Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Friends, I am delighted to share this author interview with you all today! Kay Solo, our friend that is visiting us at the Pond today, has been a long-time friend and supporter of my first ever book blog and, now, The Quiet Pond. So, when she reached out and wanted to visit the Pond to share her upcoming book, Moon and Flame (prequel to Ghost Walk, a supernatural story with pirates and ghosts and two girls who try and save the world), I was delighted by the opportunity to share her newest book with you all!
Therefore, it is my pleasure to welcome Kay to the Pond today! Kay visits us as a fennec fox, wearing a beret and glasses, and I am so excited for you all to read the author interview that I did with her. But, before we delve into her author interview, I’d like to take a moment to properly introduce you to her latest book, Moon and Flame, which releases September 2nd!
Moon and Flame by Kay Solo
Four years before Maaya Sahni and Adelaide Sol joined forces to take on the greatest threat of the century, they lived on opposite sides of the world fighting very different battles.
For Maaya, despite struggling to get by on the streets of Sark with the constant companionship of hunger and fear, there is nothing she hates more in the world than ghosts. Born with the ability to see them in a town that still kills people for perceived witchcraft, she blames their mischief for her woes and refuses all of their attempts at friendship — until one ghost in particular won’t leave her alone.
Adelaide is born into a family that seems to care more for its reputation than its children. Her parents have already decided her career for her, hoping to make her the new face of their family business, but she struggles with the strict routines and lessons they’ve planned for her. Unable to find the answers she seeks from others, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Aided by a crew of strangers with questionable histories and powers she’s struggling to control, she sets off to discover herself and find acceptance.
Despite the distance between them, both girls take on equally thrilling challenges, make new friends, and learn invaluable lessons about themselves as they struggle to make their way in an unforgiving world.
How cool is this?! Given what happens in Ghost Walk – and if you haven’t heard of her book before, you will learn more in Kay’s interview below! – Moon and Flame sounds so cool. Moreover, I love origin stories; I love stories about why and how characters came to be, so for any fans of Ghost Walk out there, this will certainly be a treat.
Author Interview: Kay Solo
Xiaolong: Hi Kay! A big and warm welcome to The Quiet Pond! We’re so excited for you to visit us today – it’s been a long time coming! For our friends out there who may only be meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Kay: Thank you for having me! Let’s see. I’ve been writing books since 2006, and I also spent many years editing them for other authors. I’m big into photography and playing violin, I like volunteering whenever I get the chance, and I love public speaking even though I’m absolutely terrible at one-on-one conversations. Beyond writing books (which are my favorite) I’ve done everything from boring technical writing to having a political column in a paper for a while. I was a gymnast for ten years, and as a fun fact, I don’t know my own birthday. I’m also very, very bad at talking about myself.
Xiaolong: Before we delve into your upcoming book, tell us about your first trilogy, The Dream Sanctum! What were your inspirations, and how have you integrated what is important to you in those stories?
Kay: The first book in this series was when I started to really take my writing more seriously. I had this idea of a giant lucid dream world that anyone could get into when they fell asleep; I was big into lucid dreaming at the time and had started my studies in cognitive science and thought it was all so fascinating. The way dreams are still looked at as so mysterious now made me think there was some potential there.
The basic idea of this series is this dream where you’re still conscious after you fall asleep, and it’s this giant world where you can literally do anything you imagine, since it’s a dream! The neat thing here is you can meet other people from the real world there, so the main character, Kai, ends up making friends from all over the real world, like a young girl who’s a nationally renowned prodigy and a man whose companion in the dream world is someone who doesn’t actually exist. He eventually ends up pulling his best friend in there, too.
So I started running with this concept and the idea of the antagonist being a nightmare. I liked it, but as I got going I noticed a lot of myself coming out in this series where it hadn’t before, like a character who was struggling with severe depression and loneliness. Later on it showed itself in the struggle of someone who missed their sister so much they got a little too lost in their own imagination to escape their grief. All the characters go through some personal story like this, and while they aren’t all mirrors of my own experiences, I always have something to draw on.
Xiaolong: Let’s talk about Ghost Walk. For our friends out there who haven’t come across this series before, what is it about?
Kay: This series is my recent favorite. It’s about a girl who can see ghosts and her dead best friend. The town she lives in is really superstitious; most people who live there think she’s a witch. She explores the town at night with her ghost friend and uses magic to seal away ghosts who are causing problems or haunting places. Everything’s mostly fine until she encounters a kind of ghost she’s never seen before, one that can make entire streets full of people just… disappear. Next thing you know she’s trying to cross the world to try to save her town and loved ones from these ghosts, and she teams up with pirates, gets in the middle of a battle between her country’s navy and a fleet of ghost ships, travels to another continent, and falls deeply in love.
It turned into a much bigger adventure than I thought it would. I didn’t want a horror story where ghosts were mysterious and unknown and scary. It seemed so much more fun to make them a little mischievous and unusual, but also just people the main character could have a casual chat with if she felt like it.
If I have to describe it briefly, which I’m always terrible at doing, I’d say it’s a supernatural series with some steampunk elements, ghosts, pirates, magic, and two women falling in love as they try to save the world.
Xiaolong: How have you incorporated representation and themes that are important to you in the story?
Kay: This was my first book that included a f/f romance as something central to the plot, and it was important to me to have a world where that wasn’t a point of contention. I wanted a world where anyone could love anyone and there was no fuss about it. I understand the value in the stories where this isn’t the case, but I’ve struggled with reading and writing them personally because they hit a little too close to home and aren’t quite the escape I need. I wanted a book where the conflict didn’t come from something like who the main character fell in love with. (It left more room for fluff anyway.)
Beyond that I guess I saw a chance to write certain things the way I wish other people would see or understand them—things like burning out, or anxiety, or depression, or being poor, or dealing with trauma or abuse and their aftereffects. These end up being the lenses through which the story is told rather than isolated issues here and there, so they show up in the protagonist’s every thought process and decision and reaction. I’d like to think this has worked pretty well so far. Ideally, someone who may not be able to relate to these things personally will still be able to understand how the issues affect every aspect of the characters’ lives.
I also wanted to make sure there was at least some undercurrent of hope throughout the book. I didn’t want things to get too grimdark, and I wanted to break up heavy moments with levity, but also to be able to focus on what the future could hold and how things could be better, even if the characters weren’t sure exactly how. That’s always been so important to me in things I’ve read and watched, especially when I was really struggling with depression, so it was so important that I not only end on a high note, but to keep that theme of hope throughout.
Xiaolong: Your upcoming book, Moon and Flame, comes out next week! This is a prequel of sorts to Ghost Walk and tells the story of both Maaya and Adelaide before the events of Ghost Walk begin. How did it feel to ‘return’ to their stories? And how have you grown as a writer in between Ghost Walk and Moon and Flame?
Kay: It has felt so good to return to this series. I love the world and the characters in it, and it was nice to be able to stay just a bit longer. Even though Ghost Walk was pretty long, there was so much to many of these characters that didn’t get explored, so much that made them who they are when you finally leave off, and this book goes much further in helping shape these characters. These four years are what make Maaya and Adelaide and Saber and the rest who they are once Ghost Walk begins, and they are by no means four quiet and uneventful years.
I’ve tried to take advantage of the time between books to try to explore my weak points, see what I do well, get some feedback, and keep practicing. I was able to learn a lot from Ghost Walk, and I think that shows itself in Moon and Flame—and not just in terms of stylistic and grammatical improvements, but things like themes and character development. I’d like to think I get a little better each time, and so far I’m happy.
Xiaolong: As a disabled and trans woman, how have your identities shaped the stories you tell and the ideas that you explore as a writer?
Kay: That’s a tough question, if only because I can’t imagine myself not having those identities and everything that comes with them, but I did find that once I started accepting them, it changed a lot of what was important to me. They’ve definitely affected the way I write my characters, especially when it comes to insecurities and the search for confidence, doubts, navigating relationships of all sorts, or getting by in a world that has made it clear you’re either entirely unwelcome or just not as deserving of basic respects or consideration as everyone else. I think it’s also why my stories end up being so character driven and heavy on feeling and growth and constant introspection. In that way I’m just writing what I know.
I wasn’t even entirely aware of this at first; I was so busy figuring myself out I didn’t notice how it was all coming out in my writing. It ended up being a source of validation and safety for me first and foremost. Sometimes I write things with the intent of conveying a specific point or feeling to the reader, but in most cases it’s just because that’s what happens to fit that character. Whatever and whoever my characters may be, my goal is to be entirely confident and unapologetic about it. That’s how I aim to be as a person in all that I am, so that’s how I’d like my writing and my characters to be. There will be all sorts of struggles and conflict, but the validity—if not outright encouragement—of these characters, their identities, and their experiences, is paramount.
About the Author
Kay Solo is an author, editor, and photographer from Southern California, writing YA and NA fiction and fantasy. With a degree in communication, she spent several years working in politics and media, then turned to activism and volunteering at her local library. When she isn’t writing, she’s either practicing the violin or continuing her studies independently. Moon and Flame will be her ninth published book.
What an insightful and thoughtful interview, right? I loved having Kay visit us at the Pond – and between you and me, it’s been a long time coming! – and I’m so thrilled and excited for her and for Moon and Flame. (Don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!) A huge thank you to Kay for visiting us at the Pond!