Sassy's Fangirl Debuts ~ Interview With Kali Wallace + Giveaway

Welcome to Sassy's Fangirl Debuts, a feature event where I introduce you to this years and next years debut authors! Grab some popcorn and have your Goodreads page open because there are some wonderful new authors and books coming out soon! 

This week of Sassy’s Fangirl Debuts, we are having the wonderful Kali Wallace, YA author of SHALLOW GRAVES, which releases in January of 2016!

Title: Shallow Graves
Author: Kali Wallace
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Thriller
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Publisher:   Katherine Tegen Books
When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Hi Kali! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today! Before we get started on the interview, would you care to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello! Thank you for having me. I'm Kali. I used to study earthquakes and mountain ranges as a geophysicist, but now I write YA and (I hope) MG novels about creepy magical things happening to creepy magical people. I'm a Colorado native and lived there most of my life, but about a year ago I decided to move to southern California, more or less on a whim, and that's where I am now. Shallow Graves is my first novel, and I'm really excited to be here to talk about it!

1. How many years have you been writing that lead up to your upcoming debut release, Shallow Graves?

I've been writing for as long as I can remember. Since I was six or seven, I suppose, although I don't know exactly when I started. I've always loved writing, and I was lucky to have teachers who encouraged me and a family who put up with all the hours I spent yelling at them to stop reading over my shoulder at the computer, oh my god, just leave me alone. (They were never actually reading over my shoulder. They just thought it was funny to make me flip out and cover the screen with my hands.) But I never tried to publish anything until I was in my thirties, after I attended the Clarion Workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers at UCSD. I sold my first short story in 2010, Shallow Graves a few years later, and now there's no looking back.
So I guess the answer is: I've always been writing. It just took me about a quarter of a century to do anything about it.

2. As writers, we occasionally get smacked in the face with new, fun ideas and I would love to know how you came up with the idea for your novel. Was it a random thought or have you been playing with this idea for awhile now?

There are two types of writers in the world: there's the type where if somebody tells them, "You can't write that, nobody wants to read that," they don't write it, and there's the type where if somebody tells them, "You can't write that, nobody wants to read that," they think, "Shut up, I do what I want."
Once upon a time, during the aforementioned Clarion workshop in 2010, our first week workshop instructor Delia Sherman was talking about what subject matters are appropriate for YA novels. She wasn't even talking to me; I was just eavesdropping as she talked to somebody else in the common room. Delia was explaining how there really are no restrictions on subject matter in YA. What matters is the age of protagonist and the intended audience, so you can write a YA novel about anything.

"Except," she added, mostly joking, "maybe cannibalism."

And I--eavesdropping shamelessly at the outskirts of this conversation--immediately thought, "Ah ha! I'm going to write a YA novel about cannibalism! So there."

Now, just to be very clear, I never actually wrote a YA novel about cannibalism. I did, however, write a novel about supernatural monsters who eat human corpses, because I love writing about the unsexy, uncool, unloved monsters always dismissed as gross and icky and foul in other stories. Then I wrote a companion novel to go with that novel, and that one turned out to be the story I was really eager to tell, and that became Shallow Graves. There's always a long, winding road between the spark of an idea and the final story that comes from it. In this case, however, I can trace it back to the beginning, and in the beginning it's all Delia Sherman's fault.

3. Your book includes some interesting paranormal aspects and I’m curious to know what type of re-search you did to find the perfect setting. Did you find anything fascinating that stuck with you?

For obvious reasons, I spent a lot of time researching all kinds of different stories about people returning from the dead. There really are quite a lot of those stories out there! Zombies and ghosts are only the beginning. The ones that really interested me were about people who came back as creatures that weren't mindless or animalistic, but were still somewhat functional as individuals with goals, with motivations, with desires and plans and thoughts of their own.

And what really caught my interest was how nearly all of those stories seemed to focus on vengeance as a primary motivator. There are so many variations on the return-from-the-dead-for-revenge story, and it's fascinating to me that so many people, everywhere on the planet, all throughout history, have this deep fear of people they've wronged being so angry about if they literally rise from the grave to exact their revenge. That's a whole lot of guilt and fear being carried around in these common stories.

4. I know that writing can have its ups and downs, so tell us, what was the easiest and hardest part in writing your novel?

The hardest part in terms of actual writing is always and forever the fight scenes. It is so hard for me to write fight and action scenes. I don't get into fights in real life! Everything I know about fighting I learned from watching Captain America movies a dozen times in a row, and because I am a professional I know that I cannot simply distract everybody from every clunk action scene by writing, "And his shirt was very tight," however tempting it may be. It's always so hard for me to write any kind of fight or chase or action scene. They take me forever to get right.

The easier parts to write are always, for me, the atmospheric descriptions. It might take me ages to get character voices and conversations right, it might take me geologic eons to get fight scenes and action right, but it never seems to take very much time or effort at all to write descriptive passages to build the kind of spooky, creepy atmosphere I want. That's probably why I do so much of it.

5. Now that you are a debut author, tell us how the experience has been so far!

The funny thing about being a debut author is that everybody wants to tell you how you should be feeling. You should be excited! You should be anxious! You should be terrified! You should be grateful! You should be crushed by bad reviews! You should you should you should you should! And it turns out sometimes you will be are all of those things, and other times you won't be any of those things, and sometimes it changes from one minute to the next.But, overall, it's been pretty fantastic so far. I've loved working with my editor to make the book the best it can be. I've met a bunch of other soon-to-be-debut authors, and they're some of the greatest people around. I've found the YA community to be incredibly supportive and fun and always willing to indulge a bit of a gripe and moan when things get overwhelming. So it makes me crazy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

A huge thank you to Kali for stopping by! You guys should definitely go and add this to your TBR right now! Not only does that cover look spook-a-licious, but it sounds like the perfect autumn read. Too bad we have to wait for it to come out next year! ;) 

For most of her life Kali Wallace was going to be a scientist when she grew up. She studied geology in college, partly because she could get course credit for hiking and camping, and eventually earned a PhD in geophysics researching earthquakes in India and the Himalayas. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov's, Lightspeed, and She was born in Colorado and spent most of her life there, but now lives in southern California.

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Happy reading!

1 comment

  1. Oh! This isn't a book that I'd pick out myself because I'm not too big on paranormal/supernatural reads. I will admit that I'm intrigued by the synopsis, though. I might have to grab a copy in January to see what it's like and if I'll enjoy it.

    I love, love, love, Kali's input on what it's like to be a debut author. For me, personally, I feel like no one should ever tell anyone how to feel. If I were being published for the first time, I'd be an emotional wreck, and I'd be okay with that because that's just how I am. It's just all about who an author is as a person, you know?

    Great interview! Thanks for bringing this book and Kali to my attention, Talina!


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