Get ready to learn more about the book Death’s Champion in this discussion with sapphic author Karen Frost.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Karen Frost about Death’s Champion, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Fantasy category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write Death’s Champion?
This book is the fourth and final book in the “Destiny and Darkness” series. When I started writing the series, I didn’t have a quartet in mind. As I wrote each book, however, I realized that there was a broader story that was unfolding. The series is very much about actions and their consequences, so this final book is the culmination of those consequences. At the same time, the last two books of the series in particular are about heroic sacrifice, and this book really represents that.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Aw, I could never play favorites. I think there are a lot of fun characters in this book, and I hope readers agree. Regarding the protagonist Aeryn, however, maybe I’m not particularly creative, but I think all of my protagonists carry strong components of myself. So yes, I suppose Aeryn must be similar to me in how she approaches the world.
What inspired the idea for Death’s Champion?
The inspiration for “Death’s Champion” was actually its predecessor, “Destiny’s Choice.” Book three sets up a sort of world-ending scenario, so book four had to answer the question, “How does one person save the world?” But another inspiration was just a love of classic fantasy. Gods, monsters, demi-gods, quests–these are all things that really define the high fantasy genre and give it color. The previous parts of Aeryn’s story hadn’t really included these elements, so it was a way to expand her (fictional) world. And tell a very high-stakes story that might keep readers on the edge of their seats.
What was the biggest challenge writing this book?
Trying to remember all the breadcrumbs that I left in the previous three books!
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Hopefully that one is a little self-explanatory…
What is your writing process like?
When I write, I’m on the same journey as my readers. I have no idea what’s going to happen. Nothing is planned in advance. I just write as things come to me. Which is a terrible approach. Don’t be like me!
Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I write while sitting on my couch. The only requirement is that there has to be silence around me. I can’t think when there’s sound.
Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?
Sometimes my Siamese cat Romeo steps on a key while I’m typing, so I guess he gets co-authorship credit. Romeo is 12 years old and, true to his name, a lover. He’s never met a stranger, and will shamelessly beg for attention from anyone who comes through the door.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?
The most valuable thing I’ve seen I only just recently encountered. It’s the application of Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” approach to scriptwriting to novel writing. There’s a good breakdown here: https://www.savannahgilbo.com/blog/save-the-cat-beginning. I haven’t used this outline in my books yet, but I can see how it would help writers structure their novel so that the pacing is correct and there’s enough action and character development to keep readers involved.
Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?
Heck yes! Emotions are emotions, even for fictional characters. As writers, we’re trying to create multi-dimensional, realistic characters. If they’re feeling pain, sometimes we feel that pain.
What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?
I will read almost anything. History, economics, fantasy, “War and Peace,” you name it. For the most part, however, I prefer high fantasy and non-fiction in the vein of Mary Roach or Malcom Gladwell–I want to be educated, but about an obscure topic that will only come up in conversation if I raise it to an unwilling audience.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Hands down, Tamora Pierce’s quartets were my biggest inspiration–for the “Destiny and Darkness” quartet, obviously, but to be a writer in general. For those of us of a certain age, we’ll remember her as pretty much the only person who was writing YA fantasy with a female protagonist during our childhood. Her writing was interesting, accessible, and inspirational. Even today, I would recommend her books to young girls.
What books did you grow up reading?
I read a ton of fantasy and sci-fi growing up. In addition to Tamora Pierce, I read Christopher Pike, Bruce Coville, K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series, His Dark Materials, Goosebumps, Robert Heinlein… Also, shout of to the “Three Investigators” series and Encyclopedia Brown! I think it’s good to be exposed to a variety of styles and topics when young. It helps you learn how to tell stories and develop characters.
What books have you read more than once in your life?
I’m normally not one to re-read books. The ones I can remember, however, are Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Patricia McKillip’s “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.” I own copies of both and I find them breathtaking in not only their storytelling, but their understanding and reflection of human nature.
What book do you wish you had written?
You know what? This is going to sound weird coming from a fantasy author, but I really liked “The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics”! Clearly I’m not a romance author, so if I was, I’d like to write something like that, where it’s both a romance AND a commentary on the marginalization of women in the sciences. The other half of that is I want the sapphic version of “Twelfth Night,” in which Olivia is fully aware that Viola is a woman and pursues that relationship anyway. To be fair, someone’s probably already written that.