Do you like YA fantasy? Well, today we have a double-header of interviews with YA fantasy writers! First, we have our Month9Books pub-sister, Jackie Morse Kessler, here to answer a few questions about her writing process and her newest release, To Bear an Iron Key!
Hi, Jackie! Welcome to We Do Write. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thanks—I’m happy to be here!
Okay, all about me: I’m barely five feet tall, a Sagittarius, and a chocoholic. I’ll be testing for my black belt in tae kwon do this June—working hard to kick butt! I’m an author with eleven published novels to my names (both the JMK name for my YA fiction and the JK name, for my adult fiction) and almost 20 published short stories. I live near Albany, NY, with my Loving Husband, Precious Little Tax Deductions, and Parkour Kitty.
Tell us about TO BEAR AN IRON KEY. What’s the story about?
The book is YA traditional fantasy. Short version: A witch, a thief, the fey, a stolen key, and Midsummer. Longer version: Bromwyn, a teenage apprentice witch, is preparing for her test of Witchcraft, which she must pass to keep her magic. She also is preparing to marry Brend, the blacksmith’s apprentice—a match neither of them wants. Bromwyn’s best friend, Rusty, decides he wants to be more than just the baker’s son, so he becomes a thief. The problem is, he picks the wrong pocket on Midsummer’s Eve…and finds himself the new guardian of the World Door, responsible for the visiting fey that night. Chaos ensues. Now Bromwyn and Rusty have to outsmart the fey and save the village. If they fail, Bromwyn will lose her magic and Rusty will lose his life.
How did the idea of the story come to you?
It originally started as a short story about a bajillion years ago—really, a massive action scene heavily influenced by Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t publish that story. It percolated for roughly a decade before I brushed it off, rethought everything, and started fresh (keeping only the names, and the idea that the fey who were visiting during Midsummer needed a guardian). I came up with the characters’ back-stories; solid goals, motivations, and conflicts; and a distinct point of view for the story. Et voila!
Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?
I used to have a critique group, when I first got serious about writing. Then for many years I had a trusted critique partner, and we worked very well together. At this point, I self-edit, but I have a trusted friend—also an author—who beta reads as needed.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both! While the process for every book is different, what I’ve been doing lately is outlining the basic ideas of the story—sometimes it’s a more detailed chapter outline; other times, it’s just a bulleted list of key points in story order—and saving the actual “How does this thing actually happen?” for when I’m writing that particular scene.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
I hit writer’s block when I take the story in the wrong direction. Figuring out where I went wrong can be a real headache—but it’s worth it when I figure out the right steps forward.
What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
What are you reading right now?
The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Super speed. (My sparring in tae kwon do would be so much better if I were faster!)
What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
I’m not sure, but my cookie history probably has me flagged by the NSA. (To the NSA who may be reading this: I am totally kidding.)
Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: key, onion, manipulate.
If you manipulate a key deftly, you can use it to slice an onion.
Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
Marathoning something on Netflix.
Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
My agent, Miriam Kriss, who’s my biggest fan. My editor, Georgia McBride, who got me to kick my writing up to the next level. Everyone at Month9Books for being so incredible and enthusiastic and supportive. Ty Drago, an amazing friend. Renee Barr, who has read everything I’ve ever written, poor woman! All of my readers: THANK YOU!!! And mostly, my fantastic sons, Ryan and Mason, and my loving husband, Brett—without them, I couldn’t do what I love.
Thanks so much for the interview!
TO BEAR AN IRON KEY
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Five years ago, the young witch Bromwyn refused a gift from the powerful fairy king. Tonight, on Midsummer, that decision comes back to haunt her. When her best friend Rusty picks the wrong pocket, he and Bromwyn are all that stand between their village and the rampaging fairies who have pushed through the World Door. If they cannot outwit the fairy king and queen before the World Door closes at sunrise, the friends will lose everything—their village, Bromwyn's magic, and Rusty's life.
From To Bear an Iron Key by Jackie Morse Kessler:
"Bromwyn turned to face the burning fields. Reaching deep inside of herself, she closed her eyes and touched the core of her power, the place where her magic lived, where it connected her to all of Nature. She held onto that magic, let it fill her almost to the bursting point, and then she cast it out onto the fields. It blanketed the rows of spelt, and she felt as it rode the wind—Air—and then touched the grain—Earth—and then sizzled around the fire."
ABOUT JACKIE MORSE KESSLER:
Jackie is the author of the acclaimed YA series Riders of the Apocalypse, published by Harcourt/Graphia. The first two books in the quartet, HUNGER and RAGE, are YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers; in addition, HUNGER has been nominated for several awards and RAGE is an International Reading Association YA Choice. RAGE, LOSS and BREATH are Junior Library Guild selections