Victoria Aveyard optioned movie rights for her epic fantasy RED QUEEN to Universal before it even hit bookstores, and then it landed on the NYT Bestseller List in its first week of publication! She’s also sold her action-adventure screenplay Eternal to Sony, with Stan Lee (Iron Man, X-Men, Thor) already on board as producer. We loved the book (!!) so we were thrilled to catch up with this busy 24-year-old and talk she-roes, inspiration and pop-culture addictions.
Red Queen has been described as X-Men meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games. Do you agree? Which of these comparisons excites you most?
I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. To be mentioned in the same breath is astounding, so when those comparisons are drawn I get kind of weak in the knees. I’ve always been a fantasy world-builder and Martin is one of the best at that game, definitely a hero and inspiration I look up to alongside Tolkien. My goal in writing has always been to create deep, fascinating worlds and hopefully one day I’m half the fantasy writer he is.
Speaking of inspiration, what inspired you to become a writer?
It was never a conscious choice. When I was very young I started drawing maps of fictional places (I’m very into maps and geography), and from there started creating stories about those worlds. And growing up, I loved writing, even for boring school essays – I always found a way to make them a bit more cinematic, and sometimes teachers frowned upon that. Writing was just always something I had to do, either on paper or in my head. I was always telling stories, even playing in the backyard with the other kids. Of course, having my particular parents didn’t hurt either. My mom is an English teacher and my dad is a history teacher and both are avid readers/watchers. Between the two of them, it’s no wonder I ended up writing for a living.
You definitely have a cinematic flair to your writing, so it wasn’t a big surprise to learn you went to USC and majored in screenwriting. How did your education affect your storytelling in Red Queen?
At first glance, screenplays and novels look very different, just by virtue of the format, but the actual bones of both are very similar. I write novels using film structure – three acts with pre-ordained beats and moments within each – and it makes the daunting task so much easier for me. I’m not good enough to make my own novel structure, and having something I know so well to lean on really helped me power through the first draft. Besides that, screenplays are very visual, very quick – the story moves – and I hoped to bring that to my novel writing as well. Because of my education at USC, I hopefully wrote a book with the immediacy of a film, but the flesh and space of a novel.
Since you majored in film, you have to have a favorite film (or favorites!). What are they, and did any film inspire or influence Red Queen?
This is probably the hardest question I get. I can’t pick between some of my favorites, so I’ll list a few. The Lord of the Rings series, Star Wars series, Indiana Jones series, Jurassic Park, ET, Independence Day, Gladiator. In terms of inspiration, these films and, of course, others influence everything I do. I want the world of Lord of the Rings, the characters of Star Wars, the history of Indiana Jones, etc., in whatever I write.
OK, let’s talk specifics about Red Queen. Specifically, Maven and Cal. Such torture. Would you describe them in two adjectives each?
I always aim to please. Maven: tormented, overlooked. Cal: deliberate, dutiful.
Mare is a smart, powerful female hero. Do you have a favorite female heroine, and if so, how does she compare to Mare?
Princess Leia, Princess Leia, Princess Leia. Hands down. Star Wars is one of the first movies I remember and Princess Leia is the heroine in my eyes. She’s smart, she’s brave – we’re introduced to her facing down DARTH VADER and then resisting torture. And she was so small compared to everyone else. She was a real beacon to me. I loved her bold, sassy, bossy manner – and identified with it almost too much. In my mind, she’s one of the best there is. She can hold her own and go toe to toe with anyone, from Han Solo to Grand Moff Tarkin. And she picks up a gun and does her part. I love everything about her. In comparison to Mare, they’re about the same age when their stories begin, but Leia is far and away stronger. Mare might have a superpower, but she’s confused, controlled, more focused on survival than anything else. Leia could run circles around her, and blow up a Death Star while doing it.
Oh, my gosh, YES. Love her and her Death Star-destroying bravery!!
Now it’s 5 QUICK QUESTIONS!
1. Favorite revolution story?
Historically? The American Revolution. How could I not? But in the fictional world, I gotta go with the political upheavals in Star Wars, both the coup that created the Empire in the prequels and (mainly) the Rebel Alliance in the original trilogy. It’s the ultimate revolution fantasy – the ragtag band against the might of a literal empire. Plus, it was lead by awesome ladies, Princess Leia and Mon Mothma!
I’m also quite partial to the rebellions and coups in the Harry Potter series – Harry’s formation of the DA to combat Umbridge’s control of the school, Voldemort’s takeover of the Ministry, and the subsequent revolt and war to defeat him in the final book. There’s a wonderful escalation to the series – compare Sorceror’s Stone to Deathly Hallows and let your jaw drop. It was such a privilege to grow up with Harry and go on that journey together.
2. The book on your nightstand now is….
I’m currently reading Winter of the World, the second installment in Ken Follett’s Century trilogy. I loved the first, the story of WWI from the viewpoints of several families around the world, and the second, centered on WWII, looks to be just as riveting. Besides that, I’m about to start The Poisoned Crown, the third book in Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series. Concerning the fall of the Capetian dynasty in France, the series heavily inspired George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and I’m in love with it.
3. Rainy afternoon…what’s on your TV or laptop?
I just finished the first season of Black Sails and I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. Besides that, I’m antsy for the return of Vikings, Outlander and Game of Thrones. And I religiously watch The Mindy Project, as well as Law & Order: SVU reruns whenever I can. Of course, if any of my favorite movies are on TV, I will drop everything and watch.
4. Favorite guilty pleasure
The Real Housewives series. It’s not even guilty anymore. I’ll tell anyone who asks that I am an addict, especially to Beverly Hills.
5. Period in time (other than now) that you’d like to live in for a week?
The “only for a week” qualifier is great, because most places in history would really start to suck after that. I’d love to see the Gilded Age/Belle Époque of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was sort of the calm before the storm of World War I, with nations in relative peace and prosperity, and if you were one of the American elite, the ultimate prosperity. Plus hygiene was pretty good, so it’s an improvement on the other times I’d like to visit – the Crusades, Ancient Rome & Egypt, colonial America, the Golden Age of Piracy, the War of the Roses/Tudor England, etc.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Victoria! We fell hard for Red Queen, and loved discovering that you’re just as obsessed with girl-power heroines as we are, so this has been a blast. And Spark Girls, if you haven’t read RED QUEEN, grab it now! You can thank us later. 🙂