Kirsten Imani Kasai: Ice Song
Here's how to enter this week's contest for a chance to win one of two autographed copies of Kirsten Imani Kasai's debut novel, Ice Song:
1. Leave a comment after the interview answering the following question: In honor of the new question posed to the authors about their protagonist's name, what is the best protagonist name that you've created (if you're a writer) or simply your favorite name, first and last (if you're a reader)? (To see my answer, check out my June 8th blog post at rebeccachastain.blogspot.com.)
2. Become a follower of the blog and let me know in the comments after the interview. If you're already a follower, just remind me in the comments.
3. Post about NON on your own blog and send me the link (in the comments).
4. Tweet about this interview and contest and send me the link (in the comments).
**Each method gains you one entry into the contest, for a total of four chances to win. With all comments, be sure to leave me an email address at which I can contact you. Go ahead and make it spammer-proof (ex: numberonenovels [at] gmail.com). You can combine all ways you've entered into one comment and still be entered multiple times. The winner will be selected randomly and notified next Monday. This contest is open only in the US and Canada and ends at midnight on Sunday, June 14.
Title: Ice Song
Author: Kirsten Imani Kasai
Publisher: Del Rey
Trade Paperback: 372 pages
Number One Novels: Congratulations on the publication of your first book! Tell me a little about it—what's your pitch?
Kirsten Imani Kasai: It’s very much a “down the rabbit hole” fantasy/adventure, wherein a single event cracks the facade of a hidden world.
How far would you go to save the ones you love?
Sorykah Minuit has just two jobs aboard an ice-drilling submarine: meeting her quota and keeping her identity a secret. It’s no easy trick because when Sorykah’s frightened, she changes into a man—parts and all. Even worse, she suffers from a memory disorder that leaves her clueless about the activities of her other half.
When a wealthy madman abducts her children to use in his dreadful experiments, timid Sorykah and her male alter ego, Soryk, must cross icy wastes and a primeval forest to reclaim them and extract her revenge.
The world through which Soryk/ah travels is both familiar and surreal. Environmental degradation and genetic mutation run amok; humans have become distorted into animals, and animal bodies mask a wild humanity. But it is also a world of unexpected beauty and wonder, where kindness and love endure amidst the ruins.
NON: How did you get the idea for your novel?
KIK: Various elements combined to create this story. I’d had the opening scene in mind for several years but nothing more. A literature & mythology course reintroduced me to the Odyssey, which I’ve always liked tremendously but felt it was a very masculine tale. What would a woman’s odyssey be like? What would motivate a woman to undertake such a potentially catastrophic journey? Odysseus was motivated by glory, but I couldn’t imagine myself or any of the women I know sharing that motivation. I’d be willing to sacrifice almost anything, except my children and likewise, Sorykah will go to any length to find her stolen babies. Ice Song is the journey of an enraged woman who must overcome her own personal fears and anxieties to triumph over terrible obstacles.
As for the setting, I had been immersed in a book about the first Antarctic explorers and their encounters with the native Tierra del Fuegans. Somehow, this must’ve gotten tangled up with my long-held fantasy about dog-sledding across Swedish Lapland to stay at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.
NON: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. How did you get published? Did you use an agent? How did you find out that your book had sold?
KIK: I’d been writing for years, pounding on doors and accumulating rejection slips. I swung through cycles of bearing down and forging ahead, despite the grimness of being turned down so often, and despair over the elusiveness of success. I published a few short stories and poems. These were small carrots, but they still lured me on. It was a long hard slog! Often, I considered giving up, but storytelling is compulsory for me. I can’t shut it off. The noise level inside my head would drive me batty if I wasn’t able to write.
After Ice Song was finished, I researched agents and sent out a dozen or more queries. I got lucky with Helen Breitwieser. She had an excellent reputation and loved the book. The whole experience felt very fortuitous. Helen read the book while aboard a ship touring Scandinavia, which leant extra atmosphere. Our first real conversation took place on Halloween, my favorite holiday. I remember standing in the kitchen, watching my son get ready to go trick or treating while we talked. Later that night I saw a great horned owl, which I took as a good omen.
Getting an agent was the most astonishing, earth-shattering experience. I couldn’t sleep for about three weeks and actually became really ill. I’d bolt upright, having the craziest dreams. I was plunged into an intense surreality. When you struggle for so long toward a goal so many people proclaim unattainable, it is very profound to actually attain your desire.
The whole process was an excruciating waiting game. Helen submitted the book to several publishers who turned it down, despite liking it. Finally, Liz Scheier, at Del Rey, made an offer for Ice Song and the second book in the series.
This has been absolutely the best learning experience. I have developed a very vital and necessary detachment (and patience!), which has allowed me to become a more objective editor and better writer. It’s just been fantastic.
NON: I think that names say a lot about a person, especially a fictional person. How did you decide on your protagonist’s full name? Did you have any other names that were in the running?
KIK: I love names and have always had books and lists of interesting ones. I usually spend quite a bit of time researching and choosing character names. “Sorykah” was a name I invented based on a similar character’s name in a children’s movie. I wish I could remember what it was! I do recall shifting the letters around and toying with different sound combinations. I liked Sorykah because it made me think of a fire-breathing dragon, lots of oranges and reds, and a slumbering intensity. Her last name is Minuit, which is French for midnight, the witching hour. Don’t know what her middle name is, I suppose I could ask her!
NON: Do you have another book in the works?
KIK: Yes! I just finished Tattoo, which picks up right where Ice Song ends. Tattoo will be published in 2010. There’s a third and final book about Sorykah and her children called, Saudade, which is a Portuguese word/concept for a nostalgic longing for something or someone that is gone and cannot be recovered. I’m also working on three children’s books at the moment, a novel, and a life-planning workbook. There is a laundry list of book ideas stickied to my desk, patiently awaiting my attention.
NON: What's your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
KIK: I have a day job and two kids, so my writing time is fairly circumscribed. I have always been a night worker and find writing through quiet and darkness very conducive to fiction. However, I’ve had to adjust my schedule to write in the mornings and in blocks on the weekends. I dream of the day when I can write full-time. What a treat!
NON: Finally, if you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
KIK: Angela Carter, always. She dazzles me. I am a huge fan of Sarah Waters, as well. I tend to fall in love with books rather than authors; there are only a few writers whom I regularly follow.