Michelle Krys is the author of Dead Girls Society, Hexed, and Charmed. When she’s not writing books for teens, she moonlights as a NICU nurse. She lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, with her family. You can visit her online at michellekrys.com.
Shauna Kosoris: What inspired you to write your newest book, Dead Girls Society?
Michelle Krys: Ideas rarely come to me organically. I often have to go after them with a club, which is what happened in this case. I knew I wanted to write a book with the mystery and intrigue of Pretty Little Liars, but with a fun competition element à la Panic by Lauren Oliver, so I sat down and brainstormed ideas until I landed on something I liked. Not very romantic, but if I waited around for ideas to strike me I would probably write a book a decade.
Hope, your heroine with cystic fibrosis from Dead Girls Society, seems very different from Indigo, the cheerleader heroine of your first series. Where did you get the ideas for these very different characters?
Indigo’s personality is one of the first things I knew about Hexed. I wanted to subvert the gothic witch stereotype, and having the protagonist be a popular, sarcastic cheerleader felt like the natural first step.
With Dead Girls Society, I really wanted to explore what it would be like to be a normal teenager in a lot of ways, experiencing all the normal teenager things, like love and angst and a desire to push boundaries and rebel, while also living with an incurable illness that really limits your experiences.
Dead Girls Society takes place in New Orleans, while Hexed is in LA. What’s the appeal of using big American cities for your novel settings?
I mentioned that one of my goals with Hexed was to subvert the gothic witch stereotype. Besides making the protagonist a popular cheerleader, I thought it would be fun to use a setting that most readers wouldn’t normally associate with witchcraft. Sunny L.A. seemed like a great fit for that. As for Dead Girls Society, I got the idea for the setting while roaming the French Quarter in New Orleans while attending a writing festival. I just fell in love with the rich, vibrant culture of the city.
You wrote your first book while on maternity leave. Was it difficult fitting in writing during that time?
Not at all! My son slept 12 hours through the night and took 3-4 hour naps during the day. His incredible sleeping habits are actually what prompted me to try my hand at writing. I found myself with all this free time, and I figured there would be no better opportunity to write that book I’d always been thinking about.
Wow, that’s incredibly lucky! Did your writing routine change once your maternity leave was over?
Definitely. Fitting in time to write became much more of a challenge. After coming home from an exhausting 12-hour shift and then putting my baby to sleep, all I wanted to do was collapse on the couch. This meant that all my writing was restricted to nap times on my days off, which were few and far between as I was working full-time then. One thing I will say is that, though challenging, the rigid schedule did force me to be very focused and driven. Now that I’m part-time at work and enjoy long stretches of days off between shifts, I find myself procrastinating a lot.
Why do you like writing YA books?
I could say something very noble about using artwork to provide teens with the tools to tackle a time of great upheaval (and that would also be true), but mostly? It’s fun, and it’s what I like to read.
That’s totally fair. I read in an interview with you in the Walleye that your first book was rejected. Have you ever reused or reworked elements of that book into something new?
I’ve brought it out from time to time, but it’s very much a first novel. No redeeming features whatsoever. The book was great for a learning experience, and that’s it. It’s pretty humiliating to look at!
That’s too bad. But at least it led you to better stories! What are you working on now?
I have a few different projects on the go. A middle grade set in the east coast of Canada, a YA psychological thriller, and an adult contemporary romance. I like to dabble on a few different projects before I decide which one I want to spend my time on.
Good luck with whichever one you choose to develop! So what book or author inspired you to write?
The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. Say what you will about the problematic elements of the book, but the series completely swept me away. I can’t remember another time I connected with a book as deeply. It perfectly captured the thrill and innocence of falling in love for the first time. When Edward brushed Bella’s arm, I felt the drop in my own stomach.
It’s amazing how different books can speak to us so strongly! Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
The first book that comes to mind is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which is a graphic novel about a boy whose mother is dying of cancer. It’s utterly brilliant and heartbreaking and beautiful, all the more so when you discover that the original concept was created by the author Siobban Daud, who died of cancer before she had a chance to write the book.
That sounds amazing; I’ll have to check it out. Finally, what are you currently reading?
I just finished a wonderful YA novel about a female gladiator in the Roman Empire, called The Valiant by Lesley Livingstone, and now I’m reading Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, which is a Labyrinth retelling by way of The Sound of Music. So far it’s dark and gritty and romantic and exactly up my alley.