“Ideas are ephemeral things and they kind of sprout in the most unexpected places,” said author Melissa Grey. Her debut novel The Girl at Midnight sprouted from Echo, a thief with a “snarky sort of attitude.”
But Echo needed a story – so Grey merged the character she’d created with her love of Stravinsky’s ballet and the Slavic mythology of the Firebird.
“The end result is a very liberal interpretation of the myth, but that’s where it all began.”
In The Girl at Midnight, an ancient race called the Avicen live beneath New York City with enchantments the only thing keeping them safe from humans. Echo is the only human who knows of their existence, and when a war begins to break out on the edges of the Avicen’s world, it’s on Echo’s shoulders to save them – to find the Firebird and end the war once and for all.
“Echo’s not really based on anyone I know, but her sense of humor is straight up mine,” said Grey. “I’ve had friends read the book and say that her quips were exactly the kind of thing I say, which makes sense since, you know, I wrote it. But Echo had been percolating in my mind for a few years until I came up with the book’s plot and sat down to write it so her evolution was as organic as it gets for a fictional character.”
The years she spent thinking and developing Echo paid off for Grey, who created a “character that will stand the test of time, a character that readers will fall in love with,” according to the Nerdist.
“A strong character, for me, is one that’s well-rounded and fully realized as a believable human being. That means they have vulnerabilities as well as strengths. In YA, seeing depictions of women that are honest and real and diverse is so necessary because you don’t really see much of that in the canon of classical literature that’s taught in schools. Teens are fed a steady diet of female characters that are filtered through a male lens which often leaves those characters a bit anemic in terms of their humanity. I think the rise of characters like Katniss and Tris and Alina Starkov is a direct reflection of that previously ignored need to see young women who are the heroes of their own stories.”