Interview: Seanan McGuire Is Back Beneath the Sugar Sky


Cover detail from Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire.

Seanan McGuire is one of our bright writing jewels.

It started for me with her short fiction. I even published a McGuire short story in the anthology Unfettered II. That’s how much I enjoy her writing. That led me to branch out to reading Every Heart a Doorway. It is a truly magical story that I immediately fell in love with. I wasn’t the only one. That first book in the Wayward Children series won numerous awards and it has led to two sequels.

Now, with Beneath the Sugar Sky, McGuire returns to that series! And I can’t wait to read it. I will definitely be at the bookstore tomorrow morning for that and Django Wexler’s The Infernal Battalion. Here is more about it: When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

Below is an interview with McGuire about the new book! And more!


Unbound Worlds: Beneath the Sugar Sky published yesterday. Tell Unbound Worlds readers about the Wayward Children series and how this new book works within it your series.

Seanan McGuire: The Wayward Children books focus on teens who have survived what we call “portal fantasies.” Like Dorothy, they rode twisters; like Alice, they tumbled down rabbit holes; like so many of those childhood saviors, they tripped, and fell, and found themselves back in the world where they were born, no matter how much they never wanted to return. These are their adventures, set in and around Eleanor West’s school, as they try to find their way back to where they belong. As they try to be sure.

UW: Beneath the Sugar Sky is a fine stand-alone, a great way for new readers to enjoy Seanan McGuire’s work. As the author, do you recommend it as a place to start your work? Or is Every Heart a Doorway the better way to go?

SM: Honestly, for new readers, I recommend Rosemary and Rue as a place to start my work. It was my first book, which means I only improve from there, but the way I turn a phrase and the way I structure a sequence is already pretty clear. If you like it, you’re in for a treat. If you don’t, you can skip forward and try again to find out what all the fuss is about. But if you start with my most recent work, going back will be much harder.

UW: Nancy is in the first book of the series. Jack and Jill in the second. Rini in this third. How did you go about creating these distinct characters? And what drew you to Rini in Beneath the Sugar Sky?

SM: I…just do? “How do you create these characters” is a question sort of like “where do you get your ideas”: it’s actually about twenty questions all wrapped up together, and some of them can’t be answered. I decide things about my characters, and some of them grow out of other characters, which can determine things about them–Jack and Jill had to be identical, for example, so without cosmetic intervention, they were both going to be blonde. But the initial “there is a boy who went to a Fairyland and got thrown out because fairies are jerks” seed just shows up with the story. As for what drew me to Rini, I would argue that it’s more Cora’s story than hers: Rini is the catalyst.

UW: Beneath the Sugar Sky “may contain nuts.” And it is a tale of “baking.” Do you enjoy baking? If someone was to eat a dessert while reading Beneath the Sugar Sky, what would you recommend?

SM: I do enjoy baking! Mostly cookies. I bake a lot of cookies. If someone wanted to eat dessert while reading, I’d suggest something not terribly sticky, since books and sticky toffee pudding, for example, are not good friends.

UW: Will we be getting more from the Wayward Children universe? And what else are you working on at the moment?

SM: I’ll be honest: it depends entirely on sales. That is what it means to be a traditionally published author. Currently, I’m working on some revisions, and a bunch of short fiction, and getting ready for a round of website updates. I never stop, I just change lanes.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire is in fine bookstores now!

Quest, bake, and get wayward!