Today I’m so excited to bring you all my exclusive interview with Kelly Coon. I’m on the Gravemaidens Street Team and positively jumped when I got this opportunity!
The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
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.
Kammani is torn between her duty to her family and her own heart. Can you talk about her character evolution? Was this conflict there from the beginning?
Yes! Kammani believes that in order to be the best healer she can be and to ultimately save her sister from the grave, she needs to deny her burgeoning feelings for her childhood friend. Kammani doesn’t believe she can be a person with a divided mind. She thinks that in order to save her sister, she can’t be sidetracked by love, even though this love interest of hers, Dagan, only wants to support her. (He’s a Hufflepuff, cinnamon roll in the very gooiest sense. 😉)
This conflict was there from the very beginning of the first draft. I’ve sometimes felt my own divided heart as a working woman who absolutely loves her job, who also happens to have a husband and kids. It can be tough to balance it all and sometimes, you have to choose. The choice isn’t always as easy as it seems like it would be.
One of my goals with GRAVEMAIDENS was to show girls that they CAN have it all; it might just require some help from those who are on your side.
Can you think of a decision you made that was crucial to the birth of Gravemaidens?
Oh absolutely. I swallowed my pride and decided to have a growth mindset when it came to writing. I’d always been a “talented” writer in my teachers’ and professors’ estimation, so when I started writing my first novel, I thought it would come easy to me like so many other writing challenges had been. I assumed that I would send out queries and get a million likes and have a book deal in a month and a half.
But my arrogance was blocking me from success.
Only after I humbled myself and recognized that though I might have some writing skill, I was not skilled in writing novels, did I learn what I was doing wrong and make the changes that would land me the best agent on the planet, and a two-book deal beyond my wildest dreams.
Which of the characters do you think you are most, and least, like?
I think there’s a little bit of me in each one of my characters. Kammani’s determination definitely comes from me. I will absolutely not give up if it’s something I truly want. I don’t have it in me to do so! But Iltani’s smart mouth and sarcasm at all the wrong times, is a big part of me too. I had to learn to control my mouth when I was younger, or I could get myself in a lot of trouble. Haha! Iltani hasn’t learned that lesson, yet.
What’s been the best and most challenging part of the debut process? How do you balance social media and writing?
One of the best parts has been meeting all sorts of fellow writers who are in the same boat as I am. I’ve developed some truly wonderful friendships that I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. The most challenging part—which is over now, since I don’t do this anymore—was regrouping after I read some negative reviews. I was reading them at first to try to learn (growth mindset!), but then I found that different reviewers were saying opposite things, so it didn’t make much sense for me to read them, especially when some people seem to get a kick out of being cruel. Now, I’m free from that ping-pong of emotions I would get when I’d read through them, and am focused on making the GRAVEMAIDENS sequel (yes, there are two!) as good as it can be.
Can you talk about your process when you were searching for pre-order swag? I find this process so fascinating!
Sure! I basically wanted to find some things that I would personally find valuable and would be easy to ship.
I like laptop stickers, so I thought other people might, too. My niece, Sarah Wenke, is a graphic designer, so she said she could design one for me, and the moth she drew just blew my mind.
She also designed the enamel pin. I probably won’t do another one of these because the expense is high, but I figured for my first book, I was allowed to indulge myself and have some fun. I am privileged enough to have gotten a good advance, so I invested some of that into it.
Vicky Who Reads designed my Maidens Tonic card for international preorders. I needed to have flat shipping for international buyers, and wanted to have something special for them since they weren’t eligible to receive the enamel pin.
Delacorte Press provided both the bookmark and the bookplate, so I was grateful to have their additions! I’m thrilled with the final packages. You can see all of them here: https://www.kellycoon.com/preorder-gravemaidens
About the Author
I was born in Flint, Michigan, a city infamous for its water crisis and murder rates. And since my parents gave up their rock band to join a church when I was four, I heard gunfire on Saturdays and brimstone on Sundays.
I learned all about following rules as I grew up. (And breaking them.) In ’97, I found myself staring at the angry eyebrows of a woman expelling me from an extremely strict Baptist college because I, as a young woman, had stepped foot off campus without a chaperone. She didn’t like the expression of my irritation that the freshman boys didn’t have to procure the same.
With more than enough fodder for poetry and personal essays, I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in 2000, the same year I married a man who’s clearly the better half of this whole. In 2004, I earned my master’s in Secondary English Education to teach high-schoolers the stories with which I’d been enamored since I was in pigtails. (Ahh, Romeo and Juliet!)
I’m the mom to three little boys and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. I’m also a young adult author represented by Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency. My debut YA fantasy, GRAVEMAIDENS, will be published with Delacorte/ Random House on October 29, 2019, and I’m so excited about that, I’m jumping out of my skin. The sequel is forthcoming in ’20.