Kendare Blake Interview
Kendare Blake is the New York Times Best Selling Author of the Three Dark Crowns series (My reviews are linked below). However, she is also a prolific writer starting with the Sleepwalk Society, The Goddess War Series, Anna Series, Three Dark Crowns Series (there are some spoilers in here), All These Bodies, Buffy: The Next Generation Series, Heromaker Series, Book #1 Champion Of Fate is out in September, as well as numerous Anthologies.
With all of this going on, I am grateful and thrilled that Kendare Blake took the time to answer our Q and A. And asked me a couple herself.
My reviews of Three Dark Crowns:
So, you know about my Queen Mirabella, but what is the most amazing/extreme reaction someone has had to any of your books?
The Queen Insisted A Picture Be Included For All To Give Her Due Reverence.
She also insisted her son, Prince Kaz (yes, he is really her son), be included, but as you can see, he couldn’t get his act together.
Of course, I know Queen Mirabella, and she is GORGEOUS.
I will note to the Queen that Ms. Kendare Blake called her gorgeous.
I hope she’s ruling very fairly over her catly court. I always love when animals/pets are named after characters. Because that means I get cute animal photos. Recently someone named a baby horse after Queen Illiann, and she is so cute and fuzzy that I could die.
Fun fact: I wanted to name Mirabella Katharine, but then she would’ve been called Kat for short– Kat Cat. But if I had a horse…
Tell me about the Anna Dressed in Blood relaunch. What can we expect? Juicy details, please!
Ah yes, the splashy new edition of Anna! I am so surprised and excited that this is happening. I can tell you that the new cover is fantastic, and the bonus content is basically a whole new Cas novella. Like, a nice, chonky new Cas story, catching us up with what he’s been doing since the end of the series and taking us on one new adventure, where a certain ghost dressed in blood may or may not show up. How? Read and find out!
Let’s Talk About All These Bodies
Despite being nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, I believe it is one of the most underrated books that has come out recently (at least from what I’ve seen online, etc.) Were you surprised by the reaction it received both critically and from readers?
Aww, well, thank you for that. I do think it contains some of my best writing! The authorly moves are on full display, haha. But I wasn’t surprised by the mixed reactions…most of the controversy is about the ending! And I knew from the start that the ending wasn’t going to please everyone.
You told me a story about how you wrote it before the Three Dark Crowns series, but I believe your agent asked you to put out Three Dark Crowns first. Do I have that right, and can you elaborate?
I didn’t write All These Bodies before Three Dark Crowns, but I had the idea for it first. As usual, my agent was right (she’s right about everything, it’s kind of maddening). All These Bodies was still half-baked, and Three Dark Crowns was ready to go. And perfectly timed, as YA fantasy was on a serious upswing.
Thank you to Kendare Blake for submitting herself to my lunacy.
Can you talk about the different true events that inspired All These Bodies and how you became interested in them? Does it take more research than writing fantasy?
It takes a different kind of research. Because there are certain things, certain rules of the world and our justice system, that have to be accurate (or close enough to accurate) for it to be believable as “true” crime. Researching All These Bodies required more non-fiction reading, studying the cases it was inspired by: the Starkweather-Fugate murders, where two teenagers went on a midwestern killing spree in 1958, and the murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. My main interest was in Caril Ann Fugate, the girl at the center of the Starkweather-Fugate murders. I was fascinated by how she was treated in the press and how that impacted the public’s view of her. She insists to this day that she was innocent, but she was found guilty in the press long before her trial was over. And the trial itself was kind of a…well, it was interesting.
Three Dark Crowns
Oh, boy, did the questions fly about Three Dark Crowns… I really felt bad about how many there were, but Kendare Blake was gracious. Considering all these questions, I actually started with a ranting paragraph.
There are so many questions I can ask about the Three Dark Crown series that I don’t even know where to begin. As you’ve read, whatever I was expecting (see reviews above)? That wasn’t it. It is very much a genre-bender. Between the Zombie Bear to Katharine trying to flay her own face, to the inspirational pieces when Mirabella gives her speech daring Kat to a duel following Arsinoe’s “death,” there is so much there, there. There is fantasy with a creepiness level of epic proportions, plus the sister’s journeys, and then, of course, Jules. I swear there are questions coming here!
Did you know how this was going to end from the beginning?
I knew how Three Dark Crowns would end. The rest? Each book was up in the air as I was writing it.
The ending of the first book… Katherine’s declaration of I want my revenge, and then I want my crown is chill-inducing. It is like it ended one book and kicked off another series, almost. Ok, that isn’t a question, but I needed to say it (damn it, I did it again).
Well, I appreciate that.
There are countless worlds and characters throughout the series. Each is brought to life with such a unique and intentional feel about them. Each character maintains their own voice, even through their journey, and each place is almost like a character (even the mist). How did you keep that all straight as you went through the series and thread the needle, so to speak?
It’s a real mystery how writers hold entire worlds in their heads, separate from our own. Some of us keep series bibles, volumes of meticulously recorded details like bloodlines and eye color, last names, and locations. I try to do some of that but mostly fail. If I don’t remember what I said previously…I just have to go back and look.
The sisters have a lot of people pulling on them to do this and that, no matter what they actually want to do. Sibling bonds are being both fought for and waged against. It is a unique premise in its execution. Where did the idea come from?
Queen bees. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, so I’ll keep my usual long story short: I met a beekeeper at a book event when a literal BALL OF BEES threatened to shut the whole thing down. Over the course of our conversation, I learned that before a queen bee leaves her old hive, she’ll lay several baby queen eggs (not her usual worker bee eggs), and when those baby queens hatch they murder the ever-loving shit out of each other to see who takes over the hive.
You know, it is funny because Queen Mira and Prince Kaz don’t exactly get along a lot of the time.
And I really wanted to do the same thing to people.
Did you connect with any of the characters more than the others? Was it as hard for you to let go of the series as it was for readers? Well, I had a book hangover lol.
Natalia the matriarch of the Arron family of poisoners. Oh, I was loath to let her go. If there were ever to be a 3DC film/series made, Natalia’s casting would be like the part I would be most excited about. As for letting the series go, it was hard! I took a year away to palate cleanse with All These Bodies and tried to take a year off from writing (but Buffy: The Next Generation foiled my plans, haha). And, turns out it was impossible since Fennbirn Island and the queens bleed into the universe of CHAMPION OF FATE.
You read that last sentence, right? RIGHT?
Champion Of Fate (Heoromaker #1)
While, yes, I’ve had the honor of reading Champion of Fate before its September 19th release, I promise NO SPOILERS.
Do you think Heromaker (Champion of Fate is Book 1) will have as many books in this series as 3DC did?
That really depends on how it does. It’s a big universe, and I have PLANS. But publishing is a business, you know? If there’s no audience for it, those plans may have to remain in my head only. HOWEVER, DO NOTE THAT THE STORY IN EACH BOOK IS CONTAINED AND STANDS ALONE. I’m not going to leave anyone hanging. Champion of Fate is a complete arc. And if, in the end, you feel like you want to come along with the characters on another adventure, then please, join us for Book Two. But if you don’t, you won’t feel like you only got half of the story. Wait, you read it, Susan, do you agree with this???
Way to put me on the spot here, lady. Welp. In all honesty, I can say I felt like Champion of Fate ended with a lot of open doors. I don’t know if you call that a cliffhanger, but definitely, not in the “big reveal” kind of ending. However, there are storylines for the characters that have a journey (I think), and I’m here for it. I think if there wasn’t a book two etc…, I would be disappointed in those who didn’t read it and that there isn’t more to come. But that’s a silly thought because it will kick ass. It does kick ass.
Reed reminds me a great deal of Arya Stark. I absolutely LOVE her. Her tenacity, loyalty, fight in the face of loss, and choosing her story rather than it being dictated to her. What inspired her character?
I love this comparison because while Arya was scrappy and contrarian, to begin with, circumstances conspired to foster real darkness in her that she had to come to terms with. And that’s a big ditto for Reed. Ah, Reed. I want to hug her because her friends and her horse and her found family are so darn important to her—she’s A PROTECTOR. But she’s also got baggage and that classic hero “fatal flaw,” as they say. I won’t tell you what hers is, of course. You’ll see.
The relationship between Reed and Silco (her horse) is absolutely beautiful. There are so many times I looked up to see my royal court, and just… tears flowed. Happy tears, sad tears, cheering on tears, just all kinds of just emotional messiness. It is reminiscent of Jules and Camden, except somehow, this feels even higher in the emotional stakes. Do you have a close bond with animals that inspires these stories?
I am a devoted pet parent. Anyone who follows me on Instagram or anywhere knows my pet children (I can’t say fur children because Armpit McGee is a Sphynx cat with no hair). I think I’ll always write animal characters. And I hope that Silco becomes a fan favorite.
You know, this is the only one of my novels with a personal dedication? I dedicated Mortal Gods to the students of a school once, but only because some jester in the back row of a school visit asked me to. This one, though, is dedicated to my own horse, who passed away recently, and one of my first readers, who I didn’t know personally, but who also passed that same year.
The ending of the first book of Three Dark Crowns and the ending of Champion of Fate (without spoilers) is SOMETHING. Do you think the ending of the first book is any more essential than what follows?
This (without spoilers) is where I think Champion of Fate does leave readers wanting more. But again, that’s just my opinion. I’m not the author. I don’t even play one on tv.
Why thank you! Endings are hard. Do you watch Supernatural?
Very few episodes, and I don’t think the one you are referencing. I’ve been told to watch it by many, though.
Do you remember the voice-over from the season 5 finale? I take particular care with endings, but my feelings on them, especially on series endings, are well summed up by that voice-over. “endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up to something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass.”
I would imagine that every time you start a new series, it stretches you as a writer. How has Champion of Fate (Heromaker #1) stretched your skills?
The love story! Without a doubt. The love story between Reed and Hestion is the most traditionally romantic relationship I’ve ever written. So how’d I do? Seriously. I’m very insecure about it. I can disembowel people til the cows come home, but once the smoochies start, I’m like, WHAT IS HAPPENING?
<Looks around sheepishly> Fun Fact: I had to stop reading Ember in the Ashes because the romance was triggering to me. The issue isn’t with Sabaa Tahir’s writing. She’s brilliant. It was all me. So, I might not be the best person to ask.
What I can definitely say is that it was a slow burn and in the background enough not to make me throw up off the Arch. It is a fantastically written enemies-to-forced allies-to-lovers storyline. I say this because it isn’t so fast that it is like why and how and oi. It builds slowly, allowing readers to get a hold of the characters, both individually and in their dynamic together. It grounds the motivation, for the change in the relationship, in reality. I hope that my diatribe made sense.
Is there anything readers can expect as far as pre-orders, being a part of monthly boxes, etc.?
I am going to do something arty for preorders. I hope to have details soon. And this will be separate from anything my publisher decides to do! It’s something I’m doing on my own, so for international readers, you’ll be eligible while supplies last!
Three Dark Crowns was the first time I’d ever been involved in the audiobook process, and I was thrilled that my first choice, the remarkable Amy Landon, was available! She brings those books to life, breathes them full of ominous cadence, and nails the humor and the switches in tone. I haven’t listened to the entire audiobook (I can’t, I find it weird to have my own books read to me), but I’ve heard so many raves about her narration.
Also, shoutout to Matt Godfrey, who narrated the hell out of All These Bodies. If Tor ever wants to do an audiobook of the new Cas novella, I would love to get him onboard as Cas. But who knows if that will happen!
And one more bit of narrator love: Sarah Mollo-Christensen nails the Buffy-speak! It was so important to get a narrator who kills for those books, who understands the pacing and the rhythm and the VOICES of the Buffyverse. And Sarah definitely puts marzipan in your pie plate, Bingo.
Kendare Blake Information
Taken from her website, which is linked below
Kendare Blake is the author of several novels and short stories, most of which you can find information about via the links above <I linked them directly in the first paragraph>. Her work is sort of dark, always violent, and features passages describing food from when she writes while hungry. She was born in July (for those of you doing book reports) in Seoul, South Korea, but doesn’t speak a lick of Korean, as she was packed off at a very early age to her adoptive parents in the United States. That might be just an excuse, though, as she is pretty bad at learning foreign languages. She enjoys the work of Milan Kundera, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bret Easton Ellis, and Richard Linklater.
She lives and writes in Gig Harbor, Washington, with her husband, their cat son Tyrion Cattister, their red Doberman dog son Obi-Dog Kenobi, their rottie mix dog daughter Agent Scully, and naked Sphynx cat son Armpit McGee.