Rachel Caine Q&A: The Great Library, YA vs. Adult, spin-offs and what’s next!


Author Rachel CaineRachel Caine’s name is pretty synonymous with urban fantasy—both of the YA and adult varieties. Her books can arguably be called a staple of the genre (the Morganville Vampires and Weather Warden series alone are testaments to that).

Last year saw the debut of Rachel Caine’s new series The Great Library. With the awesome world-building, and mysterious characters, it’s no wonder Ink and Bone made VBC’s Best of List 2015. It’s also probably an understatement to say we’re super excited about the second book Paper and Fire. Read our review right now.

Read on as Rachel Caine gives us her two cents on the series including some tidbits about what we can look forward to next. Enjoy!

Amy/VBC: Where did the idea for The Great Library series come from?

Rachel Caine: It started (as often happens with me) with an image … of a man in a black robe walking out of a burning city with books in his arms, while all around him an army kept back those who wanted to flee the destruction. I didn’t know why he was carrying books, or why the army was allowing him through, until I began to think about the role of books in ancient times. Books were things of power, valuable, fought over. And that led me naturally to the idea of the Great Library of Alexandria, which (for its time) surely had the most power of any place in the world, from a purely intellectual standpoint.

VBC: With such a wide range of interesting (and mysterious) characters, how did Jess Brightwell stand out as the best character to be the main protagonist?

Rachel Caine: I felt that in order to have him be really interesting, he couldn’t just be one of the true believers … he had to be an outsider, an observer who could help get us into the world. As a book smuggler’s son (and a smuggler himself), he’s perfect to see the Library in a less-than-flattering way, while others might not have until it was too late.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine // VBCVBC: Would you ever consider possibly doing a novella, or spin-off, featuring Santi and Wolfe, or any of the other characters in the lead?

Rachel Caine: TOTALLY. I already wrote a short story featuring Wolfe and Santi (available free on Wattpad here) and I find those two completely, wonderfully fascinating. I will definitely be writing more about them.

VBC: Being an author who has written both adult and YA, what are some considerations you have to make when going into one or the other? Have you ever found as you’re writing that a YA starts becoming too adult and have to tone it down a bit? Or vice versa? I feel like, so far, in these first two books of The Great Library, there are times when the lines are blurred.

Rachel Caine: It’s an interesting thing … it’s all about the situations in which you place your young adult characters. If I wrote a series about a young woman competing for a spot in the Olympics, it might be more approachable to younger readers (because it’s solidly in the real world, though to be honest most of us will never inhabit that world at all!) … but at the same time, the themes would be adult in nature, about pushing one’s self to the limits, excellence, achievement, competition. Perhaps the dark sides of all of those things, too.

I don’t think setting those characters into a fantasy world—dark as it is—makes it any less YA. I think adult readers have a more difficult time with envisioning YA as complex than younger readers have. There’s a certain idea that YA has to be somehow simpler that I think is quite wrong. It needs to be honest. That’s all.

Having said this, I think the Great Library books really are accessible from both an adult and young adult viewpoint. I have YA readers talk excitedly about the friendship and bonding of the younger characters, and the adult readers focusing on the world and the politics … but it’s all the same story, just what speaks most to them.

I was a highly aspirational reader as a young person—at 13, I was tackling Stephen King and Samuel R. Delaney, Frank Herbert and C.J. Cherryh. I don’t think young people expect (or want) “easy stories” … just stories they can really immerse themselves in.

Content-wise, I try to stick fairly close to what I want to focus on in the story itself … which, in the case of the Great Library, is really not about the romance(s), but about the adventure.

That’s not so much tamping it down for a YA audience as writing the story the way I think it needs to be told.

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine // VBCVBC: How many books are planned in The Great Library series?

Rachel Caine: I really see it as a 3-book story. Maybe with some spinoff short stories for the adult characters, or possibly more, but right now, it’s such a gigantic story I can’t see much past it!

VBC: Is there anything you can tell us about what we might expect to see next in the series after Paper and Fire?

Rachel Caine: Jess is going to discover a painful truth that, at the same time, brings hope … and set them all on a path away from becoming part of the Library, and becoming its opposition. This is the book where the Library reveals its true colors, I think, and those are very dark and dangerous.

You’ll get to see closer inside the Iron Tower, and visit some really fascinating locations, like Rome and … other places I can’t tell you about. But interesting places!

And the characters will become much more united in their goals, I think, though they’ll be pushed to, and beyond, their limits.

Of course, we’ll continue on in book 3, Ash and Quill, in July 2017!

VBC: Jess is a character who loves physical books—the look, the feel, the smell—despite them being strictly prohibited. What are some of your favorite books you’d risk the wrath of The Library to own physical copies of?

Rachel Caine: I have some that I’ve almost read to rags … an early copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, which really ignited my love for romantic historical adventure stories; a copy of the first three books of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, that is every bit as ruthless and engrossing a tale as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones; and last but not least, a bound library copy of Harper’s Bazaar magazines from the late 1880s, which is a true window into the past.

Those are just a few. I have so many that I’d fight to save!

Thank you so much for the chance to speak to you. Read on! – Rachel Caine

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