Melissa Marr, literary Goth writer of young adult fiction
by Steven Williams
Melissa Marr is an up and coming author currently writing fantasy horror fiction for young adults. After college and graduate school she taught both Literature and Gender Studies at the undergraduate level. Her earlier diverse work experience includes stints running a biker bar as well as working at an archaeological dig. She is also a rape survivor. Initially she began writing short fiction and poetry for various literary 'Zines in 2004 as an exploration of the possibilities open to her as a writer. In the end, she decided to concentrate on fiction. Wicked Lovely actually developed out of a short story she wrote in 2004. She reviewed the story about one year after its initial writing and still felt inspired by it and so she then went on to develop the story into a novel. The quality of her writing eventually earned her a contract with HarperCollins for three young adult fiction novels. With the success of Wicked Lovely and the good reviews for Ink Exchange, she entered into another contract with HarperCollins for three additional young adult novels.
Currently she envisions a cycle of sequels and related stories about related characters from her Faery universe to possibly expand to as many as ten books. As of Spring, 2008 her third novel, tentatively titled Enthralled (released as Fragile Eternity April, 2009), had been completed and was in the initial stages of the formal editing process. Marr attributes much of the inspiration for her novels to her reading young adult fiction with her daughter. She found that many of the fantasy books contained main characters that, whenever they were girls instead of boys, they were not active enough for her and her daughter's tastes. That and her attraction to the idea that interesting people she has met have usually 'danced to a different drum' giving her a push towards 'alt' (i.e., dark fantasy) stories. She currently lives in California with her spouse and two children.
On Meeting the Surgeon (2004)
This is a poem by Marr that first appeared in the December 2004 issue (issue six) of Lone Star Stories, an online journal or 'Zine of speculative fiction and poetry. The poem was inspired by one of Marr’s friend’s encounter with breast cancer. She was able to overcome the disease and Marr reinterprets the resulting scars on her back as beautiful angel wings. These provide the basis for Marr to relate her friend's courage and strength.
Blessed Woman (2004)
Book of Shadows is an anthology of dark short fiction published in Australia in 2006 by Brimstone Press and drawn from the first six issues of Shadowed Realms online magazine plus a selection of original works produced specifically for the anthology. The collection's editor was Angela Challis and the word count for contributions was limited to 1,000, giving this type of short fiction the criteria for its publisher's designation as flash fiction. Marr's contribution was her short story Blessed Woman which was originally published in issue number two of Shadowed Realms (November-December 2004). The main character and narrator of this story is a woman who has unwillingly chosen being consumed from the inside in exchange for the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
Fighting the Tide (2005)
A poem originally published in 'Star*Line volume 28, number 6. It was also re-published in The 2006 Rhysling Anthology (May, 2006), an anthology of eighty-eight poems, edited by Drew Morse.
The Art of Becoming (2005)
A poem by Marr published in Lone Star Stories April 2005 (issue eight). She has described as her allusion to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. It this poem the narrator makes a foolish wish and so is cursed to live each night as herself but in the guise of a portrait of her in her youth and dancing at the same masque ball.
Pixie on a Pin (2005)
Pixie on a Pin is another of Marr's early published short fictions. It originally was published in Flytrap issue four (May, 2005), a 'Zine featuring fiction, poetry, automatic writing, reviews, essays, and related oddities that is published twice a year by Tropism Press.
The Nostalgist (December, 2006)
A short story originally published in Aoife's Kiss issue nineteen (volume 5, number 4). Aoife's Kiss is a magazine of fantasy, science fiction, horror, sword and sorcery, and slipstream, published quarterly by Sam's Dot Publishing in March, June, September, and December. ‘Aoife's Kiss’ publishes short stories, poems, illustrations, articles, as well as movie, book, and chapbook reviews. Slipstream fiction is name commonly used to label a recently emerged genre of fiction that is best described as fantastic or non-realistic fiction that utilizes a blend of features from science fiction and/or fantasy genre fiction with aspects of mainstream literary fiction. Aífe or Aoife is a character from the Ulster (also called Red Branch) Cycle, one of the four great cycles of Irish mythology.
Wicked Lovely (2007)
The story is set in a small suburban rust belt town and the main character is a young teenage girl with the unusual power to see faeries, and Marr's faeries are powerful and dangerous. The human girl has to carry on her normal life despite her friends' inability to see what is obvious to her while at the same time keeping her ability hidden from the faeries also. There is the danger that if the faeries realize that she has the Sight and can see them, they will blind her. Things become more complicated when she finds herself being pursued by one faery in particular. This faery is the Summer King and he is convinced that this human girl is the queen he has been seeking for the past nine hundred years. To complicate matters and increase the danger to the mortal girl, the Winter Queen, the Summer King's mother, knows that she will lose her power if her son actually finds his mate. Because of this she will do anything to prevent the match.
Ink Exchange (April, 2008)
In Marr's second novel, she develops on the background and motivations of one of her Faery characters from 'Wicked Lovely'. In it, the main human character is a girl whose life has seemingly fallen into chaos. Her mother has left town, her father has sunk into isolation and despair, and her brother deals drugs and actually sells her as a sexual favor to cover his drug debts. After suffering through a terrible trauma because of this, and as part of the process of her regaining her self-confidence about her control of her body, she decides to get a tattoo. When she visits a local tattoo artist, he shows her a secret book of his personal designs. She becomes obsessed with one of the designs, a pair of eyes framed by black wings. The new tattoo seems to be a good choice because, after she has it put on her back, she feels that nothing bad can touch her. What she does not know is that this new tattoo is the symbol of the Faery Irial, the king of the Faery ‘Dark Court’ and it actually binds her to him. It turns out that the tattoo artist actually has ties to the Faery 'Dark Court'. Irial's court is rife by intrigue and the girl’s connection to Irial makes her intimately involved in his fight for survival.
Love Is Hell (November, 2008)
As a contributor
A young adult dark fantasy short story anthology by the noted authors of young adult supernatural romantic thrillers Melissa Marr, Justine Larbalestier, Laurie Faria Stolarz, Scott Westerfeld, and Gabrielle Zevin. Marr's short story Love Struck reinterprets the folklore about Selkies, seal shape shifters. A male Selkie has been courting a human teenager, using his unusual powers of allure over humans to force her to date him. While walking along the beach soon after this involuntary courting has begun, the girl accidently steps on the pelt of this Selkie. Because of this, the Selkie comes under her power and falls in love with her instead. At first she is indifferent to the handsome Selkie but she eventually comes to love him also. Selkies, when trapped in their human form, never give up their longing for the sea. The climax to this story comes when the girl faces the dilemma of whether or not to free the Selkie she has grown to love.
Selkies (also known as Silkes and Selchies) are mythological creatures appearing in Faroese (of the Faroe Islands halfway between Scotland and Iceland), Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folktales. They can transform themselves from seals to humans. These folktales are believed to have originated in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago just of the northeast coast of Scotland. The best known contemporary version of the Silkie legend is its portrayal in the film The Secret of Roan Inish, a winner of a International Critics Award at the Gérardmer Film Festivals which is a French film festival celebrating that focuses on the fantastic film genre. Typically, if a human finds the skin of Selkie when the Selkie is out of in their human form, the Selkie is bound to the human unless they can get their seal skin back. Male Selkies are considered to be particularly handsome in their human form.
Justine Larbalestier's Thinner Than Water is a story that reinterprets the folklore about Faeries. A modern teen is taken to live with her family to her family in a 'living history' village where her options are limited to either marriage or work in her family business. She wants more than this though but ends up falling for a handsome and possibly magical young man. Their lives together are good at first, but the young man, suspected of being a Faerie by the village is taken away. When a new husband is provided to her, the two acknowledge that they have no interest in each other but go ahead and conspire to leave the village together so that they can live their lives as they want. But a complication for the girl ensues when her love is threatened with torture by the villagers because he is a Faerie. Larbalestier is probably best known to teen readers for her Magic or Madness trilogy. The first novel in the series, Magic or Madness, won the Andre Norton Award and shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Award (a major New South Wales literary award), the Aurealis Award for best Australian YA book, and the Ditmar Award for best Science Fiction or Fantasy novel.
Laurie Faria Stolarz short story contribution is Sleeping with the Spirit. After a girl's family moves into a house where a boy was murdered, she finds her dreams invaded by the ghost of the murdered boy. Unexpectedly she finds herself falling in love with him. It also turns out that the spirit of the boy needs her help so he can 'cross over'. She discovers though that she will lose him forever if she helps with this. Stolarz has received recognition for the quality of her fiction by the American Library Association, beginning with her first series for teens, Blue is for Nightmares (2003).
Scott Westerfeld's Stupid Perfect World is set in a future where teen bodies are regulated by the state. 'Hormonal balancers' tamp down teen emotions and 'bioframes' make sleep unnecessary and dreaming unheard of, all in an effort to keep passion and intensity from unbalancing this perfect world. It is believed that through this, society has been able to end starvation and disease. As aid to this engineered solution, all teens must take a class called Scarcity which is intended to teach them how bad the old world really was. In a two-week project for the class, a boy and a girl each decide to experience for themselves what things used to be like. The boy, after a reading of Hamlet, decides to try out sleep and see what it is like. The other stops taking her 'hormonal balancers' in order to experience real teen angst. Unexpectedly, the experiences of these two 'afflictions' have unintended consequences. Scott Westerfeld is best known to teen readers for his Midnighters trilogy and has also written a number of popular adult novels.
Gabrielle Zevin's short story Fan Fictions about a high school who becomes so obsessed with the love story in a book she is reading that she begins to believe that it may (or may not) be about her. She is unhappy in school with no best friends and not dating. While she is at the library reading her book, she meets a handsome boy with unusual eyes. A romance develops but he is never seen but in the library or at her house. Her schoolmates and the adults around her are convinced she has an imaginary boyfriend. After overhearing a book group discussion about the novel she is reading, she realizes that somehow the main character from the book is very real. Zevin is a noted author of fiction for adults and teens and is best known to teens from her novels Elsewhere (2005) and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (2007).
Fragile Eternity (April, 2009)
The third book in Marr's planned trilogy featuring the world of Fairie and humans as depicted first in Wicked Lovely and then followed by Ink Exchange. The story of Fragile Eternity is set in Huntsdale, a small city south of Pittsburgh where faeries and mortals intermingle with resulting chaos and conflict in the lives of both. Aislinn, who became the Faerie Summer Queen in Wicked Lovely, still has feelings for her former boyfriend, the mortal Seth. In addition to being a physical threat to Seth, she is also torn by her ties as Summer Queen to the Summer King Keenan. And Aislinn's attraction to Keenan seems to be no less strong than it is for Seth. Seth sets out in pursuit of a dangerous remedy to the lovers' predicament while at the same time, the never-ending plotting and scheming of Faerie court life increases the risks to all three.
Wicked Lovely, Desert Tales, Volume 1: Sanctuary (April, 2009)
This is the first in a trilogy of magna books (Japanese style graphic novels) connected to the world of Marr's Wicked Lovely. The Desert Tales series looks at previous Winter Girls who have become free of the curse in the past. In this first installment, the main character is Rika, a former Winter Girl and what her life is like and the resulting complications that emerge because of her experiences. Rika has sought isolation in the desert, far away from the scheming of the Faerie Courts. She uses her ability to appear invisible to humans to protect her privacy and isolation, but then she meets an artistic young man. She decides that the last thing she wants to do is hide form him. Unfortunately, changes are coming to this desert sanctuary that threaten Rika's freedom.
Unbound (August, 2009)
As a contributor
A dark fantasy novella and short story anthology by the noted authors of supernatural romantic thrillers Melissa Marr, Jocelynn Drake, Jeaniene Frost, Kim Harrison, and Vicki Pettersson. Marr's story, Two Lines, is her first short story aimed at a broader adult audience It is a supernatural thriller about a young woman, Eavan, struggling to escape the supernatural fate that has enslaved her family. She knows that nice girls don't hunt but then a deadly alpha male sets out to ensnare her in the ultimate seduction. It all starts when a local drug dealer begins producing Haitian zombie powder and then using it to enslave women in order to sell them.
Jocelynn Drake's novella, The Dead, the Damned, and the Forgotten, is set in Savannah, where a strange murder turns out to be an important skirmish in the Dark Days battle between Naturi, a forgotten race of protectors of the Earth, and the Nightwalker, known to humans as Nosferatu, over the fate of the world. The death of a Nightwalker brings the balance between human and nightwalker into question when suspicion falls on Mira the Fire Starter, a suspect Nightwalker because of her ability to manipulate fire, usually a trait of the Naturi. She also just happens to be the last hope for the Nightwalkers. The Dead, the Damned, and the Forgotten is a prequel story to Drake's first novel Nightwalker (July, 2008) during the period when she is leading her more 'normal' life before Danaus shows up and their struggle with the Naturi begins.
Jeaniene Frost sets her short story, Reckoning in New Orleans, where her recurring character, the immortal hit man known as Bones must face down the LaLauries, a husband-and-wife team of sadistic serial killers who also happen to be ghouls, and destroy them. At the same time that he is pursuing the killers, Bones is unaware that there is another undead hit man who is hunting him. This is a prequel story in the life of Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is set six months before he meets and becomes the lover of Cat Crawford, a half-vampire who, with Bones' help and training, progresses to becoming a government agent tasked with ridding the world of the rogue undead.
Ley Line Drifter, Kim Harrison's novella contribution to Unbound, is a Jenks (a pixy) and Bis (a gargoyle) adventure. The story is told form Jenk's point of view and is about their investigation of a haunting and their discovery that there is something at work there that is much greater than they ever expected. They end up trying to rescue an endangered innocent from a psychotic nymph with delusions of godhood. Harrison's characters Jenks and Bis are inhabitants of a universe in which an underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of dreams and nightmares have been living hidden among humans for centuries. Everything changes when a genetically engineered virus wipes most of humanity. Harrison received a Romantic Times Award for Best Fantasy Novel for Dead Witch Walking (2004) as well as a PEARL Award (Paranormal Excellence Award for Romantic Literature) for Best Science Fiction Novel for The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (2005).
Vicki Pettersson returns to Las Vegas in her short story Dark Matters. Secretly knows as Sin City, Las Vegas is actually the battleground on Earth in the war between the Agents of Light and Shadow, good and evil. Dark Matters is the about one man's fight for his soul. It is a prequel in the author's Sign of the Zodiac series. The story features JJ, a secondary character in the series, and provides much back story material related to Pettersson's fourth Sign of the Zodiac novel City of Souls. Dark Matters takes place three years before the setting of the Pettersson's first novel The Scent of Shadows.
Older Article: Chris Grabenstein, whodunit mysteries, thrillers and young adult horror
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