I am excited to announce that today I have a special guest interview with the fantastic Kate Wiseman who is going to tell us a little about her latest novel, Icarus and Velvet.
Kate enjoys fantasy and dystopian fiction. She lists Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games series and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, among her all-time favourite novels. Icarus and Velvet is her first venture into writing fantasy. She is addicted to ghost stories and cites M R James high among the list of writers who have influenced her.
Thank you Kate for agreeing to be a special guest on my blog today. It is a great honour to have you here. Let’s glide straight into the interview.
Q & A with Kate Wiseman
Tell us a little about your novel, Icarus and Velvet.
Hi Anita, Icarus and Velvet is a new departure for me – a YA dystopian fantasy. It’s set in the future, many years after a catastrophe that changed the world forever. Much of the earth is now poisoned and the remains of humanity have split into two disparate groups and retreated to the extremities of the land.
Icarus’ people, the Avians or angels, have fled to cliffs near the sea, and mountains. They learned to build wings and fly. Velvet’s people, the Subterraneans or moles, have built huge underground cities, topped by glass domes in which they are able to grow food. The domes also protect them from the terrifying creatures that roam the Wilderness beyond them.
Their people are mortal enemies, but Icarus and Velvet are pushed together by fate and have to learn to trust each other in order to save both of their communities.
What inspired you to write a YA dystopian fantasy?
It was a conversation with Elaine, the Managing Director at ZunTold publishers. We were batting ideas around and I told her I’d be interested in writing a fantasy loosely based on Romeo and Juliet. She gave me the go ahead and then I had to start from scratch. I really enjoy fantasy and love The Hunger Games books, and Icarus and Velvet developed into an amalgam of both.
What comes first for you the plot or the characters?
In this case it was the plot, or at least some of its major events.The idea of the Subterranean community came next. I could really imagine what it would be like to live underground, in a busy city. Velvet developed more quickly than Icarus, which kind of suits their characters. Velvet is a lot more pushy than Icarus.
How did you select the names of your characters?
Icarus’ society is based on that of ancient Greece. I chose the name Icarus, from the Greek myth, because it carries with it connotations that would be especially challenging to a society that relies on flight for its very existence. Icarus has a special future mapped out for him, a future that he finds daunting, and his name seemed to be an additional layer of challenge.
In Velvet’s patriarchal society, women are traditionally named after fabric types. It reminds them of their place as home makers. But Velvet has a touch of luxury and sensuality to it, which marks her out as a little different. She refuses to conform.
Their names also echo those of Romeo and Juliet, which was a deliberate choice.
Explain the two distinctively different environments of the ‘Avians’ and the ‘moles’ and how they were created.
The Clifflands, home of the Avians, is a place of freedom and learning. They make their homes, which are full of colour and light, on the edge of cliffs overlooking the sea. Although beautiful, their environment is barren, which makes finding food difficult. That causes enormous conflict with the Subterraneans. The Clifflands are bordered by the Glassfields, home to terrifying creatures called Shades who play an important part in the story.
The domed city where Velvet lives is called Newtopia, an ironic name because it is a joyless, patriarchal society. The underground city is built in tiers, with the most influential citizens living on the top layer, nearest to the surface. The further from the surface you are, the more insignificant. The subs or moles keep slaves who are forced to live on level 4. They long for daylight. The vast domes that top the cities are given over to agriculture on land that the moles have reclaimed. Many moles never leave their dome: the wilderness beyond is a terrifying death trap.
Which part of the book did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoyed creating the disparate societies and working out what was needed to make them viable: things like the scented air purifiers, that are constantly whirring in the background inside the city of Newtopia.
The other thing I really enjoyed was writing the chapters of legends and teachings from both societies. These form the backbone to their ways of life, and also tell us more about how both communities developed.
What writing advice would you give to people aspiring to write a dystopian fantasy?
All I can say is don’t be too overwhelmed by the influential books that have been written before. Follow your own vision. Flesh it out, and trust in it.
Thank you Kate for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog today. Your book sounds brilliant and very intriguing.
To find out more about Kate Wiseman and her books take a look at her website: Katewiseman.uk. You can also follow her on her social media sites: Twitter: @KateWiseman, Instagram: kittywise999, FB: Kate Wiseman and on TIkTok: @katewiseman99
Icarus and Velvet by Kate Wiseman is available to buy now from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, or you can purchase direct from Zuntold Publishers on their website: https://zuntold.com/