Author Spotlight: Kristen Ciccarelli
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Kristen Ciccarelli!
Kristen hails from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula where she grew up on her grandfather’s grape farm. She’s made her living as a baker, a bookseller, and a potter, but now writes books about bloodthirsty dragons, girls wielding really cool weapons, and the transformative power of stories.
You can learn more at www.kristenciccarelli.com or by following @kristenciccarelli on Instagram.
Today’s spotlight takes place beside a log cabin on the snow-covered, forested slopes of a mountain. Unbeknownst to our author, nearby is a 1000kg direbear, freshly woken from a decades-long hibernation. (Man, that thing looks hangry.) Answering our questions will give Kristen access to the magical Hiveguffin Scenario Randomiser.
Will she escape? Will she survive, even? Keep reading to find out!
Hi, Kristen! It’s great to have you here on the Hive. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE. It was my favourite read of 2017 and it was one of those books that made me simultaneously intensely jealous and intensely inspired. It’s a perfect wintry Russian fairy tale retelling. If you liked UPROOTED and DEATHLESS, you will like this book.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’ve … never played D&D. Don’t judge me too harshly?
Hm. Okay, lady, we’ll let you off. A different question: do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Ever since I was a kid and my dad gave me his nearly-defunct laptop, I’ve always typed stories. But I’m trying to hand-write my most recent project (just the first draft) because I am notorious for getting stuck editing what I’ve written instead of pushing forward to the end, so we’ll see how it goes!
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
Honestly, any of these! I have an obsessive personality, so when I am obsessed about a thing (like, for example, a book I’m writing) I am hyper-focused. I don’t need noise. I don’t need silence. I don’t need anything but my laptop (or a pen and paper). The only thing I absolutely do not like when writing is having someone close enough to read the words on my screen/in my notebook (like a stranger on a plane, or my husband on the couch).
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I used to be a pantser but I’m now a hard-core plotter. However, I rewrite every book at least once from scratch. (This doesn’t include all the rewriting I do in revisions. This is a throw-the-whole-thing-out-and-start-again rewrite.) My final drafts look roughly 10% like my first drafts.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Star Wars. Firefly. SAGA. Anything by Hayao Miyazaki.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Oh gosh. This is embarrassing. It was THE CHRISTMAS PRINCE on Netflix and I had a) just handed my book into copyedits and b) was deep into the whiskey. 🙂
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Do I also find myself with an extra amount of cash on this day? Because if so, I’d buy a plane ticket to somewhere in the far North, like Ellesmere Island or the Torngat Mountains and frolic around the Arctic Cordillera.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
I embrace all punctuation marks and use them all incorrectly, much to my copy editor’s dismay.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
Girl trapped as a bird. Girl trapped as a queen. Boy pretending to be something he isn’t in order to keep someone safe.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
My dog? Because he would agree to all of my decisions and give me complete creative control.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The most useful piece of writing advice is that all writing advice is subjective. If anyone tells say you MUST write THIS WAY, they are lying liars. Try things out, do what works for you, abandon what doesn’t.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I’d either visit Newfoundland before the Cod Fishery collapsed (because the moratorium devastated their economy and I’d like to know what life looked like before that) or I would visit the Niagara Peninsula pre-1980s when the grape and wine industry looked very different than it does today (my grandparents were grape farmers and I grew up on their grape farm in Niagara).
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
It really depends on the reason for the stumbling block. Sometimes a walk or a shower or changing into clothing other than sweats/pyjamas is enough to kick-start a writing session. Other times, I need to change my frame of mind. For example, instead of dreading whatever it is I need to write, I ask myself questions like: What would make me want to spend time with this book today? Or: What would make me LOVE working on this chapter? (I don’t answer them literally, I answer them in the writing.)
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD by Patricia McKillip!!! This is my favourite book of all time, but it’s hard to find other people who have read it. It was the very first time I found a powerful woman in SFF who was also the hero/antihero of her own story. I read it every year.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.) Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
Roa, an outlander queen, must save the sister she loves by plotting the downfall of the fool king she married. The closer she gets, though, the more she realizes the king is not as daft as he pretends to be and might be exactly the king their people need. But if she abandons her plan, she’ll lose her sister forever.
It sounds amazing! But Kristen . . . that big ol’ bear is coming closer. Thankfully, having now answered our questions, you may now activate the magical Hiveguffin Scenario Randomiser!
. . . aaaand there’s a stone in your shoe. Ooh! It’s only a frikkin’ flawless diamond! A win for you.
Now, about that bear . . .
Kristen Ciccarelli is the author of THE LAST NAMSARA, book one of the Iskari, available now from Gollancz.