Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman are joining us today to talk about their novel, All of Us Villains. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins.
Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death.
The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world—one thought long depleted.
This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into the worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly, a choice: accept their fate or rewrite their story.
But this is a story that must be penned in blood.
What’s their favorite bit?
AMANDA FOODY & CHRISTINE LYNN HERMAN
High school students shuffling from geometry to spellmaking class. Glittery raw magick twinkling throughout a neighborhood cul-de-sac. Brand name enchantments shelved at department stores, with bespoke counterparts stocked at a local indie spellshop.
This is the world of All of Us Villains, one that shares much of our modern culture and technology but is entirely fictional, with a unique map, history, and—of course—magic.
Few choices are more crucial when crafting a fantasy novel than its setting. Most typically, the genre tends to favor time periods of old, of monarchs and swords, eras that retain an inherent sense of wonder due to their distance from our lives today. But that distance is precisely why we decided to set our storyin a modern world; we wanted a world that does feel close to home. At times, even uncomfortably so.
Every twenty years, the seven oldest families in the remote city of Ilvernath each send a champion among them to compete in a tournament to the death. And it was the trope of the death tournament—one that has become so famous in YA literature—that served as our original launchpad for the story. Every choice we made came down to celebrating the trope or differentiating our own story amid the trope. And given the murderous nature of the plot, we opted for a modern second world for two reasons: 1) Setting the novel in an alternate version of our actual world felt too complicated, as we wanted to make magic ubiquitous and accessible to everyone, which would’ve meant reimagining all of history; and 2) We hoped to close that distance between the reader and the grisly events of the story, so that they could truly envision themselves in the shoes of our characters. So that the villainy could feel all the more stark.
It was a choice that resulted in a lot of work. We rewrote the first chapter over and over, seeding in names of obviously fictional places, describing the spellrings every character wore, adding in modern details such as cars and pinball machines. When playing with conventions, it can often feel like double the work has to be done to establish the foundation of the story while negating what a veteran fantasy reader would automatically expect when turning to that first page.
But wow, did we have fun with it.
Naming enchantments to suit their origin: Are they heirloom family recipes? Trademarked by major corporations? Off-brand spells purchased at discount stores? The clothes—characters accessorized with dozens of spellrings while wearing high heels or trendy athleisure. And of course, the media. Thanks to a tell-all book, Ilvernath’s death tournament has just made international news. Video cameras lurk outside their front lawns. Unwanted candid photographs of them get splashed across tabloids.
But, as we intended, the modernity also has a darker side. The way the characters stress about futures involving university and career choices, unsure if they’ll even live to see those decisions play out. How harassment or ostracization look from their fellow classmates. How young and vulnerable the protagonists often feel. How murder doesn’t necessarily bear that same distance of “It’s a different world, a different time.” The moral compasses of our world vs. the world of All of Us Villains point to the same true north.
And on top of all that, it was honestly just fun to do something different for the sake of it! The two of us are lifelong, devoted fantasy lovers, and this choice was such a delightful way to play with the genre.
When we first conceived of the idea for the novel in August 2017, we didn’t know if it’d take us anywhere. Yet another death tournament book? With four different main characters, all of whom are morally gray, with no obvious choice of which ones the reader will root for? A project that would take years to develop and coordinate with both of our individual publishing schedules? We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and so we made a pact: no matter whether or not the book ever found its way onto shelves, we just wanted to have fun. We wanted to give the best of ourselves to this project and ultimately create a story that neither one of us could have written alone. A story that embraced the trope, embraced the fantasy genre. A story that could love something for the sake of being thought-provoking or the sake of being weird in equal measure. A story that felt like it was written by two best friends.
We’re immensely proud of it.
And so, if you do pick up a copy of All of Us Villains, we’d like to formally welcome you to the world of Ilvernath. You won’t have to travel very far…
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. She is the author of young adult and middle grade fantasy novels, including the Wilderlore series, The Shadow Game series, the forthcoming All of Us Villains duology, and more. You can find her on Instagram @amandafoody.
Christine Lynn Herman is the author of YA novels about magic, monsters, and growing up, including The Devouring Gray duology as well as the forthcoming All of Us Villains and The Drowning Summer. Writing updates (and cat pictures) can be found on Instagram @christineexists or at christinelynnherman.com.