Kendare Blake is a South Korean-born writer who was raised in the United States of America. Known for her dark and violent female centric narratives, Three Dark Crowns is her latest novel.
The story’s synopsis paints a picture of power, sisterhood, and deception:
“On the island of Fennbirn triplet sisters – each possessing a unique magical ability and an equal claim to the throne – are born each generation. Mirabella controls the elements, Katharine can ingest poisons with no repercussions, and Arsinoe controls plants and animals. Separated at birth, the sisters will reunite on their 16th birthday for a battle to the death, and the last queen standing gets the crown. Let the games begin.”
We had the chance to speak with Kendare about what inspired Three Dark Crowns, her views on the challenges women face in today’s modern world, why she wanted to become a writer, and more.
Now this I must hear. How did a hive of bees inspire your latest work?
Quite by accident! I was at an indoor/outdoor book event in Oregon, and there was a swarm of bees in one of the trees near the hot dog truck. Everyone was nervous about being stung, but there happened to be a beekeeper on site and she told us not to worry, that they were in their ball and swarming to protect their queen. We got to talking more about bees, and she told me that the queen had probably just laid her queen eggs in the old hive, and when they hatched, one would kill the others in order to take over. I found that fascinating, and on the drive home, the idea that would become THREE DARK CROWNS began to take shape.
Three Dark Crowns, like many of your works, features a matriarchal society. What do you think are the biggest challenges women still face today?
One of the biggest challenges is the tempting idea that there are no more big challenges. We’ve come a long way. Things are pretty good for a lot of us. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still barriers. Inequities. There always will be. One thing that particularly gets my goat is the sense of entitlement that some men have towards women and their bodies. Ick. Or things like…retaliatory shootings. “You broke up with me so you deserve to die.” “You said no when I asked you out, and you were even sort of mean about it, so I’ll kill you.” The kind of thinking that this woman is not an actual person, but a thing that ought to meet one’s needs. Double ick.
What made you want to write fantasy and horror books?
I’m not sure! I mean, I do contemporary stuff too, and literary stuff, for want of a better term, but even that is usually fairly dark. I’m definitely attracted to darkness. But whenever I pause to consider why that is, I don’t get very far, so I must not want to know.
Your three main characters each have their own magical power. If you could possess any of the three, which one would it be and why?
I would want to be a naturalist, because I would want to commune with the animals, and ever since I read The Golden Compass I’ve wanted something like a familiar. Also, sometimes you just want the fruit ripe NOW, you know? I hate to wait days for guacamole.
Female narratives are important to you. What authors inspire you?
Just about every author working inspires me. But in particular: Caitlin R Kiernan, because she’s just too good, and Milan Kundera because I haven’t mentioned him in a while. And Joe Hill…I can’t wait to read The Fireman, and see what he comes up with next. None of these are exactly female narratives, are they?
Why did you want to become a writer?
It’s the only thing I’ve ever been consistently compelled to do. The one thing I couldn’t seem to stop doing. I tried other things first, believe me, but I had to keep on scribbling on the side or I’d go nuts. I think it comes from being such a voracious reader, as a kid and as I grew up. Stories breed stories.
You are known for writing sort of dark, violent work. What attracts you most to this genre?
The darkness is the draw. The twisted underpinnings, the light that it shines on that side of human nature. I don’t shy away from violence, but I’ve never gone into a story only looking forward to writing that part. It’s the consequence and the cause, that interest me. Except maybe for Anna Dressed in Blood. I wrote that just coming off my Master’s and writing mostly literary, so I really missed writing entrails and bright red inside bits.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Bad Blood by Demetria Lunetta, which doesn’t come out for awhile, and I’m in the midst of an upcoming Sarah Porter…but in terms of things that are available now: Bird Box by Josh Malerman, The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie Mclemore and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
How old were you when you moved to the United States from South Korea? And how has living in both countries inspired your writing?
I was only about seven months, so honestly it hasn’t informed my writing at all. I have never been back, and I was adopted by midwesterners so I have no link to the culture. I’ve never even eaten korean food! Not even kimchi. Not even korean barbecue (if that is even considered korean food). I need to get on that.
You’ve written six books previously and this is your seventh. What inspires you to continually create such compelling stories?
First of all, thank you! I’m glad you find them compelling! With every book that ends, there’s a small whisper in the back of my mind that wonders whether it will be the last. That wonders where the stories come from. When it’s going well, they don’t feel constructed so much as channeled, which might sound stupid and new agey but what the hell. There’s always been magic for me in writing. There’s always been the inexplicable. So there you go. A really long-winded way of saying I don’t know.
The YA fantasy has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and has been named a book to watch this fall by BookRiot. It will be released on September 20, 2016.