Hi Kathryn, thanks so much for agreeing to be featured on my blog! Can you give me a brief outline about the plot of The Lost Isle?
First off: I do have a cowriter, and although we work with two different (entwining) plotlines and two sets of MCs, it is the same overarching story. I’ll talk about diversity in both of our parts, but only my plotline!
The Lost Isle is a story about a few teenagers- Melissa, Annemarie, Julia, and Brandon being my primary MCs- who, while traveling to Denmark to begin their gap year, somehow make it to a fantasy world instead. Without immediate ability to return to their world, they are forced to assimilate and become involved with the conflict going on there. As the story progresses, they build relationships not only with each other but with the people of Iona and Lolinglas (the countries), and begin to wonder if they really want to go back to their world after all.
From your description, The Lost Isle sounds like a fantasy novel. Do you think that writing diversely in this genre is difficult? I know there’s been a lot of talk recently about basing fantastical cultures on real-life cultures, and how this might be considered a type of appropriation. I’d love to get your thoughts on all this.
I think that writing diverse fantasy can be difficult, true, but ultimately it can be so, so rewarding. To be honest, the Lost Isle didn’t begin as a diverse book- growing up, I was really only exposed to straight, white fantasy characters and that was how the first drafts began (I started writing it with my cowriter when we were maybe 10). As we’ve grown and changed alongside our people, we started looking at it on a deeper level and realizing that, no, they aren’t all white and straight. The characters were always developed before the cultures, appearance and personality alike. As a result, within each humanoid-group we have racial and cultural diversity. Just as we, the human race, have ethnic and racial diversity, each individual people group- nymph, elf, human- has that as well.
In your fancast on your blog, a lot of your characters are people of colour. Is writing characters of colour important to you? Why or why not?
Yes, definitely! Melissa’s always been half Venezuelan and Madalynn Korean, but it wasn’t until we sat down to talk about the characters’ diversity that everything else started slamming us in the face. We had pretty clear visions of what some of them looked like- Brandon, Anne, Melissa, and a few of Karis’s people- but there were a good many that we were stuck on. Pinterest- what we’d been using for character visualizing- has a crap ton of white models, and not so many mixed models or black models or really just non-white models in general. So we started narrowing our searches and found Nathan almost immediately (he’s biracial- black mom, white dad).
A quick word about characters and storylines, if you let me digress a bit: As crazy as it seems, I half believe that, in some parallel dimension, this story is happening and that Karis and I just get to be privy to it, in that sort of twisted awareness that dreaming is- you know, when you don’t realize something for a while, but it’s been there all along. I remember trying to introduce another character- Keir, his name was. After struggling through two or three scenes with him, I just sat back and realized that Keir had no part in Iona whatsoever- but if authors were truly the creators of the story, shouldn’t I be able to choose that? To introduce whoever I wanted? We had our rough mental images of characters, but Pinterest helps to put that… well, not really on paper. And when we searched for the general character reference, we only came up with white models, so OF COURSE we couldn’t find about half of them. Searching for black character reference, or Hispanic character reference, or Asian character reference, etc, gave us that remaining half.
TL:DR- Yes, because calling Melissa or Madalynn or Nathan or any of our other non-white characters white would be a huge lie. They aren’t white. They have never been white. They will never be white. To say anything else would not be true.
I love that you use the Myers-Brigg test to talk about your characters – I’d never thought about using it in that way! Do you find this really helpful? What other techniques do you use to plan your novel?
I do too! MBTI is a huge asset for character development- I can always fall back on the stereotypes or on the goldmine/tar pit that Pinterest (notice a pattern here? xD) and Tumblr are regarding it, and more than once have I been known to read through entire MBTI blogs in one sitting… #sorrynotsorry. I also like just imagining various situations for characters- expanding on already-written scenes, putting my people into our world and the situations I find myself in and thinking about how they’d react and what kind of situation it would translate to in Iona. I’ll go through littler writing prompts on (you’ll never guess where) Pinterest, and write random little drabble scenes or just tiny scenes in general. These can help get me in the writing mood and help me develop little facets in each character or the plot. Sometimes those little scenes end up as possibilities for the finished product, so that’s pretty cool!
In your character bios, you mention that Julia is bisexual. She has a steady girlfriend but also has a series of one-night stands. I’m really interested in this character – why did you choose this particular depiction of bisexuality?
Julia and Jaina actually began their relationship as a one-night stand, and they ended up getting to know each other pretty well. They both recognized that neither was particularly monogamous, and I don’t think either of them really cared. Julia tends to use sex and alcohol to escape her reality, but getting to know, not to mention being with Jaina really ended up being good for her. As the two grew closer and she (Jaina) began falling in love with Julia, Julia gained somewhat of a protector. Jaina didn’t drink so much after her shift ended, opting instead to watch Julia and make sure that she’s okay. I don’t think Julia ever truly returned Jaina’s feelings- not saying that she didn’t like her, she just wasn’t in love- but once the story begins and things begin to happen, she thinks about her a lot. Just because Jaina wasn’t in Iona doesn’t mean that she’s absent from Julia’s story.
I don’t think that Julia’s bisexuality had anything to do with her reckless behavior. She definitely exhibits symptoms of cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar), and the cycles follow a pretty seasonal pattern. She’s not great at making decisions, but when it comes to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, she goes ALL out. If there is one certainty in her life, it is that she will champion that cause.
Finally, how are you enjoying writing The Lost Isle? I’m not a writer myself, so I can’t even imagine how much dedication it must take!
I love it! The Lost Isle was my first major writing project and has continued to be my main one, and it’s crazy to look back and see how far Karis and I have come. I don’t even know how many years it has been, but it’s been a looooong time and it’s grown so much since its inception. Occasionally I’ll find random papers from that beginning and it’s a combination I-want-to-burn-this-now and oh-how-cute-they-were moment, and that’s always… interesting. xD Regardless, I love working with my characters and the setting, and I’m excited to see where it goes!
Thank you so much for having me! It’s always so fun to answer questions like these and to really think critically about the story.