Today I am interviewing K.M. McKinley, author of the new fantasy novel, The City of Ice, second book of The Gates of the World series.
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DJ: Hey K.M.! Thanks for stopping to do an interview!
For readers whoa aren’t familiar with you, cold you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
K.M. McKinley: You can call me Kay. I’m a writer. I have been for several years now. Before that I worked as a journalist and editor for fourteen years or so. I live in Yorkshire, in the UK. The Iron Ship book bio is out of date, as I wrote it before moving back to where I grew up.
DJ: What is The City of Ice and The Gates of the World series about?
Kay: What is any book about? I think that’s more a question for the reader. Books are collaborations between the imaginations of the writer and the reader, what I say it’s “about” might not be what you say it’s about. On a basic level, it’s an epic, multiple point of view fantasy set in a world undergoing an industrial revolution fuelled by the science of magic. Like our world went down the road of Paracelsus in the 16th century rather than Newton. At least, that was my original thinking. It didn’t work out quite that way… I won’t be so cocky as to say it’s unique, as there are a number of good industrial fantasies out there right now. Industrial fantasy doesn’t quite get all of it. Some people say it’s steampunk, though I would say it isn’t, though it has steampunky elements.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main character(s)? Does they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Kay: Well, again, that’s not really for me to decide. I’ve tried to make them compelling, but whether or not you like them is entirely down to your reading experience. The main characters are a family of siblings called the Kressinds, from a new money family of an island nation. They are wealthy, but haven’t been so for generations like real aristocrats. Their father is a bit of a swine. They’re all trying to make their way in the world as something big and dangerous stirs in the background… The sole sister, Katriona, is a woman trying to make her way in a man’s world, and doing a fine job of it. The next, Guis, is mentally unstable, and therefore cannot use his magical gifts, and has become a not particularly successful playwright. The third is called Garten. He’s a bureaucrat with a penchant for fencing – he didn’t feature much in book one, but gets a lot of page time in the second – the fourth, Trassan, is a talented engineer, and builder of the first book’s titular iron ship. He’s gone off to this world’s Antarctic to plunder an ancient city built by an elder race. Number five , the fourth son, is a “guider” called Aarin, a kind of priest (they don’t have actual priests, because two hundred years ago a powerful mage kicked out the gods) responsible for guiding the spirits of the dead into the next life, and who has become concerned about the way these ghosts are behaving. Number six is a soldier named Rel who got sent to the end of the world for a sexual indiscretion. He played a major role in book one, and will in book three.
I wouldn’t say they have any habits or quirks that can be nailed down in a single sentence. I have tried to make them as real as possible, so they’re shaded characters, with good and bad in all of them. They’re based on real people, and that helps.
One of the non-sibling characters is a very forthright female scholar whose refusal to conform brings her all sorts of woe. That’s part of one of the series’ themes – how women can and do prosper in worlds dominated by men. I got sick of fantasy worlds with off-the-peg patriarchal medieval societies whose women can, often inexplicably, do the hell what they like. It annoyed me. It never seemed very realistic. Real non-liberal societies can be intensely restrictive to everyone, but especially women. I mean, by all means, do a story set in a world where women are in charge, or completely equal, or apportioned certain roles they don’t traditionally have in ours. That’s cool. What irritates me is there is often this disconnect between the wandering princess and the world she lives in. In answer to this I wanted to write a story that was, in part, concerned with female agency against the odds. So in The City of Ice we have a powerful woman mage, a female soldier, a glimpse of Ruthnia’s sole matriarchal society, the Hundred’s best duelist, who is a woman, and an ex-prostitute who finds herself caught up in something quite dark involving one of the Hundred’s two remaining gods.
DJ: I love multiple POVs and complex plots, but I have always wondered how writers approach writing these types of stories? How did you decide which POV to jump to next when telling the story and how did you actually write the story? Or, when certain situations occur, how do you decide which POV to tell each scene from?
Kay: It depends. I write a lot of books, most under other names. I change the way I write all the time, partially to keep my job fresh for myself. Not all of them are multiple POVs, though. The Iron Ship I did actually write all the parts from each character’s POV, then shuffle them together. The City of Ice I approached more concerned with the story’s structure. Sometimes I write a book sequentially, but usually I jump about. I was a journalist for a long time and had to write high quality copy very quickly, so I write fast and rarely rewrite a lot, though I often wish I had just a few more days. It does happen though.
The POV I choose is dictated by the scenes I have in my head and the needs of the story.
DJ: Do you ever go back and rearrange the planned order or have to write a scene over again from another character’s perspective?
Kay: Yes to the first, but that’s very easy nowadays. I use Scrivener. It’s awesome. If you write, I’d invest in it. The best writing tool there is. No to the second. I can’t recall a time where I changed the POV from one character to another.
DJ: I’ve a number of reviews for The Iron Ship that spoke of how impressive your imaginative world was! What is the world of The Gates of the World series like?
Kay: What is the world indeed. The answer to that question underpins the entire mystery of these books, so I can’t give much away. A large part of the story takes place in the Hundred Kingdoms of Ruthnia, a very diverse place populated by entirely different kinds of people and successor to an ancient, fallen empire. They all try very hard to get along. There are, however, many other nations on this world, which the inhabitants call Earth (it is not our Earth, though). In all other respects it is very different to our world. It has two moons, and is locked in an extended elliptical mutual orbit with a twin planet. The interaction between these heavenly bodies means the “Earth” is volcanically more active than our world, and its tidal range can be in the order of hundreds of metres. It is very mountainous because of this. There’s a whole lot of religious and ecological stuff on top of that, but I won’t go into too much detail, as I risk spoilers for future volumes.
In my other life, I’m known for my world building more than anything. It’s really important to me to have worlds that make sense. Like characters I want them to feel real. It’s not just a backdrop. In some respects, it is the story here. I read a fair bit of fantasy and often find myself asking how stuff works there other than the often very intricately detailed magic system.
I call settings with an extra solidity “whole cloth worlds”, places where you don’t necessarily need to know how shoelaces are manufactured, or how the stock exchanges work, but that seem that they might plausibly have those things. I have tried very hard to make my world one of these.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first book, The Iron Ship? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Kay: The reviews have been very positive, in the main. People really liked the world and the character development. They also want to know what is actually happening with the big threat (because what is fantasy without the big threat, right?) I read as many reviews as I can find. Often the critical ones can be most helpful, and I’ve tried to take on board the few negatives about the first book and eliminate them from the second.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The City of Ice?
Kay: As with every single writing project I ever do: Finishing it! I hate all my books when I’m writing them. Only when I can look back do I feel satisfaction.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish book two?
Kay: I really have no idea. What the main threat is probably. Maybe not. There are some twists in there and some groundwork for coming plot points I won’t spoil.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The City of Ice that you can share with us?
Kay: Do you, a lot of interviewers ask me for quotes. I always think its a bit presumptuous for me to pick a bit and say “hell yeah, that’s a killer line” when your audience might say “Er, no, that’s not. This is though.”
It’s funny, actually, I got a piece back from an editor the other day, and he’d said “yeah, this line is great. Love it.” And I looked at it and thought it entirely normal. Books are funny, they are a telepathic fusion of minds at one remove. That’s why they are so awesome. They genuinely, literally bring people together. With that in mind, I suggest you choose your own quote. You’ll probably surprise me.
DJ: Now that The City of Ice is released, what is next for you?
Kay: I write full time. I write a lot of books every year. I am finishing one right now. But I am due to start The Brass God, book three, after Christmas.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Kay: I’m afraid I don’t have an online presence, not a public one, anyway. It was a conscience decision. However, I do try to write guest blogs and the like through the year. You’ll never know where I pop up next.
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The City of Ice that we haven’t talked about yet?
Kay: If you like The Iron Ship, you’ll love this.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** The City of Ice is published by Solaris and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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An ancient city. A wondrous invention. A perilous journey.
The epic sequel to the incredible debut novel The Iron Ship.
Deep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise.
The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages.
As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.
Industry and magic, gods and steampower collide in the captivating sequel to The Iron Ship.
K McKinley resides near Inverness, in Scotland, not too far from Loch Ness, but not too close either. You never know what’s going to come out of the water.