Monday, March 7, 2016

Interview with Gillian Murray Kendall, author of The Book of Forbidden Wisdom


Inside the Book:

Title: The Book of Forbidden Wisdom 
Author: Gillian Murray Kendall 
Release Date: March 8, 2016 
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy 
Format: Ebook/Paperback

In a world of blood and betrayal, love is the only redemption…

But that knowledge can only be reached by means of magic and a journey, by way of a confrontation with feelings that are hard to understand—or bear.

On Angel’s sixteenth birthday, her younger sister, Silky, wakes her to prepare her for a marriage to Leth, a man she likes but does not love. Trey, her oldest childhood friend who is secretly in love with her, watches helplessly.

But Angel’s brother, Kalo, interrupts the wedding ceremony. He wants her dowry, and he also believes Angel can lead him to The Book of Forbidden Wisdom. In a world where land is everything, this book promises him wealth. In the night, Kalo goes to Angel’s room to threaten her, but Trey has rescued both Angel and Silky, and the three of them—joined by an itinerant singer—themselves seek The Book of Forbidden Wisdom. While Kalo believes the book contains land deeds, they believe it harbors great power.

Always just a step ahead of Kalo, Angel, Silky, Trey, and the Bard finally arrive at the place of The Book. But things have changed now: Angel knows her own heart at last. Confronted by evil, at the end of the known world, Angel and her companions turn and fight. Together. And in so doing, they find that love contains a power of its own.

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What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

I know how to back up a horse trailer.  That aside, The Book of Forbidden Wisdom fulfills my childhood wish to write a book others might want to read.  And, sure, along with backing up the horse trailer, I’m really proud of that.  But when it comes right down to it, and I sort through accomplishments, I have to set aside things like competing in horse shows or fishing in Africa or writing about Shakespeare or teaching exciting classes.   When it comes right down to it, I point and say “That’s my husband, Rob Dorit.  Those are my sons, Gabriel Dorit-Kendall and Sasha Dorit-Kendall.”  I’m most proud of being a contributing member to this enterprise called family.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My father, Paul Murray Kendall, was a biographer (he wrote Richard III), and my mother, Carol Kendall, was a writer of children’s books (The Gammage Cup was a Newbery Honor Book).  My father sometimes wandered into breakfast with a poem he had composed in his head while brushing his teeth.  And there were books everywhere in the house—on chairs, in orange crates.  I was taught early on about the power of language, and I try and respect and channel that power whenever I write.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote my first story (that I remember) for an assignment in grade school.  It involved enormous Martians and was short on plot, characterization, description and dialogue.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I loved reading.  I read at the dinner table, to the chagrin of my parents.  I read, with a flashlight, under the covers.  I could not put books down.  I ignored the world around me.  As I read, my pet parakeet, wanting attention, would hop around and peck holes in the margins of my books.  I wanted to do to someone else what these authors were doing to me.

When did you first know you could be a writer? 

I knew, really knew, that I could be a writer when, in college, Robert Stone (who was teaching my creative writing class) called me into his office to talk about my short story.  “If you can write an ending like this,” he said.  “You can be a writer.”

What inspires you to write and why?

I’m inspired to write every time I’m moved by something I’ve read.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I like writing fantasy—where the action is set in a time and place different from our own.  In some ways, The Book of Forbidden Wisdom is a rather quiet fantasy—no sorcerers or wizards or dragons or cell phones.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Time.  I had a little extra time one summer.  Four years later, The Garden of Darkness (Ravenstone 2015) was published.  The Book of Forbidden Wisdom took a lot less time—I learned a tremendous amount about writing from my first book.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

What I was reading had at least a short-term effect on my prose style; Shakespeare, however, tends to stick.  Reading Shakespeare made me put my characters into some desperate situations.  Watching action movies helped me get them out.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

The blank page challenges.  I believe Douglas Adams said that “Writing is easy.  You just stare at the blank page until your forehead begins to bleed.”

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

Don’t be afraid to take a chance with your writing.  And when you’ve taken that chance, don’t be afraid to edit it out if it doesn’t work.

Do you intend to make writing a career?

I’m an English Professor at Smith College, where I teach Shakespeare, Renaissance Drama, the post-apocalyptic novel and Worldbuilding (creative writing).  I like to think of my writing as part of that career, not something discrete.  And, yes, I plan to keep on writing, just as I plan to keep on teaching Shakespeare.

Have you developed a specific writing style?

Oh, yes.  I like to think my style is clear and pared down—not cluttered with handfuls of adverbs and adjectives.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? 

I persevere.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I have a pretty good sense of humor—even when the joke’s on me.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

I need to slow down and smell some roses.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay, there lies no plenty,
Then come and kiss me sweet and twenty;
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
Twelfth Night
William Shakespeare

This is one of the most brilliant carpe diem poems EVER, and I think we should all, at least once in a while, seize the day.

Meet the Author:

When Gillian Murray Kendall was a child, she spent multiple years in England while her father researched his biography of Richard III and her mother wrote children’s books. She thrived. She had stumbled into a wardrobe, and her enchanted world was England. That sense of belonging-in-the-strange shaped both Gillian’s life and her writing. In the 1980s, the months and months she spent in Africa waiting in lines for kerosene and milk and rice or camping while being circled by annoyed lions was a new normal, while Gillian found the once-familiar Harvard, with its well-stocked grocery stores, alien and unknown. She saw things in a way she could not before. Recently Gillian spent two years in Paris, where learning a new culture, a new strangeness, resulted in the writing of her first book, The Garden of Darkness, and the beginning of The Book of Forbidden Wisdom. She heartily recommends being knocked off one’s feet by the world. Gillian teaches English literature, primarily Shakespeare, at Smith College and is married to biologist Robert Dorit. She has two sons, Sasha and Gabriel.

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