To celebrate the publication of Three Strikes our intern Nia Thorne had a chat with the very lovely Kat Ellis about her novella ‘The Twins of Blackfin’ which is a prequel to her debut YA novel Blackfin Sky.
What inspired the plot of Blackfin Sky?
Well, the beginning came to in the usual way (for me) that all stories do: what might happen if… and in this instance, the question was what would be the weirdest thing to happen if you showed up late to school one day? So naturally, everyone thinking you had died was where my brain took me. I knew that Sky would be completely blown away by this – after all, she remembers the last three months since her supposed ‘death’ going on just as normal – so I needed to figure out how and why she remembered events differently to everyone else. That question had me stumped for quite a while; until one day when I went with my sister and niece to the circus, as we do every year, and as I was sitting in the grand stand watching all these amazing performers, I had an idea about a very unusual circus visiting the town of Blackfin, and how that might connect to Sky’s missing three months.
The plot is complex, was the whole thing planned out before? Were there certain things you put in when you were writing the book?
I wrote out the first few chapters without knowing where it would all go, but after that I had to sit down and do some serious plotting so that the mystery of Sky’s death (or lack thereof) would unfold in a way that made sense. And of course there was a lot of editing and tweaking after that, making sure those threads knitted together properly so readers wouldn’t see through the fabric. And with a book like Blackfin Sky, each round of revisions made me wonder what might make this scene eerier? Stranger? More exciting? And so it came together. Weirdly, but together.
Who are your favourite characters?
Besides my two main characters in the Blackfin stories, Sky and Bo (who I kind of have to love most after spending so long inside their heads), I think Gui – Sky’s lovely, emotional, gigantic father – is definitely a favourite, as is Sean, Sky’s friend whom she has the mildest (AHEM) crush on. And Cam, who is dippy and delightful in equal measure. And Silas, of course – who doesn’t love a bad-tempered haunted weathervane?
What made you write the prequel about Bo?
While I think there are a lot of stories I could tell about Blackfin, I knew that continuing Sky’s journey would probably take a full-length novel, and as I wanted to write something shorter I decided to tell the story of a ghostly voice summoning the young people of Blackfin from their beds – and as it was quite a dark, chilling tale, I needed a main character who wouldn’t scare easily. So naturally, that was Bo.
Was it easy to write the old characters from Blackfin again?
Easier than I expected! Even though it’s a few years now since I wrote Blackfin Sky, it was like catching up with old friends.
What was your favourite part about going back into the world of Blackfin?
Revisiting that bizarre place where anything can happen, and frequently does! Where the weathervane on the school roof is haunted, and the wishing well might just steal your pocket change, and doors might lock of their own accord… Yeah, I had a blast going back to Blackfin.
I started writing it in September, just as autumn was settling in around me, and it’s the time of year when I naturally start reaching for books with a spooky, sinister edge – and that trickles through into my writing. I also knew that ‘The Twins of Blackfin’ would feature alongside those of two brilliant authors who know how to write dark, chilling stories so well – so I think that might have spurred me on to take some darker paths with Bo’s story!