September Q&A with Kalynn Bayron

Question Time with Kalynn Bayron

Incase you hadn’t noticed, Tish has been super behind on the blog at the moment! How is it that with Lockdown, you can’t go out or do anything but you still never find the time to do things anyway?!

Big big apologies guys! Below is the Q&A for our September read, Cinderella is Dead. We were so excited to speak to Kalynn about this incredible book which by the way – you should be reading right now!!

Q&A with Kalynn Bayron

HI KALYNN!! ❤️❤️❤️

Hi everyone! Thank you for having me!!

Welcome to our book club and thank you SO much for joining us!! We absolutely LOVED Cinderella Is Dead! And some of the girls have already read it twice!!

Oh I’m so glad!!

Honestly, it is just completely the sort of book young girls should be reading!!

Its the book of my heart 💜

You can totally tell that your whole heart and soul has gone into it. It shines from every single page, I think that’s why we all connected with it as much as we did!!

It’s the kind of book I wish I’d had as a teen. I’m always kind of writing for that younger version of myself.

We love that!!! There will be so many girls grateful to you for giving them this! Even as adults, we are still always so inspired by strong females in books. It makes us feel like we can conquer the world!

It really was inspiring – ‘be a light in the dark’ really hit us ❤️❤️⭐️

Those closing lines have been the same since the first draft. They felt so powerful, I had to make sure the rest of the book lived up to the weight of the ending.

What inspired you to choose Cinderella as the basis of your story?

Cinderella is such a visible story. I think that even if you’ve never seen the movie or read the book you still know the tale. But as popular as it is, it was very hard for me too see myself as the princess. I wanted to take this story that felt inaccessible to me as a young reader and turn it on its head while also allowing readers to have access to the story in a way they might not have before.

Did you set out to write an empowering story, or did it just happen organically?

I don’t know if I made the conscious decision to make it a story about empowerment but it did turn out that way. And once I realized that that was the direction it was going and that this wasn’t just a regular Cinderella retelling, I leaned all the way into that idea.

We love the diversity of the novel, would you say authors are becoming more aware of the importance of including diverse characters?

It is my sincerest wish that readers are becoming more aware of stories that are inclusive. I’m really happy to see that Cinderella Is Dead has been so well received. I also think it’s important that when we’re talking about inclusive stories and diverse characters we allow those stories to be whatever they want to be. Our stories can be fun, fantastical adventures! We can be heroes, Dragon slayers, chosen ones! All of that!

You are so inspiring and you’ve hit the nail on the head. The YA genre is leading the way for inclusivity right now!

There is so much good work happening in the YA space.

We love that you put a f/f romance right at the heart of your story too And highlighting that not everyone wants a Prince. And that not every Prince is a perfect Prince Charming!

It’s so important to me when I read that I experience characters who accurately represent the amazing variety of people in the world and not just straight, white people.

Yes! The LGBTQ representation is important and necessary 😊 And the more hype they get, the more visible they are, the more publishers see that these stories are worth supporting.

You all are a part of that so I am deeply appreciative.

How did you come up with the final line?

I draft out of order sometimes. If there is a line or a scene that is in my head sometimes I just have to get it down. So those final lines came to me before the rest of the story was finished. I wrote them in a separate document and kept them there and as I finished the rest of the draft I had those words staring back at me and I kept asking myself, what can Sophia do to live up to that final sentiment?

Oh woah that’s amazing – love the way you looked at that and questioned yourself ❤

There a couple of hints in the book regarding other princesses in other towns, would you be developing these into books?

I would love to deconstruct some other fairytales and that’s the direction that I’m hoping to go in at some point in the future. I’d really love to explore some other fairytales that aren’t quite as prominent as Cinderella or snow white. Something like the Pied Piper or The juniper tree. I think I will most definitely revisit Sophia and Constance and Luke in another story at some point. I have to convince Bloomsbury to let me do it!

Ooh all of this sounds amazing!! The Pied Piper would be fascinating to try and twist. Also, yes please for more of Sophie and Constance! Luke was so lovely, we want him to find some happiness😍😍

Are you currently working on anything else?

I am working on so many things right now! I have a new YA contemporary fantasy out next year that is equal parts the secret garden, Little shop of horrors, and Hadestown. I also have some other projects that I can’t quite talk about yet but there will be lots more to come soon!

Oh woah these all sound amazing! It would be so interesting to see your take on other ones like Robinhood or little red riding hood. We love the idea of the secret garden mix and will totally be reading that!

Well we will now buy everything you ever write – You’re an auto buy author now!

There have been a few retellings of Cinderella, but none with quite such a dark twist (which we loved!). What inspired you to make it a dark/dystopian twist?

I am a horror novel fan at my core! For whatever reason, stories that are dark and twisted and atmospheric really speak to me. (I’m a huge fan of Shirley Jackson!)I’ve read so many versions of Cinderella and none of them were quite as dark as I wanted them to be. There are older versions that are quite gruesome but I love scary stories that aren’t about the gore, but focus more on the creeping dread of knowing something terrible might be about to happen, but you don’t see it until it’s too late. I knew that I wanted to put a very dark twist on this story right from the beginning. also, I think that asking the question, “what happens after the happily ever after?”, made me wonder if maybe things weren’t so happily ever after, what would that look like?

Ooh yes! Love that. It was eerie how the bad things kept happening (the scene with Liz made me cry!). we also loved how, despite the bad things, Sophia didn’t give up or give in to that fear when others did. You can very much see the Shirley Jackson influence!! There were elements of classic gothic that we loved! One of our questions was actually if you were influenced by gothic literature!!

There is a favourite quote from the whole book that really stuck with us and we wanted to ask you if there was special meaning in it for you when you wrote it and if you realised you’d written something so special: “A prison is still a prison no matter how pretty the decor”

Yes! I think Amina has a terrible habit of trying to minimize things in order to make them seem not quite as awful. She’s a smart woman. She knows exactly how terrible things are but a part of her still trying to hide from her own actions. Sophia and Constance both try to force Amina to admit her own culpability, even though they don’t have the full story yet. When she tells them she’s done wicked things she absolutely means it!

That quote is really saying no matter how you try to make this seem like it wasn’t a terrible thing it really and truly was. One of the things I hope readers take away from this story is that the truth, is what is important, and it’s the only way we can move forward. We have to tell the whole truth no matter how ugly it is.

That’s very powerful and very relevant to a lot of things that are happening around the world. People want to hide their heads in the sand and not learn the whole truth. But by understanding those truths, we can then make real change.

Something I thought about a lot while writing the story was Shirley Jackson’s the lottery. Those people were doing some thing over and over again for generations and have no real clue why. I think it speaks to that fear of questioning the establishment, the status quo.

Do you still feel publishers need to do more?? What was your own journey like to get published? And are you signed up for more than a one book deal?

I do think that publishers need to do more. I think that when they see a book like Cinderella, they feel like they are at a loss for how to market it. But all they really need to do is treat it like any other book! Give these stories the same support, marketing budget, and publicity opportunities. Bloomsbury has been wonderful for me. They’ve been very open to listening to my suggestions and have really put a lot of effort into making sure that Cinderella got the support it needed.

But before I had my deal it was not easy. I was told over and over again that a book like this would not sell, that there was no one interested in reading a book about a queer black girl. I had to really sit down and ask myself if I wanted to take on the battle that is trying to get a book like this published.

We are so glad Bloomsbury were so supportive though!

I’m glad I did though. It’s worth it to me as an author and I knew it would be worth it to my readers. Like Constance said sometimes you have to take the risk. Onward!

I’m contracted for one more book but I hope to have some more news on that front very soon 😊

We are seeing Cinderella Is Dead EVERYWHERE right now so we hope it’s been a huge success for you!!

It has surpassed even my wildest expectations! I’m very proud of this book😊

We have to ask you the question we ask all authors: Can we cast your movie?! And do you have any ideas? Also, PLEASE TELL US YOU HAVE A MOOD BOARD?!

I have a Pinterest board for Cinderella Is Dead!!

Pinterest boards are our absolute favourites

Let me find the link…

Willow Smith and Amandla Stenberg were some of the actresses in our heads – And every single casting we’ve ever done has always included Zendaya somewhere.

I’ve just realised how long we’ve kept you Kalynn and I’m so sorry!!!!

Totally fine! I had so much fun!!

I hope we’ve managed to get the message across how much this book meant to us all!!

Thank you so much for having me! Thank you for all the support! It means a lot to me!

Honestly, we absolutely love talking to authors! They are always so sweet and insightful! Its so nice to see new authors get the recognition they deserve! We know this one is such a big hit with the YA community – We are so lucky to have these opportunities and hope that you enjoy our Q&As!

Lots of Love,

Kayleigh & Tish xx

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