We interview young adult fiction author Kendare Blake - on her advice to writers, dealing with rejection and the benefits of creative writing courses.
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about your books?
I can! Sleepwalk Society is a contemporary tale about figuring out your future, Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares are horror novels about the strange life of ghost hunter Cas Lowood, Antigoddess and Mortal Gods are Greek mythology quest adventures about dying gods and the havoc they wreak in the lives of reincarnated Trojan heroes.
What inspired you to write Three Dark Crowns, the first book in your new fantasy series?
Actually, it was a conversation I had with friends at a book event. One of them is a beekeeper, and there was a hive swarming in a tree behind the bookstore. She told me all about queens and how they operate, how they decide to lay three or four queen eggs and then the first queen who hatches murders her sisters and takes over the hive. I thought, wow, good thing people aren’t like that, and then I thought, hang on, we totally could be.
Your characters, despite being in horrible situations, often lighten the situation with dark humour. Do you think this is important in horror fiction?
I don’t necessarily think it’s important but I sure find it enjoyable. One or another of my characters always winds up being a smartass.
YA novels are often told from the perspective of teenage heroine. However, one of your protagonist is Cas, a young man. Was this a conscious decision?
Not really a conscious decision. I didn’t know that most YA novels are told from heroine POVs. I only knew that if I let Anna tell the story, it would have been a much smaller, more claustrophobic story because for most of it she couldn’t leave her house. And I also knew that it wasn’t really her story. I mean it was, but the journey in it was always going to belong to Cas.
Your more recent books lean more towards the fantasy genre than horror. Do you feel there is any crossover between the two genres?
Yes. At least there is in mine. I can’t get away from violence and gore. Every fantasy I write will be dark, and disturbing in places. That’s what I like in my fantasy.
The fantasy market is so saturated now. Do you have any advice for authors looking to stand out from the crowd?
I don’t. Just, write quality. Write something you enjoy. The market is unpredictable.
For your ANTIGODDESSES series, you drew on Greek mythology. How did you approach taking centuries-old myths and telling them in a fresh way?
I was nervous about it. It felt ballsy in a way, like bad idea ballsy. The gods aren’t mine, and readers have ideas about who they are already, so taking them and trying to interpret them myself was intimidating.
You have a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. How useful do you feel this has been to you? Would you advise other writers to consider taking creative writing courses?
Completely useful! It helped me understand the business side, honestly, and the process of publishing. The steps and the path. And it makes you look at writing from a different perspective, and can really jumpstart the creative juices. I’ve never been more productive than I was during the course, and many of those stories went on to be published. So I would advise it, definitely. It’s not mandatory by any means, but it is a ton of fun. I’d like to do more.
Writers often have to face rejection before getting published. Did you? If so, how did you cope with it?
Oh yes. I did. Many and varied kinds. And there were times, long stretches, where I thought I ought to just pack it in and do something else. I did other things, for what feels like a long time. But, the quitting never stuck. And if the quitting doesn’t stick, chances are, you’re probably a writer.
Finally, what’s the one piece of advice you would like to share with other writers?
I usually say read, and write. Those are the obvious two, and you can’t survive in this biz without doing both. But lately, talking to aspiring writers, it seems like learning to finish things is important. So, that. Finish your story. Finish your poem. Finish, finish, finish. And then do it all over again.
To find out more about Kendare Blake and her books, take a look at her website.