5 Questions for Kelly Coon

Kelly Coon is a young adult author represented by Kari Sutherland of Bradford Lit, an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, and the author of two test prep guides, ACT STRATEGY SMART and ACE THE ACT.

Kelly was the test prep expert for About.com for seven years, and has been published with both Scholastic and MSN in the education arena. In the parenting realm, Kelly has been published in The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, ParentMap, Folks, and other sites, regaling tales of life in the trenches with her three boys. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she’s living near Tampa with her sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. Gravemaidens is her debut novel.

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Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, Warmaidens? What made you want to tell this story?

Kelly Coon: For Warmaidens, I wanted to go bigger and bolder and expand the reach of the world since I’d kept the story of Gravemaidens inside Alu, a single city-state. Before I wrote it, I thought, what could their lives be like if they’d been born in a different city-state run by a different type of leader? Since I wanted to tackle the roles women play in any society, I showcased a variety of women doing a variety of things to offer anyone reading the story a clear picture of the potential any woman has.

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V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?

KC: I want readers to leave with a sense of hope. Though the world can be dark sometimes and we can experience the worst tragedies, there is always light. There is always joy. And even in the most difficult moments, compassion and kindness can lead our decisions.

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V: What was the hardest scene of Warmaidens to write?

KC: I must have written the final battle scene thirty times. I’m not kidding. With action scenes, you have to keep your sentences short. Dialogue minimal. Verbs pinpoint accurate. There are so many moving parts in that final scene—everything from a visit from your friendly neighborhood Boatman to chariots driven by scorpion warriors—that I had to write and rewrite to adjust the pace.

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V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

KC: Listen and learn. I used to be incredibly arrogant about my writing when I was younger. I thought that my first or second drafts were good enough! But I’ve learned as I’ve aged and listened to others who have excelled in my craft, just how important critique partners are to the writing process. My work gets better and better because I take in the feedback from others and continue to read books and listen to podcasts about craft.

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V: What are your writing must-haves?

KC: The only thing I really need, is my noise cancellation headphones. I can write in the carline to pick up my kids from school, on my phone in the middle of an airport (though not recently!), and at my kids’ sports practices. I’ve learned that I don’t really need too much of my comforts to write. Those can easily become excuses for why I can’t write, so I challenge myself to get words on the page, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. For instance, I’m writing this interview while my 7-year-old and 11-year-old are loudly playing a board game in the same room! =)

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Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear Kelly read the first page of WarmaidensFind Kelly’s video under the IGTV tab.

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