Janni Lee Simner On “Breaking Faerie Lore”

“I can’t remember how I first became interested in faeries,” muses Janni Lee Simner, author of Bones of Faerie (Random House, 2009), the first in a trilogy. “What I do remember is that I latched on to the notion of changelings early on—faerie children who are left in place of human children the faeries steal away.

“I think I must have had changeling lore in mind when I wrote the opening of Bones of Faerie, more than a decade ago now. I wrote that opening in a rush, then spent a decade writing other things while I tried to figure out what happened next. I finally finished Bones of Faerie more than twelve years after I started it. Yet from that opening I already knew a few things about the story: that not only was there faerie magic in my world—there’d also been an apocalyptic War between humans and the faerie folk that set magic loose in the world; and that whatever the faerie folk were doing now that the war was through, they weren’t hanging around waiting to rescue infants with faerie magic from hillsides.

“Another bit of faerie lore I latched onto early was that idea faeries can’t handle steel or iron. The human characters in Bones of Faerie know that lore, too, but if it ever held true, it’s long since failed them. As [the story’s protagonist] Liza says at one point:

Mom sang stories from Before [the War] sometimes, faerie songs from a time when only a very few people knew the faerie folk were real. In some of those songs running water stopped magic, just as cold iron did. Iron hadn’t helped the airplanes—magic brought them down long ago…

“Yet even as lore fails them, the characters keep trying to figure out new rules for the faerie magic they have to live with after the War:

Don’t touch any stone that glows with faerie light, or else that light will burn you fiercer than any fire. Don’t venture out alone into the dark, or the darkness will swallow you whole. And cast out the magic that is born among you, before it can turn on its parents.

“Sometimes the rules serve [the faeries] well, keep them alive. Other times the rules fail them, sometimes painfully.”

  • This is only the beginning of Janni Lee’s exploration of faerie lore in a post-apocalyptic world. Read the rest when it was published on Shveta Thakrar’s blog during her Three Days of Fey series of essays and interviews from young adult authors who write about fairies.
  • Read an excerpt from the second book in the Bones of Faerie trilogy, Faerie Winter (Bluefire, April 2012).
  • Check out the over 475 reviews of Bones of Faerie, described as “a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction—as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique” at Goodreads.
  • Order Bones of Faerie from any of these popular booksellers:

Janni Lee Simner
wished she had been born aboard a pirate ship, venturing to exotic lands to find lost cities, hidden tombs, and ancient artifacts. Instead, she gradually found her way from her native New York to the Sonoran Desert where she now lives with her husband and writes young adult fiction, short stories, and general nonfiction. Visit this author’s website.