Breeana Shields recently chatted with debut author K.C. Held about her debut YA contemporary, HOLDING COURT (Entangled Teen, March 1, 2016).
When a sixteen year-old girl with an embarrassing psychic gift she can’t control takes a job at a castle-turned-dinner-theater, all she wants is the chance to wear a fancy gown and ogle her crush from afar, but when she stumbles over a dead body that promptly disappears, she must prove she didn’t hallucinate a dead girl before the killer strikes again.
About the Author
K.C. HELD was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two avid bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and has worked as a freelance costumer in opera, theater, film, and television. Although she once spent a summer working in a castle, there were no dead bodies involved.
Breeana: HOLDING COURT has so many unique elements—the fun setting (a castle-turned-dinner theater), the main character, Juliet, who has an embarrassing psychic gift she can’t control (which provides some great laugh-out-loud moments) as well as the sweet romance layered on top of a twisty murder mystery. Can you tell me a bit about your inspiration for this novel?
KC: I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing a mystery and I remember reading a quote from a review for a hilarious book called Die for Love by Elizabeth Peters that read, “Elizabeth Peters is one of those rare authors who can mingle intelligent whodunits with sheer lunatic hilarity.” And I thought, that’s it! That’s my goal! I knew I wanted my mystery to feature an amateur sleuth with an unusual ability, and that eventually morphed into Juliet “Jules” Verity, a sixteen-year-old girl who blurts out ridiculous statements (usually at inopportune moments) that turn out to be premonitions. I wanted her to discover that this psychic gift she doesn’t want and can’t control might not be the total liability she thinks it is.
Breeana: I read in your bio that you have an MFA in costume design and costumes play a huge role in HOLDING COURT. How did you get from costume design to becoming an author? And how does your educational background shape your writing?
KC: The shortest answer is that I’ve always wanted to be both. A costume designer AND an author! I ended up with an MFA in costume design because when I was trying to decide whether to go for an MFA in creative writing or costume design I was taking a correspondence course with the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and I’d written this short story in which I’d described a young woman battling an intruder who’s broken into her home. And she’s a total klutz but she still manages to beat the crap out of this guy.
In retrospect, I was probably going for sheer lunatic hilarity but the instructor gave me comments like, “I ike how you’ve incorporated her drug addiction into the setting. The white area rug is a clever nod to her cocaine addiction.” I had no idea what he was talking about. He was reading all these things into my story that weren’t there. So when I was offered a graduate assistantship in the costume shop at Indiana University the choice seemed clear.
Breeana: Is HOLDING COURT the first novel you ever wrote? Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication?
KC: HOLDING COURT is my second novel. After breaking up with my first novel (a middle grade fantasy I still have feelings for) I wrote the bulk of HOLDING COURT over the course of two weeks. Which is how I learned that two weeks is about my limit for writing at that kind of pace. It took me another two months to finish the first draft, then I spent about five months revising with the help of my critique partners before I was ready to start querying agents with my shiny new manuscript. By then it was December, which I’d been told wasn’t the best time to query but I sent mine out anyway and the day after Christmas I got an email requesting “the call!” I signed with the fabulous Kathleen Rushall (Go Team Krush!), revised some more and then we went out on submission. I was walking on my treadmill desk when Kathleen called to tell me we had our first offer, which is when I discovered that it’s very difficult to happy dance while walking on a treadmill.
Breeana: What is your favorite part of the writing process? Do you enjoy drafting more or editing?
My favorite part of the process is that dreamy period where you’re convinced you’ve thought up the best idea ever and you just keep getting more and more flashes of inspiration that come at you while you’re driving your car and you have to pull over to write them down, or they come just as you’re falling asleep and you write them on the pad of paper next to your bed in the darkness and hope you can decipher the scribbles the next morning. I just wish that period lasted a little longer.
1) Cake or pie?
Pie! With ice cream!
2) Do you have any rituals when you write? Music? Snacks? Lucky socks?
I drink a giant mug of tea (with milk and sugar) while I make my plan for the day, then I head to my office and fire up my treadmill desk.
3) What were you reading when you were sixteen?
Mysteries! Agatha Christie was my go-to gal.
4) If you had to pick one song to go on the soundtrack for HOLDING COURT, what would it be?
Brave by Sara Bareilles.
5) Early bird or night owl?
Night owl by nature but my kids have forced me to become an early bird.
6) What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had?
Hollywood set costumer.
Breeana Shields graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Literature. Her first novel, POISON’S KISS, debuts from Random House in 2017. Breeana lives in the Pacific Northwest, where it drizzles, rains or pours nine months of the year, but then transforms into paradise during the other three. She’s willing to make the trade-off. You can find Breeana on her website and Twitter.
More about POISON’S KISS: Marinda’s kiss is deadly. She is a legendary visha kanya, a “poison maiden” able to kill a man with only her lips as a weapon. Since childhood, she’s served the Raja as one of his most lethal assassins. Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers. Enemies of the kingdom. But when Marinda receives orders to kiss a boy she has feelings for—a boy she knows too well to believe he deserves to die—she begins to question who she’s really working for. And it’s not only her life on the line. Her small brother is gravely ill and the medicine her handlers provide is the only thing keeping him alive.
Now Marinda must make a choice between killing a boy she could love and saving the one she already does. The Raja is watching. And there’s a power she never guessed behind the throne.