Interview: Marina R.B Author Of Crystal Tear
"Crystal Tear" offers a unique perspective on the coming-of-age journey with Fada being in her twenties. Why did you feel it was essential to focus on this particular age group, and how does it differ from the traditional teenage protagonists in YA novels?
It seems to be commonly believed that the coming of age stage of people’s life will always happen in your teens. However for many people, myself included, it happens much later in life and I would often feel disconnected to YA books as a teenager because I believed something was wrong with me for not feeling ready for this part of my life to start already. Over the years, I have then met with many other individuals who would feel that way too and that’s how I decided to make Fada a twenty year-old rather than a teenage girl. Especially after the pandemic, I have noticed more and more people experiencing this aspect of their life in their twenties and I wanted to give people like them and me a character they could truly identify with. We need to realise that there is no shame to have in not having experienced our coming of age in our teens whether by choice or lack of opportunities.
Your background is rich in travel and experience, from growing up in France to studying in London and returning. How have these personal experiences influenced the setting and narrative of "Crystal Tear”?
As much as I love France and its culture, I cannot not help but feel disconnected from it and never truly believed like I belonged there. As young as 14 years old, I was already mentioning to my surrounding how I wanted to move to the UK as soon as secondary school would be finished and how I was drawn to it. Then at the age of 17, I moved to London and although feeling rather lonely at times, I still could not help but feeling like this was my home and despite all my loved ones being in France, I just knew deep within my heart that the biggest adventures of my life would be given to me if I remained in England. Just like Fada, my heart was torn between the feeling of finally belonging and missing my loved ones. Then the pandemic hit all of us, and not knowing when I would ever be allowed to travel again and see my family crushed me. I decided then to write that part of Fada’s story more in depth, now understanding how painful and scary it was to be left all alone, unable to hug the people she loves.
You mentioned feeling disconnected from teenage protagonists in coming-of-age novels even as a teen. Could you expand on this? Were there specific themes or events in YA novels that didn't resonate with you?
Being a teenager was alienating to me. I believe I went from being a child to being a grown-up with a child heart without ever reaching the teen spirit. Although I’ve often felt disconnected to the world and people around me, my teenage years brought that feeling the a deeper level. I suppose most teenagers go through this phase of being confused between childish behaviours and adult making decisions, but somehow, I felt like it was multiplied for me. Sex seemed to be in everybody’s head but for me, the idea of being intimate with anyone just did not feel right. I was interested in it, but I just knew that I was nowhere near ready to do such things in my teen years. And just like my main character, Fada, I found it hard to truly enjoy parties and gathering with other teenagers. I liked my friends and enjoyed spending time with them, but somehow something was missing, like I wanted to either continue playing childish games or take part of more grown up conversations. But that in-between behaviour left me very unfulfilled. The whole YA aspect such as experiencing with love or sex, partying, making bad decisions because we want to rebel, all those things felt like it happened too early. I eventually experienced and enjoyed those things, but much later than what most YA stories make you believe is the “right” age for them.
The fantasy element of "Crystal Tear" provides a rich backdrop to Fada's journey. How did the imaginary world of Hagalaz come to life in your mind?
Crystal Tear started on a snowy day, not long after my 16th birthday. I was sat by the window, staring at the fields around my family house, covered with snow. I instantly started to write down the precise description of this view. I read that whole text a few times and soon, the idea of a man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes appeared in my head. Gradually, the story started to build with more characters and events which eventually made sense, creating Fada’s journey. At first, the story of Fada discovering herself was what truly mattered to me but then, as I was using my fantasy world to tell her story, more and more background stories were starting to appear in my head and soon, I realised that I had created and entire world. I love the idea of having my own world, where I can do absolutely whatever I want, without being constrained by historical facts or Earthly rules.
Angel plays a pivotal role in introducing Fada to Hagalaz. Can you shed light on the inspiration behind his character and the symbolism of his name?
Like most things I write, it’s hard to explain how they come to me and what makes them what they are. For as long as I can remember, I’ve created characters and scenarios in my head before falling asleep and so I assume Angel has started as one of them. I also believe that everything we experience in life is somehow imprinted in us forever, so perhaps I have been inspired by a real person, or a fictional character. I do know that many of my favourite characters as a child happened to be men or boys with short black hair and blue eyes (Tuxedo mask from Sailor Moon, Eric from The Little Mermaid or Jean from Sophie’s Misfortunes). Perhaps those characters merged into one to create Angel in my head. As for his name, and like every name in my book, it came to me out of nowhere, as I was writing the story, the name just suddenly dropped from my head to my fingers and then to the pages of my laptop. I wish I could tell you I have put meaning behind it, and perhaps there is one on a subconscious level, but so far all I know is that it just appeared to me, just like he appeared in Fada’s life, out of the blue.
King Netis is another central figure in Fada's life in Hagalaz. How did you approach writing his character and his relationship dynamics with Fada?
Some readers have mentioned how they believe Netis to be a toxic character with lots of red flags and unfortunately, I cannot agree with that. He isn’t perfect, and has quite a few flaws (especially his short and bad temper at times) but I do not think this makes him a bad person. I believe there is good in everyone, and most importantly, I believe that nobody is born evil nor bad. Life and its many events and traumas shape us over the years and somehow we all react in different ways. As for Netis, his past is full of misfortunes and traumas, which is the reason why he might behave roughly at times. Human psychology is one of my many passions and I adore exploring the mind. I created Netis with the idea that he is a good person with difficulties showing it to the world because of how much he has been hurt in the past. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast has been an inspiration when creating Netis. The way he opens up to Belle and let her see his good side after trying to look like a cruel and insensitive being has been one of my biggest inspiration for Fada and Netis’ dynamics.
Many authors draw from personal experiences and emotions when crafting a story. Were there particular moments or feelings from your own life that found their way into "Crystal Tear”?
As I’ve mentioned previously, living in another country, far from the people I love whilst learning a new culture and language has been a huge inspiration to write Fada’s feelings. Many of my life experiences have been similar to Fada’s (minus the fantasy world unfortunately) and yet they all happened after writing the first draft of Crystal Tear. It’s almost as if, as a teenager, I had created what I believed my future would be like, and somehow it happened in real life too. When I wrote about Fada’s relationship with both Angel and Netis, I had not experienced love nor physical interactions yet. But years later, I’ve had my own stories with men and discovering what true love really is and how it can be misinterpreted, which felt strangely all too familiar as I had written something similar in my story years ago.
Your love for art is evident in your personal life. Did any of your passions, such as drawing, photography, or music, influence the narrative or descriptions within the book?
When I write, I see the scenes in my head, just like a film and so I tend to be fairly descriptive with characters’ features. When it comes to landscapes, similarly I can picture it like a drawing or a painting and therefore I describe it in such a way. Creating art makes you notice every little details around you and I believe I have done the same in my writing. I have also been listening to music a lot when writing, creating a playlist especially for that. For the scenes between Netis and Fada, I was listening to the same soundtrack in a loop and I believe that helped me translate the feelings between them even more.
Transitioning your writing from French to English is no small feat. What were some of the challenges you faced in this process, and how do you think the story evolved or changed as a result?
The current book has pretty much nothing to do with the first version which was in French. As well as translating it, I also reviewed it and therefore, even though the main story remains the same, the words are completely different. I would say that the French version was sort of a blueprint for it, showing me how each chapter would be built but the words weren’t really translated, as I decided to re-write everything with better wording but most importantly, better understanding of my characters and their journeys.
You began writing "Crystal Tear" at the age of 16 and refined it over several years. How did the narrative and characters grow or change as you matured?
When I started writing Crystal Tear, I had not come of age and therefore, most of Fada’s misadventures where purely fiction and not based of my experience at all. Over the years, I went through similar situation as her and therefore, I’ve had to change a few scenes to make it more realistic and closer to my reality.
Your consistent diary writing since the age of 11 is intriguing. How has this habit influenced your storytelling skills, and did any diary entries inspire events or emotions in "Crystal Tear”?
Writing my thoughts and feelings has always been my form of therapy. I am not one to talk out loud about the way I feel so every time I have been down, sad, grieving etc, writing has been my one and only friend. Crystal Tear starting as a sort of diary too. Expect for the fantasy elements, I have been using my own experiences and emotions but putting Fada’s voice on it. The writing style in Crystal Tear is pretty much the writing style of my diaries, which is my way to cope with my feelings and emotions whilst adding a fictional element to it.
Coming of age often involves facing and overcoming challenges. How did you strike a balance between fantasy elements and real-world issues to make the story relatable to readers?
I want Crystal Tear to feel like we are reading Fada’s memories or private diary and therefore, I wrote it the way I would have written my own diary, if that story would have happened to me. Although fantasy elements are presents, we can still identify with the characters because they are human beings nonetheless, going through life the same way we do on Earth. The fantasy aspect of Crystal Tear is more of a background for me, in order to create my own world with my own rules, laws, culture etc. Magic is a lot more present in Hagalaz than it is on Earth, and some background stories include a big chunk of magical elements but my main priority was to follow Fada’s journey and understanding the psychology behind it all.
How do you envision Fada's journey continuing? Can readers expect any sequels or spin-offs set in the world of Hagalaz?
I am currently writing the prequel to Crystal Tear, which will give answers to many questions readers have been asking me about. I also have planned on writing 2 sequels to Crystal Tear among many other stories from my world. I cannot say more about it without spoiling anything but I cannot wait for readers to discover all the fantastic journeys I have planned for my characters.
Having worked in various fields, from filmmaking to being an au-pair, how have these experiences contributed to your storytelling perspective?
I love analysing people and their behaviour. Looking after children is especially enlightening when it comes to human’s interactions because this is when personalities and experiences are starting to be built. Children have a unique and innocent way of viewing life, which is so different from most adults. But that’s also a great way of noticing how life can impact someone’s personality and natural behaviour. I am constantly analysing people’s behaviour, children or adults, which then gives me a fantastic blueprint for creating complex characters.
Lastly, what message or feeling do you hope readers take away from "Crystal Tear”?
I live by the saying “do not judge by appearances” and I cannot stretch enough how important it is to remember that proverb when reading Crystal Tear. Every behaviour which seems dumb or evil has a reason behind it and it’s important to remember that we are only reading a small portion of their lives. They have all gone through a lot before the beginning of the book and therefore, it’s important to keep your mind open and try to understand each character’s thought pattern. Same goes for life in general. People are judging and being misjudged constantly and I wish those behaviours could fade away.