Happy Tuesday everyone! Today I have an interview with debut author Kelly Coon, whose book Gravemaidens, comes out later this month on the 29th! I’ve been on the Skeleton Crew for Kelly for most of this year to support and spread the word about her upcoming novel and I’ve had such a blast. It’s been awesome being on this team and I’m so happy to have this chance to interview Kelly about her writing process and the book itself 🙂
Title: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1)
Author: Kelly Coon (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: October 29th 2019 from Delacorte Press
Goodreads Synopsis: In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.
When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.
But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.
Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
About the Author
YA author Kelly Coon is an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, ACT test prep book author, and a wicked karaoke singer in training. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she’s living near Tampa with her three sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. Gravemaidens is her debut novel.
Interview with Kelly Coon
- What was the initial idea that sparked the idea for Gravemaidens?
When I first started thinking about writing a new book (this was the fourth book I’d written), dystopian stories were a huge hit. So I thought I’d go to the past for inspiration instead of the future. One of the things that had always been compelling to me was the ancient practice of human sacrifice. I read some history about the ancient practices of human sacrifice across the world, and knew I wanted to set my story in a fantasy world where this was revered.
2. As you were writing the book, were you surprised that it ended up being a duology? (Were you thinking a standalone or trilogy?)
When I first queried agents, I imagined it as a trilogy set in this fantasy world. When I got my agent, Kari Sutherland, (the best agent on the planet), we pitched it to editors as a standalone with series potential, but when we were getting some early interest, we made the duology part of our decision for going with Delacorte Press. I was thrilled because Kammani’s character ARC takes more than one book to tell. She comes to terms with her feelings for Dagan in the sequel. =)
3. Who is your dream casting for your characters?
Oh gosh, I haven’t really looked around, but Salma Abu Deif would be a perfect Kammani, and I’ve kinda been picturing a young, less terrifying looking Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) for Dagan. haha
4. There’s a lot of YA fantasy that’s inspired by Europe, America and many Asian countries but your book is inspired by ancient Sumer! What made you choose this kind of setting/inspiration?
To be very, very clear, this story is not a Sumerian historical fantasy. It is pure fantasy! However, some of the shape the story initially took was inspired by the Fertile Crescent. As a little girl in a strict, sequestered fundamentalist upbringing, I grew up studying The Old Testament, which is part of the Bible, seven days a week attending a fundamentalist church and school. My life was filled with one biblical story after another centered in the Jordan River Valley in Palestine, and curving from the Persian Gulf through Mesopotamia down to the Nile River in Egypt.
Though I’m no longer a fundamentalist, the fictional city of Alu and the very fictional fantasy that sprung from it, likely came from all those hours I spent studying my former religion from the age of 5 through 18.
5. Which character are you most like? Kammani or her sister?
I’m definitely more like Kammani. I’ve often felt the need to protect my own sister and am very stubborn when I’m pursuing the things I want. However, I admire people who can just kind of let go and be excited for the present moments, like Nanaea can. She can enjoy herself and appreciate beauty when it shows up in her life, and that “letting go” is something I aspire to!
6. Are there any specific YA authors or books that helped you write Gravemaidens?
The LEGEND series by Marie Lu taught me about characterization—how to create a character that someone can actually root for—and Sabaa Tahir’s EMBER series made me excited about subplots, which felt like way too big to tackle for me at first.
7. What’s the hardest part of writing for you? (Outlining, characters motivations, etc?)
I think the most difficult part is drafting. I am a nerd girl at heart, so the research and outlining make me feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. Drafting is when I have to let go and get out of my own way, and it can be tough to get in that headspace when you’re writing in short bursts like I tend to do.
8. If you could pick 3 songs as a mini soundtrack for the book, which songs would you pick and why?
Ooooh, yes! I actually just created a Spotify playlist for the book! Here are three of the songs from it:
Kammani’s Anthem: “Swan Song” by Dua Lipa. This song is all about never giving up—never singing your “swan song”—because you have to keep fighting for what you believe in. If there was ever a song for Kammani, this is it.
Iltani’s Anthem: “Raise Hell” by Dorothy. If you’ve read Iltani, you realize why this is perfect for her! She is my trouble maker, and doesn’t mind being sneaky and crafty to get what she wants. In one scene in Gravemaidens, she nearly burns down a farm to create a distraction, which was effective, but…shortsighted. haha
Dagan’s Anthem: “In Your Arms” by Illenium and X Ambassadors. Dagan is in love with Kammani, and wants to be in her arms for the rest of his life. He’d do anything for her! This song is so achy and expresses his yearning for her perfectly.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Amanda! You’re the best!
You can get some great stuff by pre-ordering Gravemaidens either wherever books are sold or by requesting it from you library! Kelly’s website has all the info of what you’ll get when you pre-order and gorgeous pictures of the goodies you can get! Her website is linked below where you find the info:
A huge thank you to Kelly for being on this awesome journey. You can follow the rest of this blog tour by following Kelly’s Twitter for all of her upcoming book tour, blog tour info and so much more!