MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR K.A. WIGGINS
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
I write YA speculative fiction as K.A. Wiggins. It’s mostly fantasy with a horror, paranormal, or dystopian edge and more blood than kissing. I like genre-crossovers where you find monsters and magic in a dystopian world, like Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Blind the Eyes was actually developed out of a short story I did in my teens. But that was really just a shadow of a story, a dreamy snippet about a hero and a prickly girl who ended up cohabitating.
Then I started asking questions about the characters, and the world they lived in, and things got WAY off track, to the point where the novel bears little to no resemblance to its seed. Maybe a bit of the feeling stayed; it had kind of a wistful, off-balance vibe.
Fun fact: this frustrated me so much during the editing stage of Blind the Eyes that I started a Wattpad serial to try to tell the original story more accurately. It, too, veered off course, into the NA horror-romcom Things Got Out of Hand (on hiatus.)
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I started writing in my teens. At the time, YA fiction wasn’t as defined (and large) a category as it is now, so I mostly wrote MG fantasy. But I prefer to read books for kids and teens over adult lit, and I’m fascinated by writing about identity and coming of age.
Plus, I can’t help myself; there’s always an element of magic or paranormal/horror to just about every story I tell. I don’t seem to be able to write contemporary fiction (and I don’t read/write much romance) so SFF it is!
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I try not to get bogged down by research in the draft stage. In the end, I put in a lot of stuff unconsciously or by instinct that turned out to have real-world influences and equivalents, so uncovering that was super fun.
In particular, the monsters and magic are influenced by overseas myth and legend like the Japanese Baku, and the European Night-Mare, and by global-warming and climate change (which I do a lot of reading on via news sites, Medium.com, Twitter, etc.)
The setting is based on a sort of post-apocalyptic version of Vancouver (BC, Canada), so I also did research on the current city layout (I lived there for years and still go back almost weekly) and the probable impacts of climate change on it. I wanted to reflect how the city might develop and made an effort to incorporate its culture and people into the setting, world building, and characters. Locals can probably pick out some familiar names, for instance.
Can you tell me about your Series?
[Major spoilers ahead!] Threads of Dreams was supposed to be a trilogy following a deep character development arc. The main character grows from an isolated, disempowered, voiceless child to an empowered, empathetic hero, with a epic-fantasy-meets-dystopian outer story about defeating monsters and taking back the city.
But I write pretty intricate plots, and to move forward, sometimes I have to go back, around, and sideways, which means exploring an extended universe of side characters, history, and movements outside the frame of one character’s experience.
It’s still early days, but I think Threads of Dreams will be less linear, and more of a story universe with prequels, side-stories, and other heroes to get to know as they embark on their own adventures. (Join the newsletter at kawiggins.com for first looks and freebies as these come out!)
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
It’s a bit early to tell. Probably always the next one (lol).
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
While Blind the Eyes took form on the bones of a short story (that it eventually ate), the series (or universe of stories, as it’s becoming) is based on the idea “what if climate change took the form of monsters?” and “patriarchy screws over women.”
The feminism wasn’t intentional; it just sort of started oozing out all over everything I write these days. Which is part of why I needed to do a series. Writing the first book was hard because I was writing a girl so dis empowered by her circumstances that she wasn’t really capable of being the sort of hero we all cheer for. She’s kind of an “unlikable” character as a result, and needs more space to make it to a place of strength. Plus, I’ll get to write more girls with different characteristics: determination, fierceness, fury, etc.
What kind of research did you do for this series?
I’ve been diving into books on writing and plot structure, as well as reading widely on climate change, science and emergent technology, nutrition, fashion, psychology and sociology, and, like every new release in the YA SFF space, lol.
Also, I have done some (and need to do a lot more) research into different people groups and cultural backgrounds to reflect an accurately diverse cast based on Vancouver’s current and probable future population.
Was it always meant to become a series?
Not really. But I had too much story for one book. And then it turned into too much story for a trilogy. So, who knows where it goes from here!
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I work from home and run a freelance content, proofreading, and marketing company so every day’s different. But since multitasking is evil, I try to batch projects like responding to email, drafting, rewriting, freelancing, marketing etc. And I do it all from the couch because having an actual writing space is so extra.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
The next release was supposed to be a prequel novella (or novel, if it keeps growing) called Under the Surface. The zero draft and story map is done, but it’s looking like it might turn into a full-length novel, in which case some prequel shorts and side story shorts may hit the presses first.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Main character names are almost always chosen for meaning, while background character names are more about world building and whatever I like the sound of.
Most of them change before the final draft, though! Almost everyone in Blind the Eyes had a different name in earlier drafts, and I use a LOT of nicknames, which can get confusing.
Where do your ideas come from?
I tend to write books off of dreams, plot them with bursts of intuition, and rewrite them based on cultural influences like articles and other media.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I’d love to write historical fiction—but the research requirements are intimidating!
I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a series of historical romances based on the wild stories of many of the women in my family and heritage, but I’m not that confident when it comes to writing romance (I don’t really read any, so that doesn’t help . . . )
I also have an idea for a YA paranormal romance that bridges WWI and the present (boarding schools! Tragic lovers separated by war! Mysteries and ghosts galore!) so I should really make a point of starting some research soonish.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Being mean to the characters. I default to quiet, internal stories and struggle to externalize the conflict and put truly horrible obstacles in my characters’ paths. I feel so bad for torturing them!
But I also love a good human sacrifice or monster attack, so things inevitably get bloody at some point. (Muahaha.)
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I keep hearing about video taking the online marketing world by storm, but I’m not that visual myself. It’s much faster for me to read text than watch a video, and I have confidence in my imagination.
But social media in particular is ALL about those visuals, so I could see the benefit in doing a trailer one of these days. It’s not high on my list, though.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
So, I failed my practical road test three times. I was a classic eldest-child, perfectionistic, high-achiever and hadn’t really faced failure much at the time. But I finally did get that driver’s license!
Of course, since then there have been SO many circumstances like that where I had to keep trying in seemingly impossible circumstances. Publishing a book felt like one of them! Endurance is important.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Having a job where I’m surrounded by books all the time. Dream job.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still doing this! There are SO MANY stories I want to tell, and it would be amazing to have the chance to keep doing that.
But, as a debut author, it’s also a LOT of work getting my name out there, so I’d love to get to the place where I can do more writing and less marketing on a weekly basis. And, you know, earn more on my books than they cost to produce, lol.
Have you always liked to write?
I learned to read pretty young, and read like a crazy person from that point forward, so I just always had a lot of confidence writing. I think it’s because I devoured so many words and ideas that they have to come out somewhere!
I had a teacher in middle school who was really an inspiration, though, and it was in her class that I first thought about trying to become an author.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read like crazy. Read widely, but especially new releases in your target genre and age group. Study story structure. Write stuff and accept that it’ll be less than perfect. Share in a low-stakes environment (like Wattpad.)
And get on social media!!! Review books, take pictures of books, yell about books and get to know people. By the time you have your own book to share, people will know who you are!
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Rockstar. Or singer-songwriter, since I’m a little too chill for superstar status, lol. I’ve played violin in bands for years and taken a lot of voice lessons, but it’s hard to balance making music with making books and working. Right now I’m in talks to put together a rock cover band, though, so if you’re in the area and wanna check it out, give me a shout!
But, more realistically, I’ve always wanted to be around books. I chose my degree based on trying to become an editor (before realizing all the jobs were on the other side of the continent).
And I really love solving problems and coming up with creative solutions (which comes in handy as a writer!), so I might go back to my former career in business analysis if the whole author thing really doesn’t take off for me.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I try not to read reviews, because I believe reviews are for the reader, not the author (that’s what beta readers and editors are for!)
But I do end up seeing some reviews, especially when I’m looking for pull-quotes to use in book marketing. I never respond to platform-reviews (Amazon, Goodreads, etc.), but I’ll usually respond, RT, share etc. to positive ones if they’re on social media.
One thing I’ve learned since publishing is that how people feel about a book is often more about personal taste and their own expectations than a universal judgment of right/wrong or good/bad, so I try not to take reviews personally.
If I’m discouraged, I remember that I accomplished what I set out to do in the book even if readers didn’t love (or notice) it, and even my favourite authors don’t get 100% five star reviews. In general, life is better when you rely on the judgment of people you trust and value and don’t let what strangers think have too much of a hold on you.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Ugh. There’s SO MUCH. Trying to start. Convincing myself I can do this. Changing things to make the book better. Sitting down to a blank page. Getting edits back. Continuing when I know it’s not perfect. (Getting reviews.) Book marketing.
It’s work, for sure. But it’s work that I choose to do. Or rather, it feels like work that chose me.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
So I know I said romance isn’t my strong suit, but while Under the Surface was supposed to be a sister story, readers of Blind the Eyes are more likely to recognize the names of an awfully familiar couple in these excerpts (no spoilers, sfw):
“Shh!” Ange snatched the pen out of her hand and rapped her on the head with it. “Someone will hear you. You know you shouldn’t be here. If anyone finds out—”
“Whatever. Nothing’s going to happen.” Amy rubbed her head, looking at Amy out of the corner of her eye. “So, I noticed you made a friend last week.”
The pen hit the floor.
Amy laughed. “Ange went to a party. Ange has a boyfriend. Ange—”
“Enough.” Ange grabbed at the pen and missed. Amy waved it teasingly overhead. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, come on. You’ve been dying to return to Under and get to know tall, dark, and handsome better. You’ve been antsy and distracted all week. You should have just said you wanted to go back.”
“I—I was just surprised you let it go so easily. And, you know, relieved.” Ange straightened her shoulders. “But I’m glad you understand how dangerous it was, going down there like that.”
Amy leaned in close. “I know you liked it.” She jerked back just in time to avoid Ange’s swat.
“Don’t be stupid. It was horrible. All those people, that noise . . . I’m still exhausted. We’re lucky we made it back in one piece.”
“As I recall, at least one of those people was worth your time.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ange turned, flushing at the memory of Cass walking away. For a moment, she’d thought he understood. He’d shared her dislike of the party. He hadn’t pushed when she’d avoided his questions and kept her distance. He’d been . . . respectful?
And then he’d left without looking back.
“So you don’t want to go back there tonight?”
“Of course not.”
“Huh. Because it’s only open one night a week, and if you miss this chance to make nice with your new friend, I don’t know if I can stand laying here listening to you sigh and pout every night for another week.”
Ange threw a pillow at her head.
His steps rang out behind her, keeping up effortlessly. He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask for anything; he was just there, and it was horrible. She felt too hot, too tired, too . . . too everything. She felt and saw and heard and did all the wrong things when he was around. He was a distraction. He made her weak. It had to stop.
“Leave me alone.”
“R, whatever is going on with you, I’m not just abandoning you down here. Let me at least get you home.”
Her knees wobbled. He steadied her. She shook him off. “I don’t need your help. I’ll be fine on my own.”
He stayed a step behind, speeding up only to wordlessly steer her away from the wrong turns before dropping back.
“That’s your deal, isn’t it,” he said, finally. “It’s all on you, all the time. I get it, R, I do. I know what it’s like.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“I know it’s dangerous. I know you can’t keep it up forever.”
“I can’t.” He put a hand on her arm. She shook it off. “R, stop.”
“I have to get back.”
“For Amy? She didn’t look that lonely to me.”
“You don’t know anything about me and my sister. She needs me, okay? She needs me.”
He reached for her arm again. Ange tried to pull away, but this time his grip didn’t let up. She kicked him, drove her fist into his stomach, stomped on his foot and finally, sank her teeth into his arm. He just pulled her closer. It should have been terrifying.
It shouldn’t have felt safe.
She sniffed, feeling guilty and defiant at the same. “So that’s it? Some trite fable about how we’re all prey and there’s no hope?”
He shook his head. “We all die. You. Me. Jer. Amy. You can follow the rules and try to keep your sister under lock and key, but is that really what you want to do with your life? Because it’s clearly not what she wants.”
“I don’t care what she—”
“That’s the problem. You don’t care what she wants. You only care about what you want for her. Let her live whatever life she can grab hold of, and you do the same.”
Ange turned her back on him, tears welling again. “She’ll get hurt. I can’t let her get hurt. I have to take care of her.”
“You can’t. You don’t have that power. Let it go, R.”
She shook her head, folding to the ground. Just the thought—she couldn’t catch her breath. Nanay had told her to look after Amy. She’d told her. It was a promise. The last promise.
But Amy didn’t want her anymore. Didn’t need her.
“It’s time to live.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “Time to be free of that burden, and to let her be free.”
“I can’t. I don’t know how. Why do you even care?”
“You know why.”
She searched his unmasked face, his dark eyes. He didn’t even know her name, and yet he’d shown her music and taught her to dance and somehow seized on her deepest, darkest secret and dragged it toward the light.
“My home is with her,” she whispered. “I have nothing without her.”
She’d sacrificed her whole life for Amy only hours ago. As far as Refuge was concerned, she no longer existed. But her twin had rejected her sacrifice. And Cass . . . what if he could offer a way out? What would it be like to be the one protected, for once? To let someone else be the responsible one and worry about it all?
He sighed and turned away. “Go to her, then.”
She blinked. “Oh. I-I thought—”
“You’re not ready yet. Go home.” He held out a hand to help her up.
“You need time. It was my mistake to push you too fast.” His expression softened. “I’m glad you came out tonight, R.”
“It’s Ange,” she surprised herself by saying. “Well, Angel, really. Angel Lily Morris.”
“Angel,” he said.
She shivered. “Actually, just Ange is good. Or R. Or whatever. I . . . will you be here? Next week, I mean?”
“A week’s a long time, Angel,” he said, his mouth quirking up at one side. “I’m here all the time. Come back when you want to. Stay as long as you want to. I’ll be waiting.”
Then they were at the edge of Under. He ducked his head. “Don’t stay away too long, R. I hate dancing alone.”
She watched as he walked away. The way people moved for him. The purposeful confidence in his gait. It was downright offensive, the way he seemed to think he knew what was good for her. Terrible. He’d got inside her head.
And now she couldn’t get him out.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Wow, way too many to count! I used to reread the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings on a yearly basis, and I also LOVED Madeleine L’Engle. But in the current YA fantasy space, I’m a big fan of Brenna Yovanoff, Holly Black, Kendare Blake, Laini Taylor, Melissa Marr, and so many other brilliant writers. I like complex, gorgeously-written stories, usually with a creepy/dark edge.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I wrote a book when I was in my teens. I tried to update it and release it serially on Wattpad a few years ago as Flame of the Connarii and dropped off part way through because it has problems, but the main character is such an over-the-top tropefest that I keep coming back to it.
She’s like a badass warrior from an a historical fantasy!Celtic tribe exiled to a dying world with a Tarzan-like love interest. All she wants is to be taken seriously as a leader.
The characters just aren’t that complex, and the book really says nothing new or particularly woke by 2018 standards, but it was so fun at the time.
My other Wattpad story (also on hiatus) has an equally great character who’s just SO DONE with everyone and everything and I really do need to get back to her. Like, a hot guy saves her life and starts following her around trying to protect her, and she just wants her space back, thanks very much. So, yeah, I guess I just dream of writing flaming extroverts and prickly introverts and nothing in between?
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. Always both. Usually the idea of starting is exhausting, and the energy comes later.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I know I should deliver readers what they want, but I’m contrary by nature and always end up choosing the original (read: hardest possible) path instead. #cursed
Where can your fans find you and follow??
I’m all over social media and Goodreads as @kaiespace but readers can also find me at https://kawiggins.com and join the newsletter for more insider content!
Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview!!