Q&A With Holly Black - The Northern YA Literary Festival

Friday, 16 March 2018

You may remember last month I had Anna Day on my blog in association with The Northern YA Literary Festival, well today I am hosting another Queen and that is Holly Black, author of The Cruel Prince. Her latest novel was released in January and you can read my full review here but to save you time, The Cruel Prince is amazing. 

This post was made possible by The Northern YA Literary Festival which will be taking place next week in Preston on the 24th. More information about the event will be at the end of the post so make sure you read to the end! 

Here we go!
Hi Holly! Welcome to This Booky Place, my name is Rebecca and I’m really excited to have you on my blog! First off I wanted to say congratulations on the release of The Cruel Prince, I absolutely LOVED it.

Holly: Thank you so much! I am so glad you liked it. 

To start off, can you tell us a little bit about The Cruel Prince for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to read it yet? 

Holly: CP is the story of Jude Duarte, a mortal girl raised in Faerie by the murderer of her parents. She’s trying to find a place in the dangerous High Court, but has drawn the ire of the youngest and worst prince, Cardan. It’s a story about family and about surviving, but also court intrigue, strategy, and sword fighting. 

How did you do your best writing for The Cruel Prince? I imagine needing to go to a beautiful scenic glade to make the fantasy scenes flow, were there any writing pilgrimages like that? 

Holly: It’s true that I wrote some of The Cruel Prince in Cornwall with the sea crashing nearby and some of it in the sun-drenched mountains of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico – and those were really inspiring places. But most of it was written at home, in my office or on the couch with my laptop. I wrote it in layers and fiddled with descriptions until they evoked the mood I wanted. 

A lot of your fans will already know that you are the real-life Queen of all things Faerie, but this book especially was steeped in folklore, was there any research you had to do to bring The Cruel Prince to life? 

Holly: That’s very kind! The Cruel Prince was a story I had in my head for a while, but had originally imagined it as part of a secondary world high fantasy. I played with it and played with it until I realized that if I set it in Faerie, it came to life in a different way. The research I did involved trying to find depictions of inside of Faerie itself, since I quickly realized that most of this books and the ones that follow were going to be set there – these books forced me to make new decisions about the world.

How do you select the names of your characters? I love the variety of names in this book, did you get inspiration from anywhere in particular?

Holly: I look through a lot of lists of old names and I also take contemporary names and fiddle with them to make names that have the feel I am looking for – and then there are names from folklore that I come across occasionally are just perfect.

There’s quite a few dark moments in this book. Jude, for example, is bullied quite horrifically. Was there a scene or chracter in The Cruel Prince that you found hard to write? 

Holly: I actually think Madoc, was the hardest to write, because he cares about Jude a lot, but there’s a wide vein of uncompromising cruelty in him. I had to calibrate and recalibrate the way I portrayed him to make sure the reader understood both why she loved him as a father, despite his murder of her parents, and also why she was still afraid of him.

In contrast to the last question, what scenes did you find the easiest to write? Was there a character who came more naturally to you? 

Holly: I loved writing Cardan because sometimes it’s fun to write someone truly awful.

I’d also love to know what you’ve been reading lately? Or are there any books you’d recommend for fans of The Cruel Prince? 

Holly: Let’s see! There have been a bunch of books I’ve loved lately: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson.

This is maybe a sneaky question –so no problem if you can’t answer at this point! Can you give us any indication of when we might have some news about the second book? I know a lot of readers who are planning a re-read already to cope with THAT ending. 

Holly: Wicked King is coming out January 8, 2019. There’s not much I can say about it that’s not spoilery, but if The Cruel Prince was about getting power then The Wicked King is about hanging on to it. And we’re going to explore more about the Undersea!

Last question is; What motivates you? Not necessarily your writing, but in a more general sense. Maybe a quote or a long-term goal that keeps you going. 

Holly: I guess there are two things that motivate me in my writing – one artistic and one professional. On the first hand, I want to write the kinds of stories that I love in ways that challenge me. On the second, I want to continue to be published; being a novelist is a job where just keeping it for more than a decade is no small achievement. 

Thank you Holly for being on my blog today (dream come true) and I hope you all enjoyed this post as much as I did!

As I said at the start of the post, I am very lucky to be working with the lovely people who are hosting the Northern YA Literary Festival, which you can find out more information about here. The event itself is hosted by the University of Lancashire's BA in Publishing programme and it's shaping up to be a really exciting event. It will feature not only Holly Black, but also Anna Day, Katherine Webber, Terri Terry and more!

You can book your free tickets to the events by going here and check out the rest of the programme by going to the NYALF website.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Fab interview! Makes me even more excited for next Saturday. Eeek!
    And yes, Cardan was truly awful. I'm excited for the story to continue next year, I loved The Cruel Prince.
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

    1. Is it bad that it only makes me love him more? That he's a real nasty piece of work instead of just a little naughty. It's so compelling in a main character.

  2. You are so lucky to be able to interview the QUEEN! I want to be in your shoes so badly. I really enjoyed your questions for Holly and her answers. I cannot wait to read Cruel Prince!

    1. The Cruel Prince is incredible, I'm excited on your behalf <3


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