Kendare Blake, from the LA Times Festival of Books

The hilarious Kendare Blake graciously allowed me to whisk her away to a somewhat quiet corner of the USC campus during the LA Times Festival of Books to talk Anna, ghost stories, and more. And I apologize in advance for the camera wobbling – that was me, laughing. And I was laughing quite a bit (I blame Kendare) – so just in case you don’t have any Dramamine handy, the write up is below.

Byrt: Kendare, when did you first discover ghost stories?

KB: Way back – elementary school, in the library, when they had those big collections of like 20 scary stories. About the girl who met the boy, and she always wore the green ribbon around her neck – do you remember that one?

Byrt: (smiling) Yeah…

KB: And then he’s like – oh, take off your green ribbon, take off your green ribbon. And she’s like, no – and then she does, and her head falls off. Oops. The end. So, you know, way back.

Byrt: (laughing) So it impacted your childhood development from a young age…

KB: Aaaww, her head. So sad. I always thought, well, just tie it back on. It’ll be alright. But they never would…

Byrt: Did you gravitate then towards ghost/horror/Gothic kind of stuff?

KB: I think so. Probably my first novel that I ever read was Gerald’s Game by Stephen King – and I devoured all of Stephen King, and then moved right into Anne Rice. So it was pretty much all terrible.

Byrt: And did that naturally become the kind of story you wanted to write?

KB: No, my first novel – Sleepwalk Society – was literary, it was a college story. And when I did my Masters degree, it was all literary writing. All literary. I don’t know why… And then I decided I wanted to play Silent Hill and then I just wrote Anna instead.

Byrt: So had you been reading a lot of paranormal YA at the time, before you started to write Anna, or did it just come out of your subconscious that way?

KB: Yeah, it just came out that way. Honestly, when I started it, I didn’t know whether it would be YA. When I wrote Sleepwalk Society, I didn’t know it was YA, I just wrote what it was – and the characters were young, and that’s what it ended up being. And I think that’s how it was with Anna too.

Byrt: In a lot of ways, Anna bucked the trend, in that you had a male narrator, you had a mother very involved in her son’s life, you had, kind of making fun of some of the more brooding ideas of paranormal YA romance – did you do that on purpose, or did it just sort of happen?

KB: I think most of it just happened. The story kind of takes over when I write – it doesn’t really feel like I’m writing it, it just is. So when Cas’ mom was involved, I didn’t consciously set out to make her be involved, it was just who she was as a character

Byrt: And how important do you think humor is, when you’re writing the type of story Anna is – did you consciously try to put that in to give people a break from the horror of it all?

KB: I think so. I think I am naturally kind of like that, I’m kind of dry and sarcastic anyway, so that’s going to come out in my writing, but Cas is especially – he does lead such a dark existence, that if he doesn’t yuck it up a little bit, he’s going to end up on a water tower with an AK-47.

Byrt: Did you have any trouble in terms of- There’s some particularly gory scenes in Anna, which are fantastic, but we all talked about how GAH they were. Did you encounter any resistance to that, or did your editor just say, go for it?

KB: The only two things that I can remember being cut from Anna – one was a ridiculous scene in which I had Anna eat a waffle. I don’t know what I  was doing there, but it did happen. And then the other one was one sentence, and it had to do with the sound that someone’s entrails made when they hit the floor. And I thought, awwww, but I guess I understand.

Byrt: Can you remember what that sentence was?

KB: I think it was something like a meaty red slop.

Byrt: Nice.

KB: And it was Mike Andover’s entrails too (from when he gets torn in half), so I think they were a little bit sensitive about that.

Byrt: I can’t decide if I’m glad or sad that that didn’t make it in…

KB: I love when entrails are written really well. That always impresses me, when I read about some entrails and I think it’s almost pretty.

Byrt: There’s a sound – a kind of texture – that just blooms in your mind when discussing entrails… Do you have experience with entrails in real life? Have you seen anything like an autopsy, or anything like that?

KB: I have not seen an autopsy of a human. You know, in science class you do dissections, and that’s always kind of sad – but unfortunately I think we all kind of have experience with roadkill, so whenever you say entrails, people know what you mean.

Byrt: The universal constant.

KB: You can’t avoid it. Isn’t that strange? Entrails are everywhere…

Byrt: So now, moving forward – you’ve got the second book coming out in August – can you talk a little bit about what’s coming up in the series? And is this going to be a continuing series, with Cas?

KB: No, Girl of Nightmares – a lot of people have asked that – as far as I know, right now, and that means as far as Cas is telling me, Girl of Nightmares is going to be the end.

Byrt: And is Anna going to be a part of the second book…?

KB: Yes. If you’ve seen the cover – Anna is on the cover, and she’s kind of reaching back from hell (it appears to be). So she’s very much, as she was the driving force in the first book, she’s also the driving force of the last.

Byrt: And for the romance fans – is there anything they can look forward to in the second book?

KB: I think so. I think so…

Byrt: And do you have anything else you’re working on right now, anything else kind of in the works?

KB: Well my next series starts off with a book called Anti-Goddess, and that launches next July. And that’s a trilogy about Greek gods in the contemporary world. They’re perpetually young, and they’re actually dying – each of them dies their own separate, horrifying death, and they’re trying to figure out why that is, because you know, for an immortal, dying is rough

Byrt: There’s no going back.

KB: So some of them want to bring the world down with them, and some of them want to save it. So it’s very hero’s struggle.

Byrt: There’s a lot of- Greek mythology has kind of become very popular recently. Were you worried at all about the Rick Riordan of it all, or you know, these very popular books that bring the Greek mythos into our current day life?

KB: I think every time you write a new book, you’re scared that someone else is writing the same damn book at the same damn time you are. But in the end, Greeks are classic. You can write so many different riffs on them – and anybody who likes Greek mythology will read these. I read everything Greek, so I’m not that worried about it. I’m trying to get my husband to read the Rick Riordan stuff right now, but he’s really being slow. I bought him the whole series.

Byrt: It’s so- You can read them in like a day!

KB: I know! I’m like, just read it at lunch. What’s your problem?

Byrt: They’re so good though… The Percy Jacksons are still- though that movie was a travesty. Did you see that movie adaptation?

KB: When I heard how terrible it was – and I’ve seen a few snippets when it plays on TV – but then I just heard that they’re casting for the second one, and the casting looks pretty sweet, so I don’t know…

Byrt: Nathan Fillion is playing Hermes.

KB: I know. That might be worth it…

Byrt: Speaking of which – has Anna seen any action on the movie front?

KB: Anna‘s seen a lot of interest, but no bites. It’d be a hard thing to do – and a lot of people compare it to Supernatural, which I understand the comparison, even though I swear I’ve never seen the show.

Byrt: It’s been on for like eight years!

KB: And my editor’s such a huge fan – but I swear, I’ve seen one episode about dragons. (It was hilarious, but I never watched a second one.) So Anna’s never going to be a TV show or anything like that…

Byrt: Yet. You never know…So what do you watch, then, out of curiosity? What TV/movies? What are your guilty pleasures?

KB: I don’t know if I have any guilty- oh, I guess I watched Ringer. I watched all season of Ringer, and now I guess they’re going to cancel it. It wasn’t that good, but you know, the Buffy loyalty… Fringe, I love Fringe, which also might be canceled…

Byrt: But have not the last few episodes been awesome? 

KB: They have! And I’m really looking forward to this next episode with the Observers…

Byrt: And the Lincoln of it all…

KB: And I heard that if they get canceled they’re going to do season 5 in comics. Which is awesome, but not the same. Buffy went to comics also, and it’s still going – although slowly, as comics tend to do…

Byrt: Last question – any books you’d recommend to fans of Anna, looking for more of the same? Any classics, maybe?

KB: I’ll recommend the books that I always recommend – which is anything by Caitlin R. Kiernan. She’s fantastic. She writes the dark and the weird, and they’re wonderful. Her latest-

Byrt: The Drowning Girl.

KB: The Drowning Girl – which is a challenging read, but it’s so worth it. The Red Tree might be an easier place to start, which was hers in 2010, and that’s fantastic too… Joe Hill, anything by Joe Hill.

Byrt: He is Stephen King’s son…

KB: He is Stephen King’s son. And don’t tell Stephen King, but I think he’s better.

Byrt: Oooh. Dangerous words…

KB: I just read an interview with Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman interviewed Stephen King – and Stephen King said that Joe Hill’s style is almost indistinguishable from his own, but I think he also said he’s (Joe’s) more imaginative. Well I don’t know about that – Stephen King, how many books has he written now?

Byrt: 80 million.

KB: A billion, fa-fillion.

Byrt: Are you excited for the whole Dark Tower of it all, if that actually happens?

KB: You know, I never read the Dark Tower.

Byrt: Really? So you like classic, classic King…

KB: I read The Gunslinger, and I just- it was a little too much for me. I don’t know. I am more classic King.

Byrt: So do you have a favorite King movie then?

KB: So many great adaptations – and so many great terrible adaptations… Probably my favorite great terrible adaptation would be the TV movie for It.  That was fantastic, with John Boy, and Tim Curry in clown makeup. Wonderful… And then of course, you know, The Shawshank Redemption is…

Byrt: Genius. Alright, so when does Girl of Nightmares come out?

KB: Girl of Nightmares comes out August 7 – and I’ll be touring around that time, so hopefully people will come out and see me.

Byrt: Will do. Alright, thank you so much for taking the time!

KB: Thank you!

Thanks again to Kendare for chatting with me!

For more on all things Kendare, you can find her website here.

(And the Yurt’s review of Anna Dressed in Blood is here)