Friday, April 12, 2013

The Flame in the Mist Blog Tour: Interview with Kit Grindstaff!

I'm happy to have on my blog today debut author Kit Grindstaff, author of the middle-grade dark fantasy The Flame in the Mist, out on April 9th from Random House/Delacorte! Kit is here to appease my whims and was at the mercy of my interview questions. Welcome, Kit, to Steph Su Reads!
1. Let's create some quick book poetry: describe your book using other books' titles.

Great! I love rhymes. Here goes!

And a RED-haired girl with a DESTINY
She’s a GIRL OF NIGHTMARES, that’s for sure
DIVERGENT plots, and schemes, and more!
The doom and THE DARK ‘neath the Agromonds’ thumb
Sends Jemma into a DELIRIUM
‘Cause they’re DIABOLICAL, she’s their PREY
And they badly want her OUT OF THE WAY!
The ROT AND RUIN grows intense
Will Jemma live up to GREAT EXPECTATIONS
As she unearths each REVELATION?
Can wielding the MAGYK in her hands
RESCUE the POOR FOLK of her land?
THE DARK IS RISING! But ah, there’s a twist—
Read all about it in THE FLAME IN THE MIST!

Ok, I confess—I cheated a little. A couple of these are series titles, and there are several that I haven’t read. [full list of books that appear in Kit's poem appears at the end of the interview]

2. On your FAQ page you mention that you've had a lot of jobs before becoming an author. Which of them do you think had the biggest influence on your current writing style or material?

Not my main career of songwriting, for sure! Though “writing”, the formats are so different, and song content has little to do with dark, middle grade fiction! Far mor influential was a job I had before getting into the music business, when I was an assistant teacher in a primary school in England. It brought me into contact with children’s books after many years (since being a child!), and I totally fell in love with Maurice Sendak’s work with its dark, anarchic edge.

Also during that time I wrote a rhyming book which my sister illustrated (never published; it had serious flaws!). Knowing this, one of the teachers asked me to work with some of the kids in her class and write down fairy tales which they’d make up. Listening to the dark contents of some of those 5-year-olds’ imaginations—full of devouring witches and threatening forests—something clicked in me about children’s minds and archetypes in story telling.

The seed of wanting to write for children was definitely planted then. My dream of songwriting and being a pop artist took over, so it was years before I really began watering that seed. But it was always at the back of my mind, lurking in the shadows…

3. Tell us 3 things about THE FLAME IN THE MIST that aren't mentioned in the synopsis.

Ooh, what to say without giving too much away….How about this:
i) During her escape through Agromond Forest, Jemma is pursued by evil Inquisitors—bounty-hunters who enforce the Agromonds’ law.
ii) Later, Digby is kidnapped by those same Inquisitors and imprisoned at Blackwater, a town inhabited by Agromond supporters. And of course Jemma isn’t going to leave him there to rot…
iii) The head Inquisitor is connected to someone who will become very important to Jemma, and provide a major opportunity for developing her healing skills.

4. What is your favorite spooky:
    - book?  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Two ghosts….possessed children…Creeeeepy!
    - movie? The Innocents, a 1961 movie based on The Turn of the Screw. It’s in black and white, perfect for spook factor! Close second is the more recent The Others, with Nicole Kidman. The end totally took me by surprise.
    - TV show? A fabulously atmospheric and creepy 2003/2005 series called Carnival. Set in depression-era U.S., it pits fugitive farm boy Ben Hawkins, who has powers some would call demonic, against Brother Justin, a rabid evangelical. The setting of a traveling carnival, with its colorful ‘freak show’ cast, is the perfect background against which their sinister heaven vs hell battle is played out. And there’s a great twist on the good/evil dichotomy.
    - event?  The Halloween parade in New York City! I only went once, about 10 years ago. It was pretty wild. Favorite costume? A man in vampire garb holding an upturned human skull (presumably plastic) from which he was eating spaghetti with tomato sauce that looked just like…Well, you can imagine what it looked like. Eeew!

5. Which fictional character(s) would Jemma be friends with if they met?
Jemma would love Conn from Sarah Prineas’s Magic Thief series. They’re similarly spunky, and he has an irreverence that she’d relate to. Also, Septimus Heap of Angie Sage’s series; the circumstances of their births and early years would give them a connection, and plenty to talk about, as well as teaching each other magical techniques. Septimus may be confused by Jemma’s name being so like Jenna’s from his own books, though.

As a girl pal, I think Jemma would hit it off with Ginny Weasley. Not Hermione—she, Harry and Ron are too much of a unit. Jemma needs her own friend. Hogwarts might remind her too much of Agromond Castle for comfort, though.

6. Something I've been intrigued by recently is what makes certain book titles especially alluring to readers. Yours is definitely one of those special titles. How did you come up with it? What are some of your favorite book titles? What do you think makes a good book title?

Thanks, Steph Su! So glad you think of my title as special—words any author would love to hear.

Actually, coming up with it was a group effort. My editor, Michelle Poploff, and I had discussed that my working title wasn’t zingy enough for kids. She suggested including the words “Mist” and “flame” (or “fire”), as they’re recurring symbols in the book. Brain-tied by my familiarity with my old title, I sent out an email to a few friends who’d read the book, telling them Michelle’s suggestion and asking for ideas.

Brainstorming with my husband, he said, “How about The Flame in the Mist?” Too obvious, I thought. Not long after, I got an email from my nephew in England, responding to my SOS. His suggestion? The Flame in the Mist. Er….weird. Two people coming up with the same title…? But I still wasn’t convinced. Later that day, though, it hit me: their suggestion wasn’t just right; it was perfect! Now, it feels like it’s always been the book’s title, and it couldn’t be anything else.

Titles that pull me most in are ones that pose a question I want answered, even if it’s as simple as “What does that mean?” Perhaps it’s a word that’s inherently intriguing to me, like Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar, (what Peculiar?) or juxtaposing words in an interesting way, like Laura Amy Schlitz’s Splendors and Glooms or R. L. LaFevers’s Grave Mercy, which has a clever twist to it. Others do that while also suggesting fun, like Sarah Prineas’s The Magic Thief series. (I mean, ooh…How do you steal magic?)

Then there are the catch phrases, the ones which take an extract from the book and place it out of context, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men, both of which are enticing. Another I’ve been dying to read simply from its title is Cat Winters’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds, whose eeriness is borne out by its synopsis. I totally want to know about that shadow, and what being in it will do, or has done. And as obvious as I thought it was, I like to imagine now that if I saw my own title on a book I hadn’t written, I might just be intrigued enough to pick it up!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Steph Su. It’s been fun!

The Peculiar: Stefan Bachmann (Greenwillow)  Prophecy: Ellen Oh (HarperTeen)  Red: Alison Cherry (Delacorte) [tbr 10/13]
Destiny: Carly Phillips (Berkley)  Girl of Nightmares: Kendare Blake (Tor Teen)  Divergent: Veronica Ross (Katherine Tegan Books)  The Dark: Lemony Snicket and John Klassen (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)  Delirium: Lauren Oliver (Harper Collins)   Diabolical: Cynthia Leitich Smilth (Candlewick Press)   Prey: Michael Crichton (Harper)
Out of the Way: Uma Krishnaswami (Groundwood)    Rot and Ruin: Jonathan Maberry (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)   A Series of Unfortunate Events: Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins)  Great Expectations: Charles Dickens (many editions)  Revelation:  C. J. Sansom (Penguin)  Magyk: Angie Sage (Katherine Tegan Books)  Rescue: Anita Shreve (Little, Brown and Company)  Poor Folk: Fyodor Doystoyevsky (many editions)  The Dark is Rising: Susan Cooper (Margaret K. McElderry Books)   The Flame in the Mist: Me! (Delacorte Press)

Thank YOU, Kit, for the fun answers! You can check out the other stops on the Flame in the Mist blog tour over at Mod Podge Blog Tours. In addition, enter the blog tour-wide giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. LOVE the book poetry (even though she cheated just a bit)! Ooh, Turn of the Screw messed with my head when I read it in high school... *shudders*

    This story sounds really good and I love the eerie feel of the cover, with the girl in her cape and her rat buddies.

  2. That poem is FANTASTIC. It seriously knocked my socks off! I can't wait to read The Flame in the Mist, because I do love a good fantasy novel. The story of this one sounds wonderful!

  3. I love the first question! Very creative. :) It's interesting to read about the process to coming up with the title. It's definitely a great one. This book has been on my radar for a while now and I can't wait to finally read it. Lovely interview!


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