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I’m Kat, an author from North Wales, and I write young adult thrillers/horror. My latest is Wicked Little Deeds/Burden Falls, and it tells the story of Ava, who gets tangled up in a series of gruesome murders in her small town where superstitions about witchcraft and vengeful ghosts are rife. You can find out more about my books and where to buy them here.

If you missed last month's newsletter, you can catch up here.

Pictured: Me, at my desk, with one of my cats curled up in a drawer (as per usual).
First of all, congratulations to the winner of last month’s giveaway – that was Riven from South Africa, who won a signed & dedicated copy of Blackfin Sky (US edition).
What’s coming for you…
In this newsletter, you will find:
  • my latest news, events and adventures 
  • an interview with Holly Race, author of the Midnight's Twins trilogy
  • what’s on my radar: books, TV, movies, music
Latest news, events & adventures
This month’s writing news is that I finally finished revising a manuscript I’ve been working on for several months (HOORAY!) so now that’s off my desk, I’ll be turning back to the other two projects I have a few chapters of: a YA fantasy, and another YA horror. That should keep me busy for the summer and beyond.
But in celebration of my semi-freedom, I visited Manchester this month for the first time since the Before (Covid) Times. While I was there, I met up with a wonderful author friend visiting from the US – Kate Brauning, author of The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell (and yes, I absolutely demanded she sign my copy of her book). I also popped into the Arndale Centre to sign copies of Harrow Lake and Wicked Little Deeds in the Waterstones there. If you’re a Manchester local and want a signed copy of my books, that’s the place to go.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Chelley Toy’s Tales Point Horror Book Club, which has a chat every month about a different Point Horror book from the 90s, plus a separate chat about a tie-in movie. This month’s book was The Train by Diane Hoh (a great read if you’re feeling like some nostalgic horror!) and I was invited to be the guest for the accompanying movie chat for Terror Train, starring Jamie Lee Curtis. The film was new to me, and absolutely bonkers! Here’s the chat in case you’d like to check that out.

In other adventures, I peeled myself away from my desk this month to go and visit a 3500-year-old copper mine, which was amazing.
I also took a trip to Plas Newydd on Anglesey, where I had an enormous scone.
Interview with Holly Race

Having just finished a sneaky early read of A Midnight Dark and Golden, I'm absolutely delighted to be sharing an interview with the author of this amazing urban fantasy trilogy!

Holly is now a full-time writer, but she used to work in TV and film script development, for companies like Red Planet Pictures, Aardman Animations and Working Title. She is a Faber Academy graduate. Midnight's Twins was published in 2020, followed by the sequel, A Gathering Midnight, in 2021. The final book in the trilogy, A Midnight Dark and Golden, comes out this month. 

Holly lives in Cambridge with her husband and daughter. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, trying not to kill plants, and travelling to far off places at short notice. You can follow Holly on Twitter @EcarYlloh and Instagram @Holly_Race and find out more about Holly and her books on her website.

If you’re new to Midnight’s Twins, check out the description for the first in the trilogy here, and book 2 here.

Now for book 3…

In a darkening city of dreams, can the light return?

For Londoner Fern King, Annwn is her second home - the dream mirror of London, the city she loves. An astonishing world, a world where Dreamers walk in their slumber, their dreams playing out all around them. And Fern, along with her twin brother Ollie, is a Knight, a trusted guardian and protector of those Dreamers - and every night is spent in Annwn, fulfilling that previously only-imagined destiny to guard those who sleep.

But Fern is struggling since the loss of her extraordinary powers - and her nemesis Medraut, who seeks to control and to ruin Annwn is gaining ever more control. Annwn is a dangerous place to be for the Knights, with Dreamers recruited to be Medraut's personal army, the Knights' stronghold Tintagel starting to crumble and the last of the Fay slowly being lost. Fern, and the Knights', only hope is to retrieve Excalibur, and find the Grail - but will Fern find herself equal to this, and can she save the world she loves and see hope, imagination and wonder restored to Annwn?

You can preorder your copy here

Kat: WOW, what a brilliant way to end the trilogy! How does it feel to have completed Fern and Ollie’s epic journey? What were the best & worst moments for you to write?
Holly: Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Because I’m in the throes of publicity in the run up to the launch of A Midnight Dark and Golden, I don’t think it’s properly sunk in yet that it’s done. I’ve been writing the trilogy for just over a decade now – more than a quarter of my life – so that’s a big chapter to bring to a close. On publication day I’ve very deliberately arranged to be quite solitary because I suspect I’m going to burst into tears a LOT.

The best moments to write have been a mixture of the ones I’ve been imagining for years and gagging to get to, and the ones that have taken me by surprise. I always plan my books because there are quite a lot of plates to spin in each one and I have a tendency to tie myself in knots unless I have a road map, but some of what I consider my best scenes came from being ‘in the flow’ and suddenly realising that there’s a more exciting direction to take the story. In Midnight’s Twins, that moment happened in the first couple of chapters, when I realised it would be much more interesting to have my protagonist’s twin brother Ollie be the one who is invited into Annwn, the world of dreams, rather than both him and Fern. It gave Fern more to fight against as she attempts to wrangle her way into the knights, and more baggage for her to carry as she has huge imposter syndrome. Of course, that was a massive change to make early on, with ramifications for character arcs and plot across the whole trilogy, so I had to go back to the planning board almost immediately, but it was worth it!

In A Midnight Dark and Golden, I had a similar moment about a third of the way in, where I saw an opportunity to bring back a character from an earlier book in an unexpected way. When I thought of it I said, ‘Aha!’ out loud, and made my husband jump.

For the worst part… am I allowed to say the entirety of A Gathering Midnight, the middle book in the trilogy? I procrastinated over writing it because I thought I had ages, and then the first lockdown hit and I had three months to deliver a passable first draft, while looking after a two-year-old full time, while also trying to promote Midnight’s Twins and hold down my other job. Funnily enough, with hindsight I reckon having that sense of urgency and doom probably helped the pacing and tone of the second book, but I’ll never do it again (I hope!)  – I was ruthlessly regimented about sticking to my daily word count for A Midnight Dark and Golden.
Kat: At its heart, the trilogy focuses on a fraught sibling relationship which at the start of Midnight’s Twins seems like it will be impossible to repair. Did you always know how you wanted Fern and Ollie’s dynamic to change as their story played out?
Holly: Yes, I always knew that they would start as enemies, and that what they went through during the course of the books would change their relationship. I didn’t know how the more complicated dynamics between them would play out though. One of the subtler, richer delights of writing the series lay in exploring all of the complicated psychological shifts they go through as they mature and grow in empathy, and as they come to terms with the damage caused by some of their parents’ mistakes too.

While there’s romance for both twins in books two and three, the trilogy has always at its heart been a platonic love story. There’s a particular phrase that Fern and Ollie haven’t said to each other at all in the series, and I always knew that I wanted them to finally be able to say it to each other right at the end. As an only child who was always fascinated by the dynamics of my friends and their siblings, I hope I’ve done justice to the complicated ways in which Fern and Ollie can infuriate and hate and love each other all at the same time.
Kat: One of my favourite things about the series is the host of fantastical creatures we get to meet in Annwn. What was your favourite? And how did you come up with the terrifying sluaghs we see in A Midnight Dark and Golden?

Holly: Me too! I love the idea of unicorns grazing alongside the deer in Richmond Park, or being able to spot sea monsters in the Thames. All of the creatures I made up, though, were created around the idea of dreams as tools of manipulation or therapy, and the danger to our souls when we are deprived of imagination.

I have two favourite creatures: the treitres, who are humans in the waking world who have undergone a process that deprives them of fear and empathy, so that they become deadly assassins in the dreamworld of Annwn. They were born of my childhood love of the xenomorphs in the Alien films (I watched those films far too young!). My other favourites are the morrigans, who are batlike creatures that have the ability to suck out our memories. They can be forces for good or bad, depending on how you use them – the more I wrote about them, the more fond I became of the little things.

The sluaghs are the main ‘monster’ of A Midnight Dark and Golden. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers on what exactly they are, but they’re very much a progression of the key monsters in the other two books. In the series, Fern and Ollie discover that our nightmares can kill us in the waking world, but they come to understand that humans can be more dangerous than any nightmare…
Kat: The series has a strong political thread, with messages that feel really relevant at the moment. Was that always something you planned to weave in with the fantasy elements?
Holly: Not always – when I first had the idea of writing a story set between the ‘real’ world and a dream world, the story was entirely without politics… and it really didn’t work. I worked in television development (both as a script editor and as an executive, which means that I came up with ideas and helped to pitch them to broadcasters) for years before I became a writer. In TV we always ask, ‘Why now? What about this series is relevant to our society today?’ You don’t need to answer that question when you’re writing a book, but perhaps my TV brain wouldn’t let this idea click until I’d answered that question for myself.

The bulk of Midnight’s Twins was written in 2016 and 2017, around the Brexit vote and the start of the personality politics that led us to Trump and Johnson gaining power. For me, there was something incredibly frightening about the way in which some of these politicians stoked fear and division in order to seize control, and simultaneously the way in which they and their followers refused to admit that they ever made mistakes or might be flawed at all. From there it seemed like a small step to exploring how a charismatic politician might use people’s dreams – and nightmares – against them.
Kat: What’s next for you? 
Holly: The big date on my horizon is YALC in July, where I’ll be on a panel with fellow fantasy authors Ann Sei Lin, and Katharine and Elizabeth Corr, and also leading a workshop. It will be brilliant to get to meet so many readers and authors who I’ve only known online until now! Other than publicity for A Midnight Dark and Golden, I’m currently writing a few television scripts and also two new YA ideas – one a feminist fantasy series, the other urban fantasy meets dark academia.

On my radar
Books – I've read some excellent books this month. I just finished The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu - a wonderful South Asian-inspired fantasy about a girl who steals a hot air balloon to escape an arranged marriage and becomes embroiled in an uprising (look out for an interview with Aneesa in my next newsletter!). I also read early copies of two books which come out in October, both of which have great Halloween-ish vibes: Big Bad Me by Aislinn O’Loughlin, which is a story about two sisters, one of whom *might* be a werewolf; and Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot, which is about a boy who can speak with ghosts and realises some of York’s most famous spirits are disappearing. Both are really fun reads, and perfect to add to your TBR for spooky season.

I’m about to start Mina and the Slayers by Amy McCaw, sequel to Mina and the Undead. I am absolutely thrilled to have an early proof of this one as I've been dying to read it ever since I devoured the first book last year. 
Coming up, I’m looking forward to Ann Sei Lin’s Rebel Skies, which was this month’s Paper Orange book box pick, and am sooo excited to have a proof of Daughter of Darkness by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr to read early before its August release.
TV & Movies – I’ve been bingeing some brilliant comedy series lately, including season 3 of Derry Girls and (very late to the game) We Are Lady Parts. Both are hilarious, and while I’m sad there won’t be any more Derry Girls, I can’t wait for more Lady Parts. Movie-wise, I watched Piranha with extremely low expectations, so was delighted to find it was a really good creature horror (though I was side-eyeing some of the looooong nude scenes.) The absolute carnage that filled this movie was provided by these delightful little fellas. 

Music – As well as watching We Are Lady Parts, I can’t stop listening to their songs on YouTube. My fave has to be Bashir with the Good Beard. I've also found a new earworm in Chappell Roan's My Kink is Karma
In next month’s newsletter look out for an interview with Aneesa Marufu, author of The Balloon Thief, as well as lots more bookish news. 

'Til then… hope you enjoy the bank holiday.
Kat x
Copyright © 2022 Kat Ellis, All rights reserved.

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