Author Interview: Kendare Blake on All These Bodies

Kendare Blake author photoAll These Bodies is an atmospheric story at the intersection of true crime and horror following Michael Jensen in the summer of 1958 when a grisly killing spree lands in Black Deer Falls, Minnesota. As Michael begins working with the police to interview Marie Catherine Hale, the only person found alive at the most recent crime scene, Michael is drawn into an investigation that is much darker–and surprising–than he could have imagined. This book has been living rent-free in my head since I finished it so I’m very excited to have Kendare here today to talk about it.

Miss Print: Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Kendare Blake: Yikes, the path is so long at this point it hardly feels like I know. I wrote for a long time as a kid, and as a college student, working on craft, messing around with fanfiction which is also working on craft. Writing short stories and novels that weren’t ready for publication. I did a Master’s in Creative Writing that let me live in London for a year, and that was cool. Eventually my writing got better, and stories started selling, and then I wrote Anna Dressed in Blood. Now I’ve been publishing novels and short stories for more than a decade.

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for All These Bodies? Was any research involved to nail the historical period and atmospheric setting?

Kendare Blake: All These Bodies was inspired by three true things: the murders of the Clutters and Truman Capote’s true crime masterpiece, IN COLD BLOOD; the multi-state murder spree of teenaged killers Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate; and the Vampire Hysteria of New England.

As for research, I did some, like looking into what students in the 50s might have eaten for school lunch, but I still messed up: apparently blue lights weren’t added to police cruisers until the 60s and my dad says they did not have pop top beer cans.

Miss Print: All These Bodies was a 2021 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Novel–an award given for horror novels (congrats!). After your more recent fantasy adventures in the Three Dark Crowns series and Buffy: The Next Generation (your addition to the Buffyverse), what was it like returning to the horror genre?

Kendare Blake: Thank you for the congrats! I was so excited to be a finalist! It was great to return to the horror genre, and in many ways I felt like I’d never strayed far. Both Three Dark Crowns and Buffy: the Next Generation have some horror elements. What can I say, I like entrails.

Miss Print: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have been thinking about All These Bodies nonstop since I finished it. One of my favorite things about this book is the interplay between what your narrator Michael knows to be true about the case and what Marie tells Michael which leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. How did you balance this push and pull?

Kendare Blake: This is so wonderful to hear. Writing the back and forth between Marie and Michael, and balancing the known world of true crime with the speculative aspect of vampirism was one of the most challenging parts of the book. But it was also one of the most fun. Michael is a natural journalist, and the way he processes Marie’s story did half the work for me. I absolutely loved working with him. Over the course of the story his views are tested, and even by the end, when he’s made his choice about what to believe, he’s still being tested. The kid is so unassuming, but he became one of my favorite narrators ever.

Miss Print: We’re living in a strange time with the pandemic as we all continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and work together to stop the spread of Covid-19. How would your characters be handling the pandemic?

Kendare Blake: It’s hard to take characters with 1950s viewpoints and plop them into our modern day problems without having experienced the transitional decades in between, but I think both Michael and Marie would be handling it pretty well. They have rich interior lives, so they’d have plenty to think about and keep themselves entertained while sitting at home ordering groceries for delivery.

Miss Print: What does a typical writing day look like for you? Has this changed in light of the pandemic?

Kendare Blake: Writing is quite solitary and I generally did it from home, so my day-to-day hasn’t changed much. I do occasionally sneak off on writing retreats or write with friends in cafes though, so there was a period of time where I didn’t see my writing clutch in person for over a year. And I missed them!

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about what you’re currently working on?

Kendare Blake: Of course! Right now I’m working on a number of things: the final book in the Buffy: the Next Generation trilogy, and my new epic fantasy series, which is set in the same world as Three Dark Crowns. It doesn’t have an official title yet, but I’ve codenamed it AMAZON JEDIS, because it’s like if the Wonder Woman Amazons had a baby with the Jedi Order. Comes out in Fall 2023, and I should have more announcements about it soon! Hopefully like an actual title.

Miss Print: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

Kendare Blake: Always. Though the worst vice is advice, and it won’t be applicable to everyone. READ. You learn a lot from reading, consciously and unconsciously, and you will continue to throughout your writing career. And: WRITE. Which sounds like the easy part, but isn’t. Find a way to get your butt in the chair and the words on the page. They don’t need to be perfect words the first time around. They just need to get out of your head and into reality.

Thank you to Kendare for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Kendare and her books on her website.

You can read my review of All These Bodies here on the blog.

All These Bodies: A Review

All These Bodies by Kendare BlakeA series of strange murders is leaving a grisly trail across the Midwest in the summer of 1958.

The bodies are found in their cars, their homes, their beds. All of them are drained of blood. But the scenes are clean. No blood anywhere.

On September 19 the Carlson family is slaughtered in their secluded farmhouse in Black Deer Falls, Minnesota and the police might finally have a lead when Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene.

Covered in blood, mistaken for a survivor, it soon becomes clear that Marie is something else when police realize the blood is not hers.

Michael Jensen has been following coverage of the murders all summer, eager to test his mettle as an aspiring journalist and pave the way out of his small town. When his father, the local sheriff, arrests Marie, Michael knows it’s an opportunity he likely won’t see again.

Talking to Marie, assisting the police, having firsthand access to the case files gives Michael a close-up view of the investigation and the girl at its center. Marie doesn’t look like a killer, but she’s confessing to Michael over a series of interviews. She says there’s more to the killings than anyone can imagine but as her story unfolds Michael is the one who will have to decide if the truth is the same as what people will believe in All These Bodies (2021) by Kendare Blake.

Find it on Bookshop.

All These Bodies was a 2021 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Novel. The story is narrated by Michael and all characters are assumed white.

Blake expertly unspools Michael’s naked ambition to become a journalist with his increasingly thorny ethical dilemma when it comes to using Marie’s story for his own gain. The narrative focuses on Marie and whether being complicit is the same as being an accomplice while slowly teasing out what may have happened to the Carlsons and all the other victims.

Centering Marie while having the story related by Michael explores questions of the male gaze and agency as the story builds to its dramatic finish. Marie’s journey in the media from victim to villain is nuanced and contrasts well with Michael’s own conflicting feelings on whether Marie can be the violent criminal authorities seem to think she is while also being his friend.

Michael’s pragmatic narration only increases the tension as Marie shares her confession to her role in the murders and hints at something even more sinister at play while leaving space for readers to interpret events for themselves.

All These Bodies is an atmospheric story at the intersection of true crime and horror; one that will stay with you in all of the best ways.

Possible Pairings: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Breaker by Kat Ellis, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus, Broken Things by Lauren Oliver, Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Want to know more? Check out my interview with Kendare.

One Dark Throne: A Review

One Dark Throne by Kendare BlakeTriplets Katherine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe are in the thick of their Ascension Year, the time when all three have to fight until only one is left alive to claim the title of queen and rule Fennbirn Island.

After the disastrous events of the Quickening, Katherine is stronger than ever–far from the sickly, weak Poisoner everyone expected at the start of the year. But what really happened on top of the Breccia Domain? And will it be enough to help her get both the crown and revenge?

Arsinoe never expected to survive the Ascension Year, not as a Naturalist with no powers to speak of and no familiar. That was before Arsinoe steeped herself in low magic and understood the secret of her true power. But will one secret be enough to change her fate?

Mirabella is arguably still the strongest sister. The temple supports her, her Elemental powers give her control over all elements. She could beat her sisters and claim the crown. But she’s no longer sure that is the future she wants.

Once again it all comes down to three sisters and, most importantly, one crown in One Dark Throne (2017) by Kendare Blake.

Find it on Bookshop.

One Dark Throne is the second book in Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series which begins with Three Dark Crowns. The book follows sisters Katharine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe in close third person narration with additional chapters focusing on those closest to them.

Blake continues to expand the world of Fennbirn Island as the fight for the crown escalates. The expected in-fighting, betrayals, and suspense make One Dark Throne a page turner despite its length.

The fast pace is an interesting contrast to a closer focus on the sisters’ motivations as they all struggle to make it through the Ascension Year. While Arsinoe and Mirabella are drawn together, reluctant to fight their sisters, Katherine is set further apart after her return from the Breccia Domain. This incident also highlights the pointed difference between the triplets’ upbringing where Arsinoe and Mirabella had the advantage and support of actual friends and family growing up while Katharine had poison.

One Dark Throne is an intense, action-packed installment. Higher stakes, bigger consequences, and more twists make this book a must read for fans of the series.

Possible Pairings: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, Rule by Ellen Goodlett, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

Three Dark Crowns: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeOn the island of Fennbirn, a reigning queen gives birth to triplets each generation. Once the triplets are born, the queen’s rule is over and she is exiled with her consort to his homeland. The triplets–all equal heirs to the crown–are separated and raised according to their magic until the year they turn sixteen when the real battle for the throne begins. By the end of the year the crown will go to the last queen left alive.

Katharine has been raised by the poisoners, arguably the most powerful group on the island and the ruling class for generations. But Katharine is weak. Even the simplest poisons wreak havoc on her body– a fact that she and her guardian are determined to keep hidden at any cost.

Mirabella is a powerful elemental with the ability to summon storms and conjure fire. Her power is unprecedented drawing even the supposedly neutral temple priestess to champion her bid for the crown.

Arsinoe has found familial love and friendship in her home among the naturalists. But she has not found her magic. She cannot control animals of any size or make the smallest plants bloom–something any naturalist should be able to accomplish from a young age.

As Katharine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe contemplate their fate they all have their eye on the crown. Katharine knows the crown is her only chance at revenge. Mirabella feels the crown is her right as the strongest heir but she isn’t sure if she wants it. Arsinoe knows she is unlikely to survive the year but she is determined to stay alive for as long as she can. Three sisters, three dark magics, one crown in Three Dark Crowns (2016) by Kendare Blake.

Find it on BookShop.

Three Dark Crowns is the start of a series. The book follows Katharine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe in close third person narration. Snippets of the story also follow those closest to the sisters as all three move inexorably toward the battle for the crown.

Blake expertly brings the island of Fennbirn and its strange customs and fierce traditions to life. Evocative prose and vivid landscapes make the island a secondary character in the novel as different parts of Fennbirn are revealed in each chapter.

Magic on this island has a cost, as does the right to rule, and throughout the novel all three sisters pay dearly. Katharine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe are distinct characters with ambitions that have demanded they harden their hearts and make great sacrifices.

Three Dark Crowns is dark fantasy at its finest and most tense. Page-turning action contrasts with moments that will leave readers breathless. Intricate plotting, surprising moments of intersection between the characters, and shocking twists make this a must-read. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, Rule by Ellen Goodlett, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2016*