Interview: Kelley Armstrong

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A while back, I was talking with a friend about which series I should read next. Her immediate response: Anything written by Kelley Armstrong.

Generally, I trust her to have impeccable taste in literature. So I went and bought Bitten, book one of Mrs. Armstrong's urban- fantasy series, Otherworld.

Needless to say, I became addicted.

Having just released her first (and New York Times Bestselling) book in the young adult market, The Summoning, with book two, The Awakening, coming in May 2009, I thought it would be interesting to have a little chat with Mrs. Armstrong concerning her new series, what awaits us in the new year and about life as a writer.

Hi Kelley! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! First off, over here at The Reader's Quill, we love all sorts of books and music. We're curious, what are your top three favorite books? And top three favorite musicians?

Top 3 books? I'll stick with novels--The Shining, Pride & Prejudice and Watership Down. Musicians? That's a little tougher because my tastes are constantly changing and there are no "must buy" artists for me right now. I'll say U2, Leonard Cohen and The Barenaked Ladies.

Now, let's talk a bit about your first YA series, The Summoning. How did you come up with the idea for the series?

It came from my second adult novel, Stolen, There were ideas in it that I wanted to play with more, particularly one for supernaturals just coming into their powers. But in my world that happens in adolescence. I couldn't have teen main characters in a series for adults, so I had to wait a few years, until I was ready to try YA.
Are any of the characters based on people in your own life?

No. I always make sure they aren't based on anyone I know. Traits in common, yes, but no character is ever based on anyone I know. For example, Chloe stutters and so do I, because it's an experience I can relate realistically, but the rest of her (particularly the part about seeing ghosts *grin*) isn't me.

Who is your favorite character in the series? Who was your favorite to write, if different?

It's always hard to pick favourites in characters. But it's easy to choose my favourites to write. I like the difficult characters--the ones with a lot of layers, and the ones who aren't necessarily the most likable. Derek is a favourite. So is Tori.

In The Summoning, your main characters all have special abilities. We were curious, what would your power be?

Right now? The ability to stop time...or at least make more hours in a day. But I suspect a lot of working mothers would say the same thing!

Will we find out in the coming installments what the deal with Chloe's necklace is? Any hints you can give us?

What's the deal with Chloe's necklace? LOL Ask me about that in person sometime and you'll get a good story. As for the print-worthy answer, there is more coming on the necklace. There's a bit in the second book and more in the third. By the third we'll have confirmation of what it does, and what can happen when she takes it off.

Let's talk boys quickly: Simon maybe totally crush worthy, but Derek is the protector - even, at times, serving as Chloe's protector. Do we see a potential love triangle in the distance?

You might...

Chloe's aunt obviously knows about Chloe's talent. Does she have any special abilities herself? Moreover, does Chloe's father know about Chloe being able to see ghosts?

Hmmm, I have to be careful here to avoid spoilers for The Awakening. I'll answer the first and say no, Aunt Lauren doesn't have any powers. She comes from a family of necromancers, but the powers skipped her, as they do for most people in such a family. I'll leave the second part unanswered because It's a question Chloe wonders about herself in the next book.

Chloe's mother is a somewhat minor character in The Summoning, but rather compelling. Did she have abilities like her daughter? If so, was her death really accidental?

No powers for her mother either. Was her death accidental? I'll only say that it's not a question that will be resolved soon. But in the second book there might be hints of other "accidents."

You're a bestselling author for the adult market, what about the young adult market is particularly interesting to you? Were there any challenges in crossing that medium?

Not as many as I anticipated. I said earlier that I first came up with the idea during my second adult novel. I wrote that in 2000, and didn't start The Summoning until 2005. The reason for the delay was that I had this idea for a YA novel, but didn't feel qualified to write one. The last time I wrote from a teenage point of view I was a teen myself. But I found it was like any other kind of writing--you do the research, and you mentally get yourself in that place, and you practice, then you write it...and hope for the best!

Did you have any modern inspiration for the series, perhaps X-Men?

The X-Men did inspire my half-demons, a fact I acknowledge with a tongue-in-cheek reference in my adult series. With The Summoning, though, I found I wasn't so much influenced by other works as struggling NOT to be influenced. I wanted to have a group of supernatural youths in one place, away from their parents. The obvious answer is "a school," which has been done in X-Men, Harry Potter and countless other books. It's never possible to come up with something completely unique, but it can be a struggle even to be somewhat different.

How long did it take you to write The Summoning? Could you tell us a little bit about the process?

I started in with a draft for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2005. I liked a lot of what came out, but it needed major work, so I put it aside until I could do a full rewrite in late 2006. That's when my agent started sending it around to publishers and it sold. Then there's the long pre-publication process--editing etc--before the book actually hits the shelves.
What is your typical writing day like?

I get up before my kids and do a little writing with my coffee. That wakes me up. Then, after they're gone, I do some email, any "leftover from the day before" business stuff, then get down to the real work--writing, editing, whatever's on the agenda. That lasts until the kids come home from school. A boring schedule, but right now, I have to fit the work around my family, rather than just write when the mood strikes.

We are really looking forward to The Awakening. Any hints you can give us as to what's in store for Chloe, Derek and Simon?

There's a lot happening in The Awakening. That's the great thing about being past the first book--everything is set up, and I can just roll with the fun stuff: the action, the adventure, the romance. Of course, the problem with talking about the second book is that almost anything I say is a spoiler for those who haven't read the first. But for anyone who's read The Summoning, the first three chapters to The Awakening are up on my site:

What's your next writing project after you finish the series?

Right now, I'm not thinking that far ahead. I had a very busy fall for new contracts. I'm now contracted to 13 books in my adult series (#9 just came out in Fall 08) I just added another 3 YA novels, bringing the total to 6. I've got a crime series that I suspect will be temporarily stalled at 2 books for lack of time! I've got a bunch of short stories coming out in anthologies and I'm doing some comic book writing in 2009 (for Joss Whedon's Angel series). At this point, it's a case of too many great projects I'm being offered, and not enough time to do them all!


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