Kendare Blake, author of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and THREE DARK CROWNS, among other titles, told me the most rewarding thing about writing is just that: writing. Literally, physically writing and feeling a story flow through you. Of course, she also said the hardest part of writing is the middle of the first draft, when it feels like you're lost in a writing sea, so perhaps it's safe to say the relationship of writer to writing is more love-hate than love-love.
"In the middle of a first draft you'll find me bereft on the floor, with a plate of pasta on my belly and my head resting atop a pizza box," Kendare said. "I'm tired by then, and the end's nowhere in sight."
So why does she persist through the first-draft doldrums?
"I find the act of writing to be supremely rewarding," she explained. "That story channeling through you, and it doesn't feel like creating, or making it up so much as finding it. Discovering it. It's the biggest rush, when it's going well."
She added to this idea of writing as discovery, saying one of her greatest writerly challenges is "serving the story rather than my perceived expectations of the story. I try not to get in the book's way, for the most part."
According to her childhood friend Susan Murray, Kendare has been a talented writer since middle and high school.
"In school, everyone in our grade appreciated being in her English or speech class because the girl knew how to write like none of us did," Susan said. "It seemed effortless...her work stood out to us all."
Susan, whom Kendare called her "resident serial killer expert," added that Kendare's writing stands out to readers at large because of her unique ability to engage the audience.
"Whenever I go to events where she is one of the many authors, when it is all over, the audience is talking about her," Susan said. "She is/was memorable. Even if she doesn’t mention her books themselves...when she is done, we all want to read her books because she engaged us and we want to continue to be engaged by her."
Kendare was born in South Korea and adopted by American parents who raised her on a hobby farm in central Minnesota.
"Two dogs, many cats, three misbehaving horses," she described. "I shoveled a lot of doody, is what I'm saying."
In addition to farm chores, Kendare spent a lot of time reading, or being read to by her mother. The public library was a very important resource for the family, offering free books, and Kendare learned to read when she was still four. She said she imagines that her love of writing came as a direct result of her reading.
"Developing early reading confidence is key," she said. "And if you read enough, maybe it stimulates that writing part of the creative process. I just know I always had stories."
She said she writes because she has to, in a way. Not simply because it's how she gets paid, but because it's a soul-necessity.
"If I go too long without working I get very irritable," she said. "And the things I write won't let me rest until I get them down on paper."
Books are a sort of magic, to Kendare, and reading them leads to writing them.
"I don't remember a time without them, or anything else at that age that gave me the same safe feeling of wonder," she said. "They were and are a thing of comfort so why wouldn't I want to surround myself in them? Make my life in them?"
So as much as she believes in writing, Kendare also believes in reading.
"Reading helps everybody," she said. "Read when you're young and read for the rest of your life and your soul will be so much more colorful when it's over. I never want to sound like I look down on people who don't read. I just sincerely believe their lives would be more interesting if they did. And it's never too late to start."
She gave a few suggestions on good books to read if you're not a huge reader; for instance, she named "Jane Eyre" as the most accessible of the classics, or suggested that someone who loves horses read something to speak to that love.
"I also suggest reading a book that makes you feel smart," she added. "Philosophy, maybe. Or something historical. For those first reads it might be less about the book than about how the act of reading makes you feel. And feeling smart is a pretty good feeling."
Speaking of smart — according to Dylan Zoerb, Kendare's husband, she herself is smart as can be. When asked what makes her stand out among others, that was one thing he emphasized.
"Everyone always asks me how I married someone so smart," Dylan said. "I'd like to argue, but it's a valid question. She seems to know a lot about a lot, and what she doesn't know she learns."
Dylan added that her writing stands out because "she does great work making her characters have their own voices and sense of humor. Her books can be dark and full of horror, and then she'll drop in a joke."
Kendare is releasing ONE DARK THRONE, the sequel to THREE DARK CROWNS, later this year. (This is the part in the profile where I say, "GO BUY THE BOOK" because it's so good and so worth it and you can do that here or also here.) She said one of her favorite things about the writing process for this series was simply inhabiting the world of Fennbirn, one she created from scratch.
"I like learning about it as I go," she said. "For instance, I just mocked up a timeline of queens for the last thousand years, and it revealed so many interesting historical tidbits...Construction on the Volroy castle fortress was completed during [The Mad Oracle Queen's] reign so they could lock her inside it for her last ten years. I never knew that."
Spoken like a true channeler of stories, one who is discovering all the intricacies as she works. It's the best way to write.
If you'd like to follow Kendare on her writing journey (which you should), you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter or even her website. And "like" the Facebook page for the THREE DARK CROWNS series for all sorts of fun updates.