(Kelly is written by Kelly Blanchard. Kristen is written by Kristen Moger.)
Walking down the street of the small town square, Kelly passed the coffee shop, waved at her friend who was behind the counter there. She went on—past the bakery, a gift shop, a lawyer’s office, an Italian restaurant, and finally she halted in front of a storefront which read ‘Kelly’s Muse Shop’ in bold letters in the window. She flipped through her keys until she found the right one, and then unlocked the door and pushed the door open, turning the sign on the door to ‘Open’ as she passed through.
The smell of old books and aroma of ideas filled her senses as Kelly took in a deep breath and smiled. She flipped on the light and took in her surroundings—a display counter on the left and another at the front, and in each one were valuable treasures locked away in sight—treasures from other realms although the ordinary person never believed her.
Setting her purse on a counter, Kelly looked at the bookshelves behind the counter—lined with ancient scrolls and rare books. Turning around, she noted the other bookshelves across the room filled with unusual trinkets and souvenirs she received during her travels to the other realms—a jar of rain seeds, another jar of fairy dust, a dagger carved out of a dragon’s claw, a marble chess set, a compass, a golden balance with clear glass scales, and so much more. Light filtered through stain glass windows adding to the mysteriousness of the items in her shop.
Kelly moved away from the counter to further back of the shop where she paused at a clear bay window—some of her customer’s favorite reading nook. Outside the window, she observed her lush garden shadowed with ancient trees with a few clearing where the warm sun broke through. Many of her guests loved meandered through the beaten paths to the Statue Courtyard beyond where stood statues of fictional characters from books. Few though ventured into the Character Cemetery where many of their favorite characters had been laid to rest after their death in the books.
Passing this window, Kelly came to a full-length mirror which showed image after image of beautiful landscapes. A lot of people asked where she found the lovely pictures she shared that often inspired ideas. Well, here it was, and on any other day, this mirror was also her portal to those worlds, but today she had a guest coming, so she needed to get ready.
Just as she thought this, the door chimed as someone entered, and Kelly looked over her shoulder to see a woman enter. She turned to her and smiled as she approached. “Kristen Moger?” Kelly reached out to shake her hand. “I know you said your preferred meeting place was an attic, but a lot of strange things happen in the attic here. I thought this might be all right based off the other descriptions you gave me.”
“That’s okay,” Kristen said, smiling as she gazed around in delight. “This place is perfectly wonderful. I could live here.”
Kelly laughed. “I’m sure you could quite literally. I probably shouldn’t tell you there’s a guest room upstairs.” She jabbed her thumb over her shoulder at the spiral staircase that disappeared upstairs. “Now, I’d offer you coffee, but…I’m honestly horrible at making it, so would you like tea or maybe my famous homemade chocolate chip cookies and some milk?
Kristen pushed her persistently shaggy brown hair out of her face. “Oh, don’t tell me that. You’ll never get rid of me. Tea would be wonderful. Though, I wouldn’t object to a cookie.”
“Have a look around. I’ll be right back.” Kelly headed to the kitchen in the back of the store, but as the Muse she sensed everything happening in the shop.
Kristen had taken her advice and meandered through the shelves, picking up different trinkets and examining them. Kelly realized she hadn’t warned her about the plot bunnies, so she quickly fixed a cup of tea, poured a glass of milk for herself, and grabbed the plate of homemade cookies and brought them out.
She nodded for Kristen to follow her to a back corner where a table was set up, and she set down everything. “Just so you know, plot bunnies are everywhere in this place, and they might bite you. Have as many cookies as you’d like.” She motioned to the plate of cookies as she too took a cookie from the plate.
Taking her tea, Kristen made herself comfortable on her chair and admired the beautiful table set before her. Elegant cups trimmed in gold and decorated with delicate flowers, soft cloth napkins, and the scent of fresh tea—everything about this place was perfect. “Don’t worry. I love plot bunnies. They follow me around everywhere I go.” Her stomach grumbled, so she snagged a cookie and took a bite. The delicious taste of a perfect chocolate chip cookie delighted her tastebuds.
Kelly laughed. “Oh good, I’ll let you adopt some then! So, tell me, how long have you been writing?”
“Well, the idea was scary. See, my mom always wanted to be a writer and I watched her do everything but. I could see the sadness and longing in her and I didn’t want that to be me.”
“I can understand that.” Kelly nodded as she broke off a piece of her cookie and dunk it in her milk. Before she ate it, she asked, “So that was your inspiration to begin really writing?”
Kristen shifted in her chair, her thoughts drifting back to those few years living in their three-room trailer with her eight-year-old daughter, six-year-old son, a hamster, a cat, a lizard, and 100 acres to get lost in. “Oh, inspiration. It was all around me. We had an old graveyard just beyond one path and an island filled with golden eagles and other creatures. The sunsets over the water alone could inspire the best settings. But for my first story, it was a song I was listening to. I can’t remember the title, but it brought out images of a wild storm and a rider on a horse pounding their way across the foothills. Once I had that picture, I had to know what the rider was up to. The images sound a bit cliche, but it did develop into over 400,000 words and a whole world I fell in love with.””
“Well, you can’t leave me there! What was he up to??”
Kristen played with her teacup as her host fell silent. A tiny pink plot bunny pawed at her runner. She picked the creature up and stroked its lush fur, wondering what stories it carried. The animal’s whiskers twitched and a glint shone in its round black eyes. Kristen grinned as thoughts of dragons and lost worlds formed in her mind. Kristen pushed her daydream aside as she realized her host had asked her a question. “Oh, turned out he was an elf who was kidnapped and forced to work for the bad guy, who turned out to be working for this demon who once was the friend of the best friend of the elf. The story got very complicated.”
“Demon, eh? That wouldn’t have been Kat’s character who was also a demon, would it?” Kelly immediately started thinking of crossovers from the two different people she interviewed. “But anyway, that sounds very cool. I love complicated stories! So do you write fantasy, or what’s your favorite genre?”
Kristen sipped her tea while she formed her answer. “Definitely fantasy. I try to write straight stories, but something always creeps in—though my debut novel is a post-apocalyptic YA journey.”
Having had her fill of cookies, Kelly sat back in her chair. “So tell me about this story of yours. I’d love to hear it!”
Kristen let the bunny on her lap go and crossed her arms as she leaned on the table, warming to the topic. “The story was inspired by a long night working retail in a dead shopping mall. NaNoWriMo was coming up and I was wondering what to write. The atmosphere of the mall was one of desperate abandon as clerks waited for closing with nothing more to do than collect dust bunnies. From there, I started to wonder what it would be like if the world as we know it ended and the only place left to live was a shopping mall. This inspired me to create Teddy—a teenage orphan living with a mixed up family and scrounging through tunnels for items to sell for their survival.”
“Sounds both sad and fantastic.” Kelly’s eyes brightened. “So, what kind of conflicts does Teddy encounter—other than just trying to survive?”
“Their lives are governed by the Upperlords who live off of everything others find. They also live in a sealed environment. No one has been outside for over 100 years. With the help of his sister and brother, and one emotional guard, they try to discover a better place for all the Underlings ( those who are not Upperlords) to live.”
“One emotional guard—that’s interesting you put it like that. I’m curious to know more, but we have to continue with the questions.” Kelly smiled apologetically but then leaned in, folding her forearms on the table to hear more. “There are a lot of YA post-apocalyptic stories out there. What do you think makes yours so different?”
Kristen smiled to herself, knowing this question was coming. “It’s true. There are lots of stories like this out there, just as there are all kinds of stories in every genre. I think what makes my story unique is the characters. Their personalities and relationships give the reader someone to care about despite the situation.”
Kelly nodded. That was a sound reason to be unique. “That’s good. And is there a lesson the characters and the story teach the readers?”
Kristen leaned back in her chair, her mind going over the intricacies of her story. “Lesson learned? Would it be corny to say family and friends are more important than anything? I want to say it’s something more profound, but I think it is most important to remember we’re not alone even when we might feel like we are.”
“Those are always important lessons to be reminded of from time-to-time.” Kelly reassured her with a smile. “Do you have a favorite character in the story?”
“Ohh, I love Teddy, but then his sister Caden is fun to write. So is his brother, Jolon. They both can get snarky.”
“Siblings always tend to be!” Kelly chuckled, thinking back to her own many siblings. “Well, unfortunately, I believe our time is up, but I’m really looking forward to your story. Has it been released, or will it be released soon?”
“Yes,” Kristen said, wishing they could continue, if only to stay in the shop a little longer. “It’s available on my website as an ebook or in physical form.”
“Fantastic! I’ll be sure to let everyone who comes in here know of your books.” Kelly then saw the wistful look on Kristen’s face, and she smiled warmly and gestured to their surroundings. “You’re more than welcome to stick around and explore. There’s a garden outside and more in this place than you can ever really explore in one day. I’m sure I still have some customers meandering around here somewhere. They haven’t hollered, so I’m not worried.” She chuckled.
Kristen laughed and rose from her seat, holding out her hand. “Thanks, this has been great. I think I might just loose myself here for a while.”
“Sounds great.” Kelly stood as well then gestured to the cookies and help yourself to any cookies you’d like. I’m always baking new ones. I will see you around!” With that, he headed to the front of her shop to see if any of her customers needed help.
NOTE: THE BOOK MENTIONED IS: ‘DOWN AND OUT’ BOOK 1 OF THE UNDERCITY TRILOGY. CHECK OUT KRISTEN’S WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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