It must have been a busy Friday and Saturday night because Avengers fans now have literally thousands of words from the creative minds behind The Avengers ABOUT The Avengers to read and nerd out about. Happy obsessing!

For those of you that don’t even know where to begin, here is a good place to start.

An interview with Marvel studio head Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon and Robert Downey Jr. from Disney.co.uk (via CBM):

“When we put the word out that we were looking for directors, Joss Whedon came in and was very interested,” revealed Marvel Studios’ President and producer of Marvel’s The Avengers, Kevin Feige. “I have known Joss since 2001 and I told him one of the most important things with ‘The Avengers’ is it needs to stand alone and you need to structure it in a way so that people can watch the film without having seen any of the other Marvel films and get the story start to finish.”

“The genius of Joss Whedon is that he can take these huge elements and find the balance, so the characters are never lost to the spectacle and visual effects,” he added. “We wanted the film to have amazing sets and incredible action, but we did not want the tone and humor to be trumped by the spectacular images on the screen. What’s always been the most exciting to see is Tony Stark and Steve Rogers together and how Tony reacts to Thor and seeing Nick Fury on his own turf for the first time. We wanted those relationship dynamics to be the real heart of the film and Joss was someone we felt could delve into the character development just as much as he could with the action in the film.”

“We have been able to attract uniquely talented directors as well as the best film technicians from top to bottom, which has resulted in mega-event movies with compelling storylines and characters that audiences enjoy watching. We were able to pull this off again with ‘The Avengers’ by landing Joss Whedon, who is incredibly talented, and could not only direct the film but also develop a compelling story and screenplay.”

Robert Downey Jr., star of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, had this to say when asked for his opinion of Joss Whedon being chosen to helm the superhero ensemble. “Aside from casting, what Marvel does best is pick the right directors and it’s always an exciting announcement. Writing the script for ‘The Avengers’ is much more precise because it’s a more complex piece of machinery, where you’re trying to interface eight characters and have them all make sense, all have arcs and get their day in the sun.”

“I am a fan of what Marvel has established,” Joss Whedon himself said when he was asked to comment on why he decided to direct a film which would unite the superheroes after five individual solo movies. “The films they have released are extremely informative, useful and fun, but when they first came to me, ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ were not even close to being finished and I just felt like, ‘Okay, you have all these moving parts, but how can you possibly bring them together?’ Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America don’t seem like they could co-exist and ultimately that is what intrigued me and made me go, ‘This can be done and this should be done.’ These people don’t belong together and wouldn’t get along, and as soon as that dynamic came into focus, I realized that I actually have something to say about these people.”

He finished by saying, “I’ve been able to spend time with all of the cast members while I was writing the screenplay, so they knew I was building their character from the ground up for them. As we progressed, I would go to them and say, ‘Here are my ideas and this is how I think you should play it. Is there something in particular you want to avoid? Something you feel the character needs? Wants?’ Every cast member had their input, to the degree that they wanted, so the script is very much a collaboration from the ground up and I think it helped set the tone right away. My motto has always been ‘I know exactly what I want and if you tell me what you want; we can usually do both.’”

And another from Disney about Captain America and Agent Coulson’s relationship (Coulson has a man crush):

Although Nick Fury may be in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s up to Agent Phil Coulson (played by Clark Gregg) to bring together the team of superheroes for Marvel’s The Avengers. “I would be lying if I said that from the beginning we knew Agent Coulson would be the character in all of our films,” said executive producer Louis D’Esposito on his now vital role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “After the reaction to his character in ‘Iron Man,’ it was obvious that we wanted to continue the role. Agent Coulson is an everyman who people can relate to because he is just so darn likable and loves every part of being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He doesn’t have any super powers, but he does have some fighting skills and sense of humor, which you really get to see in the way speaks with Nick Fury and Tony Stark. It’s absolutely charming, funny yet serious.”

Clark Gregg meanwhile has enjoyed his time as Coulson and the important role that he has played in the solo films leading up to this May’s superhero ensemble. “What I love about Coulson is how he has evolved from what seemed like an annoying bureaucrat pestering Tony Stark for an interview in ‘Iron Man.’ As the Marvel film universe has expanded it’s been a great thrill to see him become a much more formidable force who’s kind of hiding in plain sight. Every time I get a Marvel script, I’m very excited to find out what new layers to his character and duties are revealed and it certainly has culminated with ‘The Avengers,’ where he is heavily involved with trying to pull the team together.”

He went on to reveal, “The Avengers initiative has not necessarily been accepted by the World Security Council and is looked at with some great suspicion. The Super Heroes are viewed as dangerous and uncontrollable and I don’t think anybody, including Nick Fury, is fully convinced yet that The Hulk and Thor are good people to have around, based on what has gone down in the past. So in the time leading up to The Avengers, a major focus of S.H.I.E.L.D. is about developing the Tesseract and finding out a way to harness and use its vast power.”

However, it seems as if it is director Joss Whedon who most enjoyed the inclusion of Agent Coulson in the superhero ensemble due to the fact that the character takes part in some of his favourite scenes (which he wrote). “Coulson is the face of S.H.I.E.L.D in a way that Nick Fury isn’t. Nick Fury stays in the background pulling the strings, while Coulson is the guy in the trenches alongside ‘The Avengers.’ His relationship with Steve Rogers is one of my favorites. There are so many characters in this film with a dry wit, so I wanted to find some other dynamic Coulson could have with Captain America and it hit me, ‘Oh my god, he’s a fan boy!’ Giving him a man crush on Captain America not only lent itself to some of the funniest scenes, but also established the type of relationship they had, which led to the whole trading card run in the scene, which is possibly my favorite thing in the movie.”

Another from Disney about Maria Hill’s place in The Avengers. (via CBM)

“I also needed someone to step up on the Helicarrier when Coulson is out in the field and last but certainly not least, for the love of God, I needed another woman in this movie,” he added. “I love the character from the comics because of the tension with Nick Fury. She doesn’t necessarily think he’s doing things right and that gives the character a nice arc as well. It’s also something we can honor from the comic book and still bring in a new voice to the movie world.”

To find the perfect Maria Hill, Whedon reveals that they brought in several different actresses to actually read with Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) in order to endure that they found the right actress. That would prove to be How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders. “We saw some really strong performances and then Cobie came in the room and it was fascinating because everyone had their own prediction of who might get it. They all read a fake scene with Samuel Jackson and then we went right next door and watched them instantly. Everyone was great in the auditions, but what it all boiled down to was the fact that when Cobie pointed that gun at him, I thought she might shoot him,. Even though I wrote the scene in the moment, I really thought she could take him down. Cobie has an absolute authority and physical confidence that isn’t ostentatious but instead, is very precise and absolute.”

Smulders had this to say about landing the biggest role of her career. “I was just blown away when I found out that I got the role. To be able to part of the Marvel Universe and play such a great character was something that still has not settled in and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity. At the beginning of the film, assembling The Avengers team is one of the major reasons that Nick Fury and Maria Hill do not get along. She thinks that they’re a huge threat, especially the Hulk. They’re very volatile characters and I think that she’s a bit more by the rules and would rather take things out in military style rather than bringing together this team of loners—loners in the sense that they do their own thing. But then after what happens, she sees that we need them.”

Executive producer Louis D’ Esposito asks, “Can you imagine how daunting and intimidating it would be to come on set when you’re not a Super Hero, you don’t have any super powers, and you’re going toe to toe with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and your boss Nick Fury? What’s amazing about Cobie is even when she is surrounded by all of the other characters in the film, she still stands out and pops on screen. Agent Hill is here to stay, and in ‘The Avengers’ she becomes an important part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team.”

Marvel studio head Kevin Feige on The Avengers being from Nick Fury’s perspective (via CBM)

“Robert is a tour de force as Tony Stark and he injects that confidence and sense of humor that brought to life and defined the character in the best way possible in both ‘Iron Man’ films,” said Marvel Studios’ President and producer of Marvel’s The Avengers, Kevin Feige. “We wanted to give Robert scenes with all the characters as we knew it would be a lot of fun to watch Tony’s interaction with Captain America, Thor and The Hulk. When Robert walks on the screen, the audiences embrace him in a very big and palpable way; he really is a powerhouse for us and the film.”

Robert Downey Jr. meanwhile didn’t begin to even contemplate going on to star in The Avengers until the night that Iron Man opened all the way back in 2008. “I remember when we were all huddled around the dinner table waiting for the numbers to come in. We had planted some ideas after the credits of the film, hinting at the notion of ‘The Avengers’ and in Hollywood, I’m always amazed when anything that difficult works out.” As for how Iron Man feels about the prospect of joining a “superhero boy band,” the actor said, “Tony initially thinks it’s ridiculous, but being Tony Stark, he is more open to the realm of possibilities that exist in the world of ‘The Avengers.’ Tony already had hints of it from Nick Fury who has been stringing him along for a while about becoming part of a larger universe.”

The executive producer of the superhero ensemble, Jeremy Latcham, adds, “At the end of the day he is Tony Stark and he understands the severity of the situation. He’s willing to make the ultimate sacrifice but at the same time, he’s kind of enamored by the absurdity of it. As a result, Tony Stark really is the audience’s way in because he is the closest thing to a normal person among the Super Heroes. That’s saying a lot because Tony Stark is a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, who drinks too much, but is really funny and entertaining, which works out nicely.”

Of course, it was Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury (director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) who was the one chosen to introduce Tony Stark to a much larger universe in Iron Man’s after-credits scene. However, after making brief appearances in Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, Feige knew that The Avengers would be the perfect opportunity to shine the spotlight on both Jackson and Fury. “The promise we made to Sam was when we got to ‘The Avengers’ it would be his time to shine. Sam was very pleased when he got the script and saw how many great scenes Nick Fury had in the film. He is very active and in command on the Helicarrier and really gets into the action. If I had to say which character’s point of view the film is told from it would be Nick Fury’s.”

“It’s great to be the guy who is the organizer of The Avengers team,” says Samuel L. Jackson on his expanded role in the film. “He’s the guy who has the raison-d’être that kind of understands the threat and has to get them to understand the nature of the threat; that we’re a lot stronger together than they are individually. Using Coulson in a manipulative way to get them to do what he needs them to do is not above Nick’s character. He does kind of fudge the truth a bit to get them to take the bait and join in, and eventually they all do.”

Director Joss Whedon had this to say when asked about why he has such admiration for the actor who will be his Nick Fury. “I always think that there are two of him because he is famous for the sort of bravado ‘Pulp Fiction’ speechifying guy who can out-moxie anybody in the room. Before we started shooting the film I told Sam my biggest note to remember was ‘less Shaft, more Glass [Jackson’s character in “Unbreakable].’ I wanted to see a guy who could absolutely command a room with his voice that leaves no question of who is in charge of this enormous organization. I am also a huge ‘Unbreakable’ fan, so I’m also very much in love with the great depth and well of sadness that he can bring to the character as well.”

And now for one last one from Disney (via CBM) with every major actor talking about their character.:

Robert Downey Jr. on Iron Man: “Tony Stark is open to all possibilities and has no problem accepting extraordinary happennings. Joining The Avengers team is an act of curiosity – he wants to see what’s happening first-hand. He realized a while ago that he’s not an island and this time around he is beginning to understand that it’s about a group mindsent and that ‘we’ is better than ‘I.'”

Chris Evans on Captain America: “Big parts of Steve Rogers are his good nature, high morals and strong values. Those morals and values were created in a time when people treated each other differently. The level of interaction was a bit deeper. Everything feels one step apart with all of the technology we have now. A lot of the things that he believed in, stood for and loved have changed. They’re not gone – they’re just different. He’s trying to find his footing in a modern world.”

Chris Hemsworth on Thor: “Thor has more of a personal investment in what’s happening than the other Super Heroes becuase Loki is his brother. The bigger conflict for him is that he’s trying to protect the greater good, but he has some deep questions about what is going on with his brother.”

Mark Ruffalo on The Hulk: “This Hulk is mercurial. He’s very unpredictable; he’s nuanced. There’s a sense of humor there; there’s an ability to communicate. But he’s bristly and he’s incredibly dangerous, like a wild animal. His rage feels real; his reactions to things feel human.”

Jeremy Renner on Hawkeye: “Hawkeye is alone in the game, an outcast and a loner; he’s a lone wolf sort of character, so he’s not a team player, but will be there if needed.”

Scarlett Johansson on Black Widow: “Black Widow is all business. She’s sort of in a grey area. In a sense she’s been fighting the good fight, despite her dark background. But she’s committed because she has to be and her moral ground is more dutiful. She’s militaristic in that way; that’s how she knows right from wrong.”

THE AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Samuel L. Jackson on Nick Fury: “Nick Fury monitors a lot of things and when he sees a need he generally goes against the grain; he rubs a lot of people the wrong way by taking actions in situations that they don’t necessarily want him to take action in but he does anyway.”

Cobie Smulders on Maria Hill: “Maria Hill and Nick Fury butt heads constantly. I think that Maria is a little bit more intuitive than Nick. But throughout the course of the film, she realizes that he is involved and he does care, and he is taking the right steps to protect our country and fight the bad guys.”

Clark Gregg on Phil Coulson: “When you look at the team, it’s made up of rock stars and divas with giant muscles and super-powered egos, so somebody has the job backstage to make them all play in the same super band—and that’s what Agent Coulson does.”

THE VILLAIN

Tom Hiddleston on Loki: “Loki’s villainy is motivated by the fact that he’s damaged and searching for his place in the universe, but in this film he’s a lot more menacing and a lot more powerful. He’s much more self-possessed. He’s also a god, so he’s more powerful than any human.”

Now we have words from Joss Whedon about the writing process, how he was able to squeeze the Avengers team into a single film and setting things up for a possible sequel.
From Den of Geek:

What was your process, when you sat down and said ‘I’ve got to write this’?
Well, the first part of it is just extraordinary fun, which is “What would these characters say to each other? how would they define themselves?” And I got to spend a few weeks just floating in that o-zone, “what if we did this?” and “ooh!”

Most of that stuff never sees the light of day, but it does sock you into it. Once you get into the practical stuff, like “How does this guy…”, it’s a nightmare. And it’s a recurring nightmare, because it was so much like Serenity in that way. So I really sort of went “Oh, God, I’ve done it again!” Because Serenity was pulling teeth to figure out the structure. And the same was true of The Avengers. And because we had a release date, we had to start production, it was a fairly terrifying experience at that point. But once it started to fall into place, I got back to the fun part.

How did you coalesce the many character backgrounds into one movie?
Well, you don’t try to make anybody else’s movie. Jon Favreau’s going to do a thing, Ken’s going to do a thing. I’m going to do something else. And obviously Iron Man’s very grounded in the real world, and that was the trademark, Captain America was a period piece, and Thor, obviously, was not grounded entirely in the real world. You have all of these disparate elements, you just have to create an atmosphere, and a look, where they all seem to feel natural.

And it’s not actually that difficult, because the people who are just finding out what’s going on, people like Tony Stark – him finding out there’s an Asgardian god hanging around… The science is there. A great scientist is more open to a new idea than almost anybody. And so, there is no impossible paradigm. No one clutches their head and goes “No! It can’t be!” They’re all so extraordinary that it doesn’t really faze them that there’s somebody else extraordinary about.

And then, are you in the conversation when Marvel Studios talk about future sequels and further films?
Yes, the other reason I cite comics is that there’s also a larger universe going on that you have to respect. I’m not going to do something that’s going to make Captain America 2 impossible, I’m not going to take something that should be in Thor 2 and put it in my film. I am trying to tee them up as much as I’m recovering from whatever they gave me. But, again, it just makes it an interesting puzzle, and although I’m not a genius of plot, I do enjoy a puzzle.

There is a little bit of “Right, how can I progress the characters, without solving all their problems?”. I like things where you feel the resolve is “we’ve made a step forward”, not “we’ve completed the journey”. That’s something with Buffy that we were very strict about, it wasn’t “well we’ve certainly cured that guy’s ills forever!”, it was like “okay, we’ve saved him from the thing, and eventually maybe he’ll be able to deal with the trauma”. It’s always a process.

And yet another from Marvel studio head Kevin Feige about assembling The Avengers in the first place

From SFX: (via CBM)

At what point during the production of the previous Marvel films did The Avengers seem like a viable idea?

Kevin Feige: “My recollection of it was it was either midway through the development of the script for Iron Man, or midway through the production for Iron Man – I don’t remember which – but there was an epiphany that we had at one point. Our main goal… if you remember, we had become Marvel Studios then; we had gotten our own financing to do the movies ourselves, so we were essentially an independent film studio working on a movie that we knew had to compete with Spider-Man and X-Men and the best of the movies that we had done with our studio partners.

“So our only goal was ‘Make the best Iron Man movie we can.’ We had strong instincts about how to do that, and all we were working on was how to best bring Tony Stark to the masses.

“But there was a moment, during that process, when it dawned on me that we could use any of the other characters that we had in the Marvel universe. I had been working on Marvel movies for about five years before that, and whether it was on an X-Men movie or a Spider-Man movie or the development of a Fantastic Four movie, there was always at least one point where a screenwriter would ask, ‘Oh, can we use this person or that person or can we use SHIELD?’ And we were always saying, ‘Oh no you can’t, because this studio only has these characters, and that studio only has those characters, and we don’t have the rights for that.’

“And when that question came up on Iron Man, I said… ‘Wait a minute, yes we can! We can use that! We have it all, it’s ours!’ And that’s how the character of Agent Coulson appeared very briefly in Iron Man, because we wanted somebody who was sniffing around: ‘What’s Tony Stark doing? What’s he working on?’ And because we already had that in the script, I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to do something that announces to the fans, to the world and to the movie-going public, that these films we’re doing are going to take place in the Marvel Universe? These films are going to take place in the universe where all of these heroes exist.

“But we didn’t want to take up any real screen time doing that. We didn’t want to confuse people who had no idea what the Marvel Universe was. We wanted to make a great Iron Man movie. Which is why you had to sit through seven minutes of end credits to see Sam Jackson walk in with an eyepatch and tell Tony Stark, ‘You’re part of a bigger universe; you just don’t know it yet.’

“That was really the beginning of it, and the movie opened and did very well and people, whether they knew who Nick Fury was or not, loved the idea of ‘What’s Sam Jackson doing in an eyepatch at the end of this movie?’ People really seemed to gravitate towards this idea, and that’s when we sort of knew it was going to work and started laying out our master plan, our five year plan to Avengers.”

Was there any danger of The Avengers becoming “The Tony Stark Show”, as he is so popular?

“I think that easily could have happened, perhaps somewhere else, right? If you’re dealing with a traditional studio that’s just looking at, ‘Wait a minute, that’s the biggest movie and the biggest character, let’s do that.’ But that’s not what The Avengers is, right? The Avengers is not Iron Man 3. That starts shooting in nine weeks. The Avengers is about those group of characters, so there is no real leader to The Avengers in the comic books. They each serve their own purpose and it was important enough to us to do that. So while Tony Stark is an amazing character and has a gigantic role in the movie, we did not want to make it just The Iron Man Show because that’s not what the comics are.

“We were betting that our plan was going to fall into place because we’d cast Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki in both movies before the first Thor came out! So we were betting on our own ability to make these movies and for the audience to respond to these characters in a way that would make them relevant when it came a year later to The Avengers film. Same with Chris Evans and Captain America. So we were very pleased and frankly breathed a sigh of relief when Thor worked, and when Captain America worked, and when people had embraced those characters and those actors because we were in too deep by that point. We weren’t turning back! So that was a sigh of relief.

“We’d even starting filming Avengers before those two films came out. It was nice that they came out during production and you could see Hemsworth and Hiddleston get very excited after their opening weekend, and Chris Evans was nervous for a while and then he breathed a sigh of relief and was very pleased! And Downey, of course, was pleased that his movie still did a little better than those other two.”

It’s tempting to see The Avengers as the culmination of all the other movies. How do you see it? Do you see it as everything building towards The Avengers or is The Avengers part of the building process, with Thor 2, Iron Man 3, etc to come?

“You know, everything we do, everything we’ve done over the years, is to try to emulate the experience of reading a comic. Of reading and experiencing and anticipating that Wednesday when a new comic is going to be released. And part of that are these events, these big crossover events that happen once a year or once every few years, where all the characters would come together for some universe-shaking thing. And then they would go back into their own books changed slightly from whatever that crossover event was. So ideally that’s the model that we’re gonna follow. So all these movies led up to The Avengers and The Avengers will be the jumping-off point for the next phase.

“I found myself calling Iron Man through to The Avengers ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One’ and now from Iron Man 3 up to, knocking wood, maybe Avengers 2, ‘Phase Two’. Each of these big over-arching chapters of the Marvel Universe. So The Avengers is the culmination of what’s gone before and the jumping-off point of what’s to come.”

Will we see any teases towards something like Civil War?

“I don’t know if there would be an overt teaser for Civil War but you can obviously see that in the decades and decades of Avengers comics prior to the Civil War event, the conflict between the characters, the differences in worldviews of all the characters that led up to what happened in Civil War – certainly that’s in this movie. You can see how different Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are in a great way. In this movie the question is, are they going to be able to stop fighting each other long enough to fight the bad guy? Civil War would someday be a great crossover event, but here it’s more in the character interactions that you can see that stuff, than a direct easter egg or anything.”

Will the end of this movie have a teaser onto something else – and can you tell us anything?

“Well, as you can imagine, probably not!” [Laughter]

Can you hint? One presumes that it will lead into Iron Man 3…

“The minute we become predictable is when we become boring, right? So we’re avoiding becoming boring for as long as possible!”

PHEW! What do you think? Do these interviews give you a better idea of what went into making The Avengers? There’s almost too much information here to absorb!

Exclusive

Hypable dives deep into Crooked Kingdom with Leigh Bardugo, discussing the art, heart, and future of her dynamic duology Six of Crows.

In addition to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, Bardugo is the author of the best-selling Grisha Trilogy, and is currently writing a young-adult Wonder Woman novel.

Crooked Kingdom, due out tomorrow, continues the tale of Kaz Brekker and his motley gang of young (and only occasionally reluctant) criminals. Set in the chilly streets of Ketterdam, Kaz’s crew finds themselves working against the clock in game where the stakes have risen from “seriously high” to “catastrophically personal.”

Read full article

Hypable dives deep into Crooked Kingdom with Leigh Bardugo, discussing the art, heart, and future of her dynamic duology Six of Crows.

In addition to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, Bardugo is the author of the best-selling Grisha Trilogy, and is currently writing a young-adult Wonder Woman novel.

Crooked Kingdom, due out tomorrow, continues the tale of Kaz Brekker and his motley gang of young (and only occasionally reluctant) criminals. Set in the chilly streets of Ketterdam, Kaz’s crew finds themselves working against the clock in game where the stakes have risen from “seriously high” to “catastrophically personal.”

Cunningly magical and exactingly scientific, Bardugo’s work celebrates quirks of character, and champions diverse protagonists who challenge readers on every page — which is just about as often as they challenge themselves.

This interview is spoiler-free for Crooked Kingdom.

Interview with Leigh Bardugo

One of the major differences between Six of Crows and the Grisha Trilogy is the way you utilize perspective. How did you decide to structure the duology among multiple points of view?

I knew when I wanted to tell a heist story that I didn’t want to tell it first-person POV. It can be done, if I’m not mistaken, Ally Carter wrote her heist books in first person, but I had a clear idea of how I wanted to break the chapters, and how I wanted to release information. And I feel like that’s what heists and cons are really about.

Both Holly Black, and Ally Carter and I have all commiserated on the challenges of writing a heist, and I can’t remember which one of them said it, but it’s not just about conning the mark — it’s about conning the reader. And I felt like having these different, shifting perspectives would give me more opportunities to do that.

Obviously, that structure is very George R.R. Martin-esque. Did you take any inspiration from the point-of-view structure in A Song of Ice and Fire?

As far as I’m concerned, A Song of Ice and Fire is my touchstone for fantasy, particularly the first three books. And I think there are certain things I’ve definitely taken from [Martin], like the geography as destiny. But also, starting with redshirt who gets killed off is very much a Martin trick! [laughs] But it was also kind of a way to get people up to speed in terms of the powers that existed in the Grisha world and the potential for what [jurda parem] could do… to put everything on the playing field and move into the rest of the action.

six-of-crows1

Did you find much of a difference between writing Six of Crows and writing Crooked Kingdom? Very little time passes between the two books, but almost everybody is in radically different mindsets.

I think the biggest difference in Crooked Kingdom is, in the beginning of Six of Crows, Kaz is assembling the team. So you have some people who know each other, but you have some who don’t, and none of them trust each other — with the exclusion of Kaz and Inej, but even that is trust with conditions.

And then they go through hell together, which naturally changes the way that they interact with each other, and the way that they think about each other. And so that’s really where they are in Crooked Kingdom. Six of Crows has this escalating level of action and interaction between these characters, whereas Crooked Kingdom, we hit the ground running. I think that there’s a lot more progress in those relationships because of what they’ve been through.

Let’s talk about Kaz for a bit — the guy with, ostensibly, all the answers. Where is he emotionally in Crooked Kingdom? How did you decide to employ him in the book?

He comes in a little later, but he’s definitely not used sparingly. It’s interesting, because I’ve always thought of Inej as the heart of the books, and I was talking to a friend recently and she was like, “Crooked Kingdom is much more her book.” And I was like, “Really? I think of Six of Crows as being very much her book!” But whoever reads it, they see a different hero, or a different protagonist, that the arc belongs to them. But I think everybody has pretty steep hill to climb with this one, honestly.

Early in the book, Kaz thinks that, over the course of the three days Inej has been missing, he has murdered the old Kaz Brekker, and now he’s all business. I was really struck by that — I thought he was all business before!

Well, Kaz has some very clear ideas on how you are able to survive in the world. And there are certain tools that have served him very well. It’s not an easy idea — he really believes there are punishments for making yourself vulnerable. And the truth is, in this environment that is 100% true. And that fact does not change throughout the book. That is the reality of the world that they live in. But whether or not Kaz can actually keep his humanity at bay is a different story.

He does start off involved in some fairly brutal business at the beginning of the book. It’s interesting, because you don’t pull many punches in Six of Crows, but in Crooked Kingdom it feels like… well, the gloves are not off, but the gloves are off!

[laughs] That should have been the tagline! “The gloves are not off! Crooked Kingdom!” I’m ready for that movie trailer.

You know, it’s interesting. In some ways, I think that… I don’t think Crooked Kingdom is necessarily a darker book. There are a lot of dark things that happen in it, but it is also… because these characters know each other better, I think… I mean, maybe I’m wrong, you never know when you’ve written a book what people are going to take from it. But for me, there are actually quite a lot of moments of lightness and hijinks. I think I felt freer to let them have certain adventures that were… I don’t want to use the word “zany!” But there’s a pleasure in going a little bit over the top when it comes to heists and cons, and I really wanted to indulge that.

crooked kingdom leigh bardugo interview

And because it is only a duology, there was a lot that had to happen emotionally. And I really am not into being beaten over the head with grimdark. My personality is like, is I sense tension in the room or if something bad has happened, I inevitably make the wisecrack. And I think that that sense of humor imbues the books — or I hope it does.

So would you say that Jesper takes some of that from you?

Yeah, probably! Jesper actually [says] in Crooked Kingdom, that he always thought of himself as a lucky guy. He’d always thought of himself as a generally happy person. And one of the things he has to contend with in this book is digging a little deeper than that, and understanding where his own compulsions come from, and some of the choices that he’s made. And the idea of acknowledging that there’s something beneath this easygoing manner. But I love writing Jesper. A lot.

And which character would you say you find the easiest to write?

You know, it depends on the book. In Six of Crows, the easiest character to write was Matthias, because he’s so dogmatic. He has such strong opinions, and he also has this very mannered, old school fantasy way of thinking. He has this kind of Arthurian bent to him. So he was very easy to write, but I think in terms of the character that was the most fun to write, it was probably Jesper.

In Crooked Kingdom, it was Wylan, because he was the person I was discovering most about as I wrote him. And he’s also in some ways the most YA of all the characters, because he has, for a big chunk of his life, despite the things that were going on at home with his father, has led a fairly sheltered life compared to the rest of these characters.

Speaking of YA, how do you balance the youth of Kaz and co. with their at times very mature exploits? At times, I find myself thinking, “These kids are so young!”

I think of them as sort of like CW teenagers! But I also think, you know, adolescence is a very modern construct, and we tend to forget about that. But I always say, what would Arya Stark be like at 17?

Stabby?

Very stabby. And very cynical! I get why there’s a certain suspension of disbelief required for the characters ages, and in truth, when I go to a high school to speak, or I go to a signing and I meet actual 16 and 17-year-olds, I’m like, “Oh my God! You are but wee children! You are but walking, talking, fetuses! I can’t put you in these horrible circumstances!” [laughs]

But I also think that that’s one of the conventions of YA — and also, look, life is nasty, brutish, and short in the worlds that I create. So unless you are of a very privileged class, and even then, you are probably not going to have a whole lot of time to eke out an existence.

It’s interesting, because Nina undergoes a very adolescent-like experience in Crooked Kingdom, grappling with the ways she has changed. In Six of Crows, she’s like Lady Confidence, and now…

Yeah, Nina’s confidence is shaken in a very fundamental way because of her attachment to her power, and it’s something that she’s never had to question before. And there are other things about her that remain unshaken, and she knows who she is on a lot of levels.

You know, I don’t think there’s anything interesting about keeping a character in one place. And people always talk about, “Oh, who are you going to kill off?” The worst thing you can do is not kill somebody off. One of the lessons that I really took from reading George R.R. Martin is, you take the thing that the character thinks defines them, and then you take it away, and you see what happens. That’s the Jaime Lannister lesson. And that, to me, was the exciting thing to do with some of the characters in the book.

Speaking of taking things from characters, what kind of challenges is Kaz facing internally at the start of Crooked Kingdom?

I think this is the moment when Kaz is deciding who is going to be. Because his life has been all about revenge, and one of the questions that Inej poses to him is not really about his attachment to her. It’s about, what comes after that? Are you just going to become exactly like the man you’re looking to destroy? Because the methods Kaz pursues are not any less ruthless than Pekka Rollins’.

He prides himself on that, actually.

Yes. Although he and Rollins have different ideas about where the lines are drawn. I think this is the book where all of the demons come home to roost. It’s the revenge and redemption book, but it’s also, which demon is going to win, essentially.

Kaz reminds me in a lot of ways of Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series — but ironically, Locke is a lot better-hearted than Kaz.

I actually read Lies of Locke Lamora after I wrote Six of Crows, because I had heard a lot about it, people had been telling me to read it for years. And then I read it, because I was really afraid that it would be so much like Six of Crows that I would be like, “Oh no! What have I done!” But as it turns out, they’re not at all alike.

Locke is very much the mode of the like, kindhearted trickster, as opposed to Kaz, who is like, “I will cut out your kind heart and eat it!”

Do you think of him at all like the Darkling from the Grisha Trilogy? They both have a profoundly diabolical streak.

I think the Darkling is a much more noble character than Kaz. The Darkling may have lost the thread in terms of his humanity and the cost of human life, but he has, ostensibly, noble goals. He’s a patriot, he believes in protecting his people, he’s trying to build a future for the Grisha that isn’t one of persecution. There are a lot of ways to defend the Darkling that don’t work for Kaz, who is very much out for himself, and out for revenge. And revenge is not necessarily a noble goal. It’s something you sympathize with, but it’s not something that is bigger than him.

But I really, [laughs] I really enjoyed writing him. And sometimes he would take me by surprise! And I don’t say that lightly, because I think of myself as very much in control of my characters — they don’t tell me what to do. But I remember writing the scene on the ship with Oomen and thinking, well, what is Kaz going to do here? And it was sort of like Kaz took over, and was like, “I’m telling you what I’m going to do!”

I took a great deal of pleasure in writing the details of that scene, and it’s weird, because I always know when people get to that scene. I know what page it is, because they’re like, “Page 158! Ahhh!” And the weird thing for me is, I’m like, I think it’s kind of romantic! He’ll poke a guy’s eye out for you, baby, and then throw him in the drink!

It is very sweet, in a murderous way. Were there any similar moments where you thought Kaz went overboard? Or did you ever have to push him?

I pulled back, actually. In Crooked Kingdom there was a torture scene that I ended up taking out, because it was just too much. It’s not that it was implausible for the character, but there was already enough brutality happening. And I think sometimes we’re pulled toward these things because they have a certain amount of emotional resonance in them, and high stakes in them.

But I think we also, somehow the idea of being dark, or edgy, or gritty, has come to mean that you’re somehow more legitimate or the story is weightier. And I try to sometimes consciously push against that, because I want this world to feel real, I want it to feel like the peril is real, but we do write for young people. And I want my readers to be able to follow me there without feeling hopeless.

Looking at the bigger picture, how did it feel to craft this story as a duology?

Weird! [laughs] I’m honestly a real lover of structure. I believe very firmly in the resonances of narrative structure, and to me they kind of provide a safety net for writing. I can look at my own stories and say, okay, well, this was squishy here, or this moment needed to come sooner, or this wasn’t a strong enough twist. And to me, the natural structure for a story is three acts. And I think that’s still the story that got told, it just got told in two books. That second act did not belong to it’s own book. But it’s funny, I sort of thought of it — it just always felt like this shape.

And for the characters who survive, there could continue to be stories, but for this particular moment, this is the moment where we pause with them. And in some ways, it just felt like it always had this shape, is the best way I can put it.

I love the duology format — there’s a natural urgency to it, I think, and that serves the heist story particularly well.

It does, it does. And I’ve always sort of thought of these books as, when I set out to write them, I told my editor — I gave her a proposal, but I said, I’ve never written a book like this before. So I don’t know if it’s one book, or if it’s two books, or if it’s three books, and we’ll just have to play it by ear. And at the end of the first book, I was like, okay. I can tie up all of the plot-things easy, there’s a very natural way to do this. I was like, but the emotional things I wanted to do with these characters, they went deeper and darker than I expected them to, and there’s no way they can earn the endings that I think they deserve in one book.

It’s true, at the end of Six of Crows it feels like the characters think they’ve reached their endings, and they haven’t.

I think too, that’s what makes heists interesting. There’s the fun side of them, but the thing that really makes them exciting, particularly in books as opposed to film is what the challenges are that the characters have to overcome. People enter in, these are characters who appear highly competent at the beginning of Six of Crows, and then they face these challenges… that undermine that competence, and that’s what makes the heist exciting.

It’s not that like, OH! This is happening! And this is blowing up! Or this person got caught! It’s what they have to overcome personally within the story. And for Crooked Kingdom, that was kind of doubly true, because they have this whole new set of challenges that are coming out them, and they’ve just had their armor torn to bits, so they’re a lot more vulnerable to those challenges.

So moving forward, what are you working on now?

Well, I’m working on Wonder Woman right now, and I have a couple of other projects that I can’t talk about yet, but one is one that I have been wanting to write for a very long time. And some other things cooking!

What is it like writing Wonder Woman?

You know, it’s really very joyful! The strange thing about it is that I have just come off the heels of writing these very morally compromised characters, and Diana has her own challenges to contend with, but she is at her heart a very kind hero. And it’s one of the things I think people love so much about her, is that she has this deep empathy, and this deep kindness.

She comes from a culture where that is valued, and where the suffering of others means something. And so it’s been really fun to write her! And I feel like I’m in a better mood! I’ll come out of my writing day, and I’m like, oh, I feel good! And then I’m like, maybe it’s because I wasn’t writing about murder and torture!

So it’s been great. I feel like there’s obviously a tremendous weight of expectations that are attached to the character and I want to do right by the character, but I’m really glad I’m doing it. I don’t think there’s any other character I would have wanted to put my other work aside for than Wonder Woman.

Did you like the trailer?

I LOVED IT!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is available tomorrow from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore.

What are your top theories for ‘Crooked Kingdom’?

Anyone who received a mole or rat Patronus in J.K. Rowling’s new quiz is getting a little reassurance from the Harry Potter author.

Last week Pottermore took the fandom by storm when they debuted the long-awaited Patronus quiz. It’s a next-level personality quiz — it’s beautiful and provides a real sense of magic. Overall, we love it!

There’s just one problem: Many people are getting Patronuses they don’t particularly like. After all this waiting, these poor fans got stuck with a creature that they’re allergic to (cats), are scared of (rats), or they simply don’t like (moles).

Read full article

Anyone who received a mole or rat Patronus in J.K. Rowling’s new quiz is getting a little reassurance from the Harry Potter author.

Last week Pottermore took the fandom by storm when they debuted the long-awaited Patronus quiz. It’s a next-level personality quiz — it’s beautiful and provides a real sense of magic. Overall, we love it!

There’s just one problem: Many people are getting Patronuses they don’t particularly like. After all this waiting, these poor fans got stuck with a creature that they’re allergic to (cats), are scared of (rats), or they simply don’t like (moles).

Over the weekend Rowling fielded a couple of complaints by offering the upside to getting a rat or mole Patronus.

Rat Patronus explanation:

Mole Patronus explanation:

All told, there are over 140 Patronuses. Can she get to work on writing reassuring comments on every single one of ’em?

In a press release announcing the Patronus quiz, Pottermore said that “further new information and features will be revealed about the spell and its outcomes” in the “months to come.” Hopefully that means we really are getting detailed explanations.

Related: Hypable’s staff reacts to their Patronus results and what they mean

Exclusive

At Copenhagen Comic-Con, Hypable caught up with Game of Thrones actress Kerry Ingram for a chat about Shireen’s horrific death scene, Netflix, and horseback riding.

It seemed like a full-circle moment when I got to sit down with Kerry Ingram and tell her just how much Shireen Baratheon’s death upset me. Even on a show like Game of Thrones, which makes an art out of assaulting its viewers’ senses, that particular scene felt like it crossed a line — and that was just my reaction, watching safely from behind a computer screen! How must the actress herself feel, having to actually act out her character’s death at such a young age?

This led to a wider musing about what Game of Thrones does to protect its child actors from the horrific things their characters experience. (Ingram is now 17, but was only barely in her mid-teens when that scene was filmed.) I also wondered if she ever went back and watched the scene. Turned out she watched it live with the rest of us — but, luckily, she was able to find the fun side of the situation: Outraged reactions like my own. The irony is sweet.

Read full article

At Copenhagen Comic-Con, Hypable caught up with Game of Thrones actress Kerry Ingram for a chat about Shireen’s horrific death scene, Netflix, and horseback riding.

It seemed like a full-circle moment when I got to sit down with Kerry Ingram and tell her just how much Shireen Baratheon’s death upset me. Even on a show like Game of Thrones, which makes an art out of assaulting its viewers’ senses, that particular scene felt like it crossed a line — and that was just my reaction, watching safely from behind a computer screen! How must the actress herself feel, having to actually act out her character’s death at such a young age?

This led to a wider musing about what Game of Thrones does to protect its child actors from the horrific things their characters experience. (Ingram is now 17, but was only barely in her mid-teens when that scene was filmed.) I also wondered if she ever went back and watched the scene. Turned out she watched it live with the rest of us — but, luckily, she was able to find the fun side of the situation: Outraged reactions like my own. The irony is sweet.

At Copenhagen Comic-Con 2016 I got to ask Kerry Ingram all this and more, while also diving into more fun topics like Shireen and Arya’s hypothetical take-over of Westeros, and Ingram’s new Netflix series, on which she plays ‘Becky with the good hair’ and gets to do lots of horseback riding. Watch the full interview below:

Ingram’s new Netflix series stars Jaylen Barron as Zoë, a 15-year-old American girl whose stay at Bright Field Stables in the U.K. leads her to form an unexpected friendship with a mysterious horse named Raven.

The Lime Pictures drama also stars Celine Buckens and Natalie Gumede. It was created by Anna McCleery and Vicki Lutas, and is tentatively expected to premiere on Netflix in 2017.

Follow Kerry Ingram on Twitter to keep up with her latest projects. Read more Game of Thrones news right here on Hypable.

This interview was done in collaboration with the Danish entertainment site Kulturbunkeren. Thanks to Copenhagen Comic-Con for making it possible!