Hello! Today we welcome K.A. Wiggins whose SPFBO 8 entree, Blind the Eyes, is about a main character “who should in no way work.” Find out more about that below! First, a quick introduction to Blind the Eyes.
In the City of Nightmares, one haunted girl is taking back more than just her dreams.
In a drowned city on the edge of the sea lives a girl in a tower.
Cole is nobody. One more haunted drone among the hopeless grey masses. Even just dreaming of a better life is perilously out of reach—if she wants to survive the ravening nightmares.
But survival takes on a whole new meaning when she stumbles across a shattered corpse—and exposes a deadly conspiracy. Her life is over if she can’t outrun the enforcers, outsmart the monsters, and take back her stolen power. Can she reclaim her broken city—and long-lost threadwitch’s touch—in time to avoid a bloody end?
She’s about to become their worst nightmare.
A multi-award-winning series starter for fans of V.E. Schwab, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black who love lush and haunting urban fantasy, post-climate-collapse dystopias, and genre-bending gothic dark fantasy with messy and morally grey characters. This fifth-anniversary edition ebook features a new, series-tie-in cover and a bonus prologue. Recommended for ages 14+.
Now onto the Questions. . .
Where Kaie will tell us more about Cole and how Blind the Eyes came to be here!
As a Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) Entrant, you’re not just independently as opposed to traditionally published, but self-published. Can you start by explaining a bit about why you chose that route and how it’s been for you?
I wrote my SPFBO8 entry, Blind the Eyes, for traditional publication and was actually on submission (and getting full requests!) before I realized I was working with outdated information and started studying up on the business of publishing.
There was a YA boom when I first wanted to “be an author” (2000s) that was pretty well dead by the time I actually got around to writing (2015-2018). There were fewer publishers (the industry has been contracting/swallowing competition), smaller and more fragmented deals, and increasingly worse contract terms.
I’d had some rough experiences in the corporate world and was very motivated not to shove myself back under someone else’s thumb. Plus, I had a broad skillset with a marketing, communications, and business background. I figured, why not gamble on myself, retain creative control, and do the smart thing long-term for my publishing business?
In hindsight, I’m mostly happy with how things have turned out. I haven’t been an overnight success (it’s a hard slog) and the money situation is laughably bad (I still mostly make money teaching—buy my books!), but I see it as laying groundwork and learning the ropes. Most small businesses struggle for the first few years, too. There are some strong positive indicators too (multiple award recognition, strong review stats and ongoing sales, speaking and teaching opportunities—I’m currently the leader of an author society…)
I do consider the right path for every project—so far, and in the current climate, I’ve found indie is the best move for YA and up novel-length fiction, but short fiction can go either way, and I’m still on the fence about books for younger kids. I actually have a spooky middle grade novel on sub with some publishers to explore that angle a little further. That’s one demographic where I think trad pub still has an edge, though I won’t rule out a Kickstarter indie launch down the road…
For anyone interested in exploring what makes sense for their emerging “author business,” I highly recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s business blog at kriswrites.com. Seriously, just take a week and read through the archives. (Also subscribe—she shares a free short story every week as well!) A multi-decade multi-award-winning superstar, she’s been an IP writer, bestselling author, magazine editor, and small press publisher, and her insights come from a place of incredible experience. Absolutely invaluable; it’s the only newsletter I actually keep up with and read right away these days.
Sometimes, it’s so hard to see the long term in the effort of the moment! Good for you you’re able to do that. And be open to considering new paths and the right path for each project.
On a related note, why did you enter the SPFBO contest? A number of people have related that they find it pretty stressful. How do you feel about it so far? Or has it not affected you much?
A year or two ago I started noticing SPFBO buzz on social (probably Twitter, if I’m honest). There are so many awesome opportunities out there to take part in that it does get a little overwhelming, and I’m not sure my book (YA, gothic, genre-bending) was the greatest fit, but the timing just worked out right for me to take a stab at it and that’s a big part of my publishing strategy—get stuff out into the world and let readers decide. 🙂
I wasn’t pinning my hopes on it (and had my doubts about the fit for my book—seems like the judges have preferred high fantasy in the past) so it hasn’t been stressful at all. And my book actually was cut in the last week or so by its judge, so I do think I was right about the fit. Still, it’s been a fun way to build some new connections and maybe pick up a little visibility for my weird, dark brand of fantasy!
I do think that the longer you’re in publishing, the more comfortable you get with hearing “no/not for me.” I get short story submission rejections all the time (along with a few sales, luckily!), don’t place in contests, get the occasional one or two star review . . . no story is going to be to everyone’s taste, and as long as they’re not jerks about it, it’s all good. I will note that I mostly avoid reading reviews and comments, though, (and prefer generic rejections from editors), which makes it easier to have a relaxed view of things. Boundaries are healthy!
I think being a reader helps, too! Leastways, as a reader I know some books might be very good, but they’re just not for me. (LOL, I entered SPFBO 8 sort of that way – I heard about it after the entrees had opened and scrambled to get my files together.)
Book titles. Why did you choose the title you did for your book? Take this wherever you want; an analysis of how it fits your book (if that’s not a spoiler you’d rather not share); the inspiration for your title; how the title makes you feel. As short or as in-depth as you like.
I lean more weird/poetic/vibe-y than commercial (unfortunately), so Blind the Eyes, which is what I ended up with for my SPFBO title, is a bit vague. It does work with the story, but it actually comes from a song that was stuck in my head while I was drafting and editing the book—a dark, moody, bluesy-folksy spiritual. I slightly altered the lyric and ran with it.
Initially the whole series was supposed to use lines from the song as titles, but by the time I got to the sequel, I’d become a little more marketing savvy. Now I look at my target subgenre(s), make a list of words in the bestsellers lists, and then look for ways to use/recombine those that vibe with my story.
I also use working titles (and placeholder covers) a lot, so my middle grade project on submission is just called Cave Story and my current work in progress is nicknamed Songstress, even though neither of those titles are likely to last to final print.
Can anyone pick the final title with no error margin from the very beginning of the project? I kind of like your approach to titles 😀
I won’t ask for your favourite scene since I know some people don’t have those (wink wink), but can you share a scene you really like and you just can’t believe how awesome it is every time you go back to re-read it, that you don’t consider to be a spoiler? Alternately, you can share something about a character you really like. Or both, if you want.
So I was absolutely determined to write a main character that should in no way work. Contemporary Western fiction really relies on proactive, motivated, driven protagonists. But I was just captivated by the idea of a girl who wasn’t motivated by desire or wanting, but terrified, even repulsed, by it.
I think, at a subconscious level, I was working through life under the patriarchy and how that can make it feel like there are no choices, or that it’s not safe to want things, but I ended up crafting this whole story world around the question of why this one character was so isolated and afraid of standing up and owning her power.
It made for a weird story, structurally, and a LOT of edits and rewriting, and to this day I think some readers are just outright confused by how much I subverted what they’re used to, particularly in genre fiction, but I do like how it turned out. The perspective shifts were technically challenging, and there are some really eerie, basically horror moments, and some that kind of ride the line between horror and folkloric or fairytale scenes. I like adding slippery, fever-dream, almost archetypal moments where the fabric of reality gets a bit loose. And often that switch into fairytale-like language comes in around the climax scenes, so keep an eye out for those in each book if you do decide to check out the series.
Perspective shifts can be quite technically challenging – and I think it’s cool how you do the language shifts! Also, I’d like to see the notion that a main character has to be a Western Hero with Agency get lost!
Same sort of thing as with the last question, except this time what about a quote? One to five lines or so, but this isn’t math. You don’t need to count the periods (or question marks, exclamation points, or other sentence-enders).
Well, since I just finished waxing poetic about vibe-y writing, here’s a snippet that’s (hopefully) not too full of spoilers:
The warm, late-morning sun shifts, a flash of stark, blinding light. The long bones beneath her parents’ skin are darkly skeletal silhouettes. Her heart stutters and seizes, her breath caught in her throat. I hold my breath as well, caught in the moment, in her panic and my own horror. The end must be coming soon. Hers, or mine.
Neat! And if this is a spoiler, I’m pretty sure it’s only one to someone who has started reading the book.
What would you like to share? Take this in any direction you consider to be related to your book and your writing. It can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a guest post.
For writers (and readers) checking this interview out, I want to encourage you to take risks, try stuff, and share it with the world. One of the biggest surprises for me in publishing has been how many things I thought I’d hate or never have any interest in that have turned out to be incredibly rewarding, fun, and meaningful.
Teaching and speaking is a big one—as a massive introvert, I never expected doing events to be one of my favourite parts of “being a writer.” Short fiction is another skill that I never planned to exercise, but has actually been really rewarding. And joining, volunteering, and now leading an IRL author society is another thing I never thought I’d enjoy, but has turned out really well. Don’t sweat the details; just be brave, try stuff, make weird and cool stuff, and put it out into the world; you never know what might happen!
Writing shorts is pretty fun!
K.A. Wiggins (Kaie) writes award-winning speculative fiction that explores the tangled webs of society, environment, and identity through intricate, dreamlike tales of monsters and magic. Best known for “climate change + monsters in dystopian Vancouver” YA Fantasy series Threads of Dreams, she’s also the President of the Children’s Writers & Illustrators of British Columbia Society and a creative writing coach with the Creative Writing for Children Society. Find her at kawiggins.com (& subscribe to her newsletter for free ebooks!) or @kaiespace on social.
You can find all of K.A. Wiggins books here.
And here’s another book link, this time just for Blind the Eyes.
You can also get book two, Black the Tides, which came out just over two weeks ago (book two, two weeks, lol). Book three, Burn the Skies, will be coming out in August, so no one should have to wait too long.
K.A. Wiggins will also be releasing a prequel and some short stories just after that, in September and October, but you can subscribe to her newsletter to read most of them for free now.