Are you perhaps looking for a story where the magic system involves something a little more macabre than just your usual blood and bone? Then you should DEFINITELY pick up The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen, which is a story about a group outcast by society because of how they use their magic. It features a grumbly and feisty heroine who’s more interested in her cat than making friends with anyone else. Also, Margaret Owen is a talented artist and has rendered her characters to life for us to view once you finish the book. Or before if you look at her Twitter account! Definitely go check her book out, buy it, love it, and come and rave about it with me!
For those of us who don’t follow your amazing Twitter account, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, first of all, I DEFINITELY remember you, Nathalie! Your ARC was the first one I ever signed and you were the first reader I met in the wild and that was absolutely one of my favorite experiences too!
As for me, I’m a bit of a jill-of-all-trades (a natural side-effect of graduating in the bottom of the Recession), so I’ve worked everywhere from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. No matter what, though, I kept coming back to writing in my free time! And then my editor made the grave mistake of giving me enough money to do that full-time, and I’ve never looked back.
Could you describe The Merciful Crow in one word?
TEETH. That’s probably very concerning, and honestly, it should be.
I noticed (and coveted) that you illustrated a few arcs of The Merciful Crow, could you tell us how long it took to finish them all?
Depending on the illustration, anywhere from half an hour to a couple hours! I spaced them out over a few weeks, so when I had a free hour, I could knock one out.
The magic system for the crows in your book are teeth. Can I ask how you came up with that specific type?
I wanted the main character to have a unique power with set rules but some flexibility, and I wanted something about it to be a bit macabre. The first incarnation of that was having them call magic from plain old bones, but I quickly realized that walking around with a bag of femurs would just be impractical. (Or: just a normal Tuesday in Seattle.) Teeth were a) smaller, b) shed naturally so everyone would be able to pay, and c) just a wee bit more upsetting. So, jackpot!
Fie is such a fiend! I love her so much, where was she lurking when you started writing her character?
The first page of drawings I ever did of Fie were of her in her plague gear, then her perched in a tree, and finally her letting Barf the cat sniff her hand. So I’d say that’s where she was lurking: in a tree, only to be lured out by a friendly cat.
If you could pick a caste to be a part of, which would you be? Would you be a Crow, Hawk, or a Swan?
Ooooh I would actually be a Dove. We don’t see much of them in the first book, but they’re master craftworkers, born with creative instinct in their bones. They have a superhuman gift for the arts, and since there are only a few Doves, they can charge accordingly!
I noticed you have a kitty overlord, was she the inspiration for Barf?
He absolutely was. I have two, but the one who inspired Barf is actually named Boo, and he’s a shameless snuggle-monger and WILL roll on your shoes without exception. Before I, er, started moderating his meals, he also had a tendency to just annihilate all of his food at once, and then barf it back up, and that’s where Barf gets her name from.
Have you started writing the next Merciful Crow book? Could you give us any hints for those of us who are dying to know? *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*
Oh, I am up to my elbows in the next Merciful Crow book! If I were going to give any hints, I’d say…. I love the cover of The Merciful Crow, with Fie standing defiantly before this burning castle, because that’s a Big 2019 Mood, right? Well, I have a hunch that the sequel will be a Huge 2020 Mood.
Whose dialogue was the most fun to write? I personally loved reading Fie’s interactions with Tavin and Jas!
So I have an enormous soft spot for writing dialogue for Dirtbag Girls. I had a ton of fun writing Fie relentlessly dunking on Tavin and Jas, but her interactions with Viimo are some of my favorite. Both Viimo and Fie defy what tends to be pushed as the “ideal” for teen girls; they’re vulgar, crass, and cutthroat, with their own pettiness occasionally sabotaging their more pragmatic survival instincts. That’s way closer to the actual teen girls I grew up with!
For as much as I follow your posts on Twitter, I haven’t seen tour dates yet. Are those forthcoming? It would be amazing to get to see you!
All I can say for now is: keep an eye out!
Lastly, do you have any current book recommendations?
I just read Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson and that book is like someone poured a flask of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy into a cauldron of Howl’s Moving Castle, and the real magic there is that it all works. (I should add: it’s very much its own story. And a damn good one.)
We reached out to fans and readers who had some questions!
Do you remember what the first book idea you ever had was? If so, did you write it?
From @a_tree_of_pick_up_lines on Instagram
My grade school actually did a program where kids could tell an adult their stories while an adult typed them up, ring-bound it, and gave it to the kid to illustrate. I still have them! The first one (I think!) was about my best friend getting kidnapped by trolls and I had to go save him from their castle. I would have been about 7. The illustrations are VERY high quality. I’d like to say it was a deconstructed retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but I’m pretty sure it was just me being a tiny narcissist.
How many books do you anticipate there being in the series?
From @book_geek15 on Instagram
At present, two!