Indie Saturday – Author Courtney Vail on “Kings & Queens”
Today, we have author Courtney Vail featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her YA mystery thriller Kings & Queens.
Here’s a short synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Majesty Alistair wants police to look further into her father’s fatal car wreck, hopes the baseball team she manages can reclaim the state crown, aches for Derek…or, no…maybe Alec…maybe. And she mostly wishes to retract the hateful words she said to her dad right before slamming the door in his face, only to never see him again.
All her desires get sidelined, though, when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre. She doubts cops will follow up on her tip since they’re sick of her coming around with notions of possible crimes-in-the-works. And it’s not like she cries wolf. Not really. They’d be freaked too, but they’re not the ones suffering from bloody dreams that hint at disaster like some crazy, street guy forecasting the Apocalypse.
So, she does what any habitual winner with zero cred would do…try to I.D. the nutjobs before they act. But, when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and even friends start looking suspect, the truth and her actions threaten to haunt her forever, especially since she’s left with blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.
Courtney Vail writes about where her characters from Kings & Queens came from:
The main protagonist in Kings & Queens is Majesty Alistair. She is a tomboy with spirit and always has determination to win. At first, all I had was her name and that bit of info. I also knew she would be the manager of her high school’s baseball team on which her two best friends, Alec and Derek, play. For months, I’d had this sort of love triangle thing in mind, but no plot. I’m a suspense writer, I NEED plot. I don’t mind a romantic subplot but I needed way more than that. I wanted to have a book that featured a strong teen girl too. At the time I was spinning my ideas—in 2005–there weren’t a lot of strong girls out there in YA. And I wanted to have a girl with this internal kick-butt nature. And one night I dreamt I was running in the woods for exercise and overheard these two teens planning a church massacre and I escaped them in this little town. That dream gave me the seedling for my plot and also the locale, Cedar Creek, a semi-small rich town.
When I got that initial spark I had no clue this whole royal thing would emerge. The plot keep twisting and turning and taking me by surprise. And my book took on a live chess feel, with a move-for-move strategy, and there are references to Kings and Queens and Pawns and a Royalty Circle. And two Pawns even die on a chessboard floor actually, which I didn’t even intentionally insert. It then bugged me that her name was Majesty. I don’t like things to be that matchy matchy in books. It just comes across as gimmicky and not really cute at all. I considered changing her name, but then I realized, her being pinned with such a funky name all her life actually forced her to choose between taking on antagonists or buckling to them. Instead of shriveling from the onslaught on insults, she rose up and developed a quick wit and a pithy tongue and a desire to win.
All of these things about her, all that might, and also the vulnerability to fail and fall because she shoots so high, would be non-existent is she were an Ashley. I mean, I could certainly write them in, I could create an Ashley like that, but there’d be no true source for that wellspring of strength. It would seem fake and unreal, like I was just trying to make a kick-ass girl because that’s what’s hot right now. Majesty, the noun, is all about prominence, might, and being on top, and Majesty, my character, aspires to all that so she can represent the name she holds.
She has to go all Veronica Mars when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre and cops don’t believe her, and her inner strength is what pulls her through the ebbs of betrayal and danger on her way to the truth. So, I really couldn’t rename her. She wouldn’t let me. Because of everything it embodies and fashioned within her, I love her name. It is both her persona and her quest. And I can’t see her as anything else.
And then there’s Derek, my parallel protagonist. He’s rough around the edges, curt and untrusting. One of my friends was abused as a child, and he killed his dog out of anger one day, and that gave me the basis for Derek. His personality is nothing like my friend’s, and Derek is far more damaged, but that source of pain and brokenness is the same.
Some readers are confused when I open his POV, because, at first, it feels like aimless bopping around and that he doesn’t seem to have a connection to the mainline, but he does in a huge way… in a way he’s not even aware of. Some readers feel like the story is adrift in the first few chapters, but every scene is pertinent to understanding the intricate plotline and how people were set up and manipulated within it. It’s a dense mystery-thriller, packed with details and subplots that are all closely interwoven.
And then there’s Warren, my third main POV character. I wanted to have a character that was a loner but also someone who couldn’t be pigeonholed into any particular box. He’s nerdy intelligent but also a lapsed Goth. He has abandoned the culture for the most part, but he still primarily wears his hair spiky, dark clothes and lipstick. He’s not the main character in my story, but he tends to be the fan favorite. He’s a likeable loner. I think readers can identify with his pain and involuntary isolation. His voice is very sardonic and tense, but he really, just like everyone, wants to be liked. And no one appreciates him.
That’s a little bit about my characters. So if you like intricate, twisty thrillers and are ready for a rollercoaster ride and an intense mind warp, check out Kings & Queens and meet my crazy characters.
Thanks so much for having me! I had a blast.
COURTNEY VAIL writes totally twisted YA and adult suspense. She enjoys braiding mystery, suspense & romance with some kind of weirdness. Her addictions to crazy coffee concoctions, Funny Bones, Ben & Jerry’s, and bacon keep her running and writing. She currently lives in New England with a comedian stud and a wild gang of kidlets.
You can also check out Courtney’s Amazon Author’s page for a listing of her other books!
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Read an embedded sample of “Kings & Queens” after the jump!
Here’s the prologue and first chapter from the book.