Usually you wouldn’t imagine convention guests would be exploring the show floor. However, if you looked carefully when going through the different booths and stages at BookCon, you just might have found Kendare Blake looking around. You would have been as pleasantly surprised as I was to know that she loved the slap bracelets that were given away in front of a poster for Renegades by Marissa Meyer — she’s actually harboring hope to have poisoner-themed snap bracelets made.
Kendare was kind enough to set aside some time to speak with Fictionist, before she had to leave for an event later that evening. Please read on to read the full Q&A.
Since you’ve been to cons before, what kind of strange things have you seen at Bookcon/other cons in general?
I’ve been to a lot of cons. I’ve done San Diego Comic Con, new York Comic Con a couple of times, Chicago Comic Con, Book Con twice, maybe three times now. And I’ve also been to Eevee Con, and some of the others, like the Library Association Convention. It has a surprising amount of craziness, and a surprising amount of fun. You wouldn’t think that librarians know how to party, but you know what? They really do. As far as craziness, though, I haven’t seen that much. It’s just mostly a gathering of bookish folk who, if that’s what they want to do, they want to get together to talk about books, they want to dress up like book characters, and that’s great. So there hasn’t been any drama. I’m trying to think — I had to have seen something crazy, at some point. Especially in San Diego, there had to have been something nuts, but I’m blanking out. Obviously the costumes in San Diego are the best.
Because they’re so extravagant?
Yeah! They’re so professional. It’s crazy, cosplayers today, it drives me crazy what they can do with makeup and the quality of their props. I mean, it’s not like slapping on a Halloween costume anymore, you gotta go for it. You know those little bikes that people pull you around on, they had those made up to look like the iron throne from Game of Thrones, which was really fun, I just wanted to ride around in that all week.
Have you read or finished any books recently?
Finished? No. But I have been reading. I’m one of those people that starts like five books at a time, and then I will savor the first half of each book. I’m talking like two or three pages a day. Savor. And then when it hits, you know, like every book has that point where they’re like ‘oh, now I’m not going to be able to sleep until this book is finished’. The first book to hit that point is the first book to get finished. And then I start another one, and then the rest of the five books. It’s like a continuing round robin competition for which book gets finished. I guess I just finished The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. I’m into historicals. I’m also reading The Sisters of Versailles, which is about the french court. I’m reading…I’m still reading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, even though I started it in the fall — because it’s so dense, and every word I just really want to linger on. I don’t have that much farther to go. But this one won’t be one of those books where I just power through the rest. I’m just going to savor every single bit of it. So, if you ask me the same question next year, I might give you the same answer. It might still be Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.
When doing research for your books, what weird things have you found or looked up?
The weirdest thing I think, about research for a book — when you need something, it’s there. Like, if you’re thinking, ‘Man, it would be cool if I could have historical context for… You know, a rock that could do this,’ or something, and then you look and, ‘Ooh ,it’s there!’ Or, you know, it exists. So, stuff that you think, ‘Wow, I wish I could make something up like that,’ now you don’t have to. So that’s always fun. I mean, I saved my dog once, doing research for Three Dark Crowns. Because I was doing a lot of poison research, and I was looking at a lot of poisons, and it turned out that I had two extremely poisonous trees in my backyard. Like, the kind that kill dogs. I looked it up and it said, on a dog website, ‘The only way to know that your dog has gotten into this tree is if your dog is dead,’ Well, that’s not good. That’s, like, the worst indicator ever. So, luckily, because I was reading this poison book, I found this picture — ‘That looks like our tree’ — and I went out and I identified it, and sure enough, it was extremely poisonous. So I was able to hire some people, and get them out of there before my dog chewed on a leaf and died. Which was lucky because he was a puppy, and he chewed on every stick in the backyard. For months, after we got those trees out, I was terribly paranoid that somehow we missed a stick. Or, like, some stick that had fallen off ages ago and blown to the neighbors’ yard and blew back into our yard, and then he’d chew on it and die. The trees were so bad I had to tell the guys removing it, ‘Don’t dispose of these by burning, because if you inhale the smoke, you’ll die.’ They’re really dangerous. I don’t know why people have those trees. They’re pretty but… I know, but they’ll kill you. They’ll kill your pets, they’ll kill your children. Just don’t have those trees. There are other pretty trees to have.
During book signings, has a fan ever brought you anything or have you seen anything cool?
I’m wearing this necklace, with the poisoner crown from my book cover. I have a reader in Seattle, she’s the sweetest thing ever. She’s been making all my Seattle (events), and every time, she brings me, like, a magnet with my book cover on it, or some scrabble tiles with my book covers on it. This time it was a necklace; and actually, not just one necklace, she made necklaces of each of the crowns and gave me, like, four a piece, in decorative baggies, so I can use them in giveaways, or whatever. And if she doesn’t have anything like that, or she’s already brought one, she’ll bring like, candy, cookies, and stuff. Not just for me, but like, for everybody who’s at the signing. I’m like, ‘You don’t have to do this, this is too nice. You’re not the caterer.’ She’s like the unofficial caterer. She’s really sweet.
With all of the different genres around, are you beginning to see a blend of YA and adult books?
They do in some aspects, and they absolutely don’t in others. Some YA and some adult will crossover for whatever reason. And it’s kind of, you know, there’s not always a formula as to why that is. Some books just do and some books just don’t. I think there’s still a lot of stigma in the adult community. In particular, I think a lot of (adult) writers haven’t discovered YA books, or haven’t read them that much. So, if you don’t know what YA has become, and you still think that it’s like, early reader, See Dick Run, you know, ‘See Jane eat. See Jane eat with spot.’ That’s a little bit early early, but if they have that kind of perception of it, in their minds, I can understand why they’d look at an adult (who reads YA) and go, ‘Whoa, that’s alarming’. Though YA isn’t that anymore, it’s very nuanced, and it’s very complex. It’s multifaceted, there’s different themes. YA is a category but it’s not a genre on it’s own. Inside of YA there’s everything. There’s horror, there’s mystery, there’s thriller, there’s everything. But, still, when I tell people that I’m a writer, and they ask what I wrote, there’s always this mental twinge: ‘Oh here we go.’ When I tell them that I write young adult, they tend to give me the face. You know, and sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the face. As a reader of YA, too, we get it the same way, ‘Oh, what are you reading, oh what is it, oh it’s… young adult.’ And then they look at you like you don’t know how to read or something. Like they’re really good books, it’s okay. I still read picture books. Picture books are fantastic.
[Takara: Picture books are good, and they’re pictures! So it’s all the better. Kendare: Yes! And they’re wonderful stories. And they’re really difficult to write.]
Going to different conventions, what other authors have you met that you’ve gotten along with or become friends with?
You know, when I was first out on the circuit, you kind of meet up with other authors that are also just brand new out on the circuit, and we kinda just bond together in that sense of, ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, do you know what the hell you’re doing? No? Okay! Let’s hang out.’ And, I really lost touch, because we’re from all over the country, and we come together at these events. I’m notoriously bad at staying in touch with people if I don’t have them in my face every single day. So, all of those friends I’ve made those first years have kind of gone by the wayside, and I’ll still run into them every now and again. I’ve formed like maybe two, you know, close friendships with writers, that’s about it. Every year more authors come onto the scene, and you meet more and more of them, and I’ve actually never met an author that I didn’t like. I like them all, they’re all very nice and very interesting people. Just, for whatever reason… I’ll have a great time with them at the con and I won’t go home and instantly email them. I don’t know why. Although if they email me, I’m like, ‘Oh, yay!’ and then I’ll definitely email them back. I’m never the one to be like, ‘Hey, I had a great time with you this weekend.’