Kelly Coon Interview
For anyone who isn’t familiar with how long I’ve been tormenting Warmaidens (Gravemaidens #2) author, Kelly Coon, please go back to my Gravemaidens’ review and Interview from the release of Gravemaidens (both linked). Warmaidens (review linked) is the long-overdue conclusion to the Gravemaidens duology, a decade in the… wait? Kelly Coon’s Gravemaidens (Released September 2020) and Warmaidens (Gravemaidens #2, Released 12/2020) are only a year apart? Damn you 2020- 10 years in one hellscape. (also I read this back in May- apparently I was the first person to read the ARC, which is like a claim to fame) Well, that is that, it has felt a decade long to all us mere humans. To Kelly “Vampiric Empress” Coon, it has been a year of ridiculous accomplishments, epic Twitter trolling, and her son wants to dance with her in the kitchen. Like what is her life, even?
Then there is Kelly Coon, ready to egg on all the things in a year when getting out of bed and breathing is the most terrifying thing in the world…
“You honestly need to start writing books, lady. You have such a compelling voice.” -Kelly Coon.
“I have a hard time committing to things when I don’t know if they’ll go anywhere.” -Me.
“How do you know it could never go anywhere? (Just to play devil’s advocate….)” -Kelly Coon.
This instantly translated in my head to:
Because Kelly Coon is damn straight that fierce.
Disclaimers before you move on:
- There is a whole lot of Kelly… BUT YOUR TWITTER
- Be ready to feel wholly inadequate as an adult, even if you have had the best year of your life.
- Well. Yeah. Warmaidens is just that damn good.
Slow Dancing In The Kitchen
In case you missed this <le sigh moment> that Kelly Coon hared from her kitchen, it is both beautiful and one of few G-rated moments from Kelly’s Twitter feed…
What is the back story on your little boy asking you to dance in the kitchen? Why? Context? Were you having a bad day? Was he? Did you cry? What song was playing (if any) details!
Honestly, my son is just moved by music like his mommy. I was literally playing a Spotify playlist called “Slow dancing in the kitchen” and I don’t know if he read that off my phone or what, but he just held out a hand and asked me to dance. It was such a beautiful moment.
3…2…1 <LE SIGHHHHH> Mom is still swooning.
Maybe I’ll ask Gomez to dance with me.
That didn’t end well.
Kelly Coon’s Characters Didn’t Mean to Murder
So, wait. A Swamp book with a twist? Is this the same book that I could have sworn (but I really haven’t been myself since Pavel passed in July so my apologies if I’ve mashed something up here) you said you recently finished? Two different ideas? The revamping of the same idea?
First of all, I’m so sorry about Pavel.In a year of horrors, a pet passing on is not an easy thing by any means.
Pets for 2020 VIP!
Thank you. Pavel will always be in my heart, with me Gomez, and Liam. We are blessed to have Queen Mirabella and Prince Kaz join our circus, but Pavel is with us forever.
But as for your question—the swamp book has yet to be written. It’s my YA contemporary fantasy that is still just a glimmer in my eye.
Ok cool. But Kelly… is this character in that glimmer? Cause I haz questions.
About The Twitter
Kelly. We really need to talk about Twitter. LOL.
Ok. So. That screenshot of the character that isn’t murderous… or so you say. That is just exhibit A. There are just so many examples of, well…
Speaking of pets…
Then there is…
Twitter: What sounds romantic but isn’t?
You: Bathtub sex. Too hot. Too sloshy. Not enough room for knees. High probability of whacking a body part against the faucet.
Uhmmmm… I’m not sure I even have a question? But I have a slice of cheesecake and am listening. <whispers> I also have to kindly disagree about the shower response/discussion between you and Emily.
Listen. Bathtubs are good for soaking and reading and shaving one’s legs. But add in a 6’3” man and….nope. haha
Pro Twitter Troll
When you discuss things like your husband’s lack of armpit odor or son’s bug bites, calling him AND his iphone rude… does your family know, do they care? Or are they running on the fact that, from our first interview, that you are a vampire? Therefore, you can do whatever you damn well please?
My husband is very proud of his lack of armpit odor and uses every opportunity to brag about it. hahaha But YES, I AM THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT. COME AT ME, I SAY.
Kelly “Come At Me” Coon – Straight up fierce.
So While We (Ok I’ll Speak For Myself), While I Was Hiding From 2020 Bingo… Kelly Coon Won A Noble Peace Prize
Ok… maybe not BUT…
During your self-declared 2020 year of the badass, how have you managed to, let’s see:
- Finished a book
- Work full time
- School your children virtually
- Workout 4-5 times a week
…please add anything I missed
<PS I will now go crawl under a rock like the sloth I am> You must share your secret. I demand it.
An imminent desire to accomplish something so I don’t melt into goo? Pressure of doing it all? Consistent fear of failure and being swallowed up by the universe? All of the above?
So the overwhelming fear of all the things that drive me into the fetus position drives you into action. Dually noted!
Warmaidens- I LURVED WARMAIDENS, KELLY “COME AT ME” COON!
I mean this isn’t difficult to figure out. I am a dark soul with a black heart and Warmaidens is a darker soul with a black heart. The themes are more mature and the character dynamics are more complex. That is very simplistic because this is an interview, not the review (linked above), but let’s get into some questions with that context.
Lady, YOU WENT THERE. I want to word this right. I never saw the path Warmaidens goes down, coming. I didn’t think you had it in you- not talent-wise… don’t think that at all. That’s ridiculous. You could write the shit out of anything. I mean as far as what you want to/like to write, I guess? Mind you Gravemaidens is a debut book, so bad on me for jumping to that conclusion. But Christ on a crouton, Kelly. I sat up at the dangling ear and never got to breathe again! It plucked all the strings of my dark and twisty heart.
Did you know that this was the duology’s arc from the get-go or did this shift at some point between books? What has been the reaction so far? I can’t imagine everyone will react as I have, but I hope so!
This is my favorite review ever. THANK YOU.
I don’t even know what to say to that. <Prince Kaz is currently crying for his daily massage and that is the only crying anyone hears>
No, I actually shifted Kammani’s arc after I sold Warmaidens. What I wanted to write and what was better for the character and the entire crew were two different things. I knew I had to age Kammani and Dagan and help Nanaea mature if I was going to start Warmaidens nine months later, and that maturation had to involve bloodshed. There was no way around it. Kammani had been working so hard to avoid it that it was in the best interest of her development to make her go through it. I love how the story turned out and am so glad it connected with you too!
Being Strong Is Exhausting
Having lived a life, from childhood, of trauma, I got tired of people telling me how strong I am. Being strong all the time, is exhausting. Especially when stress from trauma is haunting your steps. There are characters in Warmaidens that were dogged in their strength for so long that I wanted them to break because it became unrealistic. And bless your heart, they did! Can you talk about that writing process and those character arcs? What went into writing the strength of those characters? How strong they were, and choosing when and the how of them finally saying it is too much.
Being strong is exhausting, but I’m one of those people who hold on with my fingernails if I need to, so I knew that I could put Kammani and crew through the wringer as long as they each had their moment. <YES. TO ALL THIS>
Dagan’s break hurt my whole heart. He’d been hanging on with all of Kammani’s antics and supporting her from the jump, but at some point, he needed a release. I did feel bad for torturing him for so long, (again, oops), but I knew if he was going to be a partner for Kammani, he couldn’t just be her lapdog. He needed to show some of his own pain and triumph over it just like she’d done over and over again. <CHRIST ON A CROUTON YES!>
PTSD And Self-medicating
I sit up really fast and pay attention to any characters that deal with PTSD and especially alcoholism because, one, I deal with PTSD from my childhood. Two, my dad came back from Vietnam with PTSD and was a raging alcoholic. Your writing around this was brilliant and spot-on. Where did this come from? Is it from personal experience, research, knowledge from friends and/or other family members? How did you get the brutality of this vicious circle and the emotional damage it causes on paper?
Sadly, I know what addiction does to people. I have a close family member who has been in and out of rehab for a long, long time so that compulsion to self-medicate to drown out pain came directly from my own life. It’s actually cathartic to write about pain, so in some ways, I’m able to get my feelings out without having to actually write from a first-person POV.
I’ve heard this a lot from musicians. About how cathartic it is to write about pain, and release it out into the world. Especially when you can see it connect with others, and then not feel alone in it.
Who Are You To Judge Me?
Kammani’s reconciliation between her head and her heart, her visions and the people she meets… this is her journey and what makes her such an incredible character to walk besides. I don’t feel it is the reader’s job to judge her decisions. Whether you agree with her or not, it is the journey that the reader will garner the most from. Immersing themselves in her journey is where the heart of everything lies, not in judging her character or banging your head against her decisions. If you can look at her, her decisions, her journey, and ultimate conclusion from the point of view of reader and writer, how did you write Kammani? What part did you most hope to bring to the forefront of readers? As a reader, what do you think ultimately comes through most? Did it come through as you planned or do reactions of readers show you something unexpected?
Most people who read Kammani get annoyed by her stubbornness. Just give in to Dagan! Why can’t you see that he’s so good for you! But part of Kammani’s weakness is her inability to allow herself to be vulnerable. She’s always had to be strong, so letting go and trusting Dagan to be the man he says he’ll be is the most difficult thing for her to learn.
It’s one of the ways she’s very different from me. Before I was married, I was always too quick to trust people I dated, and that led to a lot of heartbreak. So I gave her the opposite weakness and wanted to explore the ways it could shape her and cause her a whole shit-ton of trouble, too. haha
Liam wants names. He wants names NOW. Names of every boy that broke your heart. He’s making a list and gathering Queen Mirabella’s territory. There will be blood
Kelly Coon’s Writing Gets Brave In Warmaidens
Overall, and I don’t say this often. Most recently I’ve said it about Alexis Henderson’s Year of the Witching, I believe this was very brave writing, for a multitude of reasons. On every theme there was a large step up in the unbridled way it was attacked. Nothing was held back. In terms of the truth and brutality of war, human trafficking/slavery (women specific, especially) again, you locked in and did not mince words. This is brave writing that didn’t flinch or yield in the face of audience or candy-coating. And that needs to be applauded. What went through your mind attacking these topics? Were you afraid? Did you doubt yourself or continuously edit and scrap rewrites? Or were you dead set and sure about how you wanted to write the tone and topics that WM addresses.
I always doubt myself and worry that I might inadvertently hurt someone when I tackle topics that have layers of nuance and depth. But one of the things that was most important to me was talking about women’s issues in this book. A woman’s right to make choices for herself, menstruation, marriage rights, societal implications for female leaders, women’s strength (in all its many forms), and sisterhood were all important topics I wanted to discuss.
It is a fact that women are stolen and sold against their will on a daily basis. They’re forced into marriage and forced into situations they’d never put themselves in. So, for me, tackling a topic like this helped me take control just a little bit in a situation where I might typically feel powerless. I was able to help someone in this book have a happy ending. I was able to give power where society would strip it away. It helps reframe horrible situations in my mind when I feel like in real society I can’t do enough!
About Kelly Coon
Kelly Coon is a young adult author represented by Kari Sutherland of Bradford Lit, an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, and the author of two test prep guides, ACT STRATEGY SMART and ACE THE ACT.
Kelly was the test prep expert for About.com for seven years, and has been published with both Scholastic and MSN in the education arena. In the parenting realm, Kelly has been published in The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, ParentMap, Folks, and others sites, regaling tales of life in the trenches with her three boys. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she’s living near Tampa with her sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. Gravemaidens is her debut novel.
Contact Kelly Coon:
ABOUT WARMAIDENS (GRAVEMAIDENS#2) By Kelly Coon
Just a few moons after escaping the tomb in Alu, Kammani and the other runaway maidens have found refuge in the city-state of Manzazu. There, Kammani has become a respected healer, especially among the warriors she’s brought back from the brink of death. Now that the nightmares of Alu are fading, she can finally decide whether or not to take Dagan’s hand in marriage.
But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill the displaced queen of Alu, the maidens realize they’ve been found.
Hungry for revenge, Manzazu’s queen wants to strike back at Alu with her fiercest weapons—her scorpion warrior maidens—but Kammani knows that war harms more than it heals. To save the innocents and any chance of a future with Dagan, Kammani must take down Alu’s ruler before their lives burn up in the flames of war.
Publisher: Delacorte Press/Random House
Pub Date: October 20, 2020
Formats: Hardback, Ebook, Audiobook
Purchase Link: bit.ly/orderwarmaidens
ABOUT GRAVEMAIDENS By Kelly Coon:
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 sandstone 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.