The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
The first thing I must say is the US cover, the macabre, wood-framed pram with the knife, scissors and other iron implements suspended above it like some murderous mobile absolutely NAILS IT. While the UK cover is great in its own way, a picture of Mackie, the US has all the dread and hints of the secrets trapped within the town of Gentry.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way now, it’s a faerie story. Normally this would be enough for me to close the cover and move on, with talk of courts and Unseelie this and whatnots, but Brenna never uses the f-word in her book and her myth takes it all in a brand new direction.
We all know the tales of changelings, children kidnapped by the faery folk and replaced with one of their own. We all know about their aversion to iron. We know about the gifts left on the doorsteps and the iron horseshoes put on the doors to protect the inhabitants. All these iconic themes are in place, but...but...
The people of Gentry KNOW. This is not some world where the public are blissfully unaware about the magic around them. They know their children are taken. They know one night their child will be gone and instead there’ll be a monster in the crib.
And they do nothing.
The metaphor for the silent acceptance of evil, no matter how it’s disguised, is the most powerful aspect of this amazing book. The code of silence. You just don’t talk about the bad things, lest you attract more evil to your door.
The story is about Mackie, a boy who knows he’s one of them, and of Tate, a girl who doesn’t mourn her sister’s death, because she knows the thing that died is one of the replacements. Tate kicks the entire story off by her loud and public refusal to accept the status quo. She knows Mackie is one of them and drags him, against his own wishes, into confronting the darkness at the heart of Gentry and the truth about himself.
This scene is late in the book and I hope won’t spoil it for you, but it chills the blood when you think about what it really means. This is what Gentry is.
Her smile was cold. She could have been made of wax or porcelain like a doll, but her eyes were wicked and bright.
“The ones who are sincere leave. The others sink their roots in this quiet town and wring their hands and bemoan the loss of their children, and all the while, they take their payment, and they keep the town and they feed it, just like they’ve always done.”
There are no easy ways out. Mackie knows he belongs to another world, the house of Mayhem, and it’s both beautiful and terrifying. It’s ruled by the Morrigan and occupied by the dead, sacrificed children whose blood, literally, binds the pact between the creatures of the underworld and the people of Gentry.
Brenna is one of the Merry Sisters of Fate along with Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton and we share a marvellous agent, Sarah Davies. Fortunately that meant I could call in favours and get some time with her to delve deeper into her world.
1. It’s interesting to find a female writer writing from a male perspective, especially in this genre. As someone who’s asked this A LOT, how easy was it writing from the viewpoint of the opposite sex?
Well, I have to say that at first it was hard, but only because I was thinking about it in the wrong way. I was trying to make Mackie sound like some imaginary generic teenage boy, and not like a true, specific person who just sounded like himself. Once I started thinking of him as an individual, the point of view became clear and the voice was much, much easier.
2. The relationship of Tate and Mackie is dynamic and takes a long time to develop. I love the fact it comes slowly (the story starts with Mackie being interested is someone else entirely), built brick by brick on dependency and mutual trust rather than an instantaneous spark of mutual desire. Was this something that just came out of the writing or were you purposely trying to avoid the ‘sparks over the classroom’ cliché?
I don't know that I consciously decided to avoid instant attraction, but yeah, it is definitely not there. I really think the slow build was something that evolved out of the characters. Both of them—but particularly Tate—are guarded to say the least. While Tate is far more outspoken than Mackie, she's just not the sort of person who would dive headlong into an emotional relationship, even though she has no qualms about putting herself in physical danger. Everything kind of had to happen on her timeline.
3. The House of Mayhem is an incredibly vivid setting, the entrance through the slag heap, the slowly encroaching waters and the inhabitants, the discarded dead. Where did it come from? What were your inspirations?
Zombie movies. Yes, really. I have a longstanding affection for zombies and grew up watching way too much bad horror. I'm also embarrassingly distrustful of water and I wanted to write about someplace where all my favorite scary things exist unchecked—a place where the inhabitants are faced with weird, creepy conditions and they just have to live there anyway and make the best of it.
4. Despite Mackie’s alien nature he’s got people who love him, I’m talking mainly about Emma, his sister, and Roswell. Emma’s devotion to her replacement brother is extremely moving, her speech to him in Chapter 28 had me in tears! Tell us a bit more about her and Roswell.
Of all the primary characters in The Replacement, Emma and Roswell are unusual because, to put it simply, they've never been hurt. They were both very interesting to me right from the first draft because they don't really doubt themselves (at least where we can see it). I really enjoyed writing both of them, because it's kind of refreshing to deal with people who are so secure in themselves and in their decisions. They are never apologetic or ashamed of feeling affection.
5. What’s next? Any more tales from Gentry or something new?
While I wouldn't go so far as to say there will never be another Gentry book, there's nothing on the agenda just yet. The book I'm working on right now is another standalone—about demons this time. It's called The Space Between, involves danger, moral ambiguity, and kissing, and will be coming out this fall from Razorbill/Penguin Group in the US and Simon & Schuster in the UK. Thanks so much for having me, Sarwat!
My pleasure, Brenna! Gosh, that's quite a few on the Kiss Me, Kill Me tour so far. Hit the button in the right somewhere if you want to check out words of wisdom from Maggie Stiefvater, Cindy Pon, Rachel Hawkins and Carrie Ryan.
Next Monday is Valentine's Day, so I've an interview with Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush, Crescendo and Silence. Fallen angels. You've got to love 'em.
Oh, I've an IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT to make on Tues, here on this blog. The fate of the free world may depend on you being here to read it. You have been warned.