Blog tour: Little Black Bird

Welcome to the blog tour for Little Black Bird by Anna Kirchner! This is an exciting debut novel and I am super pleased that the author was available to take us behind the scenes…


Hi Anna! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of Little Black Bird! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you! Little Black Bird is a queer YA urban fantasy inspired by Slavic mythology. It’s a story of friendship, belonging, and magic, and it’s full of sorcerers and demons. It’s set in Poland, in the present times, when magic is nearly gone. We follow a seventeen-year-old telekinetic, Wiktoria, whose powers cause her physical pain and hurt people around her. One day, she is hunted down by the local sorcerers and their Guardian, who unravel a whole new magical world to her. They also treat her as a huge inconvenience and try to kill her. Wiktoria discovers that she is an important pawn in an old curse that a powerful demon put upon the city and she must decide whether she wants to break the curse or let it run its course before her powers kill her or the world is flooded with demons. But there are no simple answers, and the more she discovers, the more difficult the choice becomes. 

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: Definitely not, I’m the worst at plotting. I had very little clue what would happen in the beginning: the whole idea started with the Guardian of the City, a single person standing guard between our and the demons’ realms, the invisible protectors of humanity. I also knew about Wiktoria, that she’s telekinetic and that she shares a magical bond with Artur, and that the story would take place in my hometown. I let my characters take charge and I’m often surprised by the decisions they make and where the story takes me. Some of the most unexpected turns happened when I focused on the side characters and their motivations.

What attracted you to Slavic mythology and what kind of research did you have to carry out for this novel?

A: I don’t think that “attracted” is the right word. For me, Slavic is a vital part of my identity. I grew up surrounded by Slavic folktales and superstitions, however, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I really started researching it. It’s partially due to availability of sources – we have no primary sources about the pre-Christian times in the Slavic parts of Europe, so we rely mostly on word of mouth, folk memory, and comparative analysis. Until a few years ago, there was one, maybe two books about Slavic mythology in Polish. There are more texts in Russian but I don’t speak it. Only in the past couple of years a little boom for all things Slavic started in Poland – nowadays, there are more books as well as online spaces where people share and compare their knowledge, research, and try to bring back some of the old traditions. I think the vital thing to keep in mind – and what Little Black Bird characters repeat a lot – is that there is no universal “Slavic beliefs” or “Slavic mythology” – what people believed in, the demons, and gods, and rites varied from village to village and “Slavic lands” span half of Europe, so there is a lot of variety. I tried to stay as true as possible to regional folk memory, which might be not the same to what people near Warsaw believed in, not to mention somewhere in Czechia or Russia or Serbia. Also, mythology is not a fact – it’s stories that we tell each other and they change and evolve all the time and with every retelling. Little Black Bird borrows parts of mythology and it is rooted in the Polish folklore, but it’s also a piece of fiction of its own, telling its own tale. 

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Wiktoria?

A: I’m the worst because I never see characters clearly in my head – neither my characters nor someone else’s. But if Little Black Bird became a film, I’d love it to be played by Polish actors. A major thing I kept thinking about when I was writing LBB is that I just want everyone to finally acknowledge that Eastern Europeans are people like everyone else. So, the only way an adaptation could stay true to that if they used Polish actors.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: My favourite is one of the last scenes, when my two main characters, Wiktoria and Artur, are vulnerable with each other and discuss their feelings. For most of the book they try to figure out if they are attracted to one another or if they just want to be attracted to one another. They have a magical bond, a special connection that makes them and everyone else think that they are meant to be, but they are both very unsure of their sexuality and magic confuses them even more. This scene is a culmination of that and Wiktoria says a lot of things that I wish somebody told me when I was questioning myself. I think a lot of people on aro/ace spectrum would find it validating.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Oh yes, I have at least twice as much material as what made it into the final version. Some scenes found home in the sequel but most will never see daylight. A lot of it were high-stakes scenes that would have changed everything but they didn’t fit in the end. There are also more slices-of-life that slowed down the story too much.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: Yes, I’m currently working on the sequel to Little Black Bird. It picks up almost immediately after the cliffhanger ending and the stakes are so much higher. Wiki now knows everything and she needs to act. There will be consequences for the decisions the characters made in the first book and some past events that they thought were solved will come to haunt them. I can’t tell much without spoiling the first book, but there will be more magic, more demons, an old Slavic holiday, Artur and Wiki will be still trying to figure out how their relationship can work, and there will be an amazing star-crossed sapphic pairing to pine for and that I’m so excited for everyone to read.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: What am I not reading at the moment is a better question, I always read a lot at once. I’m reading an amazing sapphic contemporary, “Tell Me How You Really Feel” by Aminah Mae Safi, an ARC of “The Extraordinaries” by T. J. Klune, rereading one of my childhood favourites, “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke, and listening to an audiobook of a Polish fantasy book, “Płacz” by Marta Kisiel. I’ve started some seven more books but these are my four main reads.


Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I’ve been a bookstagrammer for three years and my bookstagram (@rattletheshelves) is still my primary platform for interacting with the bookish community. I don’t think it’s a disruption, it’s rather a motivation, having so many people cheer on me and forcing me to get offline and write. I’m lucky to be surrounded by both a-spec and Slavic community on Instagram, so if I have any questions or want to run some ideas by someone, there are always people to turn to. It’s an amazing community and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. Also, since I’m publishing with a very small and new publisher, it’s my main marketing platform, a way of spreading the word about the book. I’m infinitely grateful for it.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Reading and writing are equally important. Read and read a lot, and read diversely, and read some more. Read everything and reread your favourites, and take notes. But writers write and there is no going around it. That’s the very definition of being a writer. I still haven’t found a right demon to bribe so that my ideas would pour from my mind to the page so, until then, sitting down and starting and then going on until the end is unfortunately necessary.

Thank you for your time!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

“Italy in books” - reading challenge 2011

Blog tour: Babushka

In conversation with... Holly Seddon (#3)