Next up is Kester (Kit) Grant! Some of you may recognize her as a mentee in Pitch Wars 2016. This year she will be a mentor in Pitch Wars alongside Tomi Adeyemi. Kit’s young adult fantasy A COURT OF MIRACLES will be published in the fall of 2018. Book two of her series is coming fall of 2019 and the third in 2020.
Tell us about your Pitch Wars book A COURT OF MIRACLES. What made you decide to combine the Jungle Book with Les Miserables?
In the Les Miserables book, Thenardier and Eponine are part of a gang of burglars. I had just seen the new Jungle Book movie and was struck that a man-cub in a dangerous jungle is very similar to an innocent child in a criminal underworld (Cosette in the Patron Minette, the Thenardiers gang of burglars). This was combined with my lifelong annoyance at the Cosette-Marius-Eponine love triangle in Les Mis and a desire to reclaim Eponine from her wasted fate.
How many books did you write before writing A Court of Miracles?
I had started one book before, but never finished it. So ACOM was my first completed book.
What drew you to writing young adult books instead of adult or some other age group?
I read predominantly YA, aside from a small handful of adult Fantasy or Mysteries, so it was a natural thing, not a decision I had to consciously think about.
You were born in London and grew up between the UK, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the tropical island of Mauritius. What’s it feel like to be a nomad who’s lived in so many places? I went through a recent period of time between moves where I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to call home. Has that ever happened to you?
Being a nomad has been amazing, and absolutely made me into the person I am today, I grew up on a strange mix of British classics, Manga, Bollywood & Chinese cinema, comic books and French literature and all the above have greatly influenced how I tell stories. I hope it lends a richness to my writing. But by the same token being a child of many worlds also means you’re never really truly at home anywhere. I often feel the most British/Londoner when I’m in Mauritius and vice versa. The same can be said about being mixed-race. You belong to both and yet also belong to neither, you always have a persistent feeling of being an outsider in terms of culture and society. But again, that makes for great writing fodder! Having lived all over the world also makes you amazingly adaptable, which is such a great life skill, but also robs you of any sense of where home is. I always say I’m living in X country, not X country is ‘home’. As I get older I do find I crave some more settled roots. I dream of a house with wall-to-wall bookshelves covered in books, but knowing my family it probably wont happen any time soon! In any case home is where my husband and my pack of fiendish animals are. As long as I have my kindle and my computer I’m sure I’ll be alright.
As a British-Mauritian writer of color, has your background ever seeped into your writing or inspired any of your stories?
Absolutely. I wrote quite strong themes of race/classism into ACOM because of my own experience with that. I spent so many childhood years in London surrounded by friends of all races, only to move to Mauritius and find it rather shockingly racist. The island has several different cultures that tend not to intermarry or socialize too much, I had some horrible experiences as a teen regarding that which I definitely wrote into the Miracle Courts acceptance of all race/class/culture versus the nobility attitudes. I also chose to have human trafficking / enforced prostitution as a theme because its something I’ve come across in the social work I’ve done over the years that continues to haunt me. Trafficking is a cancer in our society, its existence is a stain on our humanity. The things I describe in ACOM are happening today in our very cities.
As a dyslexic author you’ve mentioned in your interview with Tomi Adeyemi that your dyslexia made you fearful of showing your work to others. How did you overcome that challenge or are you still working on it? Has your dyslexia influenced the way you view your writing or identity as an author?
I think the hurdle of showing my work to make it ready for Pitch Wars was a really liberating step. I was most afraid of the reactions of others, seeing most of them respond with kindness and support has given me a confidence. I think fear is such a crippling monster. And sometimes facing it is the best option. I still remember my heart pounding when I sent my pages into YAYYA before Pitch Wars last year, the sheer terror!
I handle my dyslexia now by mentioning on all my social media and blogging platforms that I’m dyslexic as a protection for when someone inevitably asks why I can’t punctuate to save my life, but I’m less terrified/crippled by self-doubt before writing a blog post or tweet. And as long as I pre-empt any work I send out to beta readers with a disclaimer about my dyslexia I’m good to go.
I think my dyslexia has influenced my work ethic, I know I need to work smarter and harder than a non-dyslexic author in areas of weakness. I don’t draft without my ‘writing rules’ word doc open for me to check a gazillion times as I write. And I know that I need outside eyes to check my stuff before its fit for readers and disclaimers to any unsuspecting reader if I’m not able to get stuff checked. Which means factoring in extra time for that type of read-through, which means I need to write faster to allow time for that.
Any advice to other authors who have dyslexia?
Get a good support buddy, someone who will swap reads and happily check your area of weakness, a lot of grammar obsessed people actually enjoy correcting mistakes, and be ready to do 2x more in return to gain that kind of help. But most of all don’t be scared! Be brave! Other dyslexics need to see you and be inspired!
Now that you’ve got a wonderful agent and a publishing deal, what is the biggest challenge you are currently facing in your writing? Is it a new one or an old one that still haunts you?
I have always struggled with discipline, I work in binges driven by impossible deadlines, and procrastinate the rest of the time. But as someone with an active family life and an auto immune sickness I can’t afford to carry on like that! I need to be more disciplined to get things done consistently to avoid stress, which worsens my illness, rather than do things in a giant stress fueled blaze of glory.
That and not getting distracted by shiny other book ideas… MUST FINISH BOOK 2!
You were a mentee in PitchWars 2016. What was your most important takeaway from the contest?
Only 1? You don’t have to be a mentee to gain stuff from Pitch Wars. You can find CP’s, improve your craft and learn revision techniques without even getting in.
But after being a mentee? Hmmm, I can’t possibly narrow it down. Except that hard work and being ready to show your work, receive critique, and gut your M.S. pays off!
On a personal level Pitch Wars did so much for me that I’m obsessed with giving back to other authors the way my mentors, Brenda Drake and so many others gave to me… Which is why Tomi Adeyemi and I are mentoring this year SEND ALL YOUR BOOKS TO US!!
What advice do you have for other authors looking to enter into PitchWars?
I have a blog post about that here…
But other than that… Enter, don’t second guess yourself, enter! And sub to whoever you want, don’t be intimidated by any mentor or think you’re not good enough, I almost did that and almost missed out on my amazing mentors who helped me get an amazing agent who got me an amazing book deal. BE BRAVE, SHOOT FOR THE STARS!
AND SUBMIT TO TOMI AND I !!!
You are known for writing first drafts crazy fast. I’m sure I can’t be the only one dying to know how you do it. So tell us, what’s your secret to getting your first drafts done so fast?
I use the NaNoWriMo method of drafting, i.e. do not erase, do not backspace, do not edit, just keep moving forward to a crazy deadline. I wrote more detail about my first drafts here.
I also adhere to Rachel Aaron’s technique of fast drafting which I spoke about here.
To end with something fun, if you were a superhero or supervillain what would your name and origin story be?
I am a giant comic book nerd, I made up two very long convoluted super-hero characters one for the DC universe one for Marvel.
In Marvel I was Cassandra Essex aka ACHE.
Abilities: surgeon level knowledge of medicine & off the charts psionic power which will destroy her if/when she uses them.
Origin: In an alternate Marvel universe where Nathaniel Essex married Cassandra Nova, Nova was dying and Essex cloned her in an attempt to find a cure, When the 616 villainess version of Nova came to find the clone to use as a new corporeal form, he hid her amongst mutant haters where she grew up knowing nothing of her abilities. Till as a teen her powers manifested so vastly that they threatened to tear her apart. Since Cassie can only use her powers mildly and at great pain to herself without dying/destroying the world her code name is Ache.
In D.C. I was Jack Wayne. Lost daughter of Bruce and Silver St Cloud, brought up in an orphanage in a slum city. I cannot remember what her code name was. But she had horrible facial scars from a childhood fight with an abusive carer leaving her fearful to ever show her face.