Interview with Sarah Rees Brennan

We have the gracious Sarah Rees Brennan here today! Sarah, Congratulations on joining the truly amazing and talented group of writers that have debuted in 2009! Your first novel, The Demon’s Lexicon, was published  this past June.

Thank you for the congratulations!


Where did the title come from? You or your publisher? Is there a story behind that name?

When I wrote it I was living near London with my sardonic and wonderful friend Penelope, who smokes like a chimney and despairs of me on a daily basis. I showed her my List of Possible Titles, and she said ‘Oh, the Demon’s Lexicon, definitely.’ ‘Really?’ I said. ‘Why do you like that one best?’ She took a long, worldweary drag of her cigarette and said ‘Because Sarah… all the other titles are terrible.’Publishers often do change titles, but I am very happy they let me keep mine. Sometimes people think it should’ve been called something else – sometimes people just wonder what the heck ‘Lexicon’ means – but I like the title because it works on a lot of levels, and one way only makes sense once you’ve read the book. I love mysteries, even if they’re also titles.


Did you get to help choose the cover?

My publishers mostly chose, but they very kindly listened to me as well: my US publishers originally chose a blondish guy I christened Nancy Sue for my cover and they switched him out for a darker, tougher specimen because I asked. And my UK publishers performed some pretty major cosmetic surgery on the guy on their cover – which worked out great, as I think he is pretty foxy now!


Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

I am totally useless without a cup of tea. My very favourite way of writing is sitting at a table with writer friends, occasionally able to look up and say ‘Oh my god, quickly somebody tell me about the south of England’ and ‘Sooo… thirty makeout scenes are excessive, yes?’ But a good second is sitting on my red sofa in my red-wall-papered living room with Cup of Tea Number Thirteen and playing country music extremely loud.


Can you name one book you have read in the past year that you would recommend?

Oh gosh, just one? I thought Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl was awesome – magic in the deep South, plus a boy narrator. It’s nice to have boy narrators to keep mine company...


What is one random thing about you?

I have different-coloured eyes, one blue and one green. Sometimes I wear mismatching socks to match them.


What is the most important aspect of your book about which you would want potential readers to know?

This is a hard one to choose, but perhaps – that this is an attempt to get into the mind of someone dark, disturbed, definitely dangerous and possibly unsympathetic: that this is a hero I always feared that nobody but myself would like (to shamelessly crib from Jane Austen) and hoped to be proved wrong.


What is your favorite thing about The Demon’s Lexicon?

Oh gosh, tough question. I like a lot of things about it, honestly – have to, or I wouldn’t have written it! I like thinking about what words really mean – important words like love and family – and I like setting up characters to be stereotypical, and then subverting them so they’re their own people, and seem real.


This is the first book in a trilogy. How firm are you on keeping it at three books (disregarding possible new books set in same world)? And what, if anything, can you tell us about The Demon’s Covenant, the second book of the trilogy due out next May?  Can you give a hint, vague and oblique as you like, of what is in store for your characters?

I like a trilogy, myself – I always want to spend more time with characters than one book, but I don’t want to spin off into madness and write seventeen zillion books and never tie things up for my readers. So I do think it’ll just be a trilogy focusing on these main characters… if we disregard possible new books set in the same world!Two of the four main characters in The Demon’s Covenant fall in love, not necessarily with each other. And Nick fights a duel with a person as a prize. And – well, if Lexicon was all about words, about family, love, true names and what they mean, Covenant in the same way is about bargains: the bargains Nick and Alan have made in the past and how they catch up with them, the bargains all the characters make during the book and how they turn out. In the end, family, friendship and romance are all about bargains – they’re a bargain that people will take care of one another. That they will keep loving each other.

The sequel is about words, too, in the end: it’s about what happens when you break your word.


Do you have the whole story all plotted out?

I do! I admit it took me, uh, years to work out one part of the end game, but I’m currently writing the third book and I know exactly what will happen in it! Of course, I admit that ‘what will happen’ may change in the rewrites. Possibly again and again…


*One thing that really stood out for me was the relationship between Nick and Allan. I loved it. I found it both vastly refreshing and a bit intriguing that you chose to illustrate Nick’s capacity for love in a non-romantic fashion. It is not Mae or some other romantic interest that informs and shapes Nick’s choices, but rather his connection to his brother, whose welfare and happiness are the determining factors in Nick’s life. Can you explain a bit about why you chose to take that path or that all came to be? And what can we expect from those two? Do they ever grow to understand one another? Or would that be giving too much away?

Well, thank you very much! I like romances a lot – one of my favourite books is Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover, a very romantic YA fantasy – but I did think it would be fun and a little different to have a book that, while it had romance, focused on a familial relationship. Because family is a huge part of your life, especially when you’re a teenager and you live with your parents and siblings: family is the first way most people learn about love. Of course, since the book was published in the Year of Supernatural Romance and the Twilight Movie, this may have been the wrong decision…

My first idea for the book was knowing what had happened to the characters in the past – how Alan has practically brought Nick up, all the secrets in their background, how they lived as children on the run and learning to be dangerous. Danger can make romances more intense, and friendships – as in war movies – so I thought it would be interesting to see how important brothers could become to each other – or a brother and a sister, in the case of the other two main characters.

I do not want to give too much away, but Nick and Alan’s relationship is definitely a lot more fraught in the second book. Lies endangered it, but the truth may be even worse. They do learn to understand each other a little better, but there’s also a lot of pain involved: there are things nobody wants to discover.

Ahem… the second book’s also… going to be funny? I hope! Sometimes.

Hope these answers work for you, and thank you for the great questions!


Thank You! Wishing you all the best in all your endeavors, especially the literary ones!


Book Summary from Simon and Schuster: Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick’s mother stole — a charm that keeps her alive — and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon’s mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase…and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians’ Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

Published: June 2009

Page Count: 336

ISBN-10: 1416963790

Cost: $17.99 hardcover

First Chapter

Sarah’s Website (Be sure to check out her essays and stories!)

Sarah’s Blog ~ Sarah Tells Tales