Kim, what is your latest novel all about?It's about five daughters of a tribal warlord, in a world based on Anglo-Saxon England. Their father falls gravely ill and Bluebell—the eldest daughter and the hard-arse, smashed-nosed, tattoo-covered soldier—is convinced it's an enchantment. The five of them start out on a journey to find their long-lost aunt, who is rumoured to be a powerful undermagician, to help save him. But they find more than they bargained for along the way, and betrayals and bad magic split them apart.
How did you get the first idea for it?
I am borderline obsessed with Anglo-Saxon literature, but it's never about women. So I began to make character sketches about possible interesting female characters, and I particularly wanted to write about a female soldier who was complex and interesting and not the typical "strong female warrior", so I made her ugly and tall and sweary and fiercely loyal and I fell in love with her and decided to write a book about her. Along the way, I came to love all her sisters too: Ash with her terrible burden of magic, Rose who thinks with her downstairs parts, Ivy who is a silly coquette with no idea of how dangerous her ideas are, and the slightly unhinged pious Willow, who hears voices in her head and tries to do what they tell her.
What do you love most about writing?
Everything! Coming up with story ideas, talking about story ideas, writing down story ideas! I feel as though at birth I got the full complement of human emotions—love, anger, fear, wonder—and this extra one called story. Writing makes me feel story and it's the best feeling! Though story also means you always worry when your loved ones are ten minutes late, because you can too easily imagine scenarios where they are horribly killed.
What are the best 5 books you've read recently?
I loved Bitter Greens by you, Kate. So much so that I set it on my undergraduate creative writing course, where my students are currently falling in love with it too. I loved Jo Walton's My Real Children, which is kind of like "light" alternative history but refracted through the very personal and intimate journey of a single woman through the late 20th century. I recently read Jon Ronson's nonfiction book So You've Been Publicly Shamed, which is a very clear-eyed examination of social media culture and mob mentality. I finally got around to The Hunger Games over summer. I usually don't read YA, and I feared it was going to be like Twilight, but it was brilliant. Genius plot, fabulous main character. And over summer, too, my husband read The Lord of the Rings out loud to me. I hadn't read it since I was a teenager and it was amazing to revisit it, but also to hear the rhythms of the language allowed. One of my all-time favourite stories.
What lies ahead of you in the next year?
I am just in the starting phases of the sequel to Daughters of the Storm, tentatively titled The Sea of Wings. I will be writing large portions of it in the west of England in the second half of the year. Very excited!