“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.
Today our guest is Leah Cypess, author of YA fantasy novels Mistwood and Nightspell. To celebrate the paperback release of Nightspell (which we were thrilled to discover has a blurb from us on the cover!), we are delighted to have Leah Cypess talk about her inspirations & influences.
Please give Leah a warm welcome!
Anyone who is familiar with my reading habits knows that I’m a speculative fiction fanatic. If a book is fantasy or science fiction and sounds even mildly interesting, I will usually give it a try. I read other things, too – contemporary YA, historical, and anything funny — but 85% of what I read is speculative fiction.
When I was younger, though, I had another love. Mysteries. Specifically murder mysteries. Specifically, for a while, murder mysteries written by Agatha Christie.
She wrote sixty-six books. (I just looked it up.) I read every single one of them, from the chilling And Then There Were None to the devious Murder on the Orient Express to the tricky The ABC Murders. Eventually, it got to the point where I could always figure out who the murderer was; not by figuring out the clues in the books, but because by then I understood how Agatha Christie’s mind worked.
I used to think that mystery was the purest form of fiction. After all, you read books to find out what will happen at the end, and that is the whole point of a mystery – to engage the reader in the search to figure out what’s going to happen, or rather what has happened. I no longer think of books in exactly that way, but I still go crazy for books in which the protagonist has to uncover Mysterious Secrets Buried in the Past.
So as you can imagine, speculative fiction/mystery blends are my favorite thing in the entire world. Which is why I love Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro (adult) and Clarity by Kim Harrington, among others, and why I’m insanely looking forward to Gretchen McNeil’s Ten (a RETELLING of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie!), Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass, and City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (the latter two both murder mysteries with assassins! Which happens to be a pretty good description of what I’m writing right now, too.)
So when I started writing Nightspell as a teenager, it was with a simple idea: what if there was a country where murder victims came back as ghosts to solve their own murders? That would not only change the way murders were solved – it would change the way they were committed, since the murderers’ primary concern would be to hide their identities from their victims. I envisioned an entire series of mystery books with murders set in this world being solved by the murder victims.
It took me ten years, at some level, to write Nightspell; my first start was a complicated mess that I eventually put aside in favor of other ideas. By the time I came back to it a decade later, I was no longer interested in a series of murder mysteries with a twist. I wanted to delve more deeply into the world, to talk about culture clash and difference and death.
But I still wanted all the elements of mystery novels: murders, suspects, red herrings, and characters who all had their own agendas. And most importantly, I wanted my characters to find Mysterious Secrets Buried in the Past.
Leah Cypess has been writing since the fourth grade, but before becoming a full-time writer, she earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She worked for two years at a large New York City law firm, then moved to Boston, where she now lives with her husband and two young children. Leah Cypess is also the author of Nightspell, a companion to Mistwood.
We have one copy of Mistwood and Nightspell up for grabs! The contest is open to all, and will run until Saturday, June 2 at 11:59PM (EST). To enter, use the form below. Good luck!