Reader Beware: Spoilers ahead, read at your own risk.
Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury is one of the hottest books of the season (and we’re not just talking about those delicious, steamy scenes). Maas takes readers to the Night Court, where Feyre learns to adapt to her new life as a fae, while battling her inner demons. It’s an unforgettable story with an ending that readers are sure to be theorizing about until they can get their hands on book three. We had quite a few questions ourselves about the fate of our favorite characters (Rhys, Cassian, and Nesta to name a few). Here, Maas hints at what readers can expect from the next book and gives a behind-the-scenes look at what helped to inspire A Court of Mist and Fury.
Bookish: You’ve mentioned that this book was loosely inspired by the story of Hades and Persephone. But I read it as an homage to Howl’s Moving Castle: a powerful and seemingly dangerous man with a soft heart, the girl who undergoes a transformation and finds strength/magic within herself, the magical worlds that he takes her to. Was this intentional? What else served as inspiration for this book?
Sarah J. Maas: Oh man, I never even thought of the HMC comparison! So, obviously my answer to your first question is no, but now I kinda want to tell people that HMC inspired it. :P (HMC is literally my number one comfort movie—though The Secret of NIMH is a close second.)
In terms of other inspiration beyond Hades and Persephone… I’d say this book was 90% original stuff. But there were moments that were inspired by other fairy tales/folklore/legends. The Weaver, for example, was loosely inspired by “Hansel & Gretel” (combined with whatever awful things were floating in the back of my imagination). Then some of the ancient history with Miryam and Drakon was inspired by the story of Exodus (random, I know). But that’s part of why I have so much fun writing this series: I can draw inspiration from so many world mythologies and make them my own.
Bookish: You’re a ballet fan and I know that Swan Lake helped to inspire a major moment in Queen of Shadows. Ballet requires grace, strength, and control—something I see mirrored in the members of the Night Court and their fighting and flying styles. Do you intentionally write your warriors and war scenes like a choreographer might orchestrate a ballet?
SJM: Ha! I wouldn’t go so far as to say I choreograph my fight scenes in that kind of detail, but I’m so flattered you made the comparison! I think the key to good action scenes (and intimate scenes, to be honest) is clarity—not just in terms of the physical parts that are in play (limbs, weapons, geography), but also the emotional stakes leading up to and at work in the scene.
As a rabid fangirl of like 2,000 fandoms, when I think of the action scenes that really stuck with me, and really made me cry/flail/freak out, it’s usually the moments when the emotional stakes are at their highest as well (i.e. the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King, which will never fail to make me cry like a baby). So, when it comes to the action in my own books, I try to weave in the emotional build-up into the physical stuff—to give the action some sense of meaning and weight.
Bookish: Speaking of intimate scenes, this book is far more erotic than the previous installment. Can readers expect it to get even steamier in the next book?
SJM: I feel like it miiiight be a slight spoiler to confirm or deny this (since Feyre and Rhys are now at different courts), but… there will definitely be steamy times in the next book.
Bookish: This also may be too big of a spoiler to give away, but will Tamlin get a shot at redemption?
SJM: You’ll have to wait until book three to see, but… Tamlin still has his own journey ahead in this world. :)
Bookish: You had hinted that Nesta would wind up with a fae, and it turns out that Elain does as well! She’s Lucien’s mate. Was that planned from the beginning or was it something that you thought of as you wrote the sequel?
SJM: So, years and years ago, I toyed with the idea of Lucien and Nesta as an item. But when I actually sat down to write ACOMAF, I realized that the two of them would never work—and that they would likely tear each other to shreds (and not in a good/fun way). Nesta and Lucien both have some very deep emotional wounds and really jagged edges, and as I contemplated them as individuals and what they need to grow/heal (if that ever happens!), I understood that their journeys weren’t tied together.
But then I wrote that scene where Nesta and Cassian first meet, and they completely derailed the entire conversation/moment because I literally couldn’t keep them from each other’s throats (in the best way possible). As soon as I wrote that scene, it shifted not just Nesta’s own journey, but the destiny of some other parts of Prythian and its inhabitants.
Elain definitely has her own journey to go on as well. I think she’s the character that I didn’t really see coming—and that Lucien won’t see coming, either. Her gentle strength, her hope, her joy…. What happened to her in Hybern will have major consequences (for Elain and everyone around her), and she has a long path ahead, but it’s one I’m really excited about.
Bookish: In the first book Nesta is described as “a queen without a throne.” We’ve now seen her, briefly, transformed into a creature that she despises. Aside from her connection with Cassian, what can we expect from her in the next installment?
SJM: Nesta definitely has a lot of growing to do. In book three, we see all three Archeron sisters struggling with the aftermath of Hybern. And Nesta and Elain adjust to their transformations in very different ways.
Honestly, Nesta is probably one of my favorite characters to write in both of my series. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but there’s something about her that keeps drawing me to her. I don’t want to spoil things, because I definitely have Many Things planned, but Nesta has a major role to play in book three. Everything that went down in Hybern will come into play in the book.
Bookish: This book ends with readers getting their first glimpse into Rhys’ mind. With so much at stake and so many excellent side characters, are you thinking about having this next book broken into multiple points of view? If yes, whose are you most excited to write?
SJM: You’ll seeeeeee! But I will say that when I wrote the first draft of ACOMAF, the entire book was actually split between Feyre and Rhys’ POV.
Yet after turning in that first draft, my editor and I realized it detracted from the tension of Feyre not knowing Rhys’ true feelings, and that the arc of the book worked much better with it exclusively from Feyre’s POV (so the reader finds out about the mating bond at the same time Feyre does, and meets the Squad—for lack of a better term—at the same time Feyre does as well). So I cut out his POV (and wove in vital info into Feyre’s own scenes), and in the end, the only Rhys POV scene that remained was the one that’s in there now, which I thought worked really well in that particular moment.
But in terms of book three… I’m still writing the darn thing, but you miiiight see Rhys’ POV in that, too. ;)
Sarah J. Maas is the author of the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling Throne of Glass series–Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire, and the series’ prequel, The Assassin’s Blade–as well as the New York Times and USA Today bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses. She wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in twenty-three languages. Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, was released worldwide on September 1st, 2015.