-world
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[00:10] Marissa: Hello, and welcome to the Happy Writer. This is a podcast that aims to bring readers more books to enjoy and to help authors find more joy in their writing. I am your host, Marissa Meyer. Thank you so much for joining me today. One thing making me happy this week is a game. The girls and I play a lot of board games. I love board games. It's one of those things that's kind of similar to books where I just can't seem to stop buying them. And it's to the point now where we're running out of places to put all of our games. So that's just kind of a general problem thing that I like a lot. But one in particular that we have really been loving lately. It is called Trekking the World, and this was actually a gift to us a couple of years ago. It's sort of a complicated game, so when we first got it, the girls weren't old enough to really understand all of the rules, and so we just kind of tucked it away for a couple of years, and we broke it out again here a few weeks ago, and it has become one of our new favorites. The premise is, like all of the players, you're all world travelers, and you go around to different continents visiting all of these famous landmarks and collecting souvenirs. And it comes with these cards that feature artwork of the different places that you visit. And the artwork is so spectacular. It's really, really beautiful. And plus bonus, the girls are secretly learning geography and they don't even realize it. So I know not every fun thing has to have educational value, but I sure do appreciate it when it does. So if you and your family are also into games, Trekking the World, I highly recommend it. I am also so happy to be talking to today's guest. Hanna Alkoff is the author of a number of books for young readers, including The Weight of Our Sky and The Girl and the Ghost. She was also a guest on this podcast way back on Episode 109, in which we got to talk about her Scrabble themed murder mystery, Queen of the Tiles. So if you haven't listened to that episode yet, I hope you will. But not right now, because this one's going to be really good, too. Margaret Owen is the author of the Merciful Crow Duology and the Little Thieves trilogy, the second of which, Painted Devils, just came out a couple of weeks ago. So, you know, she's very busy these days. Full disclosure, she also sort of happens to be a buddy of mine, so I'm super excited to have her on today. Together, they are the creators of a new anthology titled The Grimoire of Grave Fates, which will be in stores tomorrow on June 6. Please welcome Hanna Alkoff and Margaret Owen.
[03:17] Margaret: Hello.
[03:19] Hanna: Hi, everyone. It's great to be back. I'm really excited to have this conversation with you guys.
[03:25] Margaret: Great to be here.
[03:26] Marissa: Yes, thank you. Thank you both for being here. Hanna is very nice to talk to you again. And Margaret, I'm super excited. I feel like I was kind of like, why haven't I had Margaret on the show before? This hasn't worked out. So I'm super excited that we got to make it work for this book, which I cannot wait to talk about.
[03:47] Margaret: Thank you. Yeah, it is just a delight to be here. I'm hard to pin down. I'm in the wind. That's just how it goes.
[03:58] Marissa: All right, so the first question that I like to start with and Hanna, you probably answered this way back in the day, but I hope you'll humor us by answering it again is that I like to know everybody's origin stories. How did you become a writer?
[04:17] Hanna: I'm going to let Margaret go first for this because I've okay, I've been here first.
[04:25] Margaret: Yeah, I should act like I've been here before. So I was already a pretty voracious reader just from childhood onward. And when I was about I want to say eight, it was either third grade or fourth grade. Don't quote me on which one. I mean, granted, no one could fact check this, so I could say anything, but a local author came to visit my school, susan Fletcher, who wrote the Dragonfly books, I believe. And I remember walking into the school library and seeing her sitting at the computer. I have no idea what she was doing at the computer, just probably, like, printing something. But at that moment, it was like seeing Santa Claus and realizing that was a job you could do. And I was like, oh, wait, no, this is what she does for work, is make books. I want to do that. And then when I told my parents, they're like, well, we would like you to also be able to feed yourself, so put a pin in that one. But yeah, that was one of those things where I always had the passion for it. And as I got older, I always just found myself writing in my spare time and just always coming back to writing, writing books, thinking of stories all the time. And eventually I was like, well, I should probably stop pretending that I'll have another career and just focus on this.
[05:55] Marissa: Nice. And here we are. Many books into the future.
[05:58] Margaret: Yeah. Little Molly would be just absolutely mind boggled at that point.
[06:03] Marissa: Isn't that funny? I often think back to little Marissa and how she would just be like over the moon to know, wow, it actually worked. We actually made it.
[06:13] Margaret: You can do this for a job. Oh, my God.
[06:17] Marissa: How about you, Hanna?
[06:20] Hanna: For me, my origin story probably comes in two parts. The first time I realized I actually had some kind of talent for writing, I had written up I'd had a really amazing one of those mind blowing birthday parties when I was, like, eight or nine years old. That was in one of those indoor theme park fairground type places, you know what I mean, where they shut down rides so you and your friends get to go on, just you guys. And it was, like, super special, and I really wanted to preserve that memory. So I wrote down exactly what happened that day. And then in a foreshadowing of how life would be as a writer, I decided it was terrible, and I threw it away. No foreshadowing. Absolute foreshadowing. And then my mother noticed it in the trash can and picked it out and read it. And then she told me, and I remember this, she told me, you know, you're really good at this. You should keep going. You should keep practicing. And that was the first time I got any sort of validation that, hey, you're pretty good at this. This is something you should be practicing, you should be doing more of. But in the exact opposite of what Molly experienced a couple of years later, I was in a bookstore. Because I, too, was a voracious reader, only on the other side of the world. I was in a bookstore, and I realized I had this sudden realization that no books on the shelves that were meant for kids like me had names of authors that sounded like mine and didn't have any characters that looked like me. The stories weren't coming from where I was coming from. And what I thought was that that meant I couldn't have that as a career. I thought that meant that people like me didn't get to write those kinds of things. And I was a very practical child. My parents didn't have to tell me, you need to do something that can actually put food on the table. I was like, oh, this won't put food on the table. So I decided to become a journalist at about age eleven, and I threw my entire, like, all my efforts into becoming a journalist from then on. And that's what I went to college for. That's what I did as a job. I only really started writing fiction when I was about 30, and that's when I started working on The Weight of Our Sky, which ended up being my first not published novel. So, yeah, I enjoy how absolutely mirrored our experiences.
[09:03] Margaret: My favorite part of this is that you said, well, being an author won't pay the bills, so I'll be a journalist.
[09:10] Hanna: Exactly as if that was going to be, like, a thing that had me rolling in riches for the life.
[09:17] Marissa: But it was, like, a good idea.
[09:19] Hanna: It was an acceptable, like, a legit way for me to be working with words on this side of the world, at least. So that's what I did. I was like, all right, this is the only legit way I get to write, so I guess this is the kind of writer I'm going to be. Yeah, but obviously I didn't rake in the big book.
[09:44] Marissa: Well, and here we are. You both have many titles to your names individually. And now you have also created this anthology, the Grimoire of Grave Fates. I'm guessing your first kind of coil co writing because you're not really the writers co editing project, I suppose.
[10:11] Hanna: Yeah, co editing, co creating, something along those lines.
[10:16] Marissa: So would you please tell listeners what is The Grimoire of Grave Fates about?
[10:22] Margaret: Oh, I'm pushing this one right over to Hana.
[10:25] Hanna: Hey, wait a minute.
[10:27] Margaret: Your Tweet started this whole mess.
[10:30] Hanna: It's true. My Tweet did start this whole mess at one point. This was around the time that I was tweeting things, and then somehow they were coming true, and I felt a little bit like some kind of going through some kind of prophetic destiny moment. Everything I was tweeting was becoming reality. And I was like, oh, no, this is too much power. What do I do? But basically, I pulled up the tweet as well before this recording because I was like, oh, I'm going to get asked about it. I should remember when exactly this was on June 12. On June 12, 2020. Probably June 18 for you guys, but it was June 12 for me. I actually tweeted. Give me an anthology of stories set at a magic school where each story is from the POV of a different student or teacher or creature, and it's actually written by diverse authors. And then I was like, wait, maybe I should be the one doing that.
[11:30] Marissa: Oh, my gosh, that's so, like, word for word what this book became, almost.
[11:36] Hanna: Except then I was like, I got in touch. I contacted Margaret because we're actually very good friends, and we talk a lot anyway. And so after I had this idea, I texted her and was like, wait, what? Wait, you did this with me? Because Margaret is one of the best fantasy authors I know and one of the most amazing world builders that I know. And I was like, what if you did this with and then because we share a brain cell, we were both like, but what if this magic school wasn't? What if this wasn't just a regular Magic School anthology? What if it was centered around a murder? Murder? Because we share a brain cell, we.
[12:29] Margaret: Do lob it back and forth across time zones. It's pretty true.
[12:34] Hanna: Which is really bad when both of us have deadlines on separate projects. So that's what it became. The Grimoire of Gray Fates is literally an anthology of interconnected stories set at a magic school where a murder has occurred. And so each chapter is told from a different point of view of a different student, and they're all tasked with trying to figure out what happened and who the murderer is. And yeah, it is as complicated to wrangle as it sounds.
[13:10] Margaret: It is very much so. And I think one of the things that we did that sort of keeps things moving, which I am glad about. It made our jobs both more infinitely more complicated. And also, I think, resolved some problems was we basically stipulated that each chapter takes place over the course of an hour. And there are 24 hours until this school, which moves from location to location, is about to move again, potentially with the murderer on board. And so it puts a little bit of a ticking time bomb on the whole premise. And that is also very fun, except for when it's like, well, we need to switch these two chapters and chaos.
[13:54] Marissa: Erupts gosh, I can imagine. No, we were talking briefly before we started the recording, and I remember Margaret talking about this book when we were on a retreat together months ago. And I heard the premise of it. And my first thought was, that is so fascinating. And my second thought was, that sounds like an enormous headache.
[14:18] Hanna: It was the correct way to describe the entire premise of the book. Yes, both fascinating and a massive headache.
[14:26] Margaret: We had so many Google Docs. Basically, the process was, when we were getting ready for this, we sort of collected our roster of folks, our all star team, and we set out different. Well, Hanna and I brainstormed a whole bunch of things. Everything from the fun school staff. And my personal favorite, who is the nurse to be?
[14:52] Hanna: I love the nurse. Who is a skeleton.
[14:55] Margaret: She's a skeleton. She's a walking, talking skeleton. And she makes nothing but bone puns.
[15:01] Hanna: Nothing but bone puns. Which was really just for us.
[15:05] Margaret: It was 1000% for us, but it's great. And, of course, the contributors just ran with that. But we brainstormed all the staff, all the different. This is a school that operates with sort of a quasi house system, but it's more like choosing your major. And we drew the maps of the campus. We basically put together this giant, almost like a series bible and gave it to the contributors to say, this is the world that you're operating within. And then we found out how little of it we'd actually covered.
[15:43] Hanna: Correct. But then they needed other things too. They'd be like, okay, what's the uniform situation? And we were like, oh, wait, we just add that in there.
[15:53] Margaret: And then every time you do, you have to send out an email updating. So this is the uniform situation. But it was great. We had that. We had a couple of rounds of editing that were sort of hand in hand. We're doing plot edits, we're doing continuity edits, we're doing overall pacing edits. Chapters are switching places. All the fun chaos of that. And it definitely took a lot of communicating. But what also was sort of a really hilarious, unintentional effect of having co editors on this too, was that Hanna and I are 16 hours apart. So any point in time one of us was available.
[16:43] Hanna: It was like having one editor working 24 hours on a book. We'd have a couple of hours where our times would overlap, where we could discuss things or get through things that we needed to get through together. And then we'd hand it off and be like, all right, it is sleep time for me. Have fun.
[17:05] Marissa: While I'm sleeping.
[17:08] Hanna: And then be like, oh, you'd wake up and be like, oh, this whole thing is done. All right, now, time to do my part.
[17:14] Marissa: I love that. So how about the murder? Like, did you have all of the details of the murder plotted out?
[17:22] Margaret: Yes and no.
[17:23] Hanna: Kind of no. Some of it we had to figure out along the way as needs changed. But we had the basic set up of the murder already and we kind of knew we were able to tell certain authors, we need this to happen. We need this clue to drop in your chapter. We need you to work this into your chapter somehow, that kind of thing. But of course, as you're editing a mystery, those things will change. And we are very grateful because of how patient our contributors were with us because we'd email and be like, hey, need you to add this thing here to your already almost fully written chapter. Could you just work this in somehow way that feels organic to the story of your character in this particular chapter? Thanks, love you.
[18:15] Margaret: And bear in mind too, it's not like, oh, we need you to note that the room is green. It's like, oh yeah, we need you to mention that there's a cursed statue and this is the curse that it has.
[18:26] Hanna: But in a way that feels natural to you.
[18:28] Margaret: In a way that feels natural. The fact that we are still alive is solely through the grace of our contributors. No jury in the world would have convicted. No.
[18:41] Hanna: But I really love also the thing that I love is that we built this world for them and then we were like, go ahead and play in it. Like, do whatever you want with your characters. You can decide who are and what they do and things like that. But also they naturally figured out which characters would be friends with each other and act with each other and then they contacted each other to make sure that those characterizations were right. So you'll see these inside jokes play out between characters or shared experiences in different chapters that just feel really natural. And it's because they did that we didn't tell them to be like, we didn't go and be like, okay, your character is friends with these three people. Just figure it out. We didn't do that. They just decided themselves who was going to have a crush on who.
[19:27] Margaret: I was going to say that was my favorite, was the little nexus of characters who all decided that one of the characters was a severe hottie.
[19:38] Hanna: Exactly. And suddenly he became the school hottie. And it was like, oh, that's great.
[19:42] Margaret: I love that.
[19:44] Hanna: We decided it was just like a completely organic thing.
[19:47] Margaret: It was so good.
[19:49] Marissa: I love that because I was curious, because it almost feels like because there is so much interaction between the characters, I had wondered, okay, did the first writer write their chapter and then pass it on to the second writer so they could read what came before and then build off of that? Or was it like, totally separate? And then now you've got, whatever, 20 stories that you need to figure out.
[20:17] Hanna: How to piece together.
[20:19] Margaret: What we did was, when we had them submit their pitches, we both a Google form and basically said, give us an idea of your character and what you would like your chapter to be about and about what time in this 24 hours period you would like, or give us your top three time slots. Basically.
[20:42] Hanna: It was definitely a top three. Yeah. Yeah.
[20:45] Margaret: And when we got all their pitches, han and I sort of sat down and we're like, okay, let's figure out what parts of the mystery meshed the best with each of these stories and figure out how we can have the information be revealed, in which order and to who and how that impacts stuff. And some of the stuff was just pure revision. We would have someone discover something and then one of the editors would be like, should that not matter? Shouldn't that be a thing? Shouldn't be impacting this character? And we'd be like, well, dang it, locations.
[21:23] Hanna: Locations were also, like, a big headache, like having people get from place to place and figuring out where each character was supposed to be within the actual logistical thing, which is when Molly was like, I'm going to sit down and draw map so that everybody is on the same page about where everything is on this campus.
[21:45] Margaret: The gargoyle keep the gargoyle point of contention.
[21:53] Hanna: It took a lot of description to figure out exactly what we wanted from this gargoyle. Yeah. But we got there in the end.
[22:04] Marissa: It has, like, a major timeline also, because I know at parts, there's like, okay, in one chapter, this character gives a nod, like a solidarity nod to another character, and then eight chapters later, the other character remarks on that and just little details like that. It's like the continuity just seems like it would have been so hard to keep track of.
[22:32] Hanna: That's why you have a lot of spreadsheets.
[22:34] Margaret: A lot of spreadsheets. And it was also really good to have this be a co editing process because of that, because there are things that absolutely fell straight out of my head. And Hanna would be like, oh, yeah, and this person noticed this thing in this chapter, and I'd be like, oh, did they? And it was the same.
[22:52] Hanna: It was the same for me. We would remember certain things, but we would remember things that the other person didn't, which was what was really helpful.
[23:00] Margaret: Yeah, it was very much like a juggling thing where we were able to toss pins back and forth to each other, which was very helpful.
[23:10] Marissa: How did you even go about selecting the authors?
[23:17] Margaret: How did we do that?
[23:18] Hanna: How did we do that? I at first went off who was interacting with my tweet.
[23:26] Marissa: Oh, interesting.
[23:27] Hanna: And whom we knew.
[23:29] Margaret: So it was people who are showing.
[23:32] Hanna: Great interest in the premise and whom both of us, or either one of us at least knew well enough to be able to fight into their DMs and be like, hey, but in a less, like, sleazy sounding way. I don't know why I made it sound like that.
[23:54] Margaret: One of the things that people don't understand about author friendships is that there are certain friendships where it's like, oh, you didn't reach out to me for this anthology and you knew. You know what? How dare you? You are dead to me. If I had not talked to Ll McKinney and been like, would you like to be part of this? I know that she would have flown over here.
[24:20] Hanna: She would actually have, like, not killed you. But there might have been some meaning involved.
[24:25] Margaret: There would have been some nasty grams.
[24:27] Hanna: Yeah, I think so. I think so.
[24:29] Margaret: And well deserved ones. Correct.
[24:31] Marissa: So there's some politics involved, is what you're telling.
[24:35] Margaret: There's some politics involved in preserving friendships, but also we wanted to make sure that a lot of folks who are historically sort of left out of the conversation, let's put it that way, in a lot of contemporary magic school stories, I would say, of the early 2000s. Let's just be real subtle there. And we wanted to make sure that this was an open door for people to tell a story about a magic school in a way that made them feel seen and would hopefully make other readers feel seen in a way that they hadn't before.
[25:14] Hanna: Right.
[25:15] Marissa: So one element that I particularly enjoyed about the series as a whole, or the anthology as a whole, is that there are so many different kinds of magic that we see and how so many of the characters have a really specific gift or affinity. And it's not all just wave a wand and say something in Latin and magic happens. Like there's dancing magic and singing magic and werewolves and race because of the dead. I mean, there's all these different types of magic. Was that something that you had encouraged as a part of the initial premise to the authors? Yes.
[26:01] Hanna: Basically, we wanted magic that felt personal to each student. And so you'll see a lot of things that stem from just personal cultural backgrounds and things like that that make the magic feel even more real because it's a thing that is super part of the character and not just an external thing that you learn that is. I think the most fun part of the anthology to me was getting to meet all these characters and getting to understand where their aptitudes were coming from and just how much a part of each character that those magics were. That was very cool to me to see what each contributor was coming up with.
[26:48] Margaret: Yeah, I loved seeing it felt like magic wasn't just sort of a hobby or a subject in school. It felt like it was part of a family tradition, part of an identity. And all of our contributors just really brought the heat with that. It was so good.
[27:08] Hanna: The magic is one of my favorite things. It's so great.
[27:11] Marissa: It's so fun.
[27:13] Margaret: You see the way it interacts and the way it's been commodified in certain ways and how that interacts with the rest of the world. And they brought their A game with figuring out right. With the magic systems that they've developed and the way that they can convey them within a single chapter. I'm just like, oh, brevity the last stone in my Infinity Gauntlet. That still eludes me.
[27:45] Marissa: You and me both. You and me both. So I have edited one anthology called Serendipity. Not nearly as complicated as this one. I recall that one of the biggest challenges for me as the editor or the one kind of bringing this collection together was trying to ensure that every author felt like they could write the story that they wanted to tell and that they had already fallen in love with. Because usually by the time you're already submitting that initial idea, you're already kind of excited for it while also trying to keep every story in the collection distinct. You don't want them to start to sound redundant. Was that a challenge that you ran into as well?
[28:33] Margaret: I feel like we had a couple of stories where it was like either a similar location or we needed to take a couple of tweaks. But at the same time we have two stories about two different trans necromancers.
[28:48] Hanna: That was great.
[28:51] Marissa: Far apart from each other in the book.
[28:53] Margaret: They are and they're so totally different and they're so very distinct. And I think that was part of the magic of this book, is that every creator brought something so interesting and unique to it that we didn't have to do too much work to like we didn't have to do too much nudging to be like, oh, can you actually do this? It was more like, oh, well, this character is actually hiding in the office that you're investigating.
[29:23] Hanna: Yeah, I think part of that was being very clear from the beginning that these characters are yours and the magics that they have are yours and their back stories are yours. Yes, we have a through thread of a mystery that needs to be followed, but what happens in this world is entirely up to you, to this character, is entirely up to you. And so every story feels very distinct and personal while still being part of the greater narrative. So it just worked out, honestly, as Margaret said, we didn't have to do a lot of this kind of pushing and pulling and nudging to get people to get the stories where we wanted them. They just kind of fell into place in a way that felt very natural. Yeah, that was not the tough part of wrangling, let's just put it what.
[30:20] Marissa: Was the toughest, like, the biggest challenge that you encountered?
[30:25] Margaret: 18 contributors.
[30:27] Hanna: Contributors and one mystery that needed to be solved that through thread was the hardest thing to really keep track of because each individual story was great. It's just that we were wrangling the big story and making sure that this clue appears here and we have to make sure it gets used by this time. And how does this particular sentence set in this chapter play out in that other chapter? Because none of the authors, none of the individual contributors had that view that we had of the big mystery that was just on us. That was our part of it, to make sure that that was being done well. And so that part, I think, was the hardest part. Like making sure that all these like, we planted certain things in certain chapters, but we were also responsible for making sure that they were used in later chapters.
[31:24] Margaret: That knife. Knife.
[31:29] Hanna: Nightmares about that knife. Yeah, that knife. That note, that gloves.
[31:38] Margaret: Right?
[31:39] Hanna: Yeah.
[31:40] Margaret: Those things. It's one of those things where, like Hanna said, you have the 50,000 foot view and at the same time we also have last minute switches and things. So it would be the situation of, oh, we asked you to take this out and we lied, basically, where I.
[32:03] Hanna: Need you to put that back in. Right, but in this specific way.
[32:08] Margaret: Right, but in a specific way.
[32:10] Marissa: Was there any fighting between the contributors about like, oh, I really want to discover the body? No, I want to discover the body, or I want to have a detective chapter where all gets revealed. Was any of that?
[32:25] Margaret: We got pretty lucky with that. I think it helps too, that we designed the murder almost not around the pitches, but we knew who had died, who had killed them, how it had been played out to some degree. And I don't think we had established the actual method method quite yet, but we knew that sort of evolved as.
[32:55] Hanna: We were working on it right.
[32:57] Margaret: With the pitches. Once we had that, we were able to say, this is what this person wants to have happen in this chapter, and how can we disclose about the mystery that also honors what they want to do with this chapter?
[33:14] Hanna: And doing that also allowed us to work with the specific magics that each student had so that we could. Make it feel like the mystery was really part of their stories as well.
[33:25] Margaret: The smoke magic was the smoke magic.
[33:28] Hanna: Was one of my favorite things, like the way the news gets dispersed because of this student who just can't control his smoke magic.
[33:35] Margaret: That's so good fun to me.
[33:36] Hanna: It's so fun to me. And again, it just came out organically because Kwami had written that his sorcerer's magic was smoke magic. We were like, oh, okay, let's use it.
[33:51] Margaret: How does word travel through the air? Like smoke, like snow.
[33:57] Hanna: That works.
[34:00] Marissa: So in between every story, there's a piece of evidence that gets revealed to the reader. Were those created by you?
[34:09] Hanna: Yes.
[34:10] Marissa: At what point did you add those in?
[34:13] Margaret: Later in the editing process, yeah, because.
[34:17] Hanna: We realized as we were working on each story that we needed something stronger, I think, for the mystery to hang on in between, because all these characters are going through their own things in their own chapters as well. And we didn't want the actual thread of the mystery to get lost. We wanted to make sure that readers had touch points as they were going through the story to make sure that they knew these were important things that we're going to figure out. That we're going to figure out in this particular chapter. And so we realized about probably halfway halfway?
[34:51] Margaret: Halfway, two thirds, that we probably need.
[34:56] Hanna: Something in between there for readers to be able to really follow along. So, yeah, that's how that came about.
[35:04] Margaret: Yeah, it was this idea that we would give them almost something either to tie the end of the chapter and then sort of carry them through to the next chapter or to sort of give them an idea of what what to keep their eye on in the next chapter. Like, I think my favorite use of it was we have a character who is an unreliable narrator because they are currently under a medication that has them hallucinating a little bit. And since they're not necessarily clocking that at first, we had some issues where the readers were just sort of getting a little confused when they got to that chapter, and they were like, well, why don't we just put the prescription as a piece of evidence in there and have all the information blocked out? So we're honoring magic HIPAA. But that way the reader is going to know that this is something that's a factor in the next chapter, and it'll give them just the little bit push of clarity that they need to make it through this, right?
[36:10] Marissa: No. So clever, for sure.
[36:13] Margaret: We made it ourselves.
[36:15] Hanna: We did. All by ourselves.
[36:17] Margaret: All by yourself? With 18 other people.
[36:22] Marissa: I know. I'd wondered if including the pieces of evidence was a little bit because maybe the two of you were like, but I really want to write something for the book, too.
[36:35] Margaret: We wrote the transcripts. That was already enough.
[36:41] Hanna: The thing between the two of us is we're not short of writing projects. Sure.
[36:46] Marissa: Yes.
[36:48] Hanna: So we're probably okay.
[36:50] Margaret: But it was definitely, I'll be honest, writing the little interstitials and the chat transcripts. That was so much fun. Just coming up with the little characters, thinking about how they would interact in, like, a group chat was just.
[37:09] Hanna: There'S.
[37:10] Margaret: A two bit character who pops up in a group chat named Katie, and she's just the most oblivious person, and.
[37:17] Hanna: She has no idea what's happening.
[37:19] Margaret: I just heard a smoke prophecy. Why are you guys watching a movie without me? Right. The rest of the group chats like, oh, my God, you heard it too. What were they talking about with a chosen one? And she was like, But I wanted to watch a movie with you guys. And she's just not clocking it at all.
[37:39] Hanna: Not at all.
[37:39] Margaret: No, it was great.
[37:41] Hanna: Bless her heart. It also allowed us to write a couple of fibula puns ourselves, which, let's be honest, we came up with that character 100% so that we could make some puns. She's such a good kid. It allowed us to get it out of our systems.
[37:56] Margaret: We found her quite humorous. I did.
[38:04] Hanna: To be honest with you. I was yeah, we're like this. I'm so sorry.
[38:13] Marissa: I can tell that you clearly had a lot of fun working together and clearly had a lot of fun writing those the interstitials. I mean, I personally loved the what do you call them, the broadcast to the school president. Vice president. So funny.
[38:35] Margaret: Those were a lot of fun. I think my favorite detail in that is when fabulous. Just like, you know, covering the microphone with a clipboard does nothing because it's just such a thing. Someone would absolutely do that thing where they try to cover it.
[38:48] Hanna: Absolutely would. And the trouble that they have trying to switch it on and off, not knowing how to work the system, that is 100% thing that would happen in any school.
[38:58] Margaret: Exactly. I think the interstitials gave us this ability to sort of help every chapter gets into the students, the magic and how they experience the school, but it's just one little window into the school. And the interstitials really gave us an opportunity to flesh out what the school's actual life is outside of the students and what kind of environment it is when it's not from the lens of a student.
[39:25] Marissa: Right. So you mentioned the prophecy that talks about the chosen one, and that was one thematically, throughout the book, you get this impression that every single one of these students is the chosen one in their own story. And I loved that, and I thought it came across beautifully. Was that another thing that you had kind of, like, nudged the authors toward?
[39:55] Hanna: Yes. It wasn't even a nudge. It was the original title of the anthology was we the Chosen.
[40:05] Margaret: Interesting.
[40:05] Hanna: And every contributor was told in their brief that their character believes that in some way they're the chosen one. Not just believes that they're the chosen one, but their belief is what fuels them to get involved in the mystery to begin with. It's not just that they believe they're the chosen one. It's because they're the chosen one that they have to either figure this out or they're a suspect or what have you. It directly shapes their stories.
[40:38] Marissa: Well, I think it's really cool because you're kind of left with a question mark, like, is there a chosen one or is everybody a chosen one? Everybody gets a trophy.
[40:50] Margaret: And that was kind of the thing we were going for with the end, without spoiling too much, is this idea that what makes you chosen isn't necessarily a prophecy. It's the choice to get involved and to act, and the students are the ones choosing to take action and to do something.
[41:09] Hanna: And it's not about being chosen. It's about choosing.
[41:13] Marissa: Yeah. I love it. Very well said.
[41:16] Margaret: Thank you.
[41:19] Marissa: So my last question before our bonus round. I could be wrong, but I myself have not heard of another anthology like this before. It, to me, just seems like such a unique idea. And whenever there's something like that that comes out, I always think, okay, when are the copycats going to start coming by? Clearly, people are going to hear this premise and be like, that's brilliant. I want to do it, too. Would you recommend that they go for it or would you try to talk anybody out of it?
[41:55] Margaret: I would say if you are going to go, I wouldn't try to talk people out of it, but I would say be emotionally and mentally prepared for this to be a lot of work. I think, Marissa, you can speak to this, too. Editing and anthology is already going to be a lot of administrative work that you don't think about. For any listener out there who's thinking about the time that they haven't turned something in quite on time, it needed a follow up. You are going to be responsible for doing that for every single one of your contributors and also handling all the editor emails from your publishing house. It's a lot of admin work. If you were trying to do this on a narrative scale and tell a single story throughout over the course of 18 chapters or however many, you are going to be responsible for making sure that every chapter hits its beat. And it is a lot of work. It's great to have a co creator and a creator.
[42:53] Hanna: You need a co editor.
[42:54] Margaret: You need a co editor.
[42:56] Hanna: It's really hard to keep track of all the different threads that you need to for this kind of project alone. I don't think I would have been able to do it alone. I think it would have been a very different sort of anthology if I had done this on my own less murder less murder, probably. Yes. Just a scooch less murder. Just as a management, I think this is the kind of project where you need somebody else to lean on. There's no way I would have been able to do this without Margaret.
[43:28] Margaret: And I wouldn't have been able to do it without Hanna. Right, because it was your idea.
[43:35] Hanna: That too. That kind of rolled her into this. It's my fault. It's my fault.
[43:42] Margaret: I was a willing ropey.
[43:46] Marissa: Sounds like your friendship survived.
[43:48] Margaret: Just which is also a miracle.
[43:52] Hanna: Correct.
[43:54] Marissa: All right, are we ready for our bonus round?
[43:57] Margaret: Yes.
[43:57] Hanna: I'm never ready for this bonus round.
[43:59] Marissa: It's a lot shorter now. It used to be longer. Now it's just three questions.
[44:04] Margaret: Okay. All right. See, this is way shorter than the.
[44:07] Hanna: Last time I was.
[44:10] Marissa: Feedback. Evidently, people didn't like the never ending bonus round.
[44:16] Margaret: So they don't like fun, is what I'm hearing.
[44:20] Marissa: Silly listeners.
[44:22] Margaret: Right. How dare they have opinions?
[44:24] Marissa: What book makes you happy?
[44:27] Margaret: Oh, do I read to be happy, though?
[44:30] Hanna: See, this is why.
[44:34] Margaret: Oh, man. Okay. Oh, I should have thought about this beforehand. Ella enchanted. Ella enchanted. Just serotonin through the roof.
[44:47] Hanna: Thought the good one. What book makes me happy?
[44:52] Margaret: I knew this was coming and I still didn't prepare for it. Terrible.
[44:58] Hanna: Okay, this is going to sound really corny, but it's the first thing that came up. I read the book With No Pictures to my kids at night. It's one of their favorite bedtime story books because it is just so silly and it makes them giggle every time. Do you know what this is?
[45:19] Margaret: I have no idea what this is.
[45:22] Hanna: The Book with no pictures is a kids book by BJ Novak, and it's a picture book, but with no pictures on the tin. With no pictures. And so it's a book that forces you to read out. They're like, oh. The premise of the book is that if words appear in the book, then they have to be read out, that the adults have to read them out. So you can make adults say silly things and make silly sounds because it's in the book.
[45:48] Margaret: Because it's in the book.
[45:49] Hanna: They have to read it out loud.
[45:50] Margaret: Oh, my gosh.
[45:51] Hanna: And so the kids love it, naturally. They take turns making me or their dad read it at bedtime because each of us makes the silly sounds in different ways. And we've been reading it to them since they were little, and they still reach for it now. And so it's just a book that makes me happy, because everybody ends up giggling in that book. They know it word for word now. They can read it themselves.
[46:18] Margaret: They can do their own silly they.
[46:20] Hanna: Can do their own silly voices. So now it's just family silly voice. It's a book that makes me very happy because it's just a book that we've been sharing together for a long time now. And it makes everyone laugh. Makes bit time a very happy occasion.
[46:36] Marissa: What are you working on next?
[46:42] Hanna: Both of us?
[46:45] Margaret: I'm working on book three of Little Thieves.
[46:48] Marissa: It's great.
[46:50] Margaret: Like death number eight. It's great. I have a calendar of murders. It's just they're they're dropping like flies. It's fantastic. Halfway through and you're at eight deaths. Yeah.
[47:03] Hanna: Oh, dear.
[47:05] Margaret: It's it's a lot, you know, look.
[47:07] Hanna: You'Re dear loyans everyone.
[47:12] Margaret: It's great. It's really happy. It's a real upper.
[47:16] Hanna: Love this happy ending that we're going to get for everybody.
[47:20] Margaret: We're just careening towards that.
[47:22] Hanna: Careening is a great way to put it. What am I working on? Who knows? At any given time, I'm currently juggling four different projects, none of which I can actually talk about.
[47:38] Marissa: I know that feeling very well.
[47:40] Hanna: Yeah. So I have three middle grade projects and a Ya project that are all in various states of completion or along the publishing timeline. So that's what I'm working on. I can't tell anybody anything about them, but trust that they're there. Publishing mood. Someday I'll be able to talk about them all. But if we are talking about it in the future, somebody please remind me to never do this to myself again. That it is impossible to juggle three projects at a time and that you should not do it usually for the sake of your own mental health. Yes, usually that's Margaret's job, but this time I sort of, like, already got into it before she could do anything about it.
[48:28] Margaret: Yeah. Normally, Hanna will text me, be like, so I have this idea, and I'll say, don't be like, stop.
[48:35] Hanna: Write it down and then put it away.
[48:38] Margaret: Finish what you're working on. Do it, do this. And then Honda sort of figured out the way around this is to be like, so I've already done it. I've already started. Here's this idea that I'm already working on. And I'm like, no.
[48:52] Hanna: But that's the only way.
[48:56] Margaret: That's how you wind up working on four projects at once, madam.
[49:01] Marissa: When inspiration strikes, what are you supposed to do?
[49:04] Margaret: Exactly?
[49:06] Hanna: I wish that was my first thought.
[49:08] Margaret: But apparently not how my brain works.
[49:11] Hanna: Anyway. Yeah. I have four different projects right now, three of which are supposed to be out next year. So those are the three that are being juggled. And then one is sort of on the back burner and gets juggled occasionally. Yeah.
[49:25] Marissa: Lastly, where can people find you?
[49:29] Margaret: Hanna, you go first.
[49:31] Hanna: Okay. I am on Twitter at Hannaalkaf. I'm on Twitter, probably way too much at Hannaalkaf and on Instagram. At Hana Alkaf. And on the Internet in email@example.com.
[49:46] Margaret: I am less on Twitter these days because it's really good for my mental health. Oh, my gosh. Less on Twitter, more on Instagram. But you'll see me on both. What underscore eats underscore owls, which is the eternal question. My website, which is Dahlia Adler is.
[50:10] Hanna: Going to kill Dahlia Adler is going to kill you. It's so out of date. Updated it.
[50:14] Margaret: I don't want to talk about it. Page of Devils isn't on there.
[50:20] Hanna: It's out in four days as of this recording.
[50:23] Margaret: I know it's fine, but if you want to look at my extremely old museum of a website, it's Margaretoen.com shout out.
[50:35] Hanna: Dahlia, we love you.
[50:37] Margaret: We love you so much.
[50:39] Marissa: Awesome. Hanna. Margaret, thank you so much for joining me.
[50:43] Margaret: Of course. Thank you for having us.
[50:45] Hanna: Yeah, thank you for having us. This has been such a fun chat, readers.
[50:48] Marissa: I hope you will check out the grimoire of grave fate. It comes out tomorrow, June 6. Of course, we encourage you to support your local indie bookstore. But if you don't have a local indie, you can also check out our affiliate store that firstname.lastname@example.org shop marissameyer. And please don't forget to check out our new merchandise store on Spring and Tea Public. You can find the links in our Instagram profile. We are going to be on break for the next couple of weeks as I will be overseas enjoying my tour in France and Spain. I'm so excited. When we come back, I will be talking with Ananya Devarajan about her debut. Ya romance kismet connection. If you're enjoying these conversations, please subscribe and follow us on Instagram at Marissa Meyer, author and at Happy Writer Podcast. Until next time, stay healthy, stay cozy and whatever life throws at you today, I hope that now you're feeling a little bit happier.