Rachel Greenlaw chats morally grey characters in Compass and Blade

We have the honour of chatting with Rachel Greenlaw to celebrate the release of Compass and Blade.


Compass and Blade is the first book in the latest YA trilogy featuring wreckers — those who lure people’s boats and wreck them, a crossover between sirens and pirates. The book follows wrecker Mira, who needs to rescue her father after the Council started putting a stop to their activities. With just nine days to find what she needs to rescue her father, all Mira knows for certain is this: The sea gives. The sea takes…

We have the honour of chatting with Rachel Greenlaw to celebrate the release of Compass and Blade. 

Siren or pirate? How would you explain wreckers to people? Can you describe wreckers using some pirates or sirens from movies/books etc?

If you watch the Poldark series and follow Ross Poldark’s slightly more risky adventures, you’ll get a flavour of what wreckers are in the world of Compass and Blade. They purposefully lure ships with bonfires or false lights onto rocks to wreck them, and then loot them. And I’m not sure I can choose between sirens and pirates! Both can be villainous and that’s what I love about them.

Mira and her fellow wreckers make a living by luring people’s boats and wrecking them, which feels immoral, but also very interesting. Where did the inspiration come from?

Does feel immoral, doesn’t it? But also interesting to see how Mira grapples with her conscience when she looks around at the community she lives within, fighting for survival and chooses to do it anyway. The inspiration came from learning about the shipwrecks littering the seabed around the islands where I live, reading the accounts of how islanders would row out in treacherous conditions in piloted gig boats to try and save them, and wondering…but what if they weren’t their saviours? What if I create a world where the islanders lured them in?

Did you worry that she is going to turn readers away from the start?

I’m always fascinated by morally grey characters, why they make the decisions they do, what makes them tick. So that was never a concern for me, what she does is both monstrous and heroic depending on how you view her and the situation her community are faced with, which divides opinion and makes her extremely compelling.

In fact, what do you enjoy the most about writing morally grey characters?

They are so human. No one is essentially good, people are the sum of their values and life experiences, and the influence of the people and world around them. So by writing these characters, I’m breathing life into them and allowing the reader space to question their own reactions to what they’re reading on the page, their own moral compass. I think stories should create discussion.

Mira went on a great adventure and the descriptions of the islands are beautiful. Do you use mood boards to help you? How did you come up with the landscape?

I live on a remote cluster of islands in the Atlantic ocean, so I just step out of my front door and look around. It’s an incredibly inspiring place and the descriptions are drawn directly from what I see around me every day; the drifts of sea thrift along the clifftops, the heather and gorse, the deep blue of the sea and the rattling storms sweeping through.

Compass and Blade features some light spice scenes. How did you decide how much to include in this YA tale?

I’ve read pretty widely in the age category, and I made sure to keep any romance scenes a fit for the YA category. This is a coming of age tale, and Mira is eighteen. She’s going to fall in love, make mistakes, grow and learn – and that includes the ‘light spice’ scenes you’ll find in this series. However, I would say that books are a safe space to learn – and I was personally straying to the adult romance section in the library as a teenager.

And finally, with Compass and Blade being book 1 of a trilogy, have you planned everything in advance?

Everything is planned, in fact book 2 is already written. I wanted the reader to discover this world alongside Mira, and as we leave the Fortunate Isles, Mira will learn more about magic, witches, monsters and the politics of the wider world of the Continent. Compass and Blade is really only the beginning of an epic exploration.

Check out Compass and Blade by Rachel Greenlaw on Amazon.com

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