2014 Debut Author Bash: Kiki Sullivan (Interview + Guest Post + Giveaway)

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Hey everyone! Welcome to my stop on the 2014 Debut Author Bash! I’m so excited to be hosting Kiki Sullivan, author of The Dolls (September 2, 2014, Balzer + Bray). Today, I’m pleased to share with you an interview with Kiki, as well as a guest post from Kiki. First, here’s the epic cover and synopsis:

The Dolls Cover Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right

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And now here’s the interview!

Question: Describe your book, using no more than three adjectives. Go!
Answer: Steamy, suspenseful, Southern (Do I get extra credit for the alliteration? I could also say sexy and stylish!)

Question: Why Louisiana? In what ways does the setting aid the plot?
Answer: I’ve always been fascinated by the culture of rural Louisiana, and in particular the way voodoo traditions shape daily life in some parts. (Did you know, for example, that jazz music—long associated with Louisiana—is a legacy of voodoo?) In THE DOLLS, the main characters (Eveny, Peregrine and Chloe) come from a magical tradition called zandara, which is a spinoff of voodoo, created by their ancestors more than a hundred years ago. It made sense to me that their great-great-great-grandmothers would have begun as voodoo queens in New Orleans, and when they decided to create their own brand of magic, they moved – but they stayed close to where they’d come from, because they, too, were drawn to the magic of New Orleans.

Question: The Dolls cover is crazy gorgeous. Do you think it fits with the story? In what ways?
Answer: Oh my goodness, I am in LOVE with the cover. In LOVE. And yes, I think it’s absolutely perfect for this book. Peregrine and Chloe are style-obsessed (and use their magic to supplement their wardrobes, naturally), and the high-heeled shoe on the cover is exactly the kind of thing they’d conjure up! The snake on the heel (who in fact looks a lot like Peregrine’s pet snake, Audowido) is a great touch that hints at the creepiness underneath the surface in Carrefour, Louisiana. Basically, I think the cover screams stylish, sexy and a little dangerous, which is exactly what I hope readers will feel from this book.

Question: Craziest thing you’ve had to Google for a work in progress?
Answer: Ha! Good question. Probably all of the herb magic searches I’ve done. If someone didn’t know me, they could form a very incorrect opinion of my own love life thanks to my search history (i.e. “Herbs to make a boy love you,” and “Herbs to make everyone lust after you.”). Of course zandara is a fictional form of magic, but I wanted to keep the herbal uses true to real-life forms of voodoo, hoodoo and the like.

Question: What books would you recommend to a reader who loved yours, and wants to read something similar?
Answer: My publisher is promoting this as Pretty Little Liars meets Beautiful Creatures, and I think that’s pretty apt. So those two series are great fits for people who love The Dolls, as is Rachel Hawkins’s fabulous Hex Hall series. Of course I’d also recommend that readers pick up the sequel to The Dolls, which will be out next year. (I’m writing it now!)

Question: What book are you currently reading?
Answer: I’m reading Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series as well as The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. On the non-YA side, I’m listening to Sarah Jio’s Morning Glory on CD. I love listening to audiobooks during long car rides!

Question: Which book was your favorite read of 2014 (so far)? Are you looking forward to any new releases in particular between now and 2015?
Answer: I’m just beginning Kevin Emerson’s The Far Dawn, which is great. And I’m excited to read three other books from HarperCollins, which are on my desk right now, waiting for me to dive in: Liz Czukas’s Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless, Jeff Hart’s Undead with Benefits and Gretchen McNeil’s Get Even. My problem is that when I start a good book, I find it really hard to focus on my own writing. I obsessively have to finish reading before I can do anything else! So because I’m on deadline, I’m on book restriction until the sequel to The Dolls is done. Otherwise, I’ll never finish!

Question: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Answer: I love outlining, because I get to go through the plot really quickly, but nothing is set in stone. I just get to keep asking myself, “And then what? What happens now?” Those are very exciting questions for me. My least favorite part of the process? Revising!

Question: Biggest writing quirk?
Answer: I write best in silence! Some writers like listening to music, but I find it impossible to have music on, even in the background, without singing along with – and thinking about – the lyrics! I’ve tried classical music without words, and that works a bit better, but I still write better without anything but the sounds of my characters in my head!

Question: As a debut author, do you have any advice for other debut authors?
Answer: Start connecting with readers ASAP! I wish I’d taken my own advice earlier in the process, but now I’m really enjoying getting to know readers and potential readers via Twitter and Facebook.

Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: Yep! The sequel to The Dolls, which will be out next year! I’m about halfway done. It’s so fun to be spending time with Eveny, Peregrine and Chloe again! Thanks for taking the time to find out about me and The Dolls!

In addition to this amazing interview, Kiki also wrote a guest post about the magic and voodoo of New Orleans! Hope you guys enjoy it!

I’ve always been fascinated by New Orleans and its history, mystery and magic. There are a few cities in the world that seem to throb with their own special energy, and I believe New Orleans is one of them. And while my novel, THE DOLLS, is set in a fictional town an hour outside the Big Easy, I was very drawn to the idea of writing about characters whose families hailed from the city and who brought with them some of its magical traditions.

In THE DOLLS, the main characters practice a form of magic called zandara, which is derived from voodoo. More than a century ago, the girls’ ancestors decided to leave their voodoo roots behind and start something new, based entirely on herb magic and communication with the spirits in the nether (the world between life and death, where spirits sometimes become trapped). Creating zandara allowed me to get a bit creative with some of the magic, something that is detailed much more in the sequel, due out next year. (I only had so much time in this book, because Eveny spends a portion of the book learning exactly what’s making the eerie town of Carrefour tick.) Inventing zandara also allowed me to write about magic with disrespecting voodoo, which is a very serious religion to some people. I’m fascinated by it, and the last thing I would want to do is inadvertently insult those who practice it.

But because the girls’ ancestors came from a voodoo tradition, I wanted to make sure that zandara was rooted in reality, so I took a fabulous fact-finding trip to New Orleans, where I had the chance to become immersed in the legends, practices and culture of the voodoo community. I spent time at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum (http://www.voodoomuseum.com/), right in the heart of the French Quarter; wandered through graveyards at night; and even visited with a real-life voodoo priestess, right in the midst of her endless jars of herbs and potions.

One of the fascinating things I learned – something that made it into the book indirectly – was that today, some voodoo practitioners in New Orleans allow themselves to be possessed or filled with spirits at dawn on the day of Mardi Gras. Later, as they sing and dance in the parades, you can hardly understand them because they’ve been taken over by spirits. But to an untrained observer, they simply appear drunk. Others go into the homes of the townspeople, and they hold bloody bones over the homes of their children to warn them against falling in with a bad crowd. So be sure to look for a Mardi Gras possession ceremony late in THE DOLLS. Although it’s not directly based on real voodoo practices, it’s inspired by the traditions of New Orleans.

Another thing I found interesting is that in New Orleans, the history of voodoo is intertwined with the history of the Catholic church in America. This isn’t something that comes into play in the book, but I was fascinated to learn that the city’s most famous voodoo queen, Marie Laveau (for whom Pointe Laveau Academy is named in THE DOLLS) is said to have attended Catholic mass seven days a week throughout her life! When Laveau was alive – through most of the 1800s – “voodoo hid in plain sight,” Jerry Gandolfo, the owner of the museum, told me. In fact, many voodoo practitioners still use statues of Catholic saints on their altars.

If you’re interested, the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Musuem has a great web site, where you can learn much more about the traditions of voodoo in the Big Easy. But again, in THE DOLLS, the girls practice zandara an hour outside of New Orleans, so what they’re doing is a bit different – less rooted in religion, more rooted in herb magic. It might be interesting to compare and contrast the forms of magic… and of course I’m always open to hearing about the things that YOU find the most interesting about magic, especially as I write the sequel to THE DOLLS. (You can reach me at kiki@kikisullivan.com, or you can tweet me at @sullivan_kiki.)

I’m not an expert in voodoo, but it fascinates and enchants me. I am, however, hopefully an expert in zandara, the fictional form or spirit-based magic that shapes the fate of Carrefour, Louisiana as well as that of Eveny Cheval and her new friends. As the Dolls would say… Mesi, zanset.

kikisullivan_authorAbout the Author:
Kiki Sullivan is the author of The Dolls series. Like the main character Eveny Cheval, Kiki used to live in New York and now calls the American South home. Unlike Eveny, she finds it impossible to keep her rose garden alive and has been singlehandedly responsible for the unfortunate demise of countless herbs. She may or may not have hung out with queens of the dark arts, strolled through creepy New Orleans cemeteries at night, or written the first book of this series with a red-headed Louisiana voodoo doll beside her computer.

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Finally, thanks to the lovely Kiki, we have an AMAZING giveaway for you guys! One lucky winner will receive a SIGNED, finished copy of The Dolls!

So, the rules:

-Giveaway is US Only

-Winner has 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond, a new winner will be selected.

-You must be 13 or older to enter OR have your parents’ permission.

-I am not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items.

-I reserve the right to change any rules as I see fit for each individual giveaway

*The above giveaway rules were borrowed and modified from Jessica @ Just a Book Lover.

With that being said, I wish you luck! May the odds be ever in your favor!

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8 thoughts on “2014 Debut Author Bash: Kiki Sullivan (Interview + Guest Post + Giveaway)

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and guest post. Magic of all sorts has always fascinated me. I have studied a few types myself, though voodoo, hoodoo, and related religions are outside my realm of study. I have read about them, and find them fascinating, but I’ve practiced more nature-based magic. I am really looking forward to reading about your herb-based magic. It sounds like a very creative invention. I cannot wait to read Dolls and the upcoming sequel. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. This is my most anticipated read. I love all things voodoo, having lived in Louisiana for awhile. This sounds right up my alley. Plus, that cover is GORGEOUS!

  3. This is one of my most anticipated read. This interview/guest post stood out of all the Author Bash out there.
    ‘My publisher is promoting this as Pretty Little Liars meets Beautiful Creatures’ How could you say NO to that? It’s PLL with voodoo and magic!!! YES, YES and YES! ME WANT THIS!

    Carmel @ http://carmelandkyla.blogspot.com/

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