Q&A with Demon in the Wood Creators Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast

September 7, 2022 | 11:00 AM

Q&A with Demon in the Wood Creators Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast

By Team Fierce Reads
Can you believe Demon in the Wood, the graphic novel prequel to the Shadow and Bone series with illustrations by the talented Dani Pendergast, comes out this month?! To answer some of your burning questions about the Darkling’s origin story come to life, keep reading for an exclusive Q&A with Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast! Demon in the Wood is the origin story of the Darkling and a prequel to the Shadow and Bone series. Leigh, what made you want to tell the Darkling’s story in this format? Dani, what was most exciting about bringing this iconic character’s story to life through your illustrations? LEIGH: This story operates a bit like a fairytale from The Language of Thorns, with many of the same themes: love, cruelty, magic, and its consequences. It felt like a natural fit for a graphic novel. I first wrote a version of "Demon in the Wood" back in 2014, in anticipation of the release of Ruin and Rising. As I took the Darkling deeper into villain territory, I wanted a chance to show a different side of him, the boy who had been shaped by his mother's fears and ambition, a child who spent so many years in hiding—even from his own people. I think I felt that same impulse as the Netflix adaptation introduced this character to a new audience.   DANI: Approaching such a story with an established character like the Darkling was intimidating at first, but I couldn't have found a story more in-line with my personal taste. The part I most anticipated was figuring out how I would convey the Grisha's different powers visually and, most importantly, Eryk's and Lena's shadows. I also enjoyed emphasizing the small interactions between characters to capture their humanity in those moments. What was it like collaborating on Demon in the Wood LEIGH: Dani blew me away at every turn. I knew her work was brilliant but I wasn't sure where she'd take this story. She has such a sense of how to stage a scene for the most emotional payoff and how to wring the most impact out of even quiet moments. DANI: This was such a wonderful experience on a collaboration project. Leigh's ability to create dire situations where each character will go to any length to protect the ones they love and survive while remaining sympathetic is brilliant. Starting with such a well-written story made my part of translating the Darkling's past into visual media that much easier. I felt so entrusted with this story as I had the freedom to inject my visual language throughout the entire project. Demon in the Wood is your first graphic novel. How did the writing experience differ from your other works? Was there anything that surprised you?  LEIGH: My work is usually so solitary and I really enjoyed the collaboration on this. I worked on the script with Kyla Vanderklugt and that was a massive help as this is a new medium for me. I suppose the process is closer to screenwriting in that you have to let go of the pretty prose and leave the right spaces for the artist to tell the story. At the same time, you have so much more control than in a screen adaptation. You and the artist get to be the director, cinematographer, casting director, costume designer, production designer.  Dani, is Demon in the Wood your first introduction to the Grishaverse or were you already familiar with this world before signing onto the project? DANI: I remember reading “The Demon in the Wood” short story as my first introduction to the Grishaverse, and I could instantly tell that it would translate beautifully into a graphic novel. I also found myself confused in the beginning by the vocabulary and googling words like Grisha, amplifier, and Otkazat'sya. I had to tread lightly because I kept seeing spoilers to Leigh's other books! After finishing the prequel, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading stories within this beautifully constructed universe. The next day, I ran out to get the Shadow and Bone trilogy, tore through them so quickly, and had a soft spot for the Darkling the whole time, sigh.  If you had to pick just one favorite scene or panel sequence from the graphic novel, which would you choose and why? LEIGH: The scene on the ice toward the end is my favorite. There's a moment right before we cut away to Eryk's flashback that I think Dani took to such a powerful, heartbreaking place. DANI: I have a few, but my favorite from conception to execution was the ice scene near the end. When I read the short story, it was the part I was most excited to draw and the one that came so easily when I sketched out my thumbnails. I don't want to give too much away, but it is when the ice starts to form, and Annika walks up to Eryk. I can't get enough of the shift in the emotional tone and the rise in tension in those panels. Without sharing any spoilers, what do you hope readers take away from this story?  LEIGH: It was important to me that the Darkling's goals be rooted in something we can all sympathize with, in a worthy, even noble cause, not in some whacky desire to destroy the world or just because he's "evil." I'm not interested in antagonists like that and I don't think they present any kind of real challenge to the reader. I hope people come away feeling like they have another piece of the puzzle and know this character a bit better—no matter how they feel about the choices he makes.  Submit your preorder receipt for Demon in the Wood and we’ll send you a lenticular mini poster! Hurry–this offer ends at midnight on 9/26! Submit your preorder receipt here!    

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