I have the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Rose, a fellow Flux author whose YA novel CAMELOT BURNING, releases today!
By day, Vivienne is Guinevere’s lady-in-waiting. By night, she’s Merlin’s secret apprentice, indulging in the new mechanical arts and science of alchemy. It’s a preferred distraction from Camelot’s gossipy nobility, roguish knights, and Lancelot’s athletic new squire, Marcus, who will follow in all knights’ footsteps by taking a rather inconvenient vow of chastity.
More than anything, Vivienne longs to escape Camelot for a future that wouldn’t include needlework or marriage to a boorish lord or dandy. But when King Arthur’s sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens Camelot, Vivienne must stay to help Merlin build a steam-powered weapon to defeat the dark magic machine Morgan will set upon the castle. Because if Camelot falls, Morgan would be that much closer to finding the elusive Holy Grail. Time is running out and Morgan draws near, and if Vivienne doesn’t have Merlin’s weapon ready soon, lives would pay the price, including that of Marcus, the only one fast enough to activate it on the battlefield.
Fonda Lee: Congratulations on your debut, Kathryn! Tell us about what inspired you to write a fantasy steampunk based on Arthurian legend. (And um, how cool is that?!)
Kathryn Rose: Thank you! A few years ago, I was working on another project, but had ambitions to write steampunk, but I didn’t have a story yet. Then the 1953 film KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE was on TV one Saturday night, and as I watched it, I thought to myself, “Merlin would be such a badass steampunk character.” That night, I started outlining the story.
FL: The legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table continue to fascinate and inspire us to this day. Why do you think they are so enduring?
KR: I think what draws us in are the timeless questions that frequently come up in the story in allegorical form. Camelot centers around ideas that humanity has explored on philosophical levels for centuries: What is paradise? Will good always trump evil? Can we live forever? There’s also a lot of mystery. We have so many different versions of this story, and we don’t know who the real “Arthur” would be, if he lived at all. That makes it fascinating.
FL: Did you do a lot of research into Arthurian legend? How did you balance staying faithful to what readers know about Camelot, with writing something new and unexpected?
KR: I did research Arthurian legend, and thankfully, there are a lot of inconsistencies in the canon that allow for poetic license in retelling it. I remained faithful to the story and treated it with integrity, but I did rely on those inconsistencies (for example, in some stories, Galahad is Lancelot’s son; in others, he isn’t. In mine, Galahad is Lancelot’s former squire). It was super important to make sure the reader recognized Camelot, while at the same time seeing that there was something different about it.
FL: CAMELOT BURNING is the perfect example of blending and crossing genres. What was it like to write and sell something that “doesn’t fit in a box” and are there books or authors that you admire, that do this particularly well?
KR: It’s a lot of fun to write Vivienne’s story, but I acknowledge that it’s a pretty bizarre mashup. My agent called it “alternative historical fantasy” so that editors and readers would know right away that this isn’t the Medieval England fantasy they expect. There are elements in CAMELOT BURNING that obviously would never be seen in true Arthurian England (Merlin drinking absinthe, for example), and early on in the writing process, I got great feedback recommending I make Camelot as Camelot-y as possible so that we don’t feel like we’re in a brand new world when it should be familiar. So I think there’s a fine line, and when you write a mashup like this, you have to consider chopping some story elements in order to allow for believability. I think Maggie Stiefvater is insanely brilliant at creating stories and worlds that blend genres. I mean, THE SCORPIO RACES is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read, and it’s about blood-thirsty horses.
FL: Tell us a bit about your journey as an author. How long have you been writing? How has the debut process been for you so far, and do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
KR: I’ve been writing forever, but I became serious about writing and publication in 2009. The debut process has been amazing. Not only is Flux great to work with, but I’m absolutely floored by the support and advice from my fellow OneFours. I’d have no idea what I’m doing if it weren’t for the writing community. My tips for aspiring authors include: write a lot, consistently, and read a lot, consistently (and with the intention of learning craft), and keep doing that forever.
FL: What’s next for you? Will there be a sequel to CAMELOT BURNING? Do you have other projects in the works?
KR: There is a sequel to CAMELOT BURNING. I hope to share more information about it in the next few months! I have other projects in the works, yes, but I can’t talk about them yet.
FL: And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
KR: I am afraid of goldfish when they die. Their eyes are weird and bore into my soul and, ugh. Something I’m not afraid of? Hmmm. I’m not afraid of heights. I like them.
FL: Thank you for the interview Kathryn, and congratulations again on CAMELOT BURNING!
Kathryn Rose was born in Toronto, Canada, and grew up in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Southern Ontario. After graduating from York University, where she studied literature and philosophy, she relocated to Los Angeles, California. When she isn’t breaking up fights between her cat and dog, she reads and writes speculative fiction, cooks with her husband, and listens to rock music.
|Fonda Lee is an author and recovering corporate strategist who was born and raised in Calgary, Canada (land of hockey, rodeo, and oil reserves) and now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon (land of rain, hipsters, and Powell’s books). When she is not writing she can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Her debut upper YA science fiction novel, ZEROBOXER, will be published by Flux in April 2015. You can find Fonda at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.|