As anybody who’s asked me this at an event knows, I’m a big fan of Kelley Armstrong’s “Darkest Powers” series, which is only the latest in a long series of incredibly popular books from Kelley, a longtime bestseller in the adult urban fantasy genre. I’m also a fan of Kelley herself, since we were able to tour together on Supernatural Summer 2009, and I got to know what a fun, down-to-earth person she is. So I’m really excited to be able to feature her interview here on the blog — read on to see her thoughts on the transition from urban fantasy for adults to YA paranormal, how she handles her evolving universe, and why your characters can never be too happy.
CG: So far, I’ve had relatively little input on my covers — though I’ve been lucky to get great ones. But you’re a longtime bestseller in the urban fantasy world, so you must have gotten lots of say in your YA covers, right?
KA: Not…exactly. I was thrilled with the cover design they chose for the YAs, though. Well, except for that changing jewel thing (if anyone ever wants to know why Chloe’s jewel really changes colour, ask me at an event, where I can tell the truth!) I’ve come to accept that a cover is really a marketing thing, and I know nothing about marketing. Ones I don’t particularly like caught the eye of more new readers than the ones I do.
CG: What surprised you most about the move from writing urban fantasy for adults to writing YA as well?
KA: Two things surprised me. One, how little of a difference there was in the actual writing of the books. The YA are paced a little faster and the characters must be teens with teen issues, but otherwise, there’s not much difference. Except for the second thing…the audience. Fantasy readers can become very invested in a series–quick to let you know what they like and dislike. But they have nothing on teens!
CG: I was really impressed by how smoothly you incorporated the universe you’d built in your urban fantasy novels into your YA work; readers were given the exact right amount of information to understand what was going on, even if they were visiting your fiction for the first time. How did you manage to strike that delicate balance?
KA: I have very good editors. Seriously, that’s what it takes. I think I’ve developed a decent sense of how much to give–the balance between giving enough not to confuse new readers but not so much that bore current readers with repetition. But I do lean toward “not enough,” and that’s where I rely on my editors to say “You need to explain this for new readers, Kelley.”
CG: Chloe is a very strong lead character for someone who begins the series in a rather vulnerable position. How do you walk the line between creating a dynamic main character and putting that character in enough jeopardy to keep things entertaining? Is this a tougher line to walk
KA: Characters need to be tortured. It sounds sadistic, but if the character is never “tested” he/she can’t grow and develop. Testing usually means torture, in the sense that life goes very awry. Chloe has led a very sheltered life so when she’s first hit with trouble, she’s very vulnerable and unsure. The options at that point are to curl up in a ball and pray for rescue or to develop the skills to deal with the threat. In fiction, option B is a must, at least for main characters.
CG: Do you ever feel the urge to write non-paranormal/urban fantasy fiction? (“Realism,” I think it’s called; I wouldn’t know personally.) Or is your universe big enough to hold your stories?
KA: I do have two books out in a non-paranormal series–straight crime thrillers. Considering that the main character is a hitwoman, though, “realism” might not be the right term to use! They still gave me a lot of room for world building within a subculture, and I think that’s what I need to keep me interested.
Thanks to Kelley for stopping by! Hopefully Kelley and I will share some more tour stops in the future — but that’s another announcement for another day.
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