And the Summer Blog Blast Tour continues! Today's interview is with Kirsten Miller, author of Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City and its soon-to-be-released sequel, Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb. Visit the author's website: http://www.kikistrike.com/, or Ananka, narrator of the books, at this blog: http://kikistrikeny.blogspot.com/.
What sorts of research have you done for the Kiki Strike books? What's one of the most fun things you've come across during your research?
I never really set out to do research for Kiki Strike. Long before I began writing, I became obsessed with New York's history. Much like Ananka, I read every book on the subject that I could find. For at least two years, I felt as if I discovered something new every time I left my apartment—forgotten graveyards, hidden houses, run-down mansions, mysterious tunnels. I'd lived in New York for almost a decade at that point, but somehow I'd overlooked all of its most interesting sites. And places I'd visited for years, such as Washington Square Park, were suddenly revealing their secret, scandalous histories to me. Of course that sense of discovery eventually inspired the narrator's experience in Kiki Strike.
For The Empress's Tomb, I spent a great deal of time watching Asian horror films and wandering through museums. (I'm trying not to give too much away.) But those are things I would have done otherwise, so it really didn't feel like research.
I've come across a lot of fun stuff in the course of my reading, but I'm particularly keen to write about some of the more bizarre grave-robbing incidents in the city's history. One involved the body of a wealthy New York businessman that was dug up and held for ransom.
Do you outline or write free-style?
I began writing Kiki Strike free-style—until I found out how easy it is to "get lost" in a three hundred page manuscript. With plots as elaborate (even convoluted) as mine, it's very difficult to make sure all the loose ends get tied if you don't have a pretty good outline. (Of course, I purposely leave some loose ends so they can be addressed in future books.)
With The Empress's Tomb, I began with a very detailed outline. But plot and characters tend to change as I'm writing. Once a few chapters are down on paper, the old outline no longer applies. So I'll stop and write another. All in all, I think I wrote four or five elaborate outlines for the second book. It can feel like very tedious work, but I'm always glad that I've done it.
How do you go about naming your characters?
I collect interesting names. For instance, if I'm in the back of a cab, and I notice that the driver has an unusual name, I'll jot it down in my notebook. (Just the other day, I was driven across town by a cabbie named Bdellatrix. She was a very pleasant lady with the ideal name for a villain. I can already see the character in my head. She'd wear extra-long Lee Press-On Nails and raise chinchillas.)
How many books about the Irregulars do you plan on writing?
It's hard to say at this point. I think each of the Irregulars deserves her own book. But I have a few other weird ideas that I want to explore as well.
Which of the Irregulars does the third book feature?
There isn't officially a third book yet, but if there is, it will focus a bit more on Betty and will be set in both New York and Paris. The theme? The importance (and meaning) of being a "lady." ha.
Oh my, that sounds like fun. Which of the Irregulars are you most like?
Without question, I'm most like Ananka. We share all the same interests—giant squid, carnivorous plants, New York history. And I, too, am a bit of a goober.
Favorite book as a child?
It's hard to pick only one. But I recently reread Half Magic by Edgar Eager, which was just as fantastic as I remembered. The humor is exquisitely droll and the characters are wonderfully flawed. You can tell Mr. Eager actually liked kids—and didn't feel the need to speak down or pander to them. That's by no means true of every children's author.
(The plot of the book is quite entertaining as well, but I'd rather not spoil it for anyone.)
Favorite fictional detective or spy?
Sherlock Holmes. (I hope you weren't expecting me to say Nancy Drew.) Though I should add that also very fond of Nick and Nora Charles (from Dashiel Hammett's The Thin Man).
I suppose I have to rank Sherlock #1, since I named Kiki's band of delinquent Girl Scouts in honor of his Baker Street Irregulars, a group of young guttersnipes that Holmes used for sensitive snooping jobs. Since they were kids, they could go places he couldn't. I've always loved the idea that the world's greatest detective didn't mind turning for help to a bunch of eleven-year-old delinquents.
I love Sherlock a million times better than Nancy, so I'm glad to hear your answer! What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
Right now I'm really enjoying my bizarre blog at kikistrike.com. The kids who regularly comment on the site are remarkable. (At least I think they're kids—they could easily be spies.) They're so smart, so wonderfully jaded, and so willing to offer much-needed technical advice. A number of my blog readers even started their own websites dedicated to all things strange, creepy, and supernatural. I love that.
Thank you so much, Kirsten!
For more on Kirsten Miller, don't miss this delicious interview with Jen Robinson.
On Friday, she'll be at Fuse #8.
Check it today's other SBBT interviews of these authors at these blogs:
Mitali Perkins at Hip Writer Mama
Svetlana Chmakova at Finding Wonderland
Dana Reinhardt at Interactive Reader
Laura Ruby at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred
Hilary McKay at Bookshelves of Doom
Julie Ann Peters at A Fuse #8 Production
Carolyn Mackler at The YA YA YAs
Jordan Sonnenblick at Writing and Ruminating