1. The mirror maze is based on a real place, in Prague. On Petrin Hill there is a mirror maze you can go and visit, and the idea came from there, because it was so disconcerting to be able to see myself everywhere I looked.
2. Merek’s grandfather, King Kyras, is named after a friend’s cat, Kyra, who was chewing on my jumper and generally being a nuisance when I wrote that scene. It was my petty revenge.
3. The first draft was written in just two weeks. I was writing a chapter or two a day, sending them to my friend, and then carrying on the next day. I didn’t realise fully, until the end, that’s I’d written a book. Editing that draft took a lot longer than two weeks though.
4. I based the hounds on hyenas initially, but wanted bulkier, scarier versions, so I adapted them in my head and was horrified at what I’d created. Not as horrified as I was when I logged into to Twitter one morning, only to immediately see a picture of one of them. It turns out a hairless black bear is almost exactly how I imagined the Lormerian hounds to look. It was a scarring experience.
5. The way Lief smiles is the same way I smile when I’m really happy. When most people smile, you can only see their top teeth. When I smile you can see pretty much all of them, and I press my tongue up against them. I wanted an alternative to the ‘crooked smile’ we see so often, so spent a fun hour trying out loads of different smiles. In the end, I went with mine.
6. Sin Eating was a real practice, carried out by men in the 18th and 19th century. In real-life Sin Eating, the food was a standard representation of sins in general, so bread and ale mostly, a kind of token payment. I found the whole concept so creepy though that I kept spinning it out, further and further, ending up with the Sin Eater standing as judge over the deceased, not just as absolution. The idea of the funeral also being a final confession was so powerful to me. And to have the Sin Eater being able to read the character of a dead person from their sins was exciting too. It explains why Twylla’s mother is as bitter and dour as she is, her job is to take on the very worst of humanity.
7. Twylla’s mother is actually called Amara, though it isn’t mentioned in the first book.
8. On the topic of names, Lief’s name is the old English word for ‘Beloved.’ I didn’t know that when I named him, I thought I’d made it up. It was only when I was later Googling the Viking explorer Leif Ericson and misspelled his name that I found out.
9. The reason Twylla sings is that that’s what I was doing when I first had the idea for The Sin Eater’s Daughter. I was singing Reflection from Mulan and it all spiralled from there.
10. Read the acknowledgements at the back of the book for a random fact that is a potentially a heavy spoiler for the entire story.
Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. She’s the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?
Paperback: 330 pages Publisher: Scholastic (5 Feb. 2015)