I should point out before I start this entry with a brief disclaimer. I actually only e-mailed Kendra these questions since we were both totally supposed to be working… but I do so enjoy pretending that I don’t actually have to work. I like to imagine that I can afford to go and spend half a day sitting in a coffee shop and talk to an amazing woman about her equally amazing work. Since Kendra and I actually have gone to coffee shops, gotten muffins, and discussed her writing, I feel this was minimal dramatic license.
I met Kendra L. Saunders at a local coffee shop. As she purchased her muffin and chai tea latte she chats with the woman working at the counter about their mutual love for chai lattes. How they try them everywhere they go. Where they think makes the best chais. You can tell just by watching the interaction that Ms. Saunders is still very down to earth despite her out of this world talent. It’s a refreshing trait to see in an artist of her caliber. After she graciously pays for my order she leads me to a round table next to the window overlooking the center of the small town we’re in. She arranges herself and starts tearing pieces of her muffin.
Ginny Lurcock: How’s the muffin?
Kendra L. Saunders: Good, but I wish I had some crab Rangoon to go with it.
Just like that, a plate of crab rangoons and way too much duck sauce appears on the table. Yeah, take that reality. (*Author’s Note: Everything after this point was a real interview… e-mail style.)
GL: Why do you think you’re a good candidate for this position? Wait… sorry… I tried looking up interview questions and clicked on the “job” link by mistake…
KLS: Haha! Well I may be doing the interview thing soon enough, depending on how the book thing goes. But hopefully not. I’ve gotten pretty good at the job interview questions though, except when they ask for three adjectives to describe myself…
GL: Tell me a little bit about the book.
KLS: This project took me much longer than any other I’ve ever written. It came from a dream I had about four or five years ago, where Chris Martin was standing in a cemetery on an autumn day, observing a funeral for someone he didn’t know. I had been kicking around this phrase “Inanimate Objects” as a title that I thought was worthy of someone like Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton. But then I realized it was kind of stupid to wait on them to make something up, so I should just write a book called that, myself. The dream melded the two and over the next few years, all of these ideas from various places, characters from unfinished projects, and a couple of settings I’d been hoping to use… all of that ended up in the cauldron of ideas.
GL: Do you have a favorite character?
KLS: With any other project I could tell you a favorite character without hesitation, but with this one, it’s like choosing between your best friends. Elisha has been with me in the most emotional way, telling me his story and demanding I show it to the world in the right way, but also keeping his distance when I needed him to be easier to “talk” to. Leo is my dark prince, he’s one of the most complex characters I’ve ever made and we really only see the surface of him in this book. He gave me strength when he arrived on the page, all dressed in goth finery, because I was at a low point in my personal life, with bad health and a lot of things feeling very sad and confusing. And I absolutely love Lillian Gale. I want to write a whole book about her… writing her scenes was always a pleasure and they are still some of my favorite scenes.
GL: You know, I didn’t love Leo until the scene with Barrett. What was your inspiration for that scene?
KLS: Actually (and these things can get confused in my memory, because my memory is faulty), I believe the very first inspiration came from a dream I had of a dark basement with walls that breathed and eyeballs blinking in the corners. I had a very clear vision one day of Leo descending wooden stairs into a basement, and it was so vivid that I wrote him walking down the stairs, though I had no idea what he would find once he was there. Barrett revealed himself as I wrote… even as he appeared, he told me about this grand past he’d had as some kind of magician or circus performer.
That scene was a bit of a turning point for Leo, though, which is probably why you liked him better then. It’s our first hint that he has some moral compass, even if it’s not a very good one!
GL: My favorite scene was actually shortly after that. The one where Leo and Elisha argue on the bridge. I’ll admit there’s definite slash fiction material there. What was your favorite moment of the book?
KLS: It’s funny you say that because when I wrote that scene, I realized that Leo and Elisha are really the ‘relationship’ of the book, and that brings feelings of animosity and tension and all of the elements that contradict those feelings. So they definitely had some intense bromance moments there- and whatever the opposite is of a ‘bromance.’
I think my favorite scene is the club scene, where Leo is in his element and Elisha shows up and feels completely disgusted by everything and Matilda is sort of in the middle. I just love all of the snobbery and the finery there. It’s hard to choose though, I had to narrow it down between maybe five different parts. The bridge scene was definitely a favorite too.
GL: If you could go back and write a sequel, what would it be about? Would it focus on Leo or another character?
KLS: You know, I’ve always wanted to find out more about Lillian Gale, though maybe she just needs a short story. She seemed so colorful and like she would have so many stories in her. I’ve always wanted to write a short story about Jeremiah and Matilda when they first met or in the early days of their marriage. But not gonna lie, I miss Leo terribly, I would love to write another book with him.
GL: What are you working on now?
KLS: I’m writing a book about a girl in her mid-twenties who was raised on Jane Austen and indie music and has never been on a date, at all. She meets this metrosexual, cool guy named Henry Blackwell, and falls in love for the first time, only to find out he’s not what she expected at all. It’s a comedy, though, mostly because it was based on something that really happened (to me, ahem). It’s like something you’d hear over drinks with your girlfriends. And you’d be very happy it never happened to you. The working title is Love, Late-Bloomers and Sushi.
The other one is about a guy who has a curse on him that forces him to become a cat every night. It’s a little steampunk, very fun. It’s nice to do something lighthearted. Plus it has this really talkative ghost in it…
GL: If you could meet any one author, alive or dead, and take afternoon tea and discuss writing with them, who would it be?
KLS: Oh gosh… I’m gonna say…I’m gonna say Neil Gaiman. If I had enough time for a whole cup of tea, yeah… Neil Gaiman. He’s been my author hero since I was about 15, so he really shaped so much of my writing and imagination and everything. When I read Neverwhere, it was the first time I realized that I could actually write a book where magical things happened in real life, and it didn’t have to be “for kids.” I woul definitely say Ray Bradbury would be next on my list, though. Though I’d probably just sit with my mouth hanging open in his presence.
GL: Do you have any advice for new authors just starting out?
KLS: Write all the time, as much as possible, in the ugliest notebook you can get your hands on. Pretty or cool pen, ugly notebook. It’s a very important and specific combination. Read Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I don’t care what else you read, read that. It’s better than all the writing classes in the world. Never stop reading novels…they are the reason you’re writing one, after all. Reread your favorite books, especially the ones from when you were younger (“A Wrinkle In Time” is one I return to often). And when you’re writing, picture just one person and write for them. Don’t write for women or for fifth graders or even for your family. Pick one person, one face. Delight them, scare them, make them cry. It helps crowd out the other voices.
GL: Describe your perfect Sunday.
KLS: I’ve gotten to have a perfect Sunday, so I can describe it. Taking a friend to a town I used to live in, parking by the lake and walking up and down by the old shops, stopping into an antique store to drink their free coffee and just pore over old stuff for hours, then getting back in the car and buying a delicious sandwich and cold sodas, consuming it all in the car while listening to melancholy indie music, driving forever to get ice cream and then heading back after dark. Perfect Sunday. Barring that, a day watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from the comfort of my couch.
GL: Vampires or werewolves?
KLS: I’m a vamp girl all the way, since I read Interview with the Vampire the first time. It was one of those life changing novels- I was a teenager and it spoke to me (which is probably a bad sign). So vampire all the way.
GL: Ninjas or pirates?
KLS: I’m gonna have to say pirates. Ninjas are cool but I think of them all as being something that’s going to kill me. With pirates I have a bit more of a chance, I think, depending on just how much ankle I’m willing to expose…
GL: And as one of my favorite people to internet stalk (thebloggess.com) once asked one of our mutual author heroes (Neil Gaiman), zombies or unicorns?
KLS: Unicorns! I’m so scared of zombies that even if they were on my side, I’d be sad. Unicorns, to me, are a symbol of power and weirdness, because they’re very rare but they also have this giant weapon on their head! So I have to say unicorns.