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Monday, June 24, 2024

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I had the chance to sit down with a lot of amazing prose and comics writers during Emerald City Comic Con. It was amazing to talk with them all about their perspectives on writing, and in this interview in particular, feminism! Triciaand Allie were both lovely to chat with, they definitely helped to lift my spirits after 3 long days at the convention. The audio recording of our conversation is below, or read the slightly abridged version in the transcript below the recording. I’m so looking forward to both of the upcoming YA titles from these amazing ladies!

SAM: Good morning. This is Sam and I’m here at Emerald City Comic Con with Tricia Levenseller and Alexander Christo. They are the authors of Warrior of the Wild and To Kill a Kingdom respectively which are both books that I read recently and really enjoyed. So I’m super excited to talk to both of you about your work. I’m so happy that we were able to work this out and everything. This is your main day being at the convention, have you been to Emerald City before?

LEVELSELLER: I have, last year.

CHRISTO: Okay, now that you said that i’m going to be holding on to you like Tricia what do we do!?

LEVENSELLER: I will lead you.

SAM: It was a little crazy yesterday. So. But yeah, talk to me a little bit about your con experience as authors in general, what you enjoy about it, why you like going to cons what you enjoy about interacting with fans in this type of space?

CHRISTO: Well, this is my first American con. I went to the London one last year, it was kind of a surprise because I wasn’t on any panels. We did a little siren makeup stand before the signing and people kept queuing and queueing. When I go to events where it’s by myself, you always get that fear nobody’s going to show up, nobody’s going to want to see me. And I suppose, my favorite thing about going to comic cons is how many people are there. How many people are excited to meet you, and as excited as you are to see them. Because I can’t wait to meet readers. I bet they like don’t really want to meet me that works. It’s nice to have it reciprocating be like…

SAM: I can tell you that that is not true!

CHRISTO: We’re just as excited as you are to see readers who love your book as much as you love it. Because it becomes this precious little baby that you send out into the world. And some people don’t like it. And some people do. And it’s so nice to meet with people that have had such positive interactions with that book, you know, see themselves in the characters, hopefully not too much. Because they are murderers, just a little bit.
That’s my favorite thing, and meeting the people that I would never have met, especially coming to America, like in the UK, we literally are a little island. And so it’s nice to get to reach to get to meet people from across the world that your tiny little story has reached.

LEVENSELLER: I’m here for the nerds. I love it.

CHRISTO: Which we which we are!

LEVENSELLER: Which we are! Being with other nerds. Like it’s literally what I live for, you know, that everybody in here, you have at least one thing in common with, right. And you can instantly talk with them about just about anything. You just have to find the right fandom and then go You’re good. You know. So I love interacting with my fans at the conference. We we find other interests you know, you like my book so what other authors you can see. You know, what other entertainment guests are you here to see.

CHRISTO: And then they introduce you to new fandoms and then you like, okay!

LEVENSELLER: The recommendations for things, oh it’s fabulous. So I just love that. And I love the atmosphere of a con. I love the people watching, the dress up the cosplay. It’s all it’s all fabulous. I’m just here for all of it.

CHRISTO: Everyone is just happy. So nice. I see a bunch of people who love something get together to celebrate the fact that they love that thing.

LEVENSELLER: It’s a happy atmosphere! All of it.

SAM: Yeah. And this con especially I think does a great job being really inclusive and really having panels that dig into things like diversity and feminism and all that cool stuff.

CHRIST: 2:45 Fairy tales and Feminism!

LEVENSELLER: it’s going to be great.

SAM: So one of the ways that you guys explore feminism in your books is with your female characters of course. And you both write, really strong self reliant women so what were some of the things when you were first pitching your projects that made it important to you to put those types of characters at the fore of your book?

CHRISTO: To put strong female characters at the front?

SAM: Yeah. I mean I know you (Christo) go back and forth with perspectives with the male as well so.

CHRISTO: I think for me it’s that fairy tales always have women and I could say this multiple times but it’s it’s such a such an integral thing to me is that traditional fairy tales always have women waiting for things to happen to them waiting to be rescued. Waiting to be punished, waiting, waiting, waiting until a man comes along. And he’s the one that moves that story. Even though it’s their story. He’s the one that gives attraction and so for me, it was really important to have a woman who was like No, this is my story. I have something I’m going to go after. And I can go after it. To have someone who is ambitious we didn’t apologize for it who knew what she wanted and didn’t need to wait to be saved by a man and was in fact the person that the man might actually need saving from!


CHRISTO: It’s an interesting dynamic. And It’s not to say that Lira never needs help from anyone, like oh you’re a man? Don’t help me, it’s not to say that. Because in the book Elian saves her at one point, and then Lira saves Elian at one point is based on a mutual respect rather than a traditional male female dynamic or you know I’m going out to get the bacon. You stay here and do this. It’s very much just about people and about those people going after what they want leaning on each other when they need to, but not feeling like they have to rely on someone else in order to get the job done. I think that was really really important for me to show.

LEVENSELLER: I love how you said they save each other and they help each other I mean feminism means equality, It doesn’t mean women are better it means equality and I think what we really try to do is make our male characters just as round as our female characters even though our females to take the lead role in the story because we need more of those. I mean it feels like it’s so dominated in the YA world yeah there are more female characters but

CHRISTO: I suppose there are more women writing YA traditionally and it adults it tends to be more men’s voices.

LEVENSELLER: If you look at all the books out there, so male dominated, so we’re just trying to like even that out a little bit more so yeah, that was definitely something I also strove to do. I’ve got my main my main character was a girl and then she’s I call them my Harry Potter trio right my three people out in the wild together and she’s got these these two guys and it’s really about them helping each other and helping them grow and helping them complete these impossible tasks they were set in order to return home so it’s really about camaraderie and you know growing individually but also growing together.

CHRISTO: Yeah learning that asking for help doesn’t make you weak, asking for help actually can make you strong. It’s just that it’s just saying that women don’t have to rely on men, you can still ask for help. You don’t have to remain this isolated person and you know, being a strong woman isn’t doing everything by yourself and you never having anyone else support you. That’s not what that is. And we shouldn’t go from one extreme to another there is that middle ground there is that balance.

LEVENSELLER: And in Warrior of the Wild Rasmira is the drive. The guys are like we’re content to be out here in the wild. And she’s like no guys we’re gonna go home. What are you doing? Get off your butts!

CHRISTO: They’re like, we’ve got a treehouse!

LEVENSELLER: We’re fine, we’re safe, and she’s like, no, like you are so lazy. So I think it’s also important to keep the the women at the center and the driving force in the novel. I think that’s sorely what’s been missing in our literature. So I really strive to do that.

SAM: Another great element that you pull into Daughter of the Pirate King and of course, Alex, you have in To Kill a Kingdom you both chose to look at siren mythology. And so could you just speak a little bit as to like to why sirens are such a pull for you. Especially again, like behind that veil of feminism and how the whole siren mythos ties into empowering women and what things have been kind of twisted in the siren mythos to demonize women and how you’re kind of trying to pull it back and reclaim that.

LEVENSELLER: I love that question. So many layers. Yeah. So to start with the reason why sirens is because I love Pirates of the Caribbean, right. And I wanted to create something that mixed fantasy with pirates just like that story did. So I was thinking about I was like, okay, what’s already been done. Mermaids have already been done. The Kraken already been done. Sirens, sirens are something we haven’t seen a ton and literature yet I would love to to explore that. And it just works so well in this in this female driven story because if you have you know traditionally pirate ships were full of a lot of dudes but if a lot of dudes go up against sirens all the dudes gonna die. But if you have a pirate ship of all women they’re going to be unaffected by the sirens song.

CHRISTO: Sirens are normally, whenever they’re portrayed in media or literature they’re always women it’s very women dominated.

LEVENSELLER: Absolutely and I love that aspect about sirens. As for like playing with mythology I really just did it to like fit the purposes of my plot. It was okay I’ve got this treasure map, what am I going to do with the sirens well what if siren’s were like dragons and they hoarded treasure and we need to get to this treasure right to overthrow the pirate king. So it was really kind of just how I do all my plotting, I start with my plot and then I make all these elements fit in with the story. So that’s where it came from. And I wish I would have had more time to kind of explore the sirens in Daughter of the Siren Queen they really only make like a little Cameo appearance and that’s why I loved reading your book so much because you’re like in there in the water and everything.

CHRISTO: Because Lira is the main character and I wanted to show that her and Elian come from different worlds but that the differences are actually what makes them similar in a lot of cases. And I mean I chose sirens because I wanted to play on that fairy tale tradition, I was like right let’s take a traditional fairy tale and The Little Mermaid is the perfect one because it’s about literally a woman who sacrifices everything to be with a prince and basically gets shat on for it! I thought, this is a good story to take and especially with most people are familiar with the Disney version which is like Oh look she gives up everything and then they walk off into the sunset so I really wanted to take that raw gritty Hans Christian Andersen version and take some elements from the Disney one but and combine them to create this new thing I’m showing this new strong woman. I just find sirens interesting I find that whole dynamic, mermaids & I make it a point into the kingdom to make a distinction between mermaids and sirens.

LEVENSELLER: Which I appreciate so much, you have no idea!

CHRISTO: Mermaids are always seen as like oh they’re so brilliant they comb their hair with a fork and all this. So I really wanted to show you the sea Kingdom this whole under-water world and it’s not singing crabs it’s gritty and it’s rough and mermaids are monsters and there’s a hierarchy within the sea kingdom as well. Mermaids are these kind of inhuman and fish like creatures who yearn to be human. Whereas sirens who are kind of half human half mermaid hate humans so much. It was a nice contrast. They have similarities with humanity and they hate it.  Mermaid have none and they long for it and they yearn for it. And I just thought that was a really interesting thing to explore. And we’ve twisted the mythology I mean, I have family who are Greek Cypriot and so the sea goddess Kato is based off of the Greek goddess. I thought that would be the setting to have spawned a race of monsters, and that’s kind of interesting to pull that in. And to have that maybe their power come from that goddess power and an age old rules. And you know, there’s also the idea of falling in love in The Little Mermaid. And I was like, hey, what if, instead of falling in love, she literally rips out someone’s heart. And I play with that in the book as well, the idea of love versus physically taking someone’s heart, there’s a plot, which I’m not going to give spoilers to. But there was a plot point about those parallels of what it means to kind of earn someone’s heart and then with love. And so that was kind of a really interesting play on words in a way to show like, a non traditional way of dealing with that romance element. It was just really fun, and it allowed me to go kind of a bit wild. I have these creatures let’s see all the stuff I can do with them that’s pulled from this mythology. For sirens are everywhere. Yeah, they’re there across the board. So it’s nice to kind of take pieces my brain and kind of amalgamate them into this completely new race and then explore it as as dastardly as I could, I did have to be pulled back a bit because sometimes my editor was like, No, you can’t put that in.

LEVENSELLER: One of the other things I played around with, Alosa is a half pirate half siren. Right. Well, half human half. And she kind of had to battle with her human side. And then her siren side, and she would kind of go a little dark there for a bit. And so that was kind of fun to play with, like, everybody’s have multiple sides and multiple dimensions to their personality. And I thought that was like, really cool to explore it in a fantastical away. And then also, it was only when she accepted both sides Alosa, accepted both sides of herself, that she was able to reach her full potential. And so that was just also really fun to play with.

CHRISTO: Especially the younger audience to show is about discovering who you are. And saying you know, you’re allowed to have this look, or this look you don’t have to be just one thing. Especially as young women, you don’t have to fit into this one box. You can be many things and you know, you don’t have to have it figured out straight away, you learn and you grow and you evolve as you go on. Like in my book she starts as a siren, and then she becomes human. She has to learn who she is without that monstressness that she thought was innate and discover actually was that innate or have I been kind of told I have to be that way and learning to become herself.

SAM: It’s such an interesting analog for things like coming of age and puberty as well. When you wake up and you just don’t feel like yourself.

LEVENSELLER: You’re a monster when you’re a teenager, and you have to deal with that absolutely.

SAM: It’s really interesting to think of it in terms of this is just who I am for today. And maybe I can feel comfortable in my skin tomorrow.

CHRISTO: Don’t get caught up in one aspect of your personality or even one event in your life that doesn’t have to define who you are, you can be who you want to be. I think that’s really important for young children especially.

SAM: So talking more about elements of your book that you had to pull back on a little bit or rewrite, in the in the drafting process. I mean, it’s kind of a fact of our world right now that even us women have implicit biases towards the things that women are and are not allowed to do in books. So did you ever find yourself falling into any of those traps while you were writing and having a man unintentionally pull agency away from a female character or just talk over her any anything like that where you you felt like you needed to do rewrites or just touch up the scene because the man was man-splaining something to the readers.

CHRISTO: Not really actually. I don’t think I’ve done that I know there is a scene that was still in the book which some people were like oh hang on that’s Elian’s a bit of a dick for that. There’s this one scene where he’s imprisoned Lira at some point then later on in the story Lira touches him and he’s like, “Don’t touch me!” So it’s like, hang on a minute he pushed her why can’t she push him? That’s the only thing that I’ve slipped through of you know him setting the boundary of no I don’t like to be touched yet he’s perfectly okay to you know

LEVENSELLER: Push her around

CHRISTO: It was literally just like a throw off moment it wasn’t a huge thing but it was like one line literally one line and then someone pointed out to me I’m just like oh yeah i didn’t even catch that. I think that’s not something that appears that I’ve learned a lot from I’m like okay I said I didn’t I didn’t even realize that was a thing until I re-read it and then just because someone told me about it now I can’t stop seeing that. That’s really irritating now I can’t stop. But I think aside from that little thing, no? In the book it’s very much that lira has her own voice and has her own power and Elian very much not only respects that but admires that and he wants to encourage that and and he can see at one point in the book she’s struggling with her humanity and he tries to help her and and to help build her confidence. And she asked him you know, teach me how to fight and he’s like, of course I will teach you how to fight and he’s very much supportive of helping to build her up and of helping her to grow and he never one says, No, I’m not going to help you do that or no do it yourself or discourages her when she wants to do something. It’s very much a relationship that’s built on mutual respect and mutual understanding. And I really enjoyed writing that just two people who had their own goals and we’re willing to help each other achieve those goals. And I think that’s really nice that we could use more of that in the real world.

LEVENSELLER: For real. I actually had the opposite problem where

CHRISTO: Your book was too feminist!


LEVENSELLER: Okay, so I did this thing in Siren Queen that was totally cut because my editor’s like, NO. But initially there’s a part where a Alosa discovers that Riden can help her control her siren side so initially she was like, I’m the captain you’re going to help me figure this out whether you want to or not. My editors like no, no, no he needs to have a voice here at least have a little bit of say so I ran into the trouble of making her too much the captain and too much in charge and if it had been the other way around and it was a guy saying that to her of course that would have been wrong but because I didn’t see it that way initially had to like pull back on that and try and rewrite it.

CHRISTO: Look at it from a different point of view like if I did this way it would be okay so is it ok if I do it this way.

LEVENSELLER: Exactly. So I had to pull back on that but otherwise like you said it’s about relationships based on mutual trust and mutual respect. I don’t really write douchey guys unless they’re the bad guy because I’m just not here for that.

CHRISTO: In real life like I don’t surround myself with douchey guys. Why would my main character surround herself with douchey guys? I wouldn’t put up with someone speaking to me that way, why would she?

LEVENSELLER: Absolutely.

SAM: And also like so much time that you would have to spend as as the writer putting yourself into that headspace, why would you want to do that?

CHRISTO: Why would why would give that type of character so much voice on the page when they’re just gonna be there to be a dick

LEVENSELLER: Yes i’d like my books reflect how I wish the world was even those characters are very flawed and have problems and everything

CHRISTO: overrun by like sirens!

LEVENSELLER: Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. No, I’d like to see a world based on mutual respect and mutual trust. I’d like a society that’s evenly run by men and women we still live in this very male dominated society and I I’m not here to write societies like that I’m here to write about women having the same rights.

CHRISTO: It’s gonna be interested, when I was talking about like cutting stuff out I was like looking at how I was describing like fish sex a bit too much.

LEVENSELLER: Okay, I want those deleted scenes Allie.

CHRISTO: Like the semantics of like how do sirens mate? I think it was like my agent asked me how do sirens mate, well if you want to know. Nevermind. Nevermind.

LEVENSELLER: We’re going to talk more about this later.

CHRISTO: But if you follow my Google searches it’s stuff like fish sex, some twisted stuff.

SAM: Are there any elements of feminism that you haven’t gotten to explore yet that you want to things like maybe I don’t know if you would ever go there. And if you be able to go there in a YA novel, but things like sexual assault or just having agency over your own body, more issues of consent, and even just putting women in positions that they’re not traditionally seen in like, the captain of a ship.

CHRISTO: I think both of our books are about putting women in positions they’re not traditionally seen in. Both of our books are about women becoming leaders, which is still today is not a thing that’s seen. But I think in terms of taking about, like sexual assault and consent, it’s important to talk about consent. But I feel like a lot of times in books and movies, this is true of having women undergo some kind of sexual trauma as a plot device. And I feel like if you’re going to talk about something like that, that should be the heart of the story, that should be the root of the story. And you should give it proper time to explore it. It’s not there on page one to be like, throughout the novel, so she can, you know, have a small twitch, or so the guy can come save her or something like that. If you’re going to talk about something that important, you really need to spend the whole novel talking about it and exploring and doing it justice. I wouldn’t want to write a book where I just threw that into to create more drama. So I think I probably can’t see myself writing about something like that anytime soon. Because I would want to give it the proper respect that it needed. And in the type of stories that I’m writing in a fantasy world especially it’s hard to do I think in contemporary it can be a little easier to do that because there’s less going on in terms of like, you know, evil sirens, you can be more intimate with that character and give them the time to explore that whereas in fantasy there are so many other plot points going on, I would worry that I wouldn’t be able to do that justice. And I wouldn’t want to kind of offend anyone, by just throwing it on the page and not doing that properly.

LEVENSELLER: I was asked at a conference maybe two years ago. What’s something that you would like to see more stories about that you haven’t seen before? And I thought about that, when it was my turn to speak. I talked about well, I’d like to see women more sexually empowered and in charge of their own sexual journey. I don’t want it to be about men saying now it’s time now’s not the time or whatever I wanted it to be about women. And then I was like, You gave that answer. Why aren’t you writing this novel? So that’s my novel, it’s coming out in February and it’s about women. I have lots of different kinds of female characters there’s one woman who’s very sexually empowered who is in control of her body, is very confident about yourself and her sexuality. I have a character who wants to wait until marriage, and I have a character who only wants to sleep with the men and that she’s truly in love with. All of those are equally valid and it was so important for me to be like women are in charge of their own lives and what they say goes if they say no, no means no. As long as both parties consent of course this is with the assumption that the man is on right, it’s game on. So it was just very important to me to show those different perspectives and show that they all are valid because we live in a society where women are sluts and men are studs where you know women are prudes and men are gentle saints gentle saints. And I wanted to take those away.

CHRISTO: Or men are Bachelor’s and women are spinsters. If men are just sexually active and own their sexuality but are still single, then that’s fine. Women do that and it’s like, she’s not settling down and sleeping with a bunch of men? Don’t you want to get a husband?

LEVENSELLER: Exactly. So I wanted to rip down all those words. And I wanted to be like, here we go. This is the way it is, you are all valid with whatever you want to do with your body. So don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do.

CHRISTO: And that’s the interesting thing about feminism there are so many facets of it to explore, so many kind of ways you can touch upon feminism and really delve into, there’s not just one thing.

LEVENSELLER: I was a little nervous to do it in a YA world. But I hope that it’s tactful enough that it just talks about, hey girls you are in control of your own body don’t let anyone pressure you. What you want is ok.

CHRISTO: But I think that’s especially relevant to be in a YA world, that’s something that young people need to know. Because they’re the ones that have that in their head of No, don’t do this. Don’t do that. Especially when it comes to sex. You know, “the only way to not get pregnant is abstinence” mentality. So I think is a great thing to happen in YA.

LEVENSELLER: I’m very excited about it. But the book is not about sex.

CHRISTO: Oh I’m not going to read it then!

LEVENSELLER: Can I pitch it real quick, After all that talking about it. So it’s called The Shadows Between Us, and it’s about a girl who is the ignored second daughter of a nobleman and she has a plan to get power. She’s going to woo the king she’s going to marry the king and then she’s going to kill the king and take the kingdom for herself.

CHRISTO: My kind of story.

LEVENSELLER: I had a lot of fun writing it. And I had a lot of fun exploring sexuality in there. But it’s not all about sex. There’s plot! I talked a lot about sex, I feel that needs to be like, that’s not all it’s about!

SAM: So that character in particular sounds like someone who’s has maybe a bit of a violent streak

LEVENSELLER: Oh yeah, she killed the first boy broke her heart.

CHRISTO: That’s what I should have done! I went the whole Ben and Jerry’s route.

SAM: neither of you seem like particularly violent people.

CHRISTO: That’s what we want you to think!

SAM: What kinds of things do you do while you’re writing to generate characters, that have a sense of honesty and truth to them within those characterizations? Whether it’s a personality trait, a sexual identity, and gender identity? What kinds of things do you do? Do you have people who do identify with those with those traits that you bounce ideas off of editors, sensitivity readers, what do you do to make those characters really ring true within your stories?

CHRISTO: I think it just comes down to making them multifaceted Not just saying, Oh, this person’s evil, that’s their only trait. This person’s good, that’s their only trait. It’s about saying these are these could be real people. And real people have more than one trait that have more than one goal, they have more than one relationship or friendship in their life. And it’s about creating people that people can empathize with, because people aren’t going to empathize with someone who’s completely perfect, or who fits into one mold they want people that they can see parts of themselves in. And even smaller parts, like with Lira, a lot of people empathize with her and those people that empathize with her aren’t serial killers, and they haven’t murdered anyone, I hope like Lira has. But there are some important facets of her personality that they can see. Her strength, her drive, her ambition and also sometimes her fragility. And then her relationship with her mother and how that’s not perfect and about her trying to discover who she is. So just think it’s important to create people who are people and not just carbon cut outs who can advance the plot forward and I always get brought back to this quote from a university professor and he said something like you can write a book with a really really great plot and shit characters and nobody will want to read that whereas you can write a book with great characters and kind of a mediocre plot and people will keep turning that page want to see what happens next. People care about people, they care about the characters and the only reason they care about the plot is because it affects those characters that they care about nobody wants to read about someone that’s boring or that they just completely detest and can’t see any of themselves in. So I think that’s the most important thing is creating people that readers love or love to hate or that they want to know where their journey ends

LEVENSELLER: I wouldn’t say that I based characters off of real people, but I do look at qualities that other people have that I admire. Yeah, and I like to work those into my characters. Alosa was very punch first, ask questions later. I knew girls like that who were just like doing their own thing, didn’t care about the consequences. They were going to get it done. Alosa is my slytherin. Rasmira is my hufflepuff, she’s a little bit more reserved. Obviously my next book is also a slytherin novel. So I and a slytherpuff so I choose different parts of my own personality when writing characters. Because I feel like when you take real qualities that people have people going to relate to those characters, because they’re real things that they can see and understand the world and you pull lots of different ones, you don’t want your characters to be one dimension. And as long as we do that, I feel like it’s going to be okay, even if characters are “unlikable”, or start out unlikable. Just the women though, not the men, ever, they will, they will grow because we’d like to see we like to see growth in stories, that’s what keeps us turning the pages. Seeing if that person is going to get over that heartbreak, seeing if that person is going to grow stronger after they’ve taken that hit.

CHRISTO: It’s important not to just write your own experience, but to seek to be diverse, and to seek to try and write a world and characters that reflect our world and the people in our world. To not just, ecause I’m white and straight to have all my characters be white and straight. Try and show the world as it is, which is diverse and which is multicultural. And that’s something that especially my, in my new duology Into the Crooked Place which is coming out October that I really tried to do. I’ve got four main characters and three of them are POC two of them are in an LGBTQ+ relationship. And I really wanted to explore that diversity and to make sure that I was providing after an adequate representation. But not all of my readers are white and straight and they should be able to see themselves in a book too. And this is not to take away from any own voices. But it’s important when you’re doing that, obviously, to not write a story about like, if you’re writing about the black experience, that’s not something I can do. And that’s not something I would never try to do. It’s not my story to tell, but I can have a character who is black in the story. And that was really important to me. And that was one of my favorite things about writing Into the Crooked Place. It’s about having all these characters from all over and showing that world, and I know obviously, if you’re doing that, get sensitivity readers, which I did have like six. I think that’s really important is to is to show the world that we have and to encourage that diversity, especially in fantasy because I feel like contemporary has been diverse for quite, or at the forefront whereas fantasy is still playing catch up.

SAM: So talking more about creating worlds that cater to all types of of your readers. I’m on bookstagram like all the time, hours and hours out of the day. That’s where my brain lives. So do you have any really positive experiences or really awesome fans that you’ve met through bookstagram or book Twitter that have kind of re-energized your love for your work and made you excited to keep working.

CHRISTO: Honestly, every single reader that I meet, re-energizes me because they are some of the most passionate people in the world. And they are just so full of joy and so happy to throw themselves into these worlds. So every literally every one and you see some of the fan-art especially on Instagram. Is just ridiculous, the talent it’s beyond belief. And to know that someone would love something that started off in my mind is like this little seed and it was kind of his little story that I put out and just see the fact that they would envision that in their mind and create something and devote so much of their time and their talent that is just ridiculously nice. There was this one reader as well, her friend gave me her book to sign and it was bookmarked, it had the little tabs, and writing in it. All the stuff she enjoyed. It was wonderful. And I signed it. And I didn’t want to give it back to us. Like, oh, I want to keep it. She was like, no, it’s my friends book I need to give it back. Then another signing i was at, that girl gave it to me. She was like, you signed this book for me. You gave it to my friend she said that you told her you wanted to keep it, so here I’ve created duplicate. And she put all the tags so that I could have it. And it was just so wonderful. And it made me want to cry. So I think yeah, it’s just, it’s just lovely. See people like that. Readers are so nice. They all such nice people and they are so encouraging. I just feel so privileged and so lucky to be able to meet these people. Yeah, I write for them as much as I write for me.

LEVENSELLER: I don’t know if you get this, but I get emails that are like, Oh, you probably get 100 of these today. And I’m like, no.

CHRISTO: Yeah, no. You’re my first one in a month!

LEVENSELLER: Yeah, exactly. But I loved your book. And then they go into detail about it. And I’m just like, Oh, thank you. To take the time to write to me and be like, thank you. For even the people. When I do like pre order incentives. And I give things away for free. I would say like one in 50 write back and say thank you. I’m like, yeah, that just means so much to me. As for in person events. I rarely get teenagers in my signing lines. Most of my readers are adult women, and I love my adult readers. But it’s so special to me when I get an actual teenager in my line. Or boys.

CHRISTO: I do get quite a lot of young women, but boys literally, maybe one in a signing, or two in a signing. I think this thing of like, YA is mostly books written by women, or book written by women are only for women. If it was written by women it’s “chic-lit”, which I don’t even know what that means. It’s a ridiculous term. So I think a lot of boys feel discouraged from reading or even if they do read it, they feel discouraged from letting people know that they’ve read it. And so like, I’ll read this, but I’m not going to go to the signing because I’ll be the only boy there. You know, or people might tease me for it. So to see young boys to come out to a signing and be on that line. And

I love that so much.

LEVENSELLER: One of my favorite experiences. I had these identical twin girls in my line who came up and they each had their own copy. They were so excited. Oh my gosh. So it’s just extra special to get to actually talk to the teens and feel like you’re you’re influencing the next generation of adults. And I love that.

SAM: So you guys talk a little bit more about your future work and you mentioned Into the Crooked Place which I am so excited for

CHRISTO: It’s going to be a duology, because people keep saying to me, is it going to be another standalone like To Kill a Kingdom? But that was important to me to do because a lot of fantasy books are series. So I was like, No, no, I have a story to tell and I really want to put something out there. That’s it. It’s done. It’s complete. It has a beginning a middle and an end. That’s kind of nice. Sometimes just have like one little contained nugget out there.

SAM: That was the first question I got from my followers online. When I said I was going to be interviewing you they said, ask her if she’s writing more in the To Kill a Kingdom world!

CHRISTO: I’m gonna write some shorts. Just some stories like put on my blog or do a free ebook like couple hundred words or something like that. I’ll go do that sometime this year. I promise I promise. Don’t know why I make those promises because then I got so busy writing Crooked I’m just like oh god I don’t have time to do it. I want to at some point just write a few little fun short stories

SAM: Just so we know they’re okay. I just want to know they’re okay.

CHRISTO: Maybe go for the side characters like Galena or something from the parts of the story I didn’t get to explore as much because it was Lira and Elian’s story. Just write a few little fun words about them I think would be cool. So when I get the time, which you know, might be in 10 years. I do want to write a couple of little short stories. But for now, it’s Crooked which is a duology.

SAM: Do you want to give us like the quick elevator pitch for Into the Crooked Place?

CHRISTO: It’s basically about four criminals who do the magic in the Crooked world, people dealing magic kind of as a parallel to dealing in drugs. Magic is like a currency and you can get addicted to it. It’s a tangible thing it’s a skill just about these for criminals. We do the magic and they discovered that their criminal leader their kingpin has a really dangerous and sinister new plot and that goes against even their lines. So these four crooked murderers team up to save the world. Which is really fun. Because as in To Kill a Kingdom, I like writing about anti-heroes. And it was nice writing about four anti heroes. So it’s a four person point of view book, but which is a new brand new take for me. And also person third person, which is again very new to me. It’s also quite fun that not only are these people kind of bad people but not only do they like not trust anyone else but they don’t even trust each other and yet they have to come together and work it’s interesting that you use “unlikeable” because three out of the four characters are women there’s only one man’s so it’s three women with one guy and it’s interested exploring that dynamic exploring the different relationships. I really love it this but I will say this book is like my heart book. I love To Kill a Kingdom, of course I do, but I feel like Into the Crooked Place is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Every time I talk about it I’m just so excited for people to read it I feel like I’ve been trying to write it for so long. It’s so different from To Kill a Kingdom in so many ways I just can’t wait to throw. Honestly, read it, it’s so good. I love it so much, I just want people to read it. Like what’s a book you would recommend? Well, mine, I wrote this and it’s really great. Guys do that all the time.

LEVENSELLER: If a white man would do it, we can do it.

SAM: Thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to me. This is awesome. And yeah, I hope you guys have a great day.

Samantha Maybe
Samantha Maybehttps://www.theconventioncollective.com
Sam is a San Diego transplant and SDCC attendee of 5+ years. Recently, she rediscovered a love for reading prose, and loves staying plugged into the comics world through The Convention Collective, and the SDCC graphic novel book club. You can find more of her bookish thoughts on Instagram @Sammaybereading.

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