The Strange Maid
by Tessa Gratton
Tessa Gratton’s THE STRANGE MAID is the second book in a five-book series. Set in the original, stunning world of the United States of Asgard, where the Norse gods are celebrities in an alternate modern America, the first four books follow different protagonists around the same critical moment—the disappearance of Baldur and the plans of Freya, who controls fate. The fifth and final book brings the protagonists together for a culminating adventure.
In the United States of Asgard, cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. The president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyrie, gods walk the red carpet with Hollywood starlets, and the U.S. military has a special battalion dedicated to eradicating Rocky Mountain trolls.
Every day, Signy Valborn gets up and puts on a Valkyrie costume to entertain the tourists who travel north to the icy island of Vinland. She also helps Ned Unferth, a handsome young troll hunter, terrify the tourists by putting his tame mountain troll through its paces. Then Baldur’s Night arrives, when the United States’ most popular god, Baldur the Beautiful, rises from the ashes, escaping Hel to live among them for the spring and summer months. But this year, Baldur doesn’t rise.
Amid the confusion, a band of mountain trolls attacks and destroys Signy’s town. Ned and his troll are not among the dead, but they’re nowhere to be found. As Signy sets out to search for them, she leaves behind everything she’s ever known to discover what fate the gods have in store for her.
Wildly entertaining and filled with intrigue and adventure, THE STRANGE MAID is a fast-paced, compelling story. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater, as well as new readers, will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard.
What part of the writing process is the easiest/hardest for you?
Beginning is the hardest for me, the work of getting into a story. My favorite part to write is the rising action and climax and denouement. If I’ve done my job right, the end of the book just flows.
Who is your favorite character (that you’ve written)?
This is impossible! I love Josephine Darly from the Blood books quite a bit – she is gleeful and dark and loves magic. In the USAsgard books my favorite is probably the cranky poet Ned Unferth.
Where did the idea for your book come from?
In graduate school in 2004 I wanted to write stories about American War Culture, and realized a perfect metaphor for our militarized, religious culture was to use Viking and Anglo-Saxon ideas right alongside modern US ideas.
Are any of the characters inspired by someone in real life?
I try not to do that specifically, though I spent a lot of time creating the major New Asgard churches as reflections of major US churches.
Do you listen to music while you write (if so, do you have a playlist I can share?), or do you prefer quiet?
I love to listen to music while I brainstorm and think about my book, but only sometimes while I’m writing. I tend to put one song on repeat for days and days until everybody I know hates it. For THE STRANGE MAID one of my go-to songs was “Girls Like You” by The Naked and Famous.
If you could jump in to any book and live there, which book would you choose?
I like my life and my indoor plumbing too much to want to live in any of my favorite books, though I wouldn’t say no to finding a world where somebody could train me to be a wizard.
Describe your book in a tweet (140 characters or less).
In a modern Viking America, a girl gives herself to madness and love in order to be the first new Valkyrie in a hundred years.
What was last book you bought OR What book are you looking forward to reading?
I just bought THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith. It was delightful. I can’t wait for BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C Parker to come out in October, and MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers (both books are wonderful!!!)
If you could be any kind of creature (other than human), which would you pick and why?
A flying one. Like a gryphon or pegusus or just some lady with wings.
Can you tell us about the moment you decided you were going to attempt to write your first book?
I wish I could, but I wrote my first book when I was 10 years old and can’t remember anything other than wanting to write down a story I’d been thinking about after reading THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley.
Does writing come naturally to you, or did you have to work harder in order to get that story in your head down on paper?
Writing is one of the only things that feels natural to me. But I ALSO have to work hard to get better every day, to revise and find the best way to communicate my stories.
Are you a punster or a plotter? Can you describe your writing process for us?
Neither! It’s a false dichotomy! I, and most writers, do some of both.
If you could no longer write, what career would you choose instead?
I can’t think about this. I will write until I die. But sometimes I think about what my life would look like if I’d decided to be a paleontologist.
If you could live someone else’s life for two weeks, whose life would you choose?
Of all the little things and simple pleasures in life, which one do you enjoy most of all?
I love sitting outside in the evening with my best friends and a good drink.
If you could have a casual, 30-minute conversation by the fireplace with any author, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask?
Melina Marchetta: I’d ask her how she made it through writing the incredibly emotionally intense Lumatere Chronicles.
If you won the lottery tomorrow, what are the first three things you think you would do or buy?
- A flat in New Orleans
- A horse barn
- A huge 3-day party for all my friends from around the world.
If you could change the ending to any book that you have ever read, what book would it be?
I have no idea! I’ve never thought about this before, and if I hated the ending of a book I probably gave the book away!
What event or accomplishment would you consider to be the highlight of your career thus far?
I signed books at the Random House BEA party one year, and it was held at the Central Park Zoo. I felt very fancy! But my favorite thing about having a career as a writer is really when I go to conferences and get to spend hours with other writers. The YA author community is so friendly, supportive, fun, and exhilarating.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received in your life?
Try anything once!
What thought or sentiment would you like to have copied and put into one million fortune cookies?
What is your favorite sight, scent, and sound for each of the four seasons (if you have four distinct seasons where you live)?
- Spring: new flowers on the dogwood and linden and redbud trees
- Summer: vibrant Technicolor sunflowers and the prickle of impossible sun on my skin, the singing cicadas
- Fall: burning leaves and steel gray clouds
- Winter: the black silhouettes of sleeping trees and the amazing silver sunrises. Ice on the branches.
If you got a parrot for a pet, what phrase would you be sure to teach it to say?
Because I am immature, I would teach it to curse.
Who is your all time favorite fictional book character?
The Vampire Lestat.
- Coffee or tea? Coffee
- Paper book or ebook? Paper!
- Summer or winter? Both in their turn
- Werewolves or vampires? Vampires
- Morning person or night owl? Morning person
- Pantser or plotter? Both!
- Pepsi or Coke? Diet Coke, if I must
- Dogs or cats? Both!
- Drink: Whisky
- Food: Enchiladas
- Movie: “Spirited Away”
- TV show: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
- Book (or genre): Fantasy of any kind!
- Late night snack: Sleeeeeep
- Writing tools: Computer!
- Sport: Soccer
- Vacation destination: Castles
- Music: Banjos
- Way to relax: TV marathons or reading in the sun
About the Author:
TESSA GRATTON has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. She was too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in gender studies, and then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog. For more information, please visit TessaGratton.com.