We're not the only ones excited about author Kat Ross. Her books have become huge hits in the YA community. Audible and foreign publishers have been knocking down her door, hoping to snag her up before her series explodes. Trust us. You want to read these books! In the meantime, here's a little about the author herself.
1. Hi Kat! Thanks for joining us. Tell us about yourself!
Why is this question always so hard? I guess I find my characters more interesting than I am, which is why I like living in their heads! But let's see…I live a bit north of New York City—close enough that I can hop on a train when I'm in the mood for crowds and dirt and good Thai food, but far enough that raccoons regularly break into my kitchen. I write a lot at my local library, just to get out of the house and be forced to wear pants and shoes. This is sadly necessary. I love movies but don't watch much TV.
2. What was the inspiration for your Fourth Element series?
The one-liner might be Gladiator meets Romeo and Juliet in ancient Persia—with magic. The plot is fast-paced, but the heart of the story is the things we do for love, as well as hate. When The Midnight Sea opens, the wealth and military power of the empire is intimately connected to the slavery of creatures called daevas. They can wield the elements of earth, air and water and make deadly soldiers. The priests teach that they're Druj—impure. But as the human protagonist trains with her own daeva, she comes to question everything she's been taught about them. So the first book focuses on her evolution and eventual rebellion, while the next two develop conflicts in the larger setting. I mean, what's epic fantasy without a diabolical demon queen?
3. What is the most challenging element of writing a series?
Just keeping track of everything! I have pages and pages of rules and exceptions and general world-building docs and hand-drawn maps that I refer to all the time. It all continues to evolve along with the storylines. There are several different kinds of magic, as well as three distinct worlds: The Moon Lands, the Sun Lands, and the Dominion, which is sort of a limbo between the others. It sounds complicated, but then I look at Robert Jordan's thirteen-book Wheel of Time epic, which has something like 137 distinct POV characters, and I'm like, yeah, mine is pretty manageable.
4. I saw on your blog you were inspired to write at least fifteen minutes a day. What is your motivation to stick to that and keep writing every day?
I've given up on waiting for the muse to strike. Occasionally it's there, much of the time it's not. I just always knew that if I was going to finish a book, I had to do it in every spare moment or it just wouldn't happen. My formula of slogging a little or a lot every day has worked for me so far.
5. How and why did you choose to write the genres you did?
I think most of us have a secret fascination with mundane life suddenly falling apart. This can be anything from a zombie virus to a magical door at the back of an old wardrobe. The greatest writers (Neil Gaiman comes to mind, and Stephen King at his best) are the ones who find those hairline cracks in reality and blow them wide open. There are often unpleasant things lurking on the other side, but that's the fun part.
I like to poke around in Wikipedia's religion and mythology pages. All the folktales and legends from different cultures are fascinating—and a great place to find inspiration for my own writing. The daevas come from Zoroastrianism, which emerged around the time of the early Achaemenid empire (550 to 330 BC) and is still practiced today. When I discovered that the daevas embodied evil and sin, and yet once had been deities, I got to thinking about how that fall might have come about. In my story, there are specific historical reasons for the daevas' demonization (which I won't reveal in the interests of keeping this spoiler-free!).
Then I also find the idea of being unwillingly tied to the emotions of another person or creature to be intriguing. Nazafareen and Darius are very wary of each other when they meet, and yet they have an immediate forced intimacy because of the cuffs that join them. The story took shape from there.
6. Where do you find inspiration for your genre?
I read and write across many genres—mystery, fantasy, sci-fi—and have a lot of favorite authors: Scott Lynch, Marisha Pessl, John Connolly, C.S. Friedman, David Wong, Jonathan Stroud, Caleb Carr, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, J.V. Jones, just to name a few.
As far as epic fantasy goes, I adore the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan. The world he created is so rich and imaginative and intricately detailed, the magic system is awesome, and the characters are people you love or hate passionately. I can just read those books again and again. They're a gold standard of world-building.
7. Why did you choose Acorn?
I was lucky enough to get to know one of the founding editors personally and she generously invited me to the imprint. Honestly, having that support when I was just starting out made such a huge difference. They really know what they’re doing and they’re also amazing authors. Self-pubbing can be scary! There’s so much to figure out and so much conflicting advice out there. Even now, on my sixth book, I’m so grateful to have Jessica and Holly at my back!
8. What has writing taught you as a person?
I try to avoid being too heavy-handed with themes, but slavery and free will and whether we are, in fact, basically decent, moral beings at heart are a few of the larger ideas in the series. There's darkness in the books, but my basic world view is optimistic. One of my favorite characters is
Balthazar, a necromancer who does some very rotten things but never completely loses his humanity. The last book, Queen of Chaos, digs deeper into his character than we've seen before. It's funny because he first appeared in a very impromptu epilogue to The Midnight Sea, and he's grown into a major antihero whose choices shape the culmination of the whole series. Even though I'm a hard-core plotter, I love it when spontaneous scenes or characters gain a life of their own.
9. What is the most difficult part of the publishing process for you personally and what do you do to get through it?
Just sticking with a project over months or years. Pushing past the inevitable self-doubt. Being willing to fail, or at least to write a first draft that sucks. “Ass in chair,” as Stephen King so eloquently puts it. Writing can be a very lonely process. That’s why it’s so crucial to have a support system like the wonderful people at Acorn.
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The cover of THE THIRTEENTH GATE!
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