Interview with Lyndall Clipstone, Author of Unholy Terrors

Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide, Australia, where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She is the author of Lakesedge and Forestfall.

I had the opportunity to interview Lyndall, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi! Thank you for having me. I’m Lyndall Clipstone, author of the World at the Lake’s Edge duology and the upcoming Unholy Terrors. I live in Adelaide, Australia, in a 100-year-old cottage with my partner, our sons, and a shy black cat. I love all things dark, arty, and spooky. When I’m not writing you can find me immersed in a video game or drinking a big cup of espresso coffee.

What can you tell us about your latest book, Unholy Terrors? What was the inspiration for this story?

Unholy Terrors is a standalone dark fantasy where Everline Blackthorn, a holy warrior unable to work the necromantic magic of her sect, must team up with the monstrous boy she’s sworn to kill, for the chance to discover what really happened to her traitorous mother seventeen years ago.

It’s my gothic fever dream with intense Sofia Coppola vibes; lush, lyrical, aesthetic, and intensely romantic. I was inspired by a range of things: Gideon the Ninth, particularly the delightfully prickly relationship between Gideon and Harrow, Lost Souls which is the OG goth, vampiric romance story written in delectable prose, and Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, particularly the scene where Rey and Kylo Ren set aside their differences to fight side by side.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically speculative fiction?

I’ve always loved to write, and storytelling is an enormous part of how I make sense of my emotions. Especially as a young adult, a time in my life where I felt quite adrift, immersing myself into books and writing provided so much solace. I love the endlessness of possibilities with speculative fiction, and how I can use things like magic, or monsters, or body horror as a lens through which to examine the real world.

How would you describe your writing process?

A mixture of organization and chaos, which is how I approach life in general, haha. I’ll start with plenty of vibes: playlists and moodboards and reading lists form a huge part of my early brainstorming. I like to have a loose outline before I start writing, and aim to visualize at least three key moments of the book very clearly. But as I draft, I will change things based on how I feel; new ideas always come up as I write and I let instinct guide the direction of the story.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

The works of Australian YA authors Margot Lanagan and Sonya Hartnett were immensely influential to me, particularly Tender Morsels and The Devil Latch. And Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls was the book of my teenage heart.

As an adult, two books which will always be special to me are The Secret History by Donna Tartt and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I will reread them each at least once a year, and I have a collection of different editions which I treasure.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

I’m very visually inspired. I love cinema – some of my favorite directors are Sofia Coppola, David Lynch, Ari Aster, and Guillermo del Toro. I also love watching music videos – Florence + the Machine’s MVs are amazing.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

I love writing romance scenes, or big moments of emotional introspection. Anything character focused. I adore the lyricism of prose, too, so any scenes where I can create an evocative atmosphere with descriptions are always very enjoyable.

The most challenging part of writing for me is the emotional self-care side of author life. Letting the story go, knowing it belongs to the readers, and coming to terms with the fact that it’s impossible to make anything I write “perfect” because there’s no such thing.

Many authors would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this?

I wish there was a magic answer for how to finish a book but I think it’s just persistence. There is so little we can control in publishing, but we do control the writing. Showing up and putting down the words is one of the few things completely in our hands.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I’m an illustrator and drew all of the artwork that appears inside of Lakesedge, Forestfall, and Unholy Terrors.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

Which monster first made me want to write about monster romances. It was Hannibal Lecter. I’m completely obsessed with Thomas Harris’ novels and the 1991 Silence of the Lambs film particularly, but the tv show and the Hannigram ship also have rights.

What advice might you have to give for other aspiring writers?

I’ve always tried to treat writing like a job, even before I was published or agented, and set aside dedicated work hours to spend writing. Give yourself permission to value yourself as an author, regardless of what stage of career you are in. You deserve to carve out time for creativity.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

Next year, I have my first ever short story, Cryptophasia, publishing in Neon Hemlock’s Crawling Moon anthology. It’s a dark academia homage to Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and is my first published adult work. And I may or may not have a few more book-shaped secrets which I hope to share soon!

Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

I’ll never stop raving about With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte, which is a dark contemporary fantasy written in delicious prose and featuring the messiest, most chaotic bisexual love triangle ever.

Interview with Author Kylie Lee Baker

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her work is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, & Irish) as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a BA in creative writing and Spanish from Emory University and is pursuing a master of library and information science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she plays the cello, watches horror movies, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

I had the opportunity to interview Kylie, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks so much! I’m an author, archivist, and former librarian from Boston, so I deal with books in all the stages of their life cycles. I write dark, eerie fantasy, often inspired by my own heritage. I love watching horror movies, doing escape rooms, and baking more cookies than one human can possibly eat before they go stale. 

What can you tell us about your debut series, The Keeper of Night duology? What inspired it?

The Keeper of Night duology is about the journey of a half British Grim Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami girl who is kicked out of her home in Victorian England and flees to the Japanese underworld with her younger brother, where she makes a dangerous deal with the Japanese goddess of death in exchange for acceptance. 

It was inspired by a dark Victorian English shows like Penny Dreadful and Black Butler, as well as a desire to explore my own heritage through mythology after reading a Vietnamese mythology-inspired fantasy called Girl Giant and the Monkey King by Van Hoang. 

What drew you to writing, particularly young adult and speculative fiction? Were there any favorite writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I filled notebooks with stories as a kid and was lucky enough to have parents and teachers who encouraged it. I always loved speculative fiction because I was captivated by the expansive magical worlds of anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and books like Artemis Fowl as a child and hoped to recreate that feeling of I need to keep reading! that they made me feel in my own work. I actually fell into young adult fiction by coincidence—I started writing my first novel when I was 18, so my characters were also 18. It wasn’t a conscious decision to put myself into a certain marketing category, but I developed an appreciation for it and a good knowledge of the genre after reading YA books my agent recommended. Authors like Melissa Albert, V.E. Schwab, and Neal Shusterman were formative for me when I first started seriously reading YA.

The Keeper of Night duology is said to feature a biracial protagonist, exploring themes of assumed monstrosity through marginalization. What does it mean to you as an writer writing this into your work, especially as a mixed-race author yourself?

It was important to me to offer a take on the “half-magical-creature/half-human” trope in fantasy that is grounded in reality—for people like me, being caught between two worlds isn’t just a fantasy trope. Readers are often willing to empathize with a character who’s white and half unicorn (for example) but not with one who’s half Asian. I wanted to bridge that gap by writing a character who’s two species and also two races in order to really dig into what life is like when you’re constantly told you don’t belong anywhere. 

How would you describe your writing process? What inspires you as a writer?

My writing process is constantly changing as the circumstances of my life change and as I grow more confident in my writing. These days, I like to write a chapter-by-chapter outline that I feel confident in, quickly write a zero draft where I’m allowed to write terribly, do several passes filling in the missing beats, and finally do a line edit once all the pieces are there. I find ideas everywhere I go—in the media I read and watch that makes me think “I love this but I would have done it slightly differently” or in the history I read about. Anything that moves me is inspiration. 

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What are some of the most challenging for you?

There’s a special moment when drafting every book when I think of the perfect way to resolve a thread, or a great plot twist that fits in perfectly with what I’ve already written, and think Yes, this is exactly what the story needs! That’s the best part of writing for me. The most challenging part of writing is probably when I know the story isn’t working but I can’t figure out why—it just feels wrong. Sometimes there’s truly something wrong with the story, and other times I’m just hungry. It’s hard to tell!

One of the hardest parts of writing a book is finishing one. Were there any techniques/ strategies/ advice that help you finish a first draft?

The willingness to write imperfectly as well as giving myself hard deadlines is helpful. I use a word count tracker so I can see a line on a graph going up as my word count increases, which is really motivating for me, personally. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

No one ever asks me to talk about the romance The Keeper of Night, and people tend to make a lot of (often incorrect) assumptions about my intentions in writing such a strange relationship. Without getting too spoiler-y, I’ll say that I love writing about how powerful yet destructive love can be. In this case, how you can think you love someone but really only love the idea of them, what they represent, what they can do for you, rather than respecting them as a complex person. 

Besides your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

This is just a different field of my work, but most people don’t know I work in archives and am incredibly nerdy about archival preservation. I love taking care of historical items and making them accessible to a broader audience than just academics. 

What advice might you give to other aspiring writers?

Consume lots of the books and media you love and try to put a finger on what about them moves you, then figure out how you can recreate that feeling in your own work.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

The first book of my next fantasy duology, THE SCARLET ALCHEMIST, is coming out in Fall 2023. It’s about an orphaned alchemist in an alternate Tang Dynasty China where alchemists have unlocked the secret to eternal life, but only the rich are allowed to buy it. A biracial self-taught alchemist girl has the power to raise the dead, which captures the attention of the royal family and forces her into their inner circle, which is a very dangerous place to be. 

Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

There’s so many! Recently I absolutely loved reading Deep in Providence by Riss M. Neilson, Only a Monster by Vanessa Len, and Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert. 

Header Photo Credit Greg Samborski

Interview with YA Author Kate Pentecost

Kate Pentecost is from the forest on the Texas/Louisiana border. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of Elysium Girls (2020,) and the forthcoming YA dark fantasy romance That Dark Infinity.

She loves tea and flowers and ghosts, and she is obsessed with the Romantic Poets. She lives in Houston with her dog, Stevie Nyx. 

I had the opportunity to interview Kate, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself and your upcoming book, That Dark Infinity?

Hi! Thank you for having me! I’m a writer and former teacher. I live in Houston, I have a dog named Stevie Nyx, and I love history, creepy stuff, coffee, and flowers. I identify as bisexual and genderqueer and use she/they pronouns. 

That Dark Infinity is a dark fantasy/slowburn romance that focuses on healing from both physical and emotional wounds. It follows the Ankou, a mercenary cursed with a cycle of death and resurrection, and Flora, a handmaiden from a destroyed nation who is her nation’s only known survivor. They both are looking for something that seems almost impossible to find. Flora is looking for the princess she loved and nearly died trying to protect, and the Ankou is searching for a way to finally die permanently. Together they travel to the fabled City of Fates where only one of them can receive their deepest, most impossible wish.

Where did the inspiration for The Dark Infinity come from? Did you draw on any outside sources for inspiration or influence? 

I actually wrote the first version of this book when I was twelve. At the time it was very light-hearted, set in Ireland, and had a Terry Pratchett sort of vibe. Then the book grew with me. When I experienced the deaths of my grandparents and, shortly after that, a sexual assault, the book grew darker. The Ankou got his curse, Flora shared my experience, and I learned to heal with the characters as I wrote it.

What inspired you to get into writing, especially YA fantasy? Were there any writers or books that made you think “I want to do this, too someday”?

I grew up in a family of teachers and was constantly surrounded by children’s books, and when my teachers encouraged me to write, it fell into place naturally. I preferred YA because I tend to write longer works with older protagonists, but I’d love to write middle grade too. My main inspiration when I was younger was Bruce Coville, who actually wrote to me and gave me advice when I was a young fan trying to be an author too. We’ve reconnected, and it’s really awesome that I can call him a peer now.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing?

When I think of writing I really enjoy it. I love writing that is very atmospheric and really gives you not only a sense of place and time, but a feeling of being immersed in the world. Atmosphere was incredibly important to me as I wrote That Dark Infinity. I wanted it to feel lush and dark and slightly sad. I always say I wanted it to feel like you were reading a Hozier song. I hope I accomplished it at least partially.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer website, could you talk a bit about the queer representation/themes we can see in the book?

Flora, like myself, is bisexual. Flora’s country, Kaer-Ise is a place where religion and virginity are important to their culture, but I wanted to create a place that had those elements but didn’t include homophobia. So a range of sexualities are very normal in Kaer-Ise. In the book, she loves the princess, her best (straight) friend. This also mirrors my own life, as I grew up understanding that my feelings for my childhood best friend were not straight feelings. Flora gradually falls in love with the Ankou, who is understanding of her bisexuality, as my cis-male partner is understanding of mine. 

What advice would you have for aspiring writers?

Do as much research as you can about the industry because most creative writing programs focus on craft and don’t include much about the business of publishing. Also, prepare to have a lucrative day job that you enjoy in addition to writing because the way advances are paid (even large ones) necessitate a side hustle at the very least. You’re not less of a writer if you can’t write full time. Most of us don’t!

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

Q) Why do most of your books feature inter-dimensional travel, an illness, someone mentally or physically decaying, and a mysterious female god who is present but never communicates? 

A) I don’t know, but I’m going to talk to my therapist about it because that’s weird. 


Q) What details or Easter Eggs did you include in That Dark Infinity?

A) References to Beowulf, the Gardens of Babylon, the Hoia Baciu forest, mellification of corpses, Breton folklore including the Ankou, the City of Ys, and the Bugul Noz, Nikola Tesla, particular poems by Edgar Allan Poe, the quests of Heracles, Mesopotamian gods, and, of course, the Bible.

In addition to being a writer, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

Soon I’m going to begin my Master’s in Thanatology, the study of death and grieving. I’ve always been drawn to death as a subject. This book and the things I processed during its writing have equipped me, I think, to be an effective grief counselor, and I want to explore that in the future.

Are there any other projects you are currently working on and at liberty to talk about?

Yes, but not that I can talk about yet! 

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/ authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Anything by A.R. Capetta and/or Cory McCarthy, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg