Debut Club

The Debut Club: An Interview with Lindsey Klingele

Swanky Seventeener Mary Taranta recently interviewed Lindsey Klingele, author of the YA Fantasy THE MARKED GIRL, coming June 7, 2016 from Harper Teen.

About the Book:


When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task…

THE MARKED GIRL can be ordered from Powell’s, Indiebound, BAM, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:


Lindsey Klingele grew up in Western Michigan, where she read every book she could get her hands on. She eventually moved to Los Angeles (the real land of make believe) and worked as a writers’ assistant for TV shows such as THE LYING GAME and TWISTED. She still loves living in LA, especially since it’s home to great television shows, truly excellent cheeseburgers, and her pitbull, Bighead.

You can find Lindsey online at or on Twitter at @sisterlindsey.

The Interview:

Mary: Worldbuilding is one of my favorite things about reading fantasy. THE MARKED GIRL is based primarily in LA with some scenes in the world of Caelum. Despite the “real world” setting, I still felt like the city came alive through your descriptions, and was the perfect backdrop for Liv’s story. Was it easier for you to write about a real place like LA, or the fantasy realm Caelum, and why?

Lindsey: My love for LA is a big part of why I wrote this book in the first place! People often write LA off as vapid, but this is a city that attracts people who want to dream up fantasy worlds and then BRING THEM INTO REALITY through collaboration, hard work and sheer force of will (and yes, lots of meetings). How amazing is that? It felt like the perfect place for characters from a fantasy world like Caelum to land.

There was more pressure to describe LA right, whereas Caelum I could draw in broader strokes (at least in this first book). The point for me wasn’t to dive deep into an intense background on Caelum’s history, political machinations or anything like that here, but to instead provide glimpses of a medieval fantasy world that feels familiar to readers so they can get a quick understanding of who Cedric is and where he comes from before he’s plunged into a whole new world.

Mary: I loved, loved, loved how much action you managed to pack into your book; what impressed me even more was how each fight scene felt completely unique, despite sharing so many of the same characters/power dynamics. While I’m tempted to call it writing magic, I suspect there was some methodology behind the process! How did you orchestrate your fight scenes without them becoming repetitive? What tips and tricks can you offer other authors tackling action? 

Lindsey: Thanks! That’s so nice to hear! I think having a background in writing scripts has really helped me when it comes to creating action scenes. I moved to LA seven years ago hoping to write for TV, and in that time I’ve written dozens of my own spec and pilot scripts and, even better, gotten an up-close seat watching talented TV writers create their own scripts from scratch. What I’ve (hopefully) learned in that time is how to impart visual information in an interesting way.

In a TV script, all information is given via dialogue or action lines, so you have to learn how to use those efficiently. And that’s what I’d recommend for writers who want to practice tackling action scenes – lay them out in script format and see what they look like when they’re stripped down to bare bones. Or watch an episode of your favorite action-heavy TV show and try to write down every single move you see. What makes that move interesting? How can you pare the language down to try and capture the movements you see while not forgetting the characters? How does setting and props/weapons make the fight more interesting? How is each character struggling in this particular fight? Where are the parts we feel scared for them?

Mary: Another great thing about THE MARKED GIRL was how twisty the plot became. With a full cast of characters from both LA and Caelum, and a possible spy in their midst, I didn’t know who to trust or who to point my finger at. (I made guesses, though! And I was also wrong.) Did you rely on an outline while writing, to keep your villains straight; or are you more of a pantser? Bonus question: has your background as a writing assistant in television affected the way you handle your character reveals?

Lindsey: I am definitely an outliner, not a pantser! I outline meticulously, even if my outlines change (and they always, always do). I’m a bit of a control freak, and I need to know where I’m going and how I’ll get there before I get in the car. I think working as a writing assistant has affected this, too – in TV, detailed outlines are incredibly necessary. Even if the direction a show is headed changes halfway through a season, the writers often at least HAVE a direction in the first place. It’s important in a collaborative process that everyone is on the same page, and that’s stuck with me – even though I write books alone, I’m used to having a roadmap.

The two shows I worked on were both twisty dramas, and just from watching those be created, I learned a lot about how to always write to a strong act break, how to make the surprising play, and how to lean into twists. That’s really affected how I break story for books, I think. I like fast-paced, twisty stories, always have.

Mary: Since writing is also about revising, can you share any scenes or characters that have completely changed between your first draft and the finished novel?

Lindsey: Oh man, so much. First of all, my very first draft of this book was incredibly long. Like, too long to even send out to agents. I think I cut 50,000 words altogether? And even after the book was in a good shape, it went through so many changes. In the first iteration, there were six characters who came from Caelum, and they had their own, specific superpowers. It was just too much. I cut that down to four characters, and eventually that got (rightfully) cut down to three. The Kat we see in the book today is actually a combination of two different characters (Cedric’s betrothed and his warrior best friend), and she’s such a more compelling, interesting character for that change.

Lightning Round:

Your twitter handle is “sisterlindsey.” Do you have any siblings?

Yes, I have two younger sisters, Alli and Sarah, and they are the inspiration for that handle!

Favorite place to get a cheeseburger in LA?

This is a very loaded question, and honestly one of the most difficult ones you could have asked, haha. The burgers in LA are the best in the world, and there’s a restaurant here called Father’s Office that’s great – their burgers never let me down.

Favorite fantasy-world villain (novel or film)?

I love a villain with a strong, personal motivation, but there’s something compelling about a person who is just drawn to darkness because they think the world is dark. Charlize Theron in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN springs to mind just because she has this one great line – ‘I will give this wretched world the queen it deserves.’ It just explains her evil so well and so simply. Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker also gave me legitimate nightmares.

If you had to pick one song to play over THE MARKED GIRL’s end credits, what would it be?

What an excellent question! Maybe ‘Young Legends’ by Sleigh Bells.

What actor would you choose to play Cedric? (Asking for a friend…)

When I started writing this book, many moons ago, I would have said Nicholas Hoult. He’s much too old now, though, so I think I might need help coming up with new options!

Favorite book you read last year?

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. It was perfect.


About the Interviewer:



Mary Taranta grew up in rural Ohio but now lives in Central Florida with her husband, two cats, and library cards in two counties. Her debut YA fantasy Shimmer and Burn is forthcoming from Margaret K. McElderry books Summer 2017.



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