I'm very excited to have author Kathleen Duey join us today for an interview regarding her award winning book "Skin Hunger." Kathleen also offers insight to the anticipated release of "Sacred Scars" due out in the Fall of 2009, and shares her thoughts on writing, reading and advice for aspiring authors as well.
And that's not all! I'm giving away a free copy of Skin Huger! Just leave a comment in the comments section and I'll draw the name of our lucky winner on Tuesday!
I've read over 50 books this year. I lost count. There were some that I read a few chapters at a time. Some I trudged through and eventually finished. Some I didn't even finish, I rushed them back to the library. Then, there are the golden few. The ones that kept me up late with burning eyes because I didn't want to put it down. Skin Hunger was one of those late-night-few.
Skin Hunger is told in two perspectives. At first both characters seem totally unrelated, but little by little Duey brings the reader along and shows us how the two story lines come together. I felt like I was opening a present or getting to be apart of the discovery of the story, rather than just being "told" the story. I'd wager that few authors would be able to pull this type of story line off. Duey does it masterfully.
Let's hear what she has to say to us.
I think one of the most remarkable aspects of Skin Hunger is your ability to blend two seemingly different stories into one book until little by little, the reader discovers how the stories come together.
Q. Did you know from the start that you would use two story lines?
A. The idea for A Resurrection of Magic came to me over fifteen years ago. I thought it would be a single book then. It is the very first novel I ever tried to write—what an optimist. I sank beneath the waves about 300 pages into chaos. It has evolved over time in many ways, but the two-protagonists-interlocking-timelines structure was part of the original idea.
Q. Was it difficult to write both story lines or did it come naturally?
A. Since the story was never framed any other way for me, it felt natural. Structure—as a storytelling tool—has always fascinated me. After this trilogy, or overlapping it, my next two books will have atypical story-delivery-systems, too. One of those is a collaboration I am wildly excited about. The other is a stand alone novel that might be a paraquel to the trilogy—I haven’t decided yet.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing the trilogy?
A. The timeline. I just finished the second book, Sacred Scars, so the worst of the timeline wrestling is over. For anyone who hasn’t read it Skin Hunger: There are two stories, 200 years apart. The first story causes the second one. There are two protagonists. One is written in first person, the other in third person and they alternate chapters. In the first story, about 140 years pass by the end of book two. In the second story, about three and a half years will have passed by the end of book two. Book three will be synchronous timelines by the end. I don’t outline, so it could take a turn, but that’s what seems inevitable now.
Q. What was your favorite part about writing Skin Hunger?
A. I loved finally getting the story out. I have been carrying it around in my head for so long! And I have loved readers’ response to it. After years of making a happy living writing my middle grade series, I want to believe that I can write deep, dark, page-turners with at least some literary merit, that teens and adults can’t put down. It is a whole new direction for me. I expected to finish the trilogy and write another few books before anyone noticed that I had changed paths. So the great reviews, the National Book Award finalist’s medal, the Cybil’s short list, etc,—these were all gifts I never expected. I appreciate them more than I can say.
Q. I love how you integrate old cultures in your books and include travel in your research. What were the most crucial items or places that you researched for Skin Hunger?
A. Writing forty-odd historical novels turns out to be good training for building a world from scratch. I’ve read so much about how cultures evolve in response to the people who begin them, punishing weather, immigration, war, sudden wealth (or poverty), the influx of a new religion, a devastating epidemic…When I began thinking about Limori, the pieces fit together fairly logically. I am fascinated with real place names. Limori is a Romany word; its meaning is a key to the story.
Traveling to do international school visits and to speak at writers’ conferences has taken me to interesting places. Some of them have been sources for building Limori. I have borrowed all kinds of things—street sounds, the smells, food, the buildings, especially the oldest ones, more food, the color of the sky, the sound of the wind, everything interests me. I love to travel and it has leaked into my work. At the international schools, I meet kids who speak three or four or more languages and have lived in many countries and I envy their stockpile of settings.
Q. Can you share anything with us regarding your current Work In Progress?
A. Sacred Scars is finally finished, off to the copyeditor last week. I care so much about Sadima and Hahp and all the other characters. It’s going to be odd to be finished with this trilogy in 2009.
Up next, a set of four books for 2-4th graders: The Faeries Promise. It’s a paraquel to The Unicorn’s Secret, set in a world that I created in nightly dreams in the third and forth grade. I would go to sleep there and wake up here. Then go to bed here and wake up there. It was like having two lives, for about a year and a half. It was amazing. I have tried to do it now and can’t. Yet.
Concurrently, I will be working on a really interesting collaboration, setting out to do something very different, using more tools to tell the story than I ever have before. I know that’s vague, but we are just getting off the ground with it. I do think it will be really interesting.
Do you have a regular writing routine?
Full time, almost every day. I am a terrible procrastinator about starting work for the day—but I have learned tricks that work most of the time. Once I get started, I write fairly quickly.
What is the last book that you read?
Last: Laurie Halse Andersons’s Chained. (loved it!). Now: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean. I am also reading a partial early manuscript for a friend who has read both of the Resurrection books for me. It’s *really* interesting, really good, and I can’t say a word about it except I know her fans are going to love it.
What is your favorite book(s)?
This is always an impossible question for me. I have a few dozen favorite books. I am rereading The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake—it was written in the 40’s and 50’s remains a literary milestone for me. I read it in the fifth grade and it changed me forever. I loved Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I have written three answers to this that got so long and workshop-ish that I deleted them all. I would need a few hundred pages to finish what I started. There is so much to say about the art, craft and commerce of writing and so many good books that address all of that.
This is what I wish someone had told me: Patience. Learn the craft. Explore your art. It’s fun and it’s very hard. It will take years, almost certainly. Do not trust yourself or those who love you to evaluate your work—ask others to read it. It will suck at first. Everyone’s does. Keep practicing, like a painter, like an actor, a musician, a magician—it takes time and effort to perform your art well enough to draw a crowd. It just does.
Thank you for taking the time to share with us. Do you have any other parting words to share?
Just thank you, for reading my work. For liking it. What a gift that is!
Here are my online mainstays:
If you check out Kathleen's blog, you'll be able to see some of the process that she used to create Sacred Scars; her travels and the real life objects that become apart of Sadima and Hhap's world. It's fascinating to be able to see the process as it takes place.
Don't forget to leave a comment so I can enter you in the drawing!
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