Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Kristina Pérez?
Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve had enough coffee yet to properly answer that question. Improper answer: half-Argentine, half-Norwegian native New Yorker. Literary agent, medievalist, and the author of fantasy and sci-fi novels.
Your new novel, Bright Raven Skies, will be published by Imprint in August. It’s the third novel in your Sweet Black Waves trilogy: how would you introduce the series to a potential reader? And what can fans of the first two books expect from the new one?
Pitched as Graceling meets The Mists of Avalon, the Sweet Black Waves trilogy is a Tristan and Iseult retelling that stars Branwen, Iseult’s lady’s maid and nascent sorceress. Fans of the series know that you wouldn’t like Branwen when she’s angry, and let’s just say that she’s having a very hard time keeping her darker urges — and magic — under control.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
What seems like an Ice Age ago, I did my PhD in medieval literature and the Old French Tristan poems were some of the set texts I was assigned to teach undergraduates. I was immediately intrigued by the character of Branwen (or Brangien — there are many iterations of her name) because it’s her fault that Tristan and Iseult drink the Loving Cup intended for Iseult and King Mark.
Without Branwen, there would be no epic star-crossed love but we don’t get to hear how she feels about it. Especially given the extremes she goes to throughout the legend to fix the mess she created, I wanted to tell her side of the story. Medieval literature and folklore of all kinds always find their way into my writing.
With three novels under your belt, what lessons have you learned — about writing, plotting, publishing — since your first novel?
I’ve become a much more ruthless executioner when it comes to killing my darlings. Whether it’s a plotline or a character, if it doesn’t advance the story then it’s getting the axe.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
Every summer when I was a kid, I was sent to Norwegian language camp in Minnesota where I learned all about the Norse pantheon. I was pretty much hooked from thereon out.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love using both the creative and business parts of my brain. They say you shouldn’t see how a sausage is made, but I actually enjoy all the facets involved in turning a manuscript into a book.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I’m an intense outliner. I don’t start a project unless I know how it will end. For the Sweet Black Waves trilogy, I knew exactly what the last scene of the third book would be before I started writing the first.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I was a journalist and academic long before I seriously considered writing a novel. I didn’t attempt anything novel-shaped until I was thirty and while I had fun with it, I’m glad it never saw the light of day. That may also be a hint about its subject matter.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I am extremely excited by the non-white and female fantasy writers making their mark on the genre at the moment. Kirkus Reviews called Bright Raven Skies “a feminist triumph” and I’ll take it!
As for new projects, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I am a recent historical romance convert and I just devoured The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham over the weekend.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
You don’t pull your punches, do you? I guess it would have to be Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Selected Essays — in particular “Self-Reliance.” I’ve had the same tattered paperback on my bookshelf since 1995.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to be a competitive figure skater.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Hopefully still being able to leave my house.