Ask the Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne

What would you like readers to know about you? 

I’d like them to know that I’m a reader just like they are, and I try to tell the stories that I wanted to hear most when I was younger. For me, that means stories that are queer, gorgeous, and reflect the sort of deep, wild, and difficult relationships to other people and the world at large that I had growing up.  

What is your book about for those who haven’t read it? 

WAKE THE BONES is a YA Southern Gothic about the ugliness and beauty of the rural South and the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile. Nineteen-year-old Laurel Early drops out of college, hoping to resume life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist, but the sleepy little farm she grew up on has awakened in her absence. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile has stood up and walked away. Even worse, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her own future, and the fate of everyone she loves, is doomed. 

What has been your inspiration for writing it? 

There are two things I love most about growing up in Kentucky, and that’s the beauty of the land around us and just how horrific our ghost stories get. I took what was beautiful, familiar and warm to me about my home and twisted it until a story came through. I’d based the creature prowling through the woods on the old myth of Rawhead and Bloody Bones, but the more times I told the story to myself, the more layers and beauty there were to the story about a monster, made from discarded and rotting things, told to get up and dance.  

What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write? 

One of the first things I did while planning WAKE THE BONES was to go for a walk through the woods and the bottoms and along the river in the heat of July and make note of all the plants and trees and evidence of animals I saw while I was wandering. I love any scene where I get to bring the woods to life for the reader, especially at points where that life springs up with claws and teeth. 

What books or authors inspired you to become a writer? 

This is such a hard question! Diana Wynne Jones is “the big one” for a lot of authors I know, myself included. The land of Ingary made me want to dig into the meat of how stories are told. I was one of those kids who decided very early on that I was going to be an author, but it was under writers like Nikky Finney and Crystal Wilkinson when I was in high school and college that I first got disciplined about writing. When I was in high school, Sarah Combs allowed me to beta-read her debut novel, BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIMEand that kind of “peek behind the curtain” at how books get made had me hooked. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book? 

Get out of your own way and keep having fun with it! I think it’s very easy to overthink whether or not your writing is “good” and to that, I’d caution that you as the author are the person least able to tell. Get a couple of good critique partners, and when you start to feel negatively about what you write, resist the urge to pick it apart and instead turn to other people, whether that’s a trusted friend giving you critique, or reading other people’s work or taking a class on craft that shifts up how you write and how you think about writing. Writing is an introspective craft, for sure, but looking up and out at what other people are doing can really help you achieve balance and maintain the stamina you need to write a whole novel. 

WTB Goodreads link: 

Twitter: @eakilcoyne 

Instagram: @elizabethakilcoyne 

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