Kay Kenyon has written 10 books to date including 2004 Campbell Award finalist The Braided World, and 2002 Philip K. Dick Award nominated Maximum Ice. Most recently she completed The Prince of Storms, the final volume of her critically acclaimed quartet, The Entire and the Rose.
Miss Kenyon was kind enough to answer some questions about her work for Worlds Without End.
DP: First off, thank you for the interview and congratulations on the completion of The Entire and the Rose quartet. I really enjoyed the series. I stumbled upon the free Bright of the Sky eBook on Pyr’s blog and I was hooked. How did the idea of offering it up for free come about? What did you think of the idea at the time and how has it worked out for you?
KK: The Idea came from my editor at Pyr, Lou Anders. He’s one of those people with loads of energy, street smarts, and marketing know-how–as well as being a brilliant editor. I liked the idea at the time, since I thought it would introduce more people to the series, and to the universe I had created. The hope was that people would like book one enough to at least buy book two. Turns out, the downloads of all four books have soared since that free offering in August, 2010. Not only that: I’ve experienced a jump in people following my blog, buying my back list and joining my newsletter list. So, yes, very pleased.
DP: The Entire and the Rose is your first big series. Was the story arc something you planned to be four books long from the start or was it something that grew in the writing?
KK: It was always going to be four books, but for rather superficial reasons. My agent said, "Everybody does trilogies, how about four volumes?" The idea was to signal, hey, this story is too big for a trilogy! It backfired a little, however. We should have made clear on the covers of the books that it was a "quartet." Many people thought the story was over at the end of Book Three, and were disappointed that all of the plot lines didn’t tie off. I still worry that people didn’t find their way to Book Four, Prince of Storms.
DP: Did you enjoy having the larger canvas to tell your story? Is it something you want to try again?
KK: It had its pleasures, but I doubt I’ll do it again. I might write a series, but not one with a continuing story arc. Turns out (and I guess this was predictable) a four-book story is very complicated, not just from the standpoint of size of the story, but the time frame involved to write it. Over the five years of writing, I was in danger of forgetting what I had done, or intended to do–and all this despite a detailed outline (quickly out of date) notebooks, charts and scene lists. I felt like I was managing a hurricane.
DP: The Entire and the Rose can be classified as science-fantasy which seems to be a bit of a departure from your previous books. Was that a conscious decision to write something different?
KK: No, it just happened. Much of the Entire, the setting for the series, has its technologies hidden. The builders of the Entire wish to keep technology to themselves, to freeze civilization in a changeless state of wonder and harsh beauty. I kept pushing the limits of what the Entire was, what it could let you do–and in the end these things were fabulous enough to appear magical.
DP: The fantasy elements expose your talent in that genre. Have you ever wanted to try your hand at fantasy?
KK: Yes, definitely. I have in mind a story steeped in magic and the culture of 15th century Italy; and one with a twisted 19th century colonialism. So I seem to be on a magical history tour, here.
DP: Your characters are very well developed with often-times conflicting desires and motivations. Do they ever break out of your character outlines or otherwise surprise you as you’re writing them? When a character starts to change do you run with it or do you try to make them conform to the expectations of your narrative?
KK: My central characters only rarely present a face I haven’t planned. They have a core essence that is not likely to change. Characters that have small parts in the story are more likely to surprise me, since I haven’t thought much about them. I allow it only if it adds to the story rather than pulling it in some dead-end direction, no matter how interesting. Part of novel writing is knowing what to leave out. I don’t invest characters with their own authorial power, following them as though they had a mission. I make them up. I am rather a despot!
DP: Some of your characters, especially your heroes like Titus Quinn and his family, get run through the wringer. How attached do you get to your characters and do you ever feel bad about what you put them through?
KK: No, I am thrilled with suffering, actually. The more I can believably, meaningfully put them through, the better. But, to soften my image, I will confess that I have been known to cry at a character’s death. (It didn’t stop me from killing them, though!)
DP: Do you get the same satisfaction writing the scenes where the bad guys get their comeuppance as we get from reading those scenes? I’m thinking of two characters in particular that I couldn’t wait to see fall.
KK: I believe I know whom you mean! But after thinking about this question a bit more, I realize that I don’t get that kind of pleasure from "justice served" in the plot. Oddly, as an author I find I am at one remove from my characters. I am actively plotting, deepening motives, considering dramatic ways to present things… and this sort of conscious manipulation of people and events separates me from ordinary reactions. When a character falls deservedly far, I am just hoping it is as interesting as it can be.
DP: The parallel universes in The Entire and the Rose seem ripe for further exploration. Do you have any plans to return there for future books and if so what shape might those books take? Do you feel any compulsion to write more stories in that world to satisfy your fans?
KK: At first I needed a long rest from the quartet, but now I am considering whether fans might like more. It may not be a novel, but it might be short stories offered on my website.
Q: What can we expect to see from you in the future? What have you got in the works now?
My thanks to Miss Kenyon for answering our questions. If you’ve not read her before you should definitely take advantage of the free offer from Pyr and give her a try. You’ll be glad you did. I’m certainly looking forward to more tales from the Entire.