Welcome to author Kiersten White! Tressa from Wishful Endings and I are wrapping up our read-along for And I Darken today and Kiersten was kind enough to stop by for an interview. We asked her all sorts of questions about the book, her writing, and the challenges she faced. Read on for the interview and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom!
Our Interview with Kiersten White
Dena: How long did it take to write And I Darken?
A year from the start to the end of the first draft. And then a few more months of edits. Not my longest, but definitely one of my hardest!
Tressa: What was your favorite part of writing it?
I like feeling devious, and every step of the way with this book I’ve felt like I was getting away with something. Historical fiction from someone with a previously blisteringly modern voice! Gender-swapping a relatively obscure historical figure! Writing a sensitive, gentle boy and a brutal, violent girl! Maybe it’s my inner teenager, but I’m always having the most fun when I think I’m misbehaving.
Dena: What kinds of challenges did you face when writing the book?
The research was pretty daunting. The thing about writing historical is you can always, always do more research. And it can easily turn into a procrastination tool. So I had to find the right balance of doing enough research without letting it take away from the writing.
Tressa: What did you find most interesting/cool/surprising while researching Vlad the Impaler?
The same thing that was most interesting about researching Mehmed the Conqueror—the way he was remembered depended entirely on who was recording it. National hero and brilliant military leader, or depraved cannibal mass murderer! This is why using a wide range of sources is so important. But there is a cool (totally apocryphal, probably nowhere near the truth) story about him cutting open his mistress to prove she was lying about being pregnant. Wait, did I say cool, I meant horrifying?
Dena: Was it difficult to re-imagine Vlad the Impaler as a girl?
Honestly, Vlad made so much MORE sense to me once I thought, “What if he had been a girl?” Because that level of single-mindedness and brutal relentlessness is what a girl would have had to have to survive and compete for power in the 15th century (slash today to an extent as well!). The question of why and how someone would become that way made a lot more sense to me if that person was a girl.
Tressa: What do you think is the best thing about that historical period?
We talk about the medieval times like the whole world was stagnant and terrible, but in reality it was pretty much just Europe stumbling around in the dark. That’s part of what attracted me to the Ottoman Empire. They were doing incredible things—advancing science, math, philosophy. And they were a very open society. If there was something good, they invited it in. In most cases, you were better off as a Christian under this period of Ottoman rule than under other Christians! All that being said, I’m a huge fan of modern medicine and would literally be dead in any other time period, which makes it difficult for me to romanticize them.
Dena: Who was your favorite character to write?
I always loved it when Huma or Nicolae were on page. Nicolae because he’s funny, and Huma because she unnerves Lada so much. I love Nazira, too, and she has a much bigger role in book two that wasn’t originally planned. She just deserved it!
Tressa: Do you have a favorite line or scene from the book you can share?
Dena: Are all the characters based on real people?
The three main characters—Radu, Mehmed, and Lada (who was actually a man named Vlad) are all based on real people, as are their relatives. And a lot of the history is accurate. But a lot of the side characters were invented.
Tressa: What would you like readers to know?
I’m so thrilled to have this book out in the world. I love it so much and worked so hard on it! It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Book two will be out next year, and book three the year after! And I’ll be so, so happy when those are out, too, because it means I’m finally done writing it all, ha!
Thank you to Kiersten White for answering our questions! It’s so much fun to get to know her a little better and learn more about her book. I love the snippet she shared. It’s one of my favorite parts of the book too!
Dena on Instagram: @batchofbooks
Tressa on Instagram: @wishfulendings
Dena on Twitter: @denabooks
Tressa on Twitter: @tressherm
Read-Along Wrap Up and My Final Thoughts
Thoughts on the characters in the second half:
Now the inclusion of many characters is understandable. In the first half of the book, I wondered why certain parts of the book or certain characters were in the story when they vanished from the page soon after. But now it makes sense. Those characters come into play – some in big ways and some in smaller ways.
I was a little disappointed in Lada for a while during the second half of the book. I thought she was losing sight of herself, but she surprised me. I have a soft spot for Radu. He’s clever and knows how to use his naive, sweet side to get what he wants. Mehmed is a tossup for me. I’m not sure if I’ve ever really liked him or if I ever really will. Like I mentioned last week, he’s a complicated character in a complicated situation. Because of that, I can’t decide if I like him or despise him.
Least favorite part so far:
I liked most of the book, but I wish there had been some overarching plot or scheme the characters were working on. There were several minor ones, but nothing that really stood out to me as the “purpose” behind the story.
Most favorite part:
I love the characters. Radu and his quick thinking, Lada and her passionate bull-headedness, and Mehmed and his confusing signals. I also loved the minor characters, the play for power, and the ending. Oh, the ending! Maybe I loved it so much because it opened up new possibilities and took the story in a direction I didn’t expect.
Predictions for the next book:
The book ends in a semi-resolved, semi-open way. I’m not sure what to think or what to expect out of the rest of the series. I think we’ll see a lot of battles, conquering, deaths, and drama. However, I’m not sure how those things will actually play out.
Kiersten White set the book during an interesting time period, in an interesting place, with interesting characters. The characters are unique and different and I’m interested to see how their individual strengths and weaknesses come into play as the series continues.
I’m still hoping that the next books will have a more obvious plot to them. I want the characters to have goals, plans, or something devious in mind. My guess is that we’ll see more of that now that the setting and characters have been established and fleshed out.
Snag a Copy of And I Darken by Kiersten White
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Random House is giving away an ARC of And I Darken by Kiersten White to TWO lucky winners! Get your entries in because you don’t want to miss out on this!
Two winners will receive an ARC of And I Darken by Kiersten White
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Ends August 5, 2016
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