Kit Grindstaff is one of my bestest author friends – I revealed her debut cover way back when. And now, IN THE FLAME IN THE MIST is out in the world! Kit’s debut is a dark, fantasy middle-grade novel that released on April 9th, 2013! I’m today’s stop in the tour for Kit’s debut, hosted by the fabulous Mod Podge Bookshelf. So without further ado, here’s a little Q&A I had with the author – Kit Grindstaff. And be sure to scroll down to the end – there’s a pretty awesome giveaway!
Kit Grindstaff: Oh, eek! You’re asking someone who never got their elevator pitch down that well.
Ok…here we go:
Evil rulers. Misery, Mist, murder…& magic. Only one girl can end the darkness: Jemma. The Flame in the Mist. #TelepathicRats #NoodleAndPie
IceyBooks: Why did you decide to write a fantasy story and one so creepy at that?
Kit Grindstaff: I always feel that actually, the story and genre chose me! Somehow, with the combination of influences growing up in England, that was what flowed out of me. I’ve always been drawn to spook, whether in fireside ghost stories told as a teen, or the English environment I grew up in where there’s no shortage of castles, graveyards and dark towers. Then there’s the classic Brit lit: most of Dickens’s books, for example, are steeped in mist and gloom. Another book that burned its gothic setting into my mind as a teen is Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan. I also loved Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and Harry Potter, so they probably set the fantasy stage—and they’re definitely tinged with dark.
Once I’d written bare bones of a synopsis, it was obvious that what I’d started was that kind of story – I mean, what else could it be, with a girl trapped in a castle, who isn’t who she thinks she is? I couldn’t leave a character doomed to gloom, though. For me, there always has to be a transforming of the darkness. Otherwise, it’s just creepy for creepy’s sake, an empty gimmick. Fantasy gives an author the means to create the kind of world they’d like to see, out of the ashes of a twisted one. That, to me, is the ultimate goal: to offer hope and some kind of signpost to a different, more positive reality.
IceyBooks: Do you have a favorite line that was removed from the original draft of FLAME IN THE MIST?
Kit Grindstaff:One scene I loved is where Jemma is helping Drudge, the ancient servant, in the kitchen. The family has a taste for what we’d think is revolting food, and Drudge is making a cockroach stew: “The taste was all right, but she hated the way their wings caught between her teeth, and their shells were still crunchy even after hours of boiling.”
IceyBooks: FLAME IN THE MIST sold without an agent, can you tell us a little about how you sold your own book to an editor at Random House?
Kit Grindstaff: Sure. I began querying agents as soon as I thought I’d finished writing the book, and had had my share of rejections! I’d actually put the manuscript on the back burner and started another book. Then, a friend told me about the New Jersey SCBWI conference and the opportunity it offered for agent and editor critiques. The only caveat: it had to be a finished ms. So I honed the first 15 pages – again! – and sent them off for the organizers to pass along to whichever editor they though most appropriate. Which in my case, was Michelle Poploff, VP and Executive Editor at Delacorte Press.
I liked her immediately—and she, evidently, liked my 15 pages. At the end of our 15-minute critique session, she asked to see the whole manuscript. I was ecstatic of course—but it wasn’t a sure thing by any means. A month after I mailed it, Michelle contacted me saying she loved Jemma, the Mist, and the world I’d created, but felt it needed work…amongst other things, I had one of those apocryphal sagging middles! Her 9-page editorial letter gave me fabulous direction and suggestions, saying that if I felt like reworking along those guidelines, she’d like to see it again “with a view to acquisition.” Those last words kept me going through months of rewriting, and eventually I sent her the new, improved, trimmed-here-fattened-there manuscript. This time, she responded within 3 weeks. Editors normally call with an offer of a deal, but I was away in Europe, so word came by email. Those “ready to move forward” words caused a great deal of whooping and celebration that night!
IceyBooks: Give us the three:
-Items on your desk right now:
Frog paper clip, pen(s—lots of them!) stashed in a cup made by a dear friend who’s a local potter, ARC of Claire Legrand’s Year of Shadows, which I WON in a givaway! I never win giveaways. So it reminds me that anything can happen.
-Books you can’t wait to read:
Kit Grinstaff: You mean besides that ARC beckoning to me at this moment? That’s easy! Two are by fellow Lucky 13s authors who’s books I’ve been itching to read for months:
1. In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters. The title alone has had me begging me to read the book from the moment I first read it. The fact that it’s paranormal ramps up its appeal.
2. Magic Marks the Spot, by Caroline Carlson. The series is called The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. How great is that? It sounds like such a rollicking, fun middle grade read!
3. It’s a toss-up between sequels to two of my very favorite debuts of 2012: Leigh Bardugo’s YA, Seige and Storm, coming 6/13, and Stefan Bachmann’s The Whatnot, coming 9/13. (Oops…that makes 4…ha ha!). I guess I’ll opt for Leigh’s, since it releases first. Less waiting that way, right?
-Types of snacks you’re craving right now:
Kit Grindstaff:Savory! Peanuts, sweet potato chips, guacamole. (What…no chocolate? Must be because it’s early in the day…)
IceyBooks: Thanks for joining us!
Kit Grindstaff: Thanks so much for hosting me Hafsah! I’m particularly excited that you’re part of The Flame in the Mist tour, since you were the first ever blogger to contact me, and hosted the most awesome cover reveal! It’s great to be back on IceyBooks.
Kit Grindstaff was born near London, and grew up in the rolling countryside of England. After a brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain) she moved to New York and embarked on her career as a pop song writer.
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Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.