June 7, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Seven Deadly Shadows Hits Shelves This Week. In An Interview With Co-Authors Co-Authors Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani About Battling Demons, Death And Action

Seven Deadly Shadows hits shelves this week! In an interview with co-authors Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani talk action, death and battling life's demons.

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne Maetani hits shelves this week. It is one of the most anticipated books of the year, with an idea spawned from twitter and co-written by two already accomplished writers. I am thrilled to have the chance to interview both. It is my first time having the opportunity to interview co-authors of a book. With that in mind, it didn’t take much stalking for curiosity to get the best of me! So let us go ahead and dig right in!

Seven Deadly Shadows Author Interview

1) I need to talk about the structure of Seven Deadly Shadows. I’ve read books that jump between the points of view of characters (once it was even a dog) and between timelines. But I don’t believe I’ve read a book, graphic novel or comics that are structure strictly by the setting. Chapter by chapter Seven Deadly Shadows is set in a certain and that is where the characters are.  Can you explain whether that decision was structure based, content based (plot driven etc…?)  Or both. And what is the difference in dynamic that writing from the “point of view” of the setting vs. More traditional structures?

Courtney: The book isn’t so much structured by setting, but the setting does play an integral role in each scene. Because the novel is set mostly in Kyoto, Japan, we wanted the book to feel as authentic as possible, while scaffolding the understanding of Western readers who may be unfamiliar with Japanese culture. As an action writer, it’s particularly important that I have clear visuals for fight scenes. I spent almost two weeks in Japan, walking through shrines, photographing locations like Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine, so that I’d have a good mental map for fight layouts. The hardest fights to choreograph, of course, were the scenes at the Fujikawa Shrine, since Kira’s family shrine does not exist in real life. We also chose locations based on what made the most sense, and what sorts of backdrops would add drama to the scene. We wanted Kira’s Japan to feel alive for the reader, almost like it was another character in the book.

Valynne: One of the things this allowed us to do is illustrate the different aspects and challenges of Kira’s life and character traits in different settings. For the most part, her experiences with life’s demons occur at school and home. At the shrine, she encounters more of the actual monsters and fantastical creatures.

2) I hate asking traditional questions so I apologize for this one. However, I have never had the pleasure of interviewing two authors or a book at once. What was it like coming together and writing a book with a partner? I know in the note to the reader, up front, you talk about how this started with a tweet. But from there to publication, how do you learn to work together, melding strengths/weaknesses, knowing the push-pull of the creative process between two people? Challenges and blessings?

Courtney: Co-writing a novel in one voice is difficult, but not impossible. In general, I’d first draft the odd-numbered chapters, and Valynne drafted the even ones. I’d revise the even-numbered chapters, and she revised the odd.We had a verbal framework for the first draft—we’d meet weekly to discuss where we wanted the novel to go; but by the second draft, we needed a hard outline to make it all work. I’m not a great out-liner, but I learned! In general, I enjoy collaborating with other creatives. There’s an old adage that says something to the effect of, “Many hands make light work;” I also think that many hands make a stronger work, too, as your co-creator can build good ideas into great ones.

Valynne: One of the greatest challenges for us was writing style. My general writing style is sparse, and Courtney is much better at adding description. This required revisions to make the writing consistent and in one voice. The nice thing, however, is being able to have two completely different minds bringing completely different ideas to the table.  There are so many things I never would have considered if it weren’t for Courtney, and often the ideas of the other author can be a springboard for new ideas.

 3) Seven Deadly Shadows really hits the ground running. Was that purposeful? What do you think the biggest shock will be from readers? Are there any reactions so far that have completely caught you off guard? Any that have completely made your life forever?

Courtney: In general, the reception for the book has been very positive! (Thanks, readers!) I will say that most of the projects I work on—novels and comics alike—start out with a bit of a bang. I’m an action junkie, so the more fight scenes I can write, the happier I am.

Valynne: I have always been the kind of person who loves action.  If someone doesn’t die within the first few minutes of a movie, I’m probably not interested. Many old Japanese samurai movies are filled with action from beginning to end. I can see how this may be a surprise for Western readers, however, I hope it’s a good surprise.

4) There have been a lot of talk about the journey you both went on writing this book. How has it changed you? As writers and as people? How did the journey unexpectedly (if it did) shape the book and your life in ways you didn’t see coming?

Courtney: Both Valynne and I went through some deeply personal struggles during the creation of this novel—things that simply can’t be foreseen, but have a strong impact on a creator’s ability to build worlds. The fact that this novel has made it to the shelf is still miraculous to me.

Valynne:  One of the things this allowed us to do is illustrate the different aspects and challenges of Kira’s life and character traits in different settings. For the most part, her experiences with life’s demons occur at school and home. At the shrine, she encounters more of the actual monsters and fantastical creatures.

To me, this novel became a metaphor for overcoming depression, fighting your own demons, and rising above your fears. That was the journey I was taking while working on this book, and I drew pretty heavily on my own experiences here.

In terms of how the novel shaped me as a person . . . I’m not sure I can answer that question. Suffice to say that this novel forced me to recommit to my craft, plumbed the depths of my empathy, and tested me in ways I’d not imagined possible. I’m still here, still writing. I like to think that I’ve become a better writer (and a better human being), having gone through it all.

 5) What would you like to say to readers about Seven Deadly Shadows on the week of its release? Whether it is about the story, that you really want to get across, about the world or just a message that maybe didn’t make it into the book?

Courtney: Kira showed me how to face my own demons with courage, grace, and strength; I hope her journey brings you joy, the way it did for me. Don’t fear the shadows . . .

Valynne: I’m just excited that there will be another opportunity to introduce readers to the Japanese culture. I love my heritage, and I love that this can be shared with readers all over.

Author Biographies

Courtney Alameda

Courtney Author Photos2013_117.jpg

A veteran bookseller and librarian, Courtney Alameda now spends her days writing speculative fiction novels, short stories, and comics. Her debut novel, SHUTTER, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and hailed as a “standout in the genre” by School Library Journal. Since then, she’s wandered the universe with far-future archeologists (PITCH DARK), racked up some retribution (SISTERS OF SORROW), and recruited death gods with a Shinto priestess (SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS, forthcoming) . . . and those are just the adventures she can currently tell you about.

Courtney holds a degree in English literature with an emphasis in creative writing. She is represented by John M. Cusick of Folio Literary. A California native, she now resides in the northwestern U.S. with her husband, one tiny cat, a Welsh Corgi who may actually be a vacuum cleaner, and rooms filled with books.

Member HWA, SFWA, SCBWI; and SDCC Creative Professional.

Valynne E. Maetani (courtesy Teenreads.Com/Edelweiss)


Valynne E. Maetani grew up in Utah, an active member of We Need Diverse books and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In a former life, she was a project manager and developed educational software for children with learning disabilities. Currently, she is a part-time stage mom, part-time soccer mom and full-time writer. Her debut novel, Ink and Ashes, is the winner of the New Visions Award 2013. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT with her husband and three girls, who are carbon copies of her. She’s discovered that living with herself isn’t always a bowl of cherries.


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