I am so excited to host a guest on my blog today, the lovely and talented Kenley Davidson! If you have not yet tried her Andari Chronicles, I’m thinking this post will pique your interest! Her books are deep and enthralling, contrasting light and darkness, and each one contains a beautiful romance.
And now, to the fun part. Welcome, Kenley!
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog today! I’m excited to be announcing the release of Daughter of Lies: A Reimagining of Snow White. This will be the fifth book in The Andari Chronicles, a series of interconnected but standalone fairy tale retellings.
Brenna Seagrave doesn’t want to be a countess. She prefers her life of danger and disguise as a spy for the kingdom of Andar, but the Andari court isn’t quite ready for a countess who engages in espionage. Feeling trapped, Brenna accepts an invitation to a mysterious estate, where she hopes to connect with the mother she’s never had a chance to know.
But nothing is quite as Brenna expects. Her mother is obsessively critical, the neighbor is a ridiculous flirt and the handsome butler is undoubtedly up to something. Also, someone seems to be plotting her demise. Brenna can’t go home until she finds out who wants to kill her, but her only allies are a bumbling nobleman and an old acquaintance who isn’t exactly a team player.
In this game of secrets and lies, no one is who they pretend to be—not even Brenna—but they must still work together to uncover the truth. If they fail, it’s only a matter of time before Brenna’s past catches up with her, and either she or someone she loves ends up dead.
How did you get started writing fairy-tale retellings? What was your major inspiration?
My first fairy tale retelling was also my first novel, Traitor’s Masque: A Reimagining of Cinderella, which I wrote in 2011 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This story seemed like a fitting choice for my first book considering that I grew up on fairy tales, and that it was a retelling that first inspired me to be a writer.
Like many other fairy tale fans, I discovered Robin McKinley’s books when I was about twelve. When I read Beauty—followed quickly by The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword—I realized for the first time that girls could have adventures too, and that slaying your own dragons didn’t mean you couldn’t also have your own happy ending. In a sense, it was Aerin and Harry and Beauty who were my first inspiration for Traitor’s Masque.
The second part of my inspiration was my own daughters, who were in the middle of their “princess” phase at the time Traitor’s Masque was written. They spent about a year being fairly obsessed with Disney’s animated Cinderella, and I realized somewhere during that time that I’d never really experienced a version of Cinderella that wasn’t disappointing. Every time we watched the movie, I would want to tell my girls “No! This isn’t how love works, and following your dreams isn’t always a great idea!” So I think part of what drove me was an ambition to tell the story of Cinderella in a way that was still beautifully romantic, but didn’t allow the heroine to rely on magic to fix her problems for her. I wanted her to be a real person, with real emotions, who made mistakes and then had to take responsibility for them.
Traitor’s Masque wasn’t intended to be a series, at first. I just wanted to write a book to prove that I could, but then my husband wanted to publish it, and people wanted more, and I kept coming up with more ideas. Eventually, maybe I’ll run out of fairy tales to retell, but I think that’s a good few books into the future!
Tell us about the heroine and hero of Daughter of Lies? Does this story connect to your earlier books? If so, how?
The heroine of Daughter of Lies is Brenna Haverly. She makes her first appearance in Pirouette, which is Book 3 of the Andari Chronicles, where she is forced to go on a dangerous mission with a man she doesn’t actually like very much. Brenna is a confident, independent, resourceful young woman who has built a career that she loves, but she was raised as an orphan, and has always longed for a family to belong to. In Pirouette, she finds out that she isn’t nearly as alone as she’s always believed, but she doesn’t end up getting her own happily-ever-after.
In Daughter of Lies, Brenna is back, trying to manage the expectations that come with her new position and doing her best to connect with the family she never knew. In the process, she ends up meeting three men—a handsome butler, a bumbling nobleman, and an infuriating assassin. One of them will be the true love she never dared imagine she’d find, but I’m not going to give his identity away just yet!
For those who are fans of the series, you’ll also get a glimpse of several characters from previous books, such as Lizbet Norelle, Kyril Seagrave, and Quinn.
What do you do to get yourself writing when you hit a slump?
I think I’ve hit a point in my career where productivity is more about just not quitting than anything else. I’ve written my way through several slumps and come to consider “writer’s block” as something that only kills my forward progress if I let it (which sometimes I still do). That’s not to imply that I don’t take breaks—I’ve had to take a few weeks off during stressful periods of life, and it’s helped on occasion to take a few months away from writing altogether in order to recharge the creative batteries.
When I do take time off to recharge, I’ve found there are various activities that help me feel more creative, such as engaging in other forms of art, being out in nature, reading in other genres, and listening to or playing music without distractions. For creatives who are trying to maintain consistent output, I think it’s absolutely essential to take the time for these kinds of activities so we don’t get burned out!
What are some of your favorite fairy tale retellings?
This is a terribly hard question to answer, but if I actually had to name just a few, they would be Beauty, by Robin McKinley, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Wolfskin by W. R. Gingell, and The Legendary Inge by Kate Stradling.
Do you think you’ll ever write anything other than fairy tale retellings?
These days most of my new ideas are actually in other genres! I’ve already branched out into romantic science fiction and contemporary romance, and have begun planning two new series that are probably best called urban fantasy. For me, the problem has never been coming up with story ideas—it’s finding time to write them all. But no matter what I write, I’m always going to be passionate about writing clean books with likable characters, surprising adventure, and sweet romance.
Kenley Davidson is an incurable introvert who took up writing to make space for all the untold stories in her head. She loves rain, roller-coasters, coffee and happy endings, and is somewhat addicted to researching random facts and reading the dictionary (which she promises is way more fun than it sounds). A majority of her time is spent being mom to two kids and two dogs while inventing reasons not to do laundry (most of which seem to involve books).
Read Kenley's novella, The Countess and the Frog, free today!