Thursday, May 2, 2013

“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Kit Grindstaff

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Kit Grindstaff is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Kit’s debut middle grade novel THE FLAME IN THE MIST, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, released on 4/09/2013. Congratulations, Kit!

Here is Kit’s biography:

Kit Grindstaff grew up in the rolling countryside of England. After a brief brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain), she moved to New York and embarked on her career as a song writer. Kit now lives with her husband in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania. THE FLAME IN THE MIST is her first novel.

Here’s a description of THE FLAME IN THE MIST:
There's evil-a coming from up on the hill 

If the Mist doesn't get you, the Agromonds will.
—From an old Anglavian rhyme

The sun never shines in the land of Anglavia. Its people live within a sinister mist created by their rulers, the cruel Agromond family. The Agromonds' control is absolute; no one dares defy them. But things are about to change, for the youngest of them is not like the others...

Fiery-headed Jemma has always felt like the family misfit, and is increasingly disturbed by the dark goings-on at Agromond Castle. The night before her thirteenth birthday, Jemma discovers the terrifying reason why: She is not who she thinks she is, and the Agromonds have a dreadful ritual planned for her birthday—a ritual that could kill her.

But saving her skin is just the first of Jemma's ordeals. Ghosts and outcasts, a pair of crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient Prophecy—all these gradually reveal the truth about her past, and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than any she could imagine.

With her trusted friend, Digby, and her two telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, Jemma faces enemies both human and supernatural. But in the end, she and her untapped powers might be the only hope for a kingdom in peril.

Here are links to Kit and her book online: website, Goodreads Facebook, TwitterAmazon

And now it’s time to hear from our guest.

Smack Dab Middleview with THE FLAME IN THE MIST author Kit Grindstaff

1. What does your main character, Jemma, want?

From the outset of THE FLAME IN THE MIST, it’s clear that Jemma hates the capital-M Mist constantly surrounding Agromond Castle, her home. She has nightmares about it; it feels evil to her—as indeed it is. She dreams of life beyond the castle walls, beyond Agromond forest and the Mist. She longs to see the sun. This, at the outset, is her simplest desire: for light, and freedom.

Her longing is compounded by the fact that she has no memory of ever being outside the castle—she’s weak, she’s told, so has been kept indoors, away from others in her country, Anglavia. Early in the book, however, a far more sinister story of Jemma’s life emerges. As she uncovers more and more of the dreadful truth, and witnesses how the Mist and its evil creators suppress the whole country, her desires change accordingly. And yet, through all her confrontations with evil—whether in human or supernatural form—her initial, simplest desires remain central. It’s just that now, it’s apparent that her mission is to bring freedom and light to all the Anglavian people, and not just herself.

2. What is in Jemma’s way?

Ah, the evil Agromonds! To say too much about them might be spoilerish, but suffice to say that like all good villains, they also want what they want—in their case, total dominion over Anglavia—and Jemma is in their way of achieving it. But you’ll have to read the book to find out how, and why!

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

I first came across the idea some time ago, when writing an assignment to imagine my childhood as a fairy tale, in one short paragraph. Some years later, I signed up for a class in writing children’s fiction with Gotham Writers Workshop in New York. Our first week’s homework was to write 3 synopses, no more than a short paragraph each—and to write them quickly, without thinking. I wrote 2 which were very ho-hum (though one, I still remember, sort of). For the 3rd, I found myself remembering that earlier “tale”, and elaborated on it slightly. Once written, it literally reached off the page and grabbed me. It had a lot of power, and was now demanding to be written. So I knew right away.
That initial synopsis, though, was just the essence. The details, the hows, whys and wherefores, came very much as I was writing. Even though I outlined the whole book, subplots emerged as I was writing, many of them unexpected. I love that element of surprise: the story, and characters, taking on their own life and demanding they go this way, not that. For me, it keeps things dynamic and alive, although I always have the big picture outline in mind. So the evolution of the plot details as much in the characters’ hands as it is in mine!

4. Was THE FLAME IN THE MIST always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

I had no idea when I started writing the book that such gradations even existed! In England, where I’m from, it tends to be more “juvenile fiction”, or adult (though I believe those categorizations are changing). So I just wrote what I wrote. It was my teacher at Gotham who said it was middle grade. Ok with me, though I still didn’t know the reason why, other, perhaps, than Jemma’s age: 13.

At one point I wondered if it wasn’t YA, as it deals with some difficult subjects, and a lot of MG I read is a lot simpler in language and construction. But then, as I began to read more YA, I realized MG was absolutely the right “label”. I’m finding that older teens like it too, though—particularly those who are into magical fantasy—as do adults. So I’m hoping that Jemma might follow modestly in Harry’s footsteps and appeal to readers across the board.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

Remembering what it was like to be their age! When I’m writing characters, I always become them in a way—I believe that all characters contain an element of their authors—so THE FLAME IN THE MIST being very much Jemma’s story, with her point of view, I’m totally in her head and heart while I’m writing her—and I say that in the present tense, because there is a sequel in the works…

6. Is there any downside?

There’s no downside to writing for middle grade – I love it! Any downside perhaps is on the back end, what happens when a middle grade book is out in the world, because MG is a smaller market than YA. So for example selling to foreign markets is considered to be harder. As my book is set in a parallel version of my home country of origin, England, I would love it to come out there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

7. What has it been like making the transition from being a songwriter, to writing children’s books?

Music is deeply ingrained in me. I grew up being passionate about music—in my troubled teens, I’d say it was an emotional lifesaver. I always played instruments, and/or was in some band or other, and I seriously never imagined I’d do anything else as a profession. And of course anything you do for years becomes a not only how people see you, but a part of the way you see yourself, as well.

So songwriting becoming a smaller piece of my life has, at times, felt strange, and even sad, like leaving an old friend behind. But working on The Flame in the Mist has been more than compensation. I never loved a song as much as I love this book—after all, songs are 3-4 minute pieces, and move through your consciousness far more quickly than any book, which can take years.

As publication has crept closer, involving rounds of edits, and learning the social media ropes, doing “authorly” things has gradually taken up more of my time, and feels increasingly natural. No doubt I’ll always write songs, but now, with book release just around the corner, I definitely feel more “author” than “songwriter”.

Thank you for joining us for a Middleview at Smack Dab Blog, Kit. Again, congratulations on the release of THE FLAME IN THE MIST! We’ll look for it on bookshelves!

1 comment:

  1. I dabbled in songwriting when I was younger, and I understand exactly what you mean about falling far deeper in love with a book. Congrats on FLAME, and thanks for visiting Smack Dab, Kit!