Kim Cleary is the author of Path Unchosen, the first book in the Daughter of Ravenswood series. An English born writer currently living in Australia, Kim has given me a peak at the first couple of chapters of her new book and allowed me to ask her some questions.
First off, here is an exciting snippet from Path Unchosen.
From far away, a man called my name. Then a strong hand gripped my shoulder and shook me. My eyes flew open.
“Judy! What is this abomination?”
Father Andrew pushed me closer to a chalked diagram on the black floor in the middle of the chapel—a five-pointed star inside two neat circles. Letters and symbols filled the space between the circles. Tight-lipped, he yanked me back to face him. His gray eyes
searched my face. His long fingers thrust into my shoulder. “Answer me, child.”
“I don’t know, Father.” I struggled to stay upright, his hand gripped me so hard. “It wasn’t me.”
He loomed above me. New lines creased his face. His normally smooth hair stuck up at odd angles, silvery strands askew around his ears.
“Then explain to me how you came to be asleep right next to it.” He choked on the words. His hand shook as he pointed to the diagram.
“And why you are still holding a piece of chalk.”
He shook me again, and I gripped the end of a pew to stop myself from falling over. I breathed so quickly my words came out in short, sharp jerks. “I don’t know how I got here.”
Chalk dust dotted my old gray tunic and the hems of my trousers. I rubbed my thumbs against fingertips slick with powdery residue. When did I dress and leave the dormitory? Heat surged through my body as it had in the hall. What was happening to me today?
I dropped back to the floor and stretched my hand to the diagram. Could I have drawn anything this beautiful? I traced my fingertip along one of the symbols, two triangles touching at their point like a perfect bow. I followed the sharp straight lines with my fingertip and jerked it back to my mouth. Did I remember another hand on top of mine, guiding me? I fell back onto my heels, my throat suddenly dry.
Father Andrew held his head in his hands, then slumped to his knees and pulled me next to him. “Pray, child. All we can do now is pray.”
He gripped the crucifix that always hung around his neck and moved his lips in silent prayer.
I quivered on my knees beside him. “What is it, Father? What do those symbols mean?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” He pulled me to my feet, gripped my shoulder again, and dragged me to the vestry.
I spoke with Kim about what drew her to write Path Unchosen.
Your book, Path Unchosen (book one in the Daughter of Ravenswood series), deals with a zombie post-apocalypse and deep elements of magic, what drew you to these areas?
I’ve always read fantasy and science fiction books. Magic, dragons, ghosts and the supernatural were always going to be in any stories I write.
What made you decide that you wanted to write for young adults?
I haven’t actually targeted young adults. I think I’m targeting new adults, with a strong crossover into female readers from 18 to 55! I made my heroine 18 because I wanted to have a good reason for her being inside the orphanage when the story starts. But in many ways she acts 18 going on 30.
What’s your opinion on the further separation of young adult from adult fiction, with the new upsurge of the ‘New Adult’?
I know that there’s a huge market for young adult fiction (which I always thought meant 14 to 16-year-olds), I don’t feel I have the right aptitude to write it–I’m not sure I ‘get’ young adults very well lols. I think the upsurge of the ‘new adult’ category has been driven by reader demand rather than publishing houses. Which is a good thing– It suggests the young people who devour young adult fiction want to keep reading as they get older, and want the heroes and heroines to reflect their own passage through life.
Judy, your main character, begins her journey in a convent, or close to it, and the adults in this setting are very disapproving of Judy and her gifts. Talk me through your process for choosing a setting like this, and how it relates to the character as time progresses?
My story at its simplest is just a coming-of-age story set in a fantasy world. The orphanage where she grew up will appear in every book in the series. It has left indelible marks on her character–most of them good. I chose this setting to amplify the sense of difference when Judy leaves the orphanage and starts discovering herself.
A lot happens to Judy very quickly in the book, I read 50 pages, and I already felt like I was deep in the story. What would you say to aspiring authors who want to hook your readers as quickly as you do?
Rewrite and rewrite some more. Listen to your beta readers! Get a good editor and listen to them. The feedback I had from my beta readers on my first draft (well it was more like draft 15… but it was the first I showed to strangers) was that they loved the characters, the setting and the story but they wanted to know more about Judy. Where had she come from, what was she thinking, why was she thinking it, why did she do the things she did? I changed the starting point three times before I got it right – And as soon as I wrote that third attempt at chapter one – I knew I’d nailed it.
Your setting, post-apocalypse earth, is devoid of electricity, adding a wonderfully traditional element to your setting. What made you decide to take certain elements back to the traditional?
I didn’t want communication to be easy. I wanted the people in this world to have to move slowly, write letters, travel on horses and bicycles, face their uncertain world without the advantages of the Internet, gadgets and weapons that we take for granted. I also didn’t want to include any science-fiction type elements in this series. I wanted to focus on the characters and the magic.
The character of Rose is very close to Judy at the beginning of the book, will we be seeing her again?
Yes 🙂 she is a major character in book two.
Your descriptions are very visceral, and are very ‘show, don’t tell’. How do you avoid the clichés when writing your descriptions?
Lots of rewriting! Also, thanks to an autoimmune illness and permanent nerve damage in my hands, I write by talking. I find by talking I get into the scene. Sometimes I handwrite a few scribbled notes (left-handed and just a scrawl 😛 ) to capture the emotion in the scene before I start writing it–otherwise I tend to write the action one step after the other without drawing in readers with internal monologue, visceral reactions and a relationship with the setting.
What’s next for Judy?
Judy finds out who she is and just how powerful she is. By the end of book one she has secured Ravenswood as her home. In book 2, both at home and her life are threatened by one of her ancestors. A very powerful sorcerer who raises himself from the dead. She has to make some choices about her family inheritance and her own values.
If Daughter of Ravenswood could sit next to any book in a bookshop, which would you pick?
Anything by Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, or Kim Harrison would be great!
To find out more about Kim and Path Unchosen, check out the following links.
Path Unchosen on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F1X36SE