I am so excited to do this exclusive author interview with Kelly Coon Author of Warmaidens and Gravemaidens, here on my site. For those that don’t know this author or her novels, get ready to be introduced to some AMAZING YA fantasy novels! Below is our exclusive conversation, AND Kelly is also on my Book Hour on my YouTube channel!
Tell us a little about yourself. Did you always want to be an author?
Thanks for having me, Carly-Rae! I was always a storyteller. I wrote my first story when I was eight and gave it to my mom’s best friend to read. When she laughed and told me that I was “really something else,” it was the first hint to me that maybe my smart ass could be used to entertain instead of getting me in trouble. 😉 *insert evil laugh*
In high school, I thought I’d expand my storytelling to journalism. I became a member of the yearbook staff and then its editor and pictured myself anchoring the news or hosting a national talk show in the future. But I discovered in my first year of college that I really, really, really hated writing news copy. Lololol I felt like it was all death and destruction, and when I tried to tell the news stories my own way, my newspaper editor said, “Yeah, maybe this isn’t for you.” And really, he was right, though it kills me to admit it.
I seriously started considering writing a novel when one of my professors told me that he believed I could be a novelist one day and bet me I’d be published by thirty. He was off by a few years (ahem), but I always credit his belief in me as part of why I pursued it so hard.
Warmaidens is the conclusion in your Gravemaidens fantasy duology. For those who haven’t read it yet, what can they expect? Are all the loose ends tied up exactly as you pictured?
Ohhhhhh, buckle up! Gravemaidens really fleshed out Kammani’s world and introduced the problematic place in which she lived. But Warmaidens starts out with a wedding and an assassination and just kicks into higher gear from there. There’s spying, fortune-telling, swoony romance, and heart-pounding chariots of war. You’ll meet the scorpion warrior maidens, this kick-ass group of women who defend the queen and will watch Kammani as she decides whether killing one person to save many is morally wrong or not. It’s a dilemma I gave her because it’s a heart-wrenching problem that goes against everything she believes in as a healer, which is “Do no harm.”
In crafting Kammani, did you outline all her characteristics, or did you learn about her as you wrote?
This is a great question! While I am a thorough plotter, there are just some things you don’t know about your character until you’ve walked around in their shoes…er…sandals…for a few drafts. Her compassion, for instance, really came to me in a third or fourth draft. I had initially crafted her as this perfunctory character who was a sort of no-nonsense type of healer, but my agent, Kari Sutherland of Bradford Literary, thought it might be better to soften her edges and show that “bedside” manner that some doctors are famous for. And she was absolutely right. (She always is, tbh.)
Many authors say to outline before diving into writing the first draft. Is that how you go into drafting a novel? Are you an outliner?
Oh, yes, absolutely. I tend to start by journaling ideas about the story, questions I need to answer, notes about characters and potential plot points, etc. Then I craft a synopsis so I can f see a rough idea of the beginning, middle, and ending. After that, I get a complete plot outline down onto notecards. I use the K.M. Weiland method of plotting, so I’m sure to have an inciting incident and first plot point around 15% of the book. Then, I plot out my twists and turns and write up an entire 7-8k-word outline before I start drafting.
While I have all of that together, I still make changes as I draft. Sometimes an idea will come to me that I didn’t get while I was plotting, so it makes sense to go with the flow and change my outline to reflect the story I’m in the process of telling.
What was the process like for you in getting an agent?
It was a long and winding road! I wrote three full novels and was summarily rejected by 106 agents before I wrote Gravemaidens and queried it. Back in the day, I was pretty arrogant. I thought it would be simple to write a book and get it published. (After all, hadn’t I made my mom’s best friend laugh? Didn’t my professor say I’d be published before thirty? HAH!) The truth was, I was stuck in a fixed mindset in books 1-3. I just kept doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I didn’t grow.
When I finally humbled myself and studied the craft of writing a novel, it occurred to me just how very much I’d been doing wrong. (ackkkk) So, after about six months of studying just the craft of novel-writing, I wrote Gravemaidens and sent it out to eleven agents. All eleven requested the full manuscript, and two agents offered representation within a couple of weeks. I accepted Kari Sutherland’s offer because we clicked really well on the phone, and she had such an extensive resume as a former editor at Harper Teen. She was the acquisitions editor for Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series!
How important is social media for you as an author, especially now where everything has transitioned into being more online?
I’ve found that it’s one way I can really connect with readers, and it’s become a vital tool this past year, especially. I am a full-time editor, so I don’t have a ton of time to really dedicate myself to it, but I really do enjoy certain aspects of it. Looking at beautiful book posts on Instagram, listening to YouTubers sharing interviews or their favorite books, or watching BookTokers making Kammani jokes really makes my entire day. And for me, it’s one way to let readers know that my books exist! We’re here! And there are more on the horizon. =)
You can see more of Kelly Coon on my Book Hour too!
Be sure to comment below too and let me know what you think of today’s exclusive Author Interview with Kelly Coon!