Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lily St. John McKee, Author of Crestfall, a novel of Earth and Fire

Lily McKee, the Author of “Crestfall” passed away just as the book was preparing for publication. Her family answers these questions on her behalf. 

What made Lily decide to be an author? Lily loved reading. She lived in a world filled with books and populated with her favorite characters. She wrote stories from early on in her youth, and she began “Crestfall” when she was still in high school. (Of course it changed over time, but she began it then.)

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? From a young age, Lily loved to play make believe. She would corral the neighborhood pets or delivery people in addition to any friends she could find.  She had a compelling persona that was difficult to refuse - almost hypnotic - so it was common to find the characters performing amazing feats that defied the laws of common sense or the physical world. Perhaps what she liked the least was how long creating a great novel can take. Lily worked on “Crestfall” for ten years. She had just finished writing it and was beginning to plan the book cover when she got ill this year and passed away. She was 27.

How do you think Lily’s life experiences prepared her for writing? Lily lived a rich life even if it was short. She traveled the world – Egypt, Newfoundland, Iceland and more – and she faced personal battles with learning disabilities and bullying. She resolved at a young age to try to help other young people by writing a book about a strong young woman who stands up for herself.

Did Lily ever feel as if she was being dictated to while she wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? In “Crestfall,” you can really hear Lily’s voice. Those of us who knew her find it comforting and bittersweet because the lines are saturated with her sense of humor, her courage and her fierce desire for right to triumph over wrong. We think people who didn’t know her will find the book inspiring.

Lily wrote just this one novel, but she had begun working on another novel when she passed. What was her favorite time management tip? She liked to take breaks by watching tv shows like “NCIS” and relaxing to music. Then she was able to go back into writing refreshed.

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Just sit down and write. It can be hard to get going on a novel, but we all have stories inside of us to tell and it’s a matter of discipline in getting it done.

Tell me more about Crestfall: A Novel of Earth and Fire. Crestfall is a dark fantasy with a heart of love—for the earth, its creatures and plants, for people who strive, care, and face down fear. Its young heroine, Aria Andrews, interrupts her medieval history studies to attend her sister’s funeral in a town on the rugged coast of Newfoundland. Her estranged twin was murdered, and Aria becomes a suspect before setting out to uncover the brutal truth with the help of her brother Fynn, his girlfriend Sophie (a witch), and forthright Bennet Halfnight, a handsome detective. All three Andrews siblings have possessed unworldly natural powers; Aria uses hers to pursue an old antagonist and confront new ones: shape-shifters and werewolves in this startling romantic novel of beastly gore and human tenderness.

How about an excerpt from Crestfall: A Novel of Earth and Fire?

Myths are truths buried beneath layers of speculation and obscurity. There are those who would disagree, but I have seen enough of the world beneath the veneer of civilization to know better. Legends travel in the same boat as myths. They only differ because they were once thought to be real, but the validity of such things has been shrouded by the passage of several generations.
These thoughts circled in my mind as I waited to go through the long lines at immigration and at the airport car rental. With a long drive ahead, I stopped to stock up on the necessities – food, water, and a couple of books on CD.
In northeastern Canada, an island called Newfoundland breaches the Arctic Circle. Newfoundland is a strange place. The Vikings found it, but did not stay. The Irish, English, Portuguese, Spanish and the French settled the wild land in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a rough land, full of crags and uneven edges. The climate weeds out those who are unable to withstand colder weather. It takes a sturdy constitution to survive in the vicious winters and cool summers. The temperature rarely climbs above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The water can be an unreal shade of blue, such as one would never see north of the tropics. The forests that line the coast are thick and green in the summer. Coral formations sit just underwater in the coves bordered by the jagged coast. Thousands of years of erosion are lined by watermarks that delineate the different water levels. And this island is where my siblings have decided to live.
I still could not believe that she finally got me to come to Newfoundland. After years of taunting me with her shenanigans, she got herself killed. I was finally free of her. My identical twin and I were as opposite as night and day. Though she and I were not always like that. Something changed when we turned thirteen. She became cruel and careless to herself and others. When we were young she was my best friend. She was the kindest person you could ever meet. Then she began to delight in crushing the hopes of those around her. She would take their opportunities for herself. Sonata was an opportunist from hell. She had the ability to ferret out my dreams, and would systematically demolish them before my eyes.
The worst part was that Mom and Dad were oblivious to her manipulations. Only our brother, Fynn, knew the real Sonata. When I tried to get our parents to see the lies she was spinning, I was punished. When I turned eighteen, I left home and never looked back. The only reason I stayed as long as I did was Fynn. My big brother was a godsend. But when one of Sonata’s friends got her claws into him, I could no longer trust him. So I hardly ever spoke to him in the intervening years while I was studying abroad.
I left to go to college on the opposite side of the ocean. I went to Cambridge and graduated with honors. Afterwards, I decided to stay to pursue a master’s. I was working on my master’s thesis, about the Black Death of 1348-1350, when Fynn called with the news that Sonata was dead. The service was being held in the Crestfall Church, in the town she called home. With everything that she had done, she had no right to be buried on hallowed ground.
Memories of the past flitted through my mind as the miles sped by. Before I knew it, I had entered the outskirts of Crestfall. I had never even heard about this town until Fynn called me. We were raised on the opposite side of Canada in Vancouver. Nevertheless, Crestfall was a beautiful town. The houses were quirky and painted in a riot of colors—one bubblegum pink and another the color of purple hydrangeas. The town itself was close to the ocean, beside a large bay with a rocky headland that made a sheltered anchorage for the dories of solitary fishermen and the trawlers that coursed offshore for the big cod and salmon. Sea gulls were everywhere and the townsfolk were obsessed with puffins. Everywhere I looked stores had “puffins” in their names. Also, on the docks were many boats advertising whale watching tours and trips to see these comical seabirds.
I would have preferred that Sonata be cremated, so that she could never come back. I never could tell with my twin, she might be having a big joke on me, forcing me to come here for her funeral only to show up and mock me. But it was not my call. It was Fynn’s, since our parents’ death in a freak accident had made him our guardian of sorts, even after we became adults.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?

Buy Links:

Lily’s Family, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.

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