Women in SFF Author Spotlight – Kristina Pérez (SWEET BLACK WAVES)
A native New Yorker, I’m half-Argentine and half-Norwegian, and I’ve spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. I have a penchant for non-defanged vampires, fringe science, ice skating, and dulce de leche.
I also hold a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge and have taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. As a journalist, I’ve written for many international news outlets covering primarily travel, culture and fine art. To find out more, click here.
These days I live in London where I write both fiction and non-fiction for adults, young adults, and the young at heart!
I am also an Associate Agent at the Zeno Literary Agency.
Top tip: keep chocolate out of my reach––especially bittersweet.
Welcome to the Hive, Kristina Pérez. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Two of my favourite recent fantasy reads are Madeline Miller’s Circe and Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand, which is set in a Mughal-inspired world and has wonderfully lush prose.
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?
Given that my fantasy trilogy draws on Celtic mythology and folklore, I’d have to go with a Druid from the order of the Circle of the Moon and my weapon would be shapeshifting into a dire wolf.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? 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 a little bit about your writing method!
I am definitely a plotter. Being methodical by nature, I like to have the world and the plot all mapped out for me before I start. Once that’s done, I hand-write the first draft of all my books in the same type of Moleskine notebook that I’ve been using for a decade.
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
The Mists of Avalon had a huge impact on me growing up and led me to write my PhD thesis on Morgan la Fey. These days there are so many female fantasy writers whom I admire and insta-buy their books including Naomi Novik, Vic James, Laura Lam, and Lucy Hounsom.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I just finished binge-watching the second season of Narcos: Mexico, which has some of the most brilliant characterization I’ve seen on TV in a long time. I also enjoy the fact that it’s mostly in Spanish because my dad is from Argentina and I grew up speaking it at home.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Walking along the coastal path in Cornwall. The dramatic cliffs always inspire me, which is why they feature so heavily in the Sweet Black Waves trilogy.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
Bright Raven Skies, which is the conclusion to my Tristan and Iseult retelling trilogy has just been sent off to the printers. I always have a few projects percolating on the backburner, however, and I’m having fun playing around with a repeated day narrative––but that’s all I can tell you for now.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The most helpful writing advice I’ve received is about knowing when to walk away. Sometimes ideas just don’t quite work out the way you’d hoped. Writing is rewriting, true, but it’s important to learn to be very honest with yourself about when it’s time to trunk a manuscript. Clinging to a project that isn’t working is more stifling to your creativity than anything else. It’s also vital not see it as a failure.
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?
I take a lot of inspiration from museums. I adore wandering among the galleries with no aim in mind and seeing what catches my eye. Then I play a little game to come up with a story for what might be going on in the painting––this works best with figurative painting, I suppose. Although I love to explore the emotions in abstract work by someone like Mark Rothko.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Great question. Well, assuming I’m not going to die of a horrible disease, I would like to visit the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, be serenaded by troubadours, and perhaps ferret out clues to the true identity of the female poet, Marie de France.
Who are your favourite female characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of female character you enjoy writing?
I love complex, empowered, and not always likeable female characters which is why I prefer Faith to Buffy. Keeping with the vampire genre, another favourite maligned female character is Carmilla. I have a penchant for villainesses and I like to write women exploring their dark side.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Mariana by Katherine Vaz is a historical novel based on the true story of the seduction of a Portuguese nun in the seventeenth century who wrote exquisitely beautiful and passionate letters to the French soldier who abandoned her. I first read the novel in high school and the descriptions of yearning had a profound effect on my thinking about different kinds of love. I still reread it every few years.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Inspired by the star-crossed legend of Tristan and Iseult, the Sweet Black Waves trilogy tells the story of its true heroine, Branwen. Traditionally the lady’s maid to Iseult, here it is Branwen’s nascent magic that has the power to bring war or peace to two kingdoms––even if the price is her own heart.
Wonderful! Thank you so much for joining us today Kristina!