I had the privilege of chatting with K. M. Vanderbilt, the author of the dark fantasy book, ‘Skeins Unfurled’. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘K. M.’ was written by K. M. Vanderbilt.
Kelly sat on a bench overlooking the ocean. There was a pathway that led down to the sandy beach, and she might take her interviewee there in a bit, but for now, she waited, enjoying the breeze in her hair. She sighed. She needed this. It’d been a long few weeks, and the beach always had a magical relaxing touch.
Sensing someone approach, Kelly opened her eyes and looked over her shoulder to see a woman drawing near. Kelly smiled and rose to her feet. “K. M. Vanderbilt? I’m Kelly.” She extended her hand. “So great to meet you. How are you doing today?”
K. M. smiled and offered a firm shake. Her mother had always told her a good handshake marked someone’s character. “Yes, that’s me…I…she? Maybe it’s we.” Smiling sheepishly, she released Kelly’s hand and awkwardly amended, “Hi. Nice to finally meet you.”
It seemed like the interview would never come, but with it happening, she just felt unprepared and flustered. She struggled to remember what Kelly had asked. “I’m…great actually.” Her eyes wandered to the surf, sweeping across the beach. “Great view.”
Kelly smiled as she turned to take in the view as well. “Would you like to walk down to the beach? We can take that path.” When K. M. nodded, Kelly led the way. “So tell me a bit about yourself. When did you first begin writing?”
Looking down at her bare feet, toes kicking up rooster tails of sand, K. M. thought about that. “Well…I’m me. I dunno.” A deep noise hummed in her throat, the precursor to laughter. She always felt weird talking about herself despite the nature of interviews. “Well, okay…this is how it goes. 29, traveler at heart—and that lifestyle goes well with an Army guy as the hetero-life mate. I’ve pretty much been all over the continental US, a few other countries as well, and I use all of that to fuel my writing. I took up the pen, so to speak, when I was six, and never put it down. I actually published my first book this year.” She smirked, one shoulder rolling up in a half shrug. “Finally. Ha.”
Kelly smiled. “Congrats on your writing accomplishment. That’s always a wonderful thing! However, who or what pushed you to finally get published?” After a moment, Kelly decided to remove her shoes too and sighed in relief at the sand between her toes. It felt good. But she looked to K. M., waiting for her answer.
That was actually a good question. As K. M. looked at the path ahead, she felt her eyes drawn inward to memories twenty years old. “My mom,” she answered, voice soft. Locking her hands behind her back, K. M. considered where it began. “My mom used to read to me every night. Then I started reading for myself. Writing followed. My mom read a lot of it and encouraged me to do something with it, though she didn’t want it to be my career. It’s not lucrative in most cases, so not a viable option for most people as a day job. Circumstances change, though. It’s the dream, right? Now, the reality.” She smiled softly and looked over at Kelly. “And she supports that.”
“I’m very happy to hear that.” Kelly smiled back at K. M. “So, what genre do you write? What kinds of stories?” As she asked this, Kelly noticed a beautiful shell sticking out of the sand, so she bent down and retrieved it then brushed it off to inspect it.
Cocking her head, K. M. scooted a little gray crab away with her toe. It scuttled off with an angry click of its pincer. “I mean…I write everything,” K. M. admitted, struggling to find that niche answer she assumed was expected. “I started off with YA urban fantasy when I was 17. It was my first complete manuscript…and it was complete crap.” Chuckling, she shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve tried a bit of everything—southern noir, fantasy, sci-fi, ”she looked at Kelly and raised a brow, voice lowering, “romance. Most of it will never see the light of day. The book I published is part of a series, though, and it’s dark/epic fantasy. I think that would really fall as my comfort genre.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So tell me about this story. What is it about?” She cast K. M. a smile. She loved hearing about writers and their stories.
K. M.’s face lit up and she spread her hands, palms out. “Allow me to geek briefly here. The book is called Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to The Breadth Key Cycle. Okay, so you know the Norse pantheon—death, blood, and Ragnarok…maybe a little gender fluidity when Loki decides to be a she for the day?” At Kelly’s nod, she continued, “Take that and expand it, throw in a sprinkle of other pantheons from around the world, and then make wyrd become this tangled concept that touches everything in a trickle down effect—chaos theory at its finest.” Laughing at the convoluted answer, she admitted, “It spans an entire universe—in the sense of planets—and shows how choices and consequences can affect people other than those gods who make the choice. I usually just tell people it’s about boobs, beer, and battle…but it is so much more.”
Kelly laughed when she heard all this. “Wow! Sounds quite complicated but awesome! What inspired this idea for you?”
Humming again, K. M. waggled her head back and forth, pulling a face. “That’s probably more complicated, but the short answer is…mythology. I love other religions and mythos, finding ways to blend so many different beliefs together and show how it all explodes.” She glanced at Kelly and smiled. “It was the challenge inherent to finding the differences and similarities between…say…Olympian and Aesir, or even Aztec and Aesir.”
“I bet you had a lot of research to do, but you likely loved every moment of it.” Kelly grinned at Kayla then motioned for them to go up the path a little to a bench. Once they sat down facing the ocean, Kelly glanced at K. M. once more. “So who are the protagonists and antagonists and the struggles they encounter?”
Taking a seat, K. M. buried her feet in the sand, wiggling her toes in as deep as she could. “It’s a multiple point of view story, so you’ll see different angles of the same conflict. There is no clear protagonist or antagonist, as it all becomes gray washed in motivations and character flaws.” Giggling low and throaty, K. M. admitted, “If you were to ask my beta, she would say Tyr becomes the main antagonist while Freyr and Forebelo are set as the protagonists. Loki is more of a wild card.” She nodded, as if to herself, and took a deep breath. “As for what they face…basically, Ragnarok is unwritten. Secrets emerge which have been kept for a thousand years. Everything falls apart. Loki discovers the truth behind his people being exterminated, Freyr discovers a an abandoned world, Tyr is just trying to keep his gathered world at peace…safe. and Forebelo has the biggest secret of them all.” She looked at Kelly, wiggling her fingers as she mystically whispered, “The breadth key. It all shows how they ally themselves, sometimes in the strangest ways, and how their goals are set against each other.”
“I love it when stories don’t have a clear-cut antagonist or protagonist but rather a lot of gray areas. That’s more realistic. I like it!” Kelly grinned at K. M.. “So you said you published the book, but is it the first in a series? I imagine it would be because of the extent of the story sounds massive.”
“Yes.” K. M.’s eyes went wide. “Huge. I keep thinking I can pare it down to six books, but there’s just SO MUCH.” One corner of her mouth lifted. “This book is just a prequel to set the stage, which I think was needed for a deeper understanding of the universe. The next book—Errant Tides—shows the aftermath and moves into the main series.” That said, she looked out at the water. “I kind of view this series as an ocean all its own: the deepest corners may never be explored, but it holds a wealth of life.”
“Sounds amazing.” Kelly nodded but then happened to check her watch and frowned. “Our time is about up, so we should be heading back.” They stood, and Kelly led the way back up the path, but along the way she asked, “Is there anything you’d like your readers to take from your story? If they remembered one thing, what would it be?”
K. M. took a deep breath, eyebrows shooting up. “Well, I think it’s important to realize you never know as much as you think you do. In life, there are no absolutes, and no one view of the world can ever encompass every angle. So, on that note,” she laughed, “it’s good to question everything and explore what it means to be the other guy, have the dissenting opinion.” Grinning, she laughed, “Maybe playing devil’s advocate is dangerous, but I think it allows us to broaden our horizons.”
“And horizons are always meant to be broadened. How else will we explore, learn, and discover more?” They finally came back up to where Kelly had been originally, and she sighed. “Unfortunately our time is up, but this was a lovely visit. Here.” She offered the shell she had picked up earlier to K. M.. “A gift from the Muse.” She smiled at her. “I hope you the best with all your endeavors. Keep me posted on your progress. You’ve got quite a journey ahead of you.”
“Thanks, Kelly.” K. M. flipped the shell, caught it, and tucked it in her pocket. “It’s been great.” Waving, she walked off into the sunset, gunslinger style.
K. M. Vanderbilt’s book ‘Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to the Breadth Key Cycle’ is now available. You can find it here: getBook.at/SkeinsUnfurled
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