Lo's first YA novel, Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, is now available from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
One of the books I've recently read that has stuck with me is Fire by Kristin Cashore. This is a companion novel to her first novel, Graceling, which has been a big hit in young adult fiction in general and in the fantasy genre as well. Fire is in many ways a totally different book than Graceling, but it is also another exploration of the idea that a woman could be monstrous. In Graceling, the monstrous woman is a killer; in Fire, she is monstrously beautiful.Visit Malinda Lo's website and Facebook page.
I found Fire to be quieter than Graceling, but also more complex. I was intrigued by the way Cashore inserted real-world social issues into her novel through the lens of fantasy. Issues such as access to health care, reproductive rights, sexual freedom and sexual assault all showed up in Fire, and I was impressed by the way she kind of slipped them in without much fanfare. I'd be reading along and suddenly, wow, there was a major political statement that somehow seemed totally normal and not that big of a deal.
I was also interested in Fire as a second novel because I'm currently working on my own second novel. I think I found Fire reassuring, as a writer, because Cashore has certainly avoided the sophomore slump. I saw how certain themes from Graceling traveled over to Fire and were reinterpreted with even more sophistication. It made me wonder if I am doing the same thing with my books — indeed, if many writers do this: revisit certain themes over and over again, each time focusing down on them in a slightly different way.
In fact, now that I think about it, I'm really curious to read second novels in general. I'll have to look for some!