Karen Mahoney gave up on her dreams of being Wonder Woman a long time ago, but has instead settled for being a writer of contemporary or “urban” fantasy. Karen – or Kaz, as many of her friends call her – has been published alongside some of her favourite authors, in anthologies like THE ETERNAL KISS and the forthcoming KISS ME DEADLY (both by Running Press). She is still in complete shock about this. Her debut YA novel, THE IRON WITCH, will be published in the US by Flux and in the UK & Australia by Random House Children’s books, February 2011.
Kaz's debut novel, THE IRON WITCH, will be published by Flux in February 2011!
1) What was the inspiration behind THE IRON WITCH?
First of all, thank for having me!
Three things combined to provide the initial spark of inspiration for THE IRON WITCH: an article called 'The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey' by Midori Snyder (http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrHJourney.html), about the mythic tradition of the 'Armless Maiden' or 'Handless Maiden' folktales; my interest in alchemy; and... yes... a dream. Two dreams, actually. One was dark and confused, and all I could remember afterwards was a broken boy who'd suffered terrible injuries; and the other dream was of a girl being chased by screaming monsters as she ran through a forest. These two came together in the book and recognized something of themselves in the other.
Pretty heavy stuff, right? ;)
2) Did you have to do any research on fey or alchemy before writing?
Yes, lots! Well, I'd already done a lot of research on alchemy because it's something I was interested in before. But I dug deeper - much deeper - and even read the journals of famous 16th century alchemists. I wanted to imagine what it would be like for a seventeen-year-old girl in today's world, if she'd been brought up amid the claustraphobic environment of a group of alchemists who protect all kinds of secrets. The fey research didn't need to be as in-depth, simply because it's something I've read so much about over the years. I think it's in my bones. My university dissertation (many years ago!) was on folklore, and it's something that always inspires me. Still, I did research different myths and legends about elves from around the world - and then I threw it all out the window and created my own version! My elves are nothing like Orlando Bloom in The Lord of the Rings movies (sadly), but are dark and twisted and born of wood and earth. I had great fun coming up with them.
3) You've been published before in short story collections, what's different about writing a novel?
Oooh... good question. It's so very different, and so much harder - at least, it is for me. Although my first published story ('Falling to Ash' in THE ETERNAL KISS) got some great reviews, I am very much aware of its shortcomings. When you're writing something around 10,000 words, as opposed to a novel of nearer 70,000 words (as all mine seem to be), there is the obvious lack of space. You can't develop sub-plots and it's important to find the heart of your story as soon as possible - otherwise you can waste a lot of time writing stuff that needs to be cut. I'm speaking from experience! But there is also something satisfying in the challenge of writing a shorter piece and, even though I went way over my word limit in my latest effort (it's closer to a novella), I think I was more successful.
4) In what ways do you relate to your main character, Donna?
I wish I could say I'm as strong as Donna. She is filled with an inner strength that she really has to dig into during the events of THE IRON WITCH. But I think she gets her sense of justice from me; if there's something I hate more than anything, it's injustice. And bullies. Donna deals with both of these issues - and a lot more! - in the book. I also relate to her in an 'actual' way in that I loosely based her best friend, Navin Sharma, on my own best friend. My friend loves this, and is more than happy to find a prominent Indian character in my debut novel. :)
5) What's next for you writing wise?
I'm really busy right now - crazy how things seem to happen all at once. I'm currently working on the sequel, THE WOOD QUEEN. It picks up just a couple of weeks after the first book, although there isn't a cliffhanger in THE IRON WITCH. I wrapped up the major plot points, but it was definitely open for lots more adventures - some huge discoveries to look forward to for Donna! My second 'short' story came out a couple of months ago in KISS ME DEADLY (the follow-up to last year's THE ETERNAL KISS), and my story/novella - 'The Spirit Jar' - is another tale of Moth the teenage vampire. I've written a novel about Moth, BEAUTIFUL GHOSTS, that my agent and I are hoping to sell soon - watch this space! I also have an essay published in the forthcoming SmartPop anthology dedicated to The Vampire Diaries TV show. The book is called A VISTOR'S GUIDE TO MYSTIC FALLS (http://www.smartpopbooks.com/book/a-visitors-guide-to-mystic-falls) and is due to be published in October - it was genuinely an honour to be invited to write something for it.
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