Please give a warm welcome to Kit Grindstaff! She’s visiting the virtual offices to discuss her book The Flame in the Mist.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Kit] I’m an English, female, musician/songwriter-turned-author, sun-and-chocolate-loving sushi-maniacal Francophile, and happy to be alive
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Flame in the Mist?
[Kit] Sure! It’s a dark middle grade fantasy about 13-year-old Jemma, who’s prophesied to save her country—a medieval-flavored parallel England—from its evil rulers and the sinister Mist they create. At the outset, Jemma has no clue about this (of course), nor about the magical powers she possesses. But soon, some very Disturbing Events propel her onto her journey. There’s plenty of action, mystery, ghosts, and sorcery—and rodents. Jemma has two telepathic golden rat friends who go everywhere with her. And not forgetting her friend Digby, who she just might have a crush on…
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Kit] The concept came to me years ago at a workshop where participants were asked to imagine their life as a fairy tale. No, I didn’t live in a castle miles from anywhere, but there was a certain amount of isolation in my childhood, which the castle represented. When I took up writing children’s fiction in earnest, the girl trapped in that castle—who morphed into Jemma—was still itching for me to tell her story.
And of course Jemma needed a support cast. A family (which may not be quite as it seems), allies, enemies. The characters at Agromond Castle were inspired in part from an English book by Mervyn Peake that I loved as a teen, called Gormenghast. Gormenghast is a gothic castle full of deliciously weird people who definitely influenced the (more evil) Agromonds. But Jemma also needed some respite from all the evil creepiness, and finds it in her old nurse, Marsh, her two rat friends, Noodle and Pie, and Digby, the boy who delivers groceries to the castle with his father. Beyond the castle walls, I kept creating characters to play out whatever part of the plot was needed to tell Jemma’s story.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Jemma?
[Kit] Feisty, stubborn, courageous.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Jemma is never without.
[Kit] Well, it really has to be two: her magical rats, Noodle and Pie. But if it has to be just one thing…Well, after a certain point in the book (which happens fairly early on, so it’s not spoilerish to say), that would be her Stone, a magical amulet that channels her Powers.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Jemma’s pockets?
[Kit] A cat (since the rats are often there). A cell phone (they’re not invented yet). Anything belonging to Shade Agromond.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Jemma’s greatest regret?
[Kit] Ah….telling you that would give away the book’s biggest secret! Second on her regret list would be…something that would also be a spoiler. So of the things I can tell you, I’d say, being impulsive. It often gets her into hot water. Or worse.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Kit] In no particular order: Vast open spaces – mountains, ocean, forests. Music. And reading, reading, reading!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Kit] Laptop, quiet, focus. (Preferably with internet off.)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Kit] Completely, utterly, socks-offness? Oooh. There are so many I loved last year, it’s hard to choose. So I’m going to hedge my bets and mention one MG and one YA, both fantasies (though I love contemporary fiction too). Middle grade:The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann; YA: Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. Both sequels are high on my list of Can’t-Wait-Fors later in 2013.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Kit] Noddy in Toyland, by Enid Blyton. I fell in love when I was three.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Kit] In no particular order: Walk. Read. Hang out with my husband and/or friends. Watch TV. Go to France. Do yoga. Eat.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
Thanks so much for the interview! This was fun.
[Manga Maniac Café] My pleasure!
You can order The Flame in the Mist from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:
About the book: