Hello everybody! Today, I’m really excited to be sharing an interview with the lovely Michelle Kenney, who is the author of a YA trilogy. Onto the post!
Hi Michelle, thank you so much for being here today! You are the author of the Book of Fire trilogy, which is now completed. To start us off, can you please describe the trilogy in 5 words? Usually this question only applies to one book, so I’m sorry if it’s really difficult!
Hi Amy, Merry Christmas and thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of a YAFantasy series called ‘Book of Fire’ which was published by HarperCollins HQ and HQDigital between 2017-2020. Summarising the trilogy in five words is too hard, so I’d probably have to refer to a talented reviewer who described the series as: ‘Percy Jackson x The Bone Season.’ HQ also called it a ‘dystopian with a medieval heart,’ which I also think works really well.
2. The books take place in a fantasy/dystopian world. Do you have an equivalent to Christmas/another winter festival in them? How do you think your characters would celebrate?
I love this question. My feral characters celebrate midwinter as they are living in a dystopian world as hunter-foragers, while the silent, domed population worship ancient world Gods.
I’ve enjoyed posting Midwinter’s Eve in Arafel for the last 3 years and even though the trilogy is now complete, it always makes me happy to share a glimpse of Talia’s treehouse village celebrations. So this is for all the Outsiders who’ve shared Talia’s feral journey with me over the past four years, plus any new readers who may be starting out on a Book of Fire adventure this Christmas:
‘It’s Christmas Eve in Arafel and the Midwinter table is set. Talia and Max are looking forward to a festive feast of star fruit, pineapple, mango, kiwis and nuts, chased down by jugs brimming with Elderberry wine.
The tables are groaning under the weight of roasted boar, Venison and fish, while plates of sweet, ripe vegetables from the fields are quickly replenished under the watchful eye of Raoul and Raven.
Art stands to lead a toast to Thomas and all the ancestors who first escaped the dust clouds into the forest, then the beeswax candles are lit and they all eat Christmas supper under the stars.’
3. And how about you, what are your favourite parts of the festive season? Do you have any special traditions? Which book Christmas would you most to experience?
I have a very large family (26 to lunch) so Christmas tends to be pretty big and chaotic. My favourite part has to be that moment on Christmas Eve when the tree is up, the presents are wrapped, a Christmas film is on the TV and all there is left to do is to snuggle up with a port and mince pie in front of a roaring fire, and look forward all the good chaos ahead! I also have two daughters, and we’ve created some new traditions within our smaller family including filling and sending Christmas shoeboxes, a special Christmas Eve breakfast and a Boxing Day walk including pudding & hot chocolate on the local beach or Dartmoor.
As far as a book Christmas is concerned, I’d love to be Clara from The Nutcracker and experience a magical Christmas Eve with the SugarPlum Fairy!
4. If you were able to write a film/play/TV series adaptation of any Christmassy book, which would you choose and why?
I’d choose Twelfth Night and give it a light fantasy/steam-punk edit! I love Shakespeare and was lucky enough to be selected for a number of Dartington Arts productions a few years ago. Twelfth Night was one of my favourites – along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream – and I was really inspired by the direction for each production. I really enjoyed bringing the misunderstanding between Countess Olivia (my role) and Viola to life, and I think this comedy would really well with a wintry fantasy setting.
5. This isn’t very festive, but it’s a question I include in basically every interview, so thought I’d put it in yours too! What is your writing routine like?
Hectic! I have a family (two daughters aged 11&9) plus work part-time so writing time is always being side-lined or pushed back. I’m also careful not to set myself word targets, because my creative brain doesn’t like to work that way. Some days I’ll write 2000 words, and some days it’ll be closer to 500, but I know it all adds up and usually I can draft a new book in 3-4 months. Editing obviously takes far longer, but I can edit against the clock, if needed. I completed the last copy-edit of Storm of Ash (90,000 words) in seven days, which felt like running a marathon every day for a week! I don’t recommend the pace, it was unavoidable because SoA’s final edit schedule was affected by the Pandemic, but I do remind myself of it if I think I’m dragging my heels with a wip. Ultimately, I don’t think there’s any right way to write, only the right way for you.
6. Do you have any reading/writing resolutions for 2022? If so, what are they?
The schedule for my first YAfantasy trilogy was pretty tight (3 books over 4 years) and written in a bit of a whirlwind. I enjoyed it, but there wasn’t a lot of time for celebrating the small wins or milestones, like agreeing a synopsis with my agent, or finishing a set of edits. I’m determined to get better at celebrating the journey in 2022 and at pacing myself too. I’d also love too make a dent in my toppling tbr, which only ever seems to grow!
7. Finally, can you give us any hints about what you’re working on at the moment/will be releasing next?
I’m really excited about my current YAfantasy wip. It’s in the final stages of edits, and while I can’t say too much at the moment, there is definitely a band of renegade characters (would you expect anything else??), a big fantasy world, sword fighting, lots of ancient world influences and perhaps an enemies to lovers theme …. okay there’s definitely one of those 😉 Hopefully, I’ll have more news to share in 2022…
Making snow angels or snow sculptures? Definitely snow angels (probably with a snowball fight thrown in..)
Would you rather go on a reindeer sleigh ride or ice skating with penguins?
A tough one but I’d go for the reindeer sleigh ride as I had one in Austria as a child and it was magical!
Luxury advent calendar you’d most like to have?
I don’t tend to be a luxury advent calendar kind of girl (though there’s always room for a first ;)), but this year I’d rather give the cash to the Afghanistan Appeal if that’s allowed?
Favourite film to snuggle up with on Christmas Eve?
Got to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – I received the boxset of books as a child one Christmas so Narnia and Mr Tumnus will forever be synonymous with snow and Christmassy vibes for me
Top 3 reads of 2021?
So hard! But probably The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab, A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes and The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read Michelle’s books? What are some of your favourite Christmas/winter celebration scenes in books? I’d love to chat to you in the comments!