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Author Interviews That Rock
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Kimberley Griffiths Little
And her exciting, exotic, YA adventure romance
PKW: Kimberley, I’m delighted to be interviewing you here on Ink & Angst. Your career as an author has been a delight to follow and now I’m very excited about the leap you’ve taken into the wonderful, tumultuous world of epic Young Adult romance and adventure!
KGL: YOU have been a wonderful friend and cheerleader to me for several years, Pam – thank you!!
PKW: I’m always happy to cheerlead for you, Kimberley! I’ve enjoyed each and every one of your middle grade novels, and I’m curious, what made you take the leap into Young Adult?
KGL: I’ve been asked this question a lot since FORBIDDEN launched, but I’ve actually been writing Young Adult almost as long as Middle-Grade. I started plotting and drafting FORBIDDEN in 2003 – eek! (And I have a few other YA *practice* manuscripts sitting in my drawers from the 1990s!).
FORBIDDEN has an extraordinarily long journey of too many revisions to count, changing POV, before finally landing a deal with one of the Five New York publishers in 2008—only to take the manuscript back in 2011—suffice it to say that they wanted me to turn it into a middle-grade novel—which it absolutely is NOT. This is an edgy Young Adult crossover Adult with temple prostitution and a near-rape.
It was a nerve-wracking time, but my agent had confidence in the book and it didn’t take long before Harpercollins picked it up in a Significant deal. FORBIDDEN was scheduled for 2013 but then Harper delayed it to 2014. The *end* of 2014 no less, LOL! The publishing journey has been a sprawling saga, just like the book itself.
BUT – I believe books come out when they’re ready to be born and that timing can be crucial. I think FORBIDDEN would have been lost had it been published 6 years ago during the Twilight and Harry Potter rage. Nobody was reading or pubbing historical fiction.
PKW: One thing I especially love about your books is your settings. Your MG books set in the bayou have all been thrilling, in part because of the unusual location. With FORBIDDEN you’ve taken readers to an especially unusual location, Mesopotamia and on top of that you’ve set the stage back in time. What motivated this setting?
KGL: I’ve been fascinated by the ancient roots of belly dancing and goddess temples for more than 15 years, reading voraciously about the history and lifestyle. Two years ago one of my dreams came true. I was able to travel to Jordan and visit Petra and Amman, explore the majestic desert and mountains of Wadi Rumm in jeeps, and meet Bedouins in their tents and caves, as well as ride a camel of my own. The word “fabulous” is an understatement.
PKW: Your books are obviously expertly and richly researched. FORBIDDEN is most certainly a historical fiction; do you have a special affinity for research and history?
KGL: I love it when readers tell me that they feel completely immersed in the place/setting of my books. I do love research/learning about other cultures and people and trying to bring it alive in very specific details. Historical fiction is like a Time Machine—without the risk. FORBIDDEN is so exotic and different than most historical fiction ie; Civil War or WWII stories, that many readers have called the book historical fantasy. I love that description, too.
PKW: How long did it take you to complete your research for FORBIDDEN?
KGL: It was ongoing for a decade at least. I also watched documentaries by archeologists and historians. When I visited these places and saw them for myself I knew that the research I’d done was good because, upon my return home, I only tweaked a couple of sentences. That was very gratifying.
PKW: While taking the reader on a journey into another place in time, did you encounter any roadblocks?
KGL:The biggest roadblock is trying to find specific details about the cities and time period. 4,000 years is a loooong time ago. It’s amazing how much info is out there about the ancient cities, like Damascus, Tadmur, and Mari on the Euphrates River, but many details of Jayden’s day-to-day life and travels I based on the way the nomadic people live today because those fundamentals haven’t changed for 5,000 years.
KGL: I tried to imagine what life would have been like for girls in 1759 BCE; the values, tribal customs, the Abrahamic religion, family life, marriage customs, etc. I wanted Jayden to have to grapple with those issues but I also didn’t want to craft a character who had modern sensibilities either. Whenever I come up with a character I think of the word vulnerable and try to relate it to my MC. I ask myself, how are they vulnerable—because all main characters are in some way, and that really helps me when fleshing them out and their relationships and motivations.
PKW: What do you consider Jayden’s greatest strengths?
KGL: Her faith and love of her family. She’s very devoted and is willing to do anything for the people she loves. She also has a fierce love for a desert that could kill her.
PKW: Jayden grew up in an era and a place where women were often considered nothing more than chattel. How did writing a novel about this character in this place and time make you feel?
KGL: I definitely felt Jayden’s feeling of helplessness. It was a fine balance to have her live under the time period’s mores and yet fight for what she loves and wants, too.
PKW: Jayden encounters many pitfalls, traveling through the desert, loss of loved ones, war, power struggles, fear for the integrity of her body and soul. You address some terrifying issues in this novel, what was that journey like for you, the writer?
KGL: Many readers have wailed, “so much bad happens to Jayden!”
This is true, but what happens to her and how her tribe lives and travels in the brutal desert is very much true to life – thousands of years and in present day. Men did control women at that time – and yet there could also be loving and devoted family men, too. I tried to have characters that depicted many types. I’ve also lost many close family and friends to death (in some very tragic ways, too) starting back when I was young so I was able to draw on my own experiences to show Jayden’s emotions of loss as well as her fears and helplessness.
PKW: Jayden falls in love with a forbidden stranger, Kadesh. But she is promised to Horeb, the next king of her tribe. Loving Kadesh means she must escape or die trying. That is one hell of a conflict for a young girl and a terrible choice. How did you make these choices for your character?
KGL: It took a lot of time (years by the end of the process!) to figure out each character and what they would face, but I also tried to juxtapose character opposites who would push and pull against each other to show the conflicts, choices, and hard decisions that girls went through during that time period.
Those scenes were difficult to write. When Horeb attacks Jayden and tries to rape her, scarring her body with his knife in the process I rewrote and fine-tuned that scene so many times I truly lost count. I wondered how realistic and how far I could take it, but in the end I tried not to censor myself and just wrote it true to the characters and the time period.
PKW: Your descriptions of Mesopotamia are so visceral, beautiful and compelling. Did you visit the locations personally?
KGL: Yes! You can see pictures from my trip and belly dancers on my Pinterst boards here:
PKW: The end of FORBIDDEN left me breathlessly hoping for more. Is there a sequel in the works?
KGL: Yes! It’s a trilogy. BANISHED publishes on February 2nd. Book 3, RETURNED, a year later. I’m doing a Cover Reveal on June 16th with lots of fabulous prizes on several of the big Young Adult blogs so please come join us for teasers and graphics. Find me on Facebook and Twitter and you won’t miss out.
PKW: FORBIDDEN’s book cover is beautiful and vibrant. How did you feel at first glance?
KGL: The red was so vibrant I loved it. The color red has great metaphorical meaning in Mesopotamia. Red for blood, red for birth, red for the canyon lands—and red for passion, of course.
The girl on the cover is perfect, too. Harpercollins used the same girl for the photo shoots for Books 2 and 3 in the trilogy. With each book Jayden’s face turns to face the camera more and more – and her hair and the dresses they chose are fantastic.
PKW: Your official book trailer is compelling. How did you go about making it?
KGL: This is a fun story: I’ve created book trailers for my MG novels, too, and I love writing the script and planning out the shots, using film I’ve shot myself on location. But for FORBIDDEN I wanted it to truly look like an actual movie. I hired a young man I’ve known since he was a child who has his film degree from Columbia. After we discussed the script I wrote we decided to focus on Jayden and not clutter the trailer with too many shots or stills. The entire trailer is live action. Justin also found a location in southern Utah called Little Sahara Sand Dunes that looks VERY much like the country of Jordan.
Justin met Sela, the actress, on the set of another film he was involved with and sent her photo along to me. She looks just like the Bedouin girls I met in Petra, beautiful and exotic. Sela’s mother is a makeup artist and in one afternoon they did all the shooting. Justin and I spent about 2-3 weeks choosing the footage and editing. I planned out the opening titles and credits and sent Justin the graphics and fonts he needed. It was definitely a join project and labor of love.
PKW: Reading your books, it’s obvious you love to grow character, setting and plot. Would you share with us your favorite thing about writing?
KGL: The excitement of a new book idea and the creation of the characters and plot – all the fun brainstorming is definitely what I love. I love fast drafting and *living* the story as I write it in real time. Revision makes me pull my hair out, and I eat way too many cookies while revising, which is sooo bad for my waistline.
PKW: If you could say one thing to your readers about FORBIDDEN what would it be?
KGL: FORBIDDEN is a dark, exotic thriller in a land of mystery and intrigue filled with dangerous betrothals, belly dance, ancient goddess temples, tribal warfare, murder and blackmail.
The novel is very different from any other YA novel out there—and different from most historical novels, too, but it’s a great mother-daughter story and a good one to choose for your book club. There are so many topics to discuss.
KGL: Thank you so much for having me here today!
Kimberley grew up in San Francisco reading a book a day, and currently live with my family on the banks of the Rio Grande in New Mexico. I adore Paris, Scotland, Stonehenge, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Bulgaria, the stunning city of Petra, and anything old and musty and ancient. I’ve drunk so much Land of Enchantment water that some of that ancient magic got into my blood and now spurts out my pencil—I mean ergonomic keyboard. I adore anything old and musty with a secret story to tell.
Awards: Southwest Book Award, Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel, Bank Street College Best Books of 2011, 2013 and 2015, Crystal Kite Finalist, and New Mexico Book Award Finalist. Sign up for my Newsletter: http://www.eepurl.com/LCVjX
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