April 27, 2014

Interview with Author Kyoko M

Hi everyone! We would like to welcome Author Kyoko M to the page and blog today.

What is your book(s) about?
The Black Parade series tells the tale of Jordan Amador—a Seer, or someone who can see, hear, and talk to ghosts, angels, and demons—and Michael O’Brien—archangel and Commander of Heaven’s armada. They met through the curious circumstance of Michael’s murder when he came to her as a poltergeist with no memory of who he was or what happened to him. Solving his case opened the doors to the violent and sordid nature of the archdemon Belial—a Prince of Hell who set his eyes on Jordan’s soul. The series follows the friendship, and eventual romance, between Jordan and Michael as they help ghosts with unfinished business find peace and prevent the demons from taking over. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m just your average everyday raging nerd-monster. I grew up reading Brian Jacques, Judy Blume, J. K. Rowling, a ton of Greek mythology, and assorted comic book series from Batman to Amazing Spider-Man to the Astonishing X-Men. I’m a die-hard dork for sci-fi films and urban fantasy tales. My love of reading led me to get a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. I write because I bleed words, day in and day out. I love the act of creating my own universe to run wild in and fill with all kinds of oddballs. If reading is escapism, then writing is getting to charter a spaceship to your planet of choice with all the coolest people you’ve ever known.

What started your interest in writing?
A lot of different sources deserve credit. First and foremost goes to my mother, who used to read me books every night before bed. Secondly, I have to thank the brilliant minds behind Batman: The Animated Series, which captured my imagination as a young girl and made me want to tell stories as grand and exciting as the ones they did. I began with rudimentary fanfiction and eventually graduated to writing my own original fiction. As time went on, I realized I had more fun writing than I did in my first major in college—veterinary science—and so I switched my major. I never thought I could become a professional author until I met Jackson Pearce, an urban fantasy YA author who did a lecture on creative writing and publishing at the University of Georgia. She inspired me to decide take a chance on myself and my work, so I did. Thus, if I die a penniless nobody, I’m totally blaming her.

All kidding aside, I became a writer because I love the act of storytelling. I love the freedom. I love the scope. I’ve watched all kinds of television shows, anime, cartoons, and movies, and read hundreds of books that made me realize that writing is one of the most fulfilling feelings one can experience. 

What are you currently working on?
I just finished the third and final installment of The Black Parade series, which is due in spring 2015. I’m currently preparing The Deadly Seven, a short story collection set during The Black Parade, for publication as well as the sequel novel, She Who Fights Monsters, due this July. 

When I’m not editing those monstrosities, I’m working on my epic high fantasy novel. I’ve been describing it to people as “Avatar: The Last Airbender meets the X-Men with a dash of Firefly.” It’s about a third of the way done and I plan to have it finished this year for publication in fall of 2015. 

After that, I’ve got a book I’ve been dying to write about a widower and his daughter who hunt dragons in modern day America. I’ve been keeping character notes and story ideas under my hat for almost a year now so I can’t wait to get working on it next. 

How long did it take you to get your rough draft finished on your latest release?
Oh, goodness, just dredge up the pain, why don’t you? I started The Deadly Seven sometime in January and it proceeded to kick my skinny butt all the way through mid-April. For me, the trouble came from creating 21 unique stories that wouldn’t become repetitive or annoying and yet still fit the tone and continuity from the Black Parade. I had never written original short stories before, and so the main challenge was figuring out how to tie everything together, and yet allowing each piece to stand alone. The readers will be able to tell me if I was successful. I certainly hope I was able to pull it off. The only experience I’ve had with brevity is one-shot fanfics I’ve written in the past. I applaud short story authors now that I’ve given it a shot and I encourage any upcoming novelists to give it a shot someday. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about the creative process when you have to keep it condensed and varied. 

If you could be any paranormal creature what would you be?
Are wizards paranormal? Please say yes. If not, I’d opt for a werewolf over a vampire, if we’re going with the standard fair for paranormal fiction. I have no desire to be immortal or never be able to walk in sunlight again. Werewolves also have enhanced senses, which would be infinitely awesome. 

What was the first book you remember reading?
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I remember being that awkward, introverted kid, and I always related to what the narrator was going through. I read it so many times that my copy of the book split in half. It’s always been a classic to me and it always will be. 

How did you come up with your title?
I think a lot of music-lovers can answer this one for me. The Black Parade of course gets its name from the My Chemical Romance breakout hit “Welcome to the Black Parade.” The titular “black parade” is a metaphor for death: a parade we will all someday join. It ties into what Jordan Amador does for a living, which is leading the dead towards their eventual peace, sort of like the drum major of the black parade. I loved the song and the imagery the phrase invokes. 

Who is your support team?
My parents are huge supporters of my work, each in their own way, and I have a handful of friends who have my back as well. They are my confidants, my editors, and my critics. I run all my work past them because each of them comes from a different walk of life and can tell me when I’ve done something great, or need improvement. 

The biggest contributors, though, are probably my mother and my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, who give me detailed feedback on the meat of my books. I always hire a professional editor, but the two of them let me know how they feel about Jordan as our heroine, Michael as the love of her life, and the infinite wickedness of the main villain, Belial. I trust them more than anyone else to tell me if my writing is compelling and where it can be improved. 

I also have to give a shout out to my writing sensei, Andy Rattinger, who has been kind enough to offer advice on all three of the novels in the Black Parade series. He’s one hell of a scriptwriter and for some reason he took me under his wing. I can’t thank him enough for smacking me upside the head when I’m off the beaten path and pushing me to be a better, more confident writer. I hope all young authors get the chance to have a mentor of some sort because it makes the journey that much more bearable when you have a support system. 

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I like to draw every so often to relieve stress. I’m slightly above average—I’d never try to draw for profit and you’d agree if you saw my work. I’m also an avid reader by nature, but I’m more of a moviegoer than anything else. I love movies. I love the exciting, electric air of a midnight premiere of the latest superhero flick. I love the feeling of walking out of a theater after having my expectations blown away. I hate to be disappointed by a bad film, but I enjoy ripping it to shreds later if it truly deserved it. I could discuss and dissect films for hours on end. It’s why I someday plan to become a screenplay writer and move to LA to pursue filmmaking after I’ve written all the novels I want to write. 

What was the latest book you read?
The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess: Attack on Love by Talisha Harrison. She’s a great friend of mine with a lovely book of poetry that I highly recommend to anyone who has experienced the unending frustrations of dating, relationships, and love. She’s a masterful poet and one hell of a wordsmith. 

Where did you get the idea for your book(s)?
I was taking a class on Greek mythology when I got the idea for The Black Parade. I recall getting this feeling that the modern equivalent to Achilles and Hercules were a little closer to home than I thought. However, I can’t give the gods all the credit. My first inspiration came from the 2005 film ‘Constantine’, starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Francis Lawrence. I know it’s not a faithful adaptation of the Hellblazer comics, but I really loved the idea of angels and demons on earth in our modern times. My second inspiration came from John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, the epic poem that I’ve adored since high school. I decided to meld the two ideas together and then put Jordan front and center because there aren’t enough women of color in paranormal and urban fantasy stories. I wanted to see someone with Jordan’s background tackle the hellish tasks of fighting otherworldly creatures and falling in love with the fairest angel of all. 

The idea for my epic high fantasy novel actually came from a dream, which is rare since most of my stories come from things I wish already existed but don’t just yet. I remembered standing in a stadium holding the hand of one of the main characters and listening to another character give a speech to the bad guys surrounding us. I didn’t know either of their names, but I got the feeling that we were a ragtag bunch of misfits and yet we were a family. We meant the world to each other, and we were standing against injustice. After I woke up, I scribbled down what I could remember and then just filled in the blanks. 

Are any of your characters like you?
Jordan and I are certainly cut from the same cloth, but she’s got way more armor on than I do when it comes to other people. I like to describe her in my head as a hedgehog—prickly on the outside, but a soft belly underneath. She’s also not nearly as much as a nerd as I am. I spend most of my time fangirling over handsome celebrities on Tumblr or giggling madly at Internet reviewers and Let’s Plays, while she spends hers slaying monsters and reading classic literature. 

I do admit, though, that one of the most surprising characters I’ve grown attached to in my time writing the Black Parade series is the recurring villain, Belial. We are nothing alike, and I think that’s why I have enjoyed writing him so much over the years. He is a self-absorbed, cruel, arrogant, lecherous, manipulative bastard, and he has allowed me to tap into the darkest corners of my personality. I love that he doesn’t give a crap about what people think of him and I love that he knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. I tend to be an introvert but I don’t have to worry about that when I write his scenes. He’s a callous jerk, he knows it, and he’s comfortable with it. 

What genres do you write in?
I categorize my work under urban fantasy, but it’s alternatively paranormal fantasy. 

Is there anything you will never write about?
My first thought when I considered writing a novel was to do a modern day version of the Greek gods, but then I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and knew I could never get anywhere close to writing gods as interesting as his, so I threw in the towel. I also don’t ever foresee writing about vampires or werewolves since every author from every walk of life has pretty much written about them and I’d have nothing to add. 

Do you have a favorite quote from your book(s)?
As long as you promise it won’t make me look vain. Actually, yes. It’s a quote from the Seer Jordan accidentally killed who definitively began her story: “I know that right now things seem at their darkest, but there is an old saying: sometimes it’s darkest just before dawn. There is a dawn for you, and me, and for us all. So hang a nightlight by your bed and wait for the sunrise, angel.” 

Is there anything you would tell aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. You will have infinite chances to throw in the towel. The easiest thing in the world to do is not write. Ignore that cruel voice in your head that tells you no one cares and keep punching them keys, my dears. You’ll get through it if you do. 

If zombies attacked what kind of supplies would you want?
Gasoline for the car, a machete, a crossbow, an M-24 sniper rifle, an automatic shotgun, tons of canned food and gallons of water, night vision goggles, a flashlight, a fully-stocked First Aid kit, an iPod, and an endless library of books to read while I wasn’t killing zombies. 

Who designed your cover(s)?
A designer named Gunjan Kumar designed the cover for The Black Parade. Christine Savoie and Katie Litchfield both designed the cover for The Deadly Seven.

Have you learned anything from writing your book(s)?
This job is not for the faint of heart, nor the impatient. Older authors warn you that it takes time to build sales, fans, and a reputation, but you don’t understand how much until you start. It’s incredibly painful and miserable, but the end result is still worth it no matter how huge or few the returns. 

What was the hardest part of writing your book(s)?
The post-40,000 word mark is by far the hardest part of writing for me. I wrote the first 50,000 words to the final installment to the Black Parade series in just a few months, but then I lost all my juice and couldn’t write for months afterwards. Keeping the momentum is a task in itself, let alone writing an ending worthy of the rest of the novel. 

If you could sit down with any author dead or alive who would it be?
I’d definitely love to sit down with John Milton and hear him orate Paradise Lost. It’s such a vividly beautiful reimagining of the fall of Satan and creation of life on earth that I can’t imagine what it must have been like to hear it from his own lips. 

If you co-write a book with any author who would it be?
Though I could never write something as amazing as him, I’d LOVE to co-write a novel with Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files. Ever since I read Storm Front, I’ve been madly in love with Harry Dresden. Between the two of us, I think Mr. Butcher and I could make the world explode with sarcasm, nerdy references, and self-deprecating heroes. I deeply admire the way that he writes such a humble character who has these amazing powers and struggles with the idea of how to use them for good without getting corrupted. I also love the way he writes the supporting cast—each of them unique with their own hang ups, motivations, and strengths. I would learn so much if I could sit down with him and see his process. 

What is your favorite paranormal being?
Vampires have been done to death—ha, don’t you love a good pun—but I’ve always liked them. The basic mythos stays the same, but I always enjoy different interpretations of what they’re like. I love the balance between civilized and murderous. Vampires always have a sense of style as predators who walk among us. 

How do you react to a bad review?
Junk food and a marathon of one of my favorite shows, like Castle or Batman Beyond. 

Do you keep a notebook near your for when new ideas pop into your head?
Yes. I actually have a file in my Documents called “Novel Ideas” where I dump any character notes, story notes, or story ideas I come up with on the fly. 

If you write a series do you reread your previous books before you begin the new one?
Of course. There is so much continuity to keep track of as well as reminding myself of the main characters’ desires, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses before they start their next journey. I’ve written four books in the Black Parade series now, so there is a ton of material for me to keep up with now. It can get tedious, but it is absolutely necessary to keep the story straight. 

Does much research go into your novels?
I often joke that the FBI has me on their watchlist for the sheer amount of bizarre things I Google on a weekly basis. I probably spend a few hours every week looking up locations, weapon specifications, climate, mythology, and fighting techniques. And don’t get me started on how much time I spend researching how to market my novels. It would make your head hurt. 

Is there anything you wish to say to your readers?
I must express my sincerest thanks that you took a chance on me. You have thousands of authors to choose from, and somehow, you chose me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope that I continue to write entertaining stories for as long as you wish to read them.

The Black Parade by Kyoko M

Jordan Amador. 21. New Yorker. Waitress. Mild alcoholic. Murderer. 

Two years ago, Jordan accidentally shot and killed a Seer: a person who can see, hear, and talk to ghosts with unfinished business. Her crime came with a hefty price, too. She has two years to help a hundred souls cross over to the afterlife or her soul is bound for hell. Tough break. 

As if that weren’t bad enough, two days before her deadline a handsome pain-in-the-ass poltergeist named Michael strolls into her life. His soul is the key to her salvation, but the cost just might be more than she can handle. Solving his death puts her right in the crosshairs of Belial: a vain, bloodthirsty archdemon who won’t rest until she’s his slave. Can she rescue Michael and save her own soul, or will they both be dragged down into the clutches of the eternal black parade?

Smashwords Link for The Black Parade:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/340296

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview. I enjoy reading about the world behind other authors. It's always interesting where we collide and in what ways we live so far apart.

    I think that's awesome that Kyoko has so many ideas, so many ingredients in her cupboard but has still successfully managed them and achieved an entire book. Writing takes so long, having so many ideas is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. You find yourself anxiously wondering when you'll get to them.

    Keeping some kind of notebook handy is a must, I hear you there, either that or a voice recorder. I've put mine to great use especially on long drives.

    I found this interview through Talisha actually and am glad I did. Thank you for sharing. Dreams are excellent resources, especially since some of them make you want to go back to sleep and figure out what happens!

    I'm currently published only in poetry but it was that decision that led me to giving myself a chance at other writing, short & long. Writing is a beast! Props to you and your stories, best of luck with it all.