The Changeling Returns
by C.R. Merrill
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author
Hi, everybody. You probably don’t know me, if you read YA
and fantasy, since this is my first foray into those genres. Usually, I write Regency romance, and have
been doing that full time since 2006.
I sold my first book in 2005, through a contest run by the
Romance Writers of America. It was a competition for completed manuscripts, and
I was so sure that I had no chance to win that I didn’t even bother to
proofread the book. It was an English Regency historical romance, and I didn’t
do much research either. But it was a story I loved writing.
But a few weeks after the awards ceremony, I got an email
from an editor at Harlequin Mills and Boon in London, asking to buy the book. I
was in shock for days. I had no idea that English editors would want books from
an American (who had a really limited grasp of history).
As I waited for the book to come out (which took about a
year), I started working on my next book.
It was taking a while to get done, so I begged for two weeks off my job
to finish, swearing to them that publishing takes forever, and I wouldn’t need
any more favors, honest.
The editor read the second manuscript in three days and
offered me a three-book contract if I could write more books fast. So, I ended
up quitting my job, kind of by accident. I went into the boss, trying to
negotiate going to half time, and he surprised me by saying no.
I surprised him by giving notice and became a full-time
writer in December of 2006.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I have lots of quirks, so it can be hard to pick, but the
most unusual thing about me is the fact that I live in a renovated Catholic
My husband and I lived in the country before, in a big, old
farmhouse that had hot and cold running mice, occasional bats, and all manner
of wildlife just outside the door. And I would stay up late looking at real
estate listings and dreaming of getting some place with character, but a little
less wild. And one night, I found our current house.
It was a former church, already renovated into a bed and
breakfast so we didn’t have to do any work to it. All the original
stained-glass windows are in place, and it still has a bell in a cupola on the
roof. We ring it for special occasions.
Because it was a B and B, we have two identical bedrooms
upstairs that each have a set of stairs leading to their own jetted tub in the
choir loft. I also have two kitchens, one upstairs and one in the basement,
which was the old church kitchen and has miles of countertops and cupboards.
The most common question people ask me is if it is haunted.
Sorry, but it’s just us here. Although I did have a former funeral director
tell me that she’d been to my house many times, when people had funerals in
what is now my living room.
We also get occasional visits from people doing genealogy and looking for the church where their family members were baptized or married. The highlight of those visits was the one where we could show a woman the window that her family had donated, since all my windows have a someone else’s family name written on them.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to
I used to work in theater and actually got to meet two of
People Magazine’s Sexiest Men alive.
The first was Mark Harmon, when he did a movie in
Milwaukee. He was a really nice guy with heart stopping blue eyes. He was even
nicer because he bought beer for the costume shop where I worked, and a bottle
of water for me, because I was pregnant at the time.
The other was Chris Noth, long before he became famous and
even longer before he blew up his career. He was just another young actor, and
I never would have guessed he was headed anywhere.
I made him a pair of pants. So, I joke that I got in the
pants of the sexiest man alive, but he wasn’t there when it happened.
What are some of your pet peeves?
The older I get, the fewer pet peeves I have. Or, at least,
I get better at knowing that I would hurt someone if I announced, “That thing
you do? That gets on my last nerve!!!!!” So, I work harder than I used to at
letting it go and turning the other cheek and all that.
I especially want readers to know, there is nothing you can
say about me or my books that will annoy me.
There is one thing.
I hate it when people question my research on things I know
I got right. It is usually because they
assume I’m wrong and haven’t looked into a thing as far as I have. But even if you are wrong, I can’t argue
because to argue with a reader makes a writer look petty and unable to take
criticism. So, I let those reviews stand and just walk away.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in a little town in Central Wisconsin called
Marshfield. I actually married my high
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your
I would have a busy day of calling people to say goodbye,
since I think the one thing I’d truly miss would be my friends and family, who
are scattered all around the states.
Then, I would want to get some Korean food for dinner. Hot pot would be
nice with some shrimp in it. And for dessert, cinnamon frozen custard.
I’d probably end up the evening fading off while watching a
Who is your hero and why?
My hero is my husband, Jim. I am not an easy person to live
with, so he has to have the patience of a saint to put up with me.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Probably a really bad one.
I am a procrastinator, and a lot of the world’s problems need to be
taken care of right away. I also think I
know what’s best for everyone, so I would probably make a lot of unilateral
decisions without asking people their decisions. I’m definitely a dictator. But
I like to think I’d be a benevolent dictator.
What are you passionate about these days?
Watching horror movies.
I watch one a day during October, because Halloween is my favorite
season. So, for November, I am still coming down off my binge and trying to
catch up on series that I’ve missed. While some people start decorating for
Christmas as soon as November rolls around, I usually stretch Halloween out to
last until Thanksgiving.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I like to do jigsaw puzzles and knit. But I am slow to put
the pieces of the sweater together, after I’m done. I have two projects sitting next to me right
now that need blocking and sewing.
How to find time to write as a parent?
My days with little kids are long behind me. But when I had
them, I got really good at setting aside time when they were at school to
write, or doing it at work during down time. I also had two boys that knew not
to bother me when I was on deadline, and they got good at doing things like
making dinner and helping around the house.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Loosely attached to reality.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
About three years before I was published, so somewhere
around 2003. By that time, I was good enough to have finished novels that were
decently written, but I couldn’t find anyone to buy them yet.
I went into an annual job review at the library where I
worked and told the boss I wasn’t going to be there much longer because I was
going to sell a book and quit.
And she said to me, “But what if that never happens?”
And then, I knew I was going to make it happen, no matter
what it took. So, I was definitely a writer at that point.
Actually, a lot of people told me things like that, and
treated me like I was crazy. They thought my goals were unrealistic. I probably
was crazy, but I think that is part of the job description for writer, so it’s
not actually a problem.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I have lots of favorites, as I am a big movie lover, and go
to the theater at least a couple of times a month, seeing mostly action and
But my all-time favorite is probably Buckaroo Bonzai,
because it is so ridiculously 80’s.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I wrote a book called Need to Know which is a comedy
thriller about a librarian that finds a dead body and gets involved with spies
and a plot to sell a stolen killer virus. It’s got plenty of action, so I think
it would make a great movie.
I have cast it many times in my head, and right now, I
think Emma Stone would make a good heroine. I haven’t been able to find a good
hero yet. It needs to be someone kind of a nerdy nice guy who can still kick
ass. Any suggestions.
As a writer, what would you choose as your
Right now? A sloth.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I am a writer fan girl and have been on several, but my
personal favorite was the time I got to visit Edgar Allen Poe’s grave at
We took a tour of his house, first, which was small and in
a bad neighborhood in Baltimore. Then we went to the graveyard where he was
buried. The church attached to it was rather plain, but the basement was open
and we got to see the catacombs.
I’ve also been to the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, to
see the round table in the restaurant where authors like Dorothy Parker and
Robert Benchley used to hang out. I love the humor of those authors and like to
imagine what it was like to hang out at that table with them.
Being a fairy princess isn't all it's cracked up to be.
I hate being the new girl every
school year. This time, the ‘queen bee’ of Parfrey’s Glen High School has
decided I’m the enemy. Her mistake. Because like it or not—and it’s definitely
not—I have powers, dark powers. I’ve tried to deny them, but they are getting
Fay Smith was three years old when she was kidnapped by the two queens of the Unseelie Court. For twelve years, she’s been moved from city to city to avoid suspicion, wanting nothing more than to belong somewhere and be normal. But she can’t remember anything about her real life, real home, or real family.
Soon she’ll be called to cast off her mortality and become a dark fey like her captors, serving on one of the three thrones of the Unseelie Court, trapped in an eternal power struggle with Mab and Titania. To escape, Fay will have to control her change from human to fey and defeat the two queens.
But she’s going to need help, which means she’ll have to make a truce and establish ‘frenemy’ status with the girl who hates her.
I must never let myself forget that Tania and
Mabel aren’t just strong. They’re powerful. They’re
more like mountains than hurricanes. Something that has been around forever and
can’t be moved. If they want something big, they can wait centuries until the
rest of the world gives up fighting. But if it’s small, like a person’s
freedom, it only takes them a blink, or a twitch of the pinky and they’ll have
And for some reason, they wanted me. I can’t
remember the details, but I know I was little when it happened. Maybe three or
four. I was either too young or too stupid to get the whole “stranger danger”
thing. Did a rosy-cheeked granny offer me some candy? That’s Mab’s gig, being
sweet and old and harmless, right before dropping the hammer. One stupid
Starlight Mint from her would have been enough to catch a little kid.
Don’t eat or drink in the company of fairies.
Just don’t. One bite and you’ll be trapped like a bug in a jar.
Or did I go with a pretty lady who smiled at
me at a mall? That’s Tania’s trick, being too pretty to resist. She could have
held out her hand, and I would have followed her without looking back.
Don’t go into the light. Or the water.
The Folk love to trick travelers. Usually,
they don’t even bother to appear in physical form. All they have to do is find
a person who’s a little bit lost, throw up a glamour and a couple of fairy
lights, and sit around to watch the fun. If you’re lucky, they only make your
life a little bit worse.
The Folk think that bitch of a Fey who figured
out how to enchant a GPS is hysterical. Talented too, since she had to
overpower the tech to do it. No one has owned up to it, but I think it was
probably Mab. It’s her style.
But even Mab thinks twice about laughing at
Jenny Greenteeth and the rest of the water hags. Air spirits need to breathe
just as much as we do. But Jenny and her kin have gills like fish, and they are
none too particular about who they drag under, if you catch sight of them and
are dumb enough to lean over the water.
Or maybe, when I was taken, it wasn’t my fault
at all. Maybe my mother was tired of having to take care of a snot-nosed little
girl and wished on the wrong star. Because there are lucky ones and unlucky
ones. And you never know, when you make those wishes, who might be listening.
Be careful what you wish for.
If you wish for something, and a fairy hears
you, they’ll grant the wish in the worst possible way. If you trade with them,
you’ll get dandelions, not gold, and elm leaves instead of dollars. The same
goes for sleeping with them. Go to bed with a pretty girl and wake up with a
little less of your soul than you had when you laid down. Maybe not enough to
miss. But if Tania held on to any one man long enough, she would suck him dry.
People always want something for nothing.
Fairies give just the opposite. But, like I was saying, I have no idea how I
ended up here, and not as particle in some nuclear family with a mini-van and a
house in the ‘burbs. Either I was too little to remember, or they’ve enchanted
the details right out of my head. But I’m pretty sure my name isn’t really Fay.
To have that name and then get taken by the fairies would show Alanis
Morissette what irony really means.
Most likely, somebody broke one of the big
three rules, and I paid the consequences. But sometimes, late at night when I’m
lying in bed listening to the night songs, I worry that it wasn’t a mistake.
Maybe my parents just didn’t want me. Maybe they took me, and my real family
just went on with their lives as if I’d never been part of it.
That’s why I don’t look back. Maybe my parents
had me and gave me away. Maybe, like Tania says, they just didn’t care. I don’t
want to know. Because, maybe, just this once, she’d be telling the truth. And
what would be the point? No one from my life before could help me, even if they
wanted to. Mab and Titania, the two most powerful fairies in the Unseelie Court
have taken me as their daughter.
When the Fair Folk have a changeling, it’s
usually as a pet or a slave. But they’ve been tending me like mortals tend a
garden, funneling power into me, turning me into something not quite normal.
It’s the sort of magic that only works when you get a human baby and work on it
for twelve years or so. That’s a blink of an eye to them. But to me? It feels
I hate what they’ve done to me. And I hate
them. Whatever they want from me in the future, it won’t be good.
Christine Merrill wanted to be a writer for
as long as she can remember. During a stint as a stay-at-home-mother, she
decided it was time to "write that book." She could set her own hours
and would never have to wear pantyhose to work! It was a slow start but she
slogged onward and seven years later, she got the thrill of seeing her first
book hit the bookstores. Christine lives in Wisconsin with her family.
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