Check out this exclusive Q&A with fantasy author Kaylie Smith as she answers our questions about her new book A Ruinous Fate which released on 1/3!
What is A Ruinous Fate about?
A Ruinous Fate is about a witch named Calla, whose fate is tied to magical dice. After she is betrayed by her ex-boyfriend, she and her friends must venture into a deadly enchanted forest in order to find a magical being that can reset her fate. The only catch is that it’s her ex-boyfriend’s older brother that must lead them into the demonic woods.
Okay, but what is it really about?
A bunch of chaotic, bisexual witches who have absolutely zero idea what they’re doing. Also, self-acceptance of your true identity and choosing your ownpath in life.
Why did you want to tell this story and with these characters?
Growing up, I always had a strong sense of who I was internally but found that other people were constantly trying to fit me into a mold or impose a life path on me that they insisted was “correct,” and I was incredibly unsettled by that. Fantasy has always been my escape, and this story encompasses so many things I love from an entertainment standpoint. But when you dig a little deeper, it’s a very personal journey through my own growth coming into my identity. Finding books with bisexual representation was very rare when I was young, and finding representation that spanned the vast spectrum of my own experiences was nearly impossible, so I knew I wanted to create a world in which anyone’s perspective and identity was warmly welcomed. Calla as a character is so dear to me; not only because she’s bi and plus-sized, but because she has this incredible power that she’s afraid to access in fear of what others will think of her. Watching her become more and more comfortable in her own skin and flourish throughout this book—and the rest of this series—has been so healing for me.
You’ve created such a complex and unique magical world in Illustros. Calla is an especially powerful being called a Siphon. What does this mean and how did you come up with this?
In the world of A Ruinous Fate, a Siphon is a magical being who has been cursed with the ability to drain, or siphon, magic from anyone they come in direct contact with. I came up with the idea when someone once told me I had a draining personality—I was too loud, too annoying, too eclectic—and for a long time I tried to be the opposite of all those things. I never quite managed it, though, *laughs* and it’s because I just am who I am! I can’t help it! I always ended up slipping back into my true personality, and that kind of became the foundation of building out Calla’s abilities in this book. No matter how hard she tries to shut off her innate magical abilities, she always slips up. She wants to exclusively be a witch, not a Siphon, because her witch half is the part of her that’s more universally accepted. There’s definitely a metaphor for bisexuality in there, and how people always tried to insist to me being bi means I’m “half-gay” and “half-straight,” so if I just focus on the straight half of me, I’ll be okay and accepted. The fact is—that isn’t at all how things work. I, and Calla, are already whole, complete people—there are no halves to us. You either accept everything we have to offer or you’re not meant to be in our lives. It was a hard lesson for me to learn for a very long time, but I’ve never felt more confident with who I am than I do now.
Readers have already started the great ARF Ship Wars . . . so are you #TeamEzra or #TeamGideon?
I am team me and Delphine sitting on a beach eating sticky buns (apologies to Hannah). No, but as much of a cop-out answer as it is, I am team whoever is best for Calla. Sometimes that’s different people at different times! I adore Ezra and Gideon each—for very different reasons—and I am always heavily entertained by both sides of the Ship Wars and their dedication to their teams!
How did you handle writing such a large and unique ensemble cast?
So. Many. Character sheets. I love ensemble casts and always knew this series would have one, but I also was so meticulous about everyone feeling very individualized and like their own, unique person. Which is why some of them clash so much—in the best way. When I write ensembles, I really build out the characters before I build out the plot to find what connects all their stories. I wrote out every single detail and personality trait for each character, all the way down to their big three astrological signs. Even if those details never get used in the books it really helps me visualize them as a whole person. I find it made navigating the ins and outs of their relationship dynamics so much easier as well!
Which character was the easiest to write and which character was the hardest?
Delphine was hands-down the easiest to write. Her humor and attitude came so naturally to me, and she was always the loudest voice in my head when I wrote something she didn’t like *laughs*. I would say Ezra was uniquely difficult because his emotions are so volatile and he has so much to unpack from his childhood, but I also wanted to really get across his motivations and decisions without making him too unlikable to the reader. It was quite the balancing act.
There are some amazing magical powers and items that appear in A Ruinous Fate. If you could only choose one to have in real life, which would it be?
I can say with full confidence that I wouldn’t choose Witch’s Dice *laughs*. I’ve lost enough board games to know letting a random dice roll choose my fate would be disastrous, BUT I would absolutely sell my soul for Gideon’s magic compass to help me find the things I want most in the world.
Can you tease anything for book two and beyond?
In book two we get to see even more of the magical world outside of the Neverending Forest, which I’m so excited for, and the complexity of the characters’ relationships becomes much more entangled in the best way. . .. I get butterflies just thinking about how excited I am to share the rest of this series with everyone!
What are some books you recommend?
My go-to magical witchy books are always: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury, and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas!