Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interview with Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. 

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life. 

I had the pleasure of sitting with Kendare Blake on my very first YALSA panel at ALA last month. I really enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood--it was a refreshing YA read wonderfully written but also very original--which is always a gem. Not only did the book have a fantastic title, a stunning cover, it had the story to match. Today, I'm very happy to welcome Kendare to the Enchanted Inkpot for an interview. Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to join us! 

Cindy: As a fantasy writer myself, I find that I am quite plot driven when I write. And really need to go back and work on the characters to layer and deepen. Both Cas and Anna leap off the page with their personalities and voices. In writing Anna, which came to you first, the characters or the story?

Kendare: The title came first, actually. And then the character of Anna, but just the idea of her. She was the last one to really flesh out in my head...I started writing the book without knowing who she was. Which worked, because Cas didn't know her either, so we got to know her together. The concept followed Anna and the title. I knew she was dead, and that she was pissed, and that a ghost hunter would challenge her. But that's about it. I don't plot. When I started ANNA, I had a feeling it would end up somewhere on the shores of Lake Superior. I thought the lake would play a larger role. But it played no role at all. Weird. 

Cindy: The title? I am so impressed because I love your debut title. I wonder when Lake Superior will pop up in future books? =) On the panel, you mentioned being an author of YA Horror. And you also recommended authors who write horror like Joe Hill to read. What is it about horror that fascinates you, as both reader and writer? 

Kendare: I don't know! I'm morbid? I'm a little boy, playing in the dirt and comparing scabs with friends? I like blood, guts, violence, but I also need there to be thought, humanity, flaw. I never thought of ANNA as horror when I wrote it. It was just the story. And though my next series has blood, guts, violence, gross things, it isn't horror. Really, I don't read too much horror anymore. Dark stuff is always good. Joe Hill's HEART-SHAPED BOX was horror, but HORNS I don't think was. But both were dark. 

Cindy: I'm eager to read Heart-Shaped-Box upon your recommendation! Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you outline carefully or just leap in and write? Do you set any sort of word minimum to be met each day while you're drafting? 

Kendare: I never plot, and I don't set word limits. I mean, I set word hopes. I hope I'll make it past this scene, or I hope I'll make it past 40,000 words today. But I never know. With both ANNA and GIRL OF NIGHTMARES I knew where the story started, and had a vague idea of where it might end up. That's about it. With the project I'm in now, I'm noticing I have to go back and add scenes, which is new. 

Cindy: We are non-plotting buddies! And "word hopes", I like that. What is a genre you'd love to try writing that you haven't dabbled in yet? 

Kendare: I wish I was smart enough to write a great philosophical novel. Unfortunately, I'm only barely smart enough to read them. 

Cindy: Ha! You should try Iris Murdoch. She is one of my favorite authors and a philosopher by trade. My favorite by her: A Fairly Honourable Defeat. You mentioned a new YA project on the horizon at our panel. Could you tell us a little more about it? 

Kendare: Funny that you ask! I'm doing this interview right now as a way to procrastinate working on the second book of it. It's called ANTIGODDESS. Dying gods at war, mortals drawn into the fray. It draws a lot on The Iliad and The Odyssey, and features Athena, Hermes, Hera, Aphrodite and Poseidon, all in various states of decay. Odysseus and Hector show up too, and at the center is Cassandra. I always thought that she had the worst of it. To see the fall coming, and never be believed. I hope people like it. And oh, it's contemporary! Modern world setting. 

Cindy: I love Greek myth and that sounds so fantastic! Happy to help with your procrastination, too. =D And last but *never* least, what is your favorite pastry? (Any sweet thing that must be baked.) 

Kendare: Never least! Favorite sweet thing that must be baked....chocolate cake. I've come to realize just how difficult it is to find a truly transcendent chocolate cake. They'll either be dry, or I won't like the frosting. And I'm talking a magnificent, dense, chocolately chocolate cake. Not too rich, not too heavy. Maybe with some kind of thick, cold whipped cream. Dammit, Cindy! Now I'm hungry!

Cindy: I so agree! Great Choice! And I think making people hungry is one of my superpowers. =D Thank so much for stopping by the Inkpot, Kendare!

Kendare: Thank you for having me by the Enchanted Inkpot! It was great hanging with you (even so briefly) at ALA. I hope we get to do it again soon!

Cindy: Definitely!

The sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood titled The Girl of Nightmares is out on August 7! You can learn more about Kendare and her books at her official website:

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was published in April 2011. Her first published short story will appear in Diverse Energies, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (November 2012). Cindy has also studied Chinese brush painting for over a decade. Visit her website at


  1. I loved ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, and can't wait to read GIRL OF NIGHTMARES! Kendare, your writing process sounds eerily similar to mine. Looking before you leap into a plot is for wusses. ;)

  2. thank you for reading and commenting. and hmm. i might very well read joe next!

  3. Really fun interview! I'm adding this to my must-read list (and I also attest to HEART-SHAPED BOX's awesomeness).

  4. i do have scenes in my head, which i'll jot down notes for. but i refuse to do anything more organized than that, for fear of scaring the story away. i know, i'm weird. ha!

  5. Thanks for the great interview! I'm always fascinated by other writers' writing processes. I need a bit more of a plot to start out with, but loads of wiggle room.

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