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Monday, 30 April 2012

Kimi's secret - YA fantasy at its gory best.

Wanna see something really scary?

When death comes knocking on your door there is really only one place to hide. Dragged screaming to the paranormal world of Heart, where ghosts are real, big cats prowl, aliens are greylians, monkeys rule, trolls troll, fairies are vermin, the Adepts always know best, magic is mojo and roasted dodo is the dish of the day; Kimi Nichols is handed a secret that must never be revealed. To do so would mean the end of mankind. 
contains imploding toads, gravity-defying clowns, liquefied brains, a sadistic dentist and a deformed taxidermist; great dollops of blood and bogies, half a million crows, and a giant with OCD.
Gothic horror meets supernatural sci-fi; Kimi’s Secret will leave you gagging, breathless and sleeping with the light on.

This book will be FREE Sunday 6th May and Monday 7th.
Download it FREE while you can.

An interview with John Hudspith - author of Kimi's Secret

What inspired you to write Kimi's Secret?
A couple of things.

Firstly would be life’s inherent need for equilibrium. Not just human life, but all life-forms, in their drive to survive, procreate and evolve into better mechanisms, show, through the patterns of their structures and actions, an ever-present need for balance. We humans display this need quite brashly with our crude means of communications and all too often ill-thought thoughts and actions, causing disruptions and blow-holes to infest the peaceful, less sentient ever-present strive. This process is the bedrock of all story-telling, and so Kimi became a Balancer, the force for good over evil.

Secondly would be my love for the challenge of a big production. Being a successful production manager of one sort or another for a huge chunk of my life makes me reasonably proficient where plot and arrangement are concerned. I wanted to stamp my take on the balance of life while using those techniques learned through years of experience. I’m reasonably happy with the result. Maybe if I could go back and tweak it just a teeny bit more here, and add a bit there, and – oh shut up and move on!  

Lol that’s an on-going problem for writers. I don’t think any writer can say with perfect honesty that their book is finished. How long did it take to write Kimi’s Secret?
From the spark that would not die, to a very generous serendipity bringing many wise and giving peers, through the constant climb of understanding the craft and discovering the complex intelligence and vast power contained within so little ingredients as 26 letters and a few bits of punctuation to bat them about with, Kimi’s Secret took five immensely enjoyable years.
Five, by the way, being a digit of magical connotations, receives many nods and configurations within the pages of Kimi’s adventure.

Kimi’s Secret is a fantasy for YA. Is that genre your niche? Or would you/have you written anything else?
I don't much like genres. Unfortunately though, they exist, cemented at the root by conventions created via perception – and – wait for it – need. Sigh. Does Kimi’s Secret best fit the Y/A tag? I think 90% of Y/A readers may enjoy the read, but I don’t think it’s limited. I’ve had comments and reviews from much older readers as to how they could not put Kimi down. Kimi’s story could have been told in virtually any genre: horror for adults, romance, erotica, storybook for littleuns, virtually any. I like writing in these other genres, too. I fancy trying some horror next.

Kimi’s Secret certainly has elements of horror in it. The crows do bring back memories of watching (cowering) Hitchcock's The Birds. I’m enjoying the humour as well. You have a talent for tongue-in-cheek funnies and it comes across well in Kimi’s Secret. Is the lead character, Kimi, based on anyone from real life?
Visually, for my eyes only, Kimi is based on a young girl called Farrel Smith who sang so beautifully in 2009’s Britain’s Got Talent. I say for my eyes only because Farrel is the character I saw in my mind’s eye when watching the scenes rolling out, and she is the one I would sketch into the storyboards. But in the book I don’t give much to reader in the way of description. I show them the clothes she likes, and indicate some length of dark hair, but that’s about it. The story is told through Kimi’s eyes and I wanted the reader to live that and to build his own image of the heroine.

Intellectually, Kimi is merely the vehicle into which I jump, adorned in her assumed skin, to handle the next situation.

Farrel Smith, really? I see Kimi as a little dishevelled. A tomboy. I know you have her as wearing pink in the book, but that pink in my mind’s eye, is a dark off coloured pink. There are no girlie characters. Even Stella is a pulled-through-a-hedge character.
Now that’s interesting. You took my hints of description and built your own character to live the story with. I’d love to hear what other versions of Kimi have been created by her readers.

So, why a girl? Why not Jimi?
Good question. Three reasons. When I first came up with the idea for Kimi’s tale there was this kid called Potter or something, and he was doing incredibly well – I didn’t want clich├ęs or comparisons.

Secondly, I wanted the challenge: to play the lead as a young girl, think her thoughts, make her decisions, become her character and live it effectively and portray it convincingly on the page. It took a few years, and a lot of steers from a lot of good peers, but I think I eventually got somewhere near acceptable.

And thirdly, some of the things Kimi has to go through are really quite terrifying, exhilarating, or just downright icky, and I thought it would be more fun torturing a girl than a boy.
You mention Potter. Now, to me, Kimi’s Secret is more Alice in Wonderland or Narnia: it’s madness, Kimi’s state of confusion and wanting to do right, her sidekick Bentley (Mad Hatter/Mr Tumnus). But then, I’m probably the only person in the world who hasn’t read Harry Potter!
Alice, Wonderland, Looking Glass, Jabberwocky, all in my top ten reads. The intense chutzpah of Lewis Carroll really does float my balloon. A huge inspiration, Carroll gets a few nods in Kimi’s Secret. I made him a Balancer Adept, founder of the dodo farms; gave him a statue at the end of Carroll Street in Middling which is home to The Rabbit’s Foot where Kimi lives. Oh, and I even tumble a crow down a rabbit hole.

Did you have a disturbing incident with crows when you were a child?
Ha! Not at all. Although hang on, now that I think about it…I do remember watching Hitchcock’s `The Birds` at the impressionable age of seven, and an image of that slumped guy with his eyes pecked out will always be mine, along with that schoolroom scene where the kids are singing “huffety-puffety-rah-rah-rah” as the crows gather on the phone wires and climbing frame outside, and the kids make a run for it, and the crows swoop and charge and rake claws through the scalps of screaming youngsters. Great film, and yes, probably an influence. I love birds, used to watch them for hours from my window, sketching their various forms. I remember finding a few in distress and taking them home and nursing them better. And another time I found an abandoned young thrush so I popped him in a blackbird’s nest and the blackbird reared it with her own. Fascinating characters.

You watched that at seven! OMG! I was terrified watching it as an adult. Yes, you managed to bring all that terror back and I can see why adults will love Kimi’s Secret as well. You don’t pander to the child-reader, you are telling a fantasy story which happens to have a young protagonist, but I’m glad to know you don’t have anything against birds!

Bentley is, or was thought to be an imaginary friend of Kimi. It’s interesting that you built on this common pretend-play that children sometimes go through. Did you have an imaginary friend as a boy?
No but my best friend did. I was extremely fortunate to have to sit still, in bed, for two years. Instead of playing outside with my pals I was sat in bed with new tools: sketch pads, books, and a TV I could watch until God saved the Queen and the white dot went beep. I got to watch all the cool Hammer Horrors and stuff like Creep Show, King Kong, The Ants, Karloff, Cushing, Price, and of course Hitchcock. Given this delightful enforced stillness, my imagination was allowed to grow. So when my best mate David talked to his imaginary friend, or pretended to share his cars with him or feed him a biscuit, I would tell him stop having a laugh. I might also have been the one who told him Santa was fantasy and that the tooth fairy would nibble at his throat if he didn’t put soil under his pillow.

Was there a character you struggled with?
Every one of them. Achieving good character is to achieve correct character, i.e., to wear the skin, to use the words that would come through this character’s time of growth of culture of surrounding, of his reason for being right up until the time I meet him. That takes some doing, some drafts, to get anywhere near acceptable, and yet, I find the only way is to act out those scenes time and again until gradually the character is revealed. And the hardest of all were the two greylian characters. Not having the benefit of wearing human skin, I had to start from scratch. Whether that worked well or not I do not know.

How much research did you do for Kimi’s Secret? I know people tend to think that with fantasy you can “make it all up” but usually this isn’t the case and much work has to go into it.
While building the world of Heart and uncovering its ethos I must have researched for a solid year; firstly by reading popular Y/A such as HP, Twilight, Pullman et al and so ensuring that my own stamp would be original. Second came the finer workings, the code of Heart, the geology, history, culture, the very science which makes it all tick; every aspect formed into a credible mould rooted in fact. Every detail researched, checked, placed carefully into the weave. It was, and still is, a lot of research.

How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed?
None. But there are quite a few unwritten ones in my head.

Kimi’s Secret didn’t end, there is a To Be Continued how far are you into the next book? Will there be more and more adventures (books) of Kimi?
I’m writing the sequel to Kimi’s Secret - working title: Kimi’s Density and the Vampire Dairies. (Sorry but it makes me chuckle every time I open the doc.) At the moment I have ideas for another half dozen Kimi adventures and that’s before I open the can of books under my bed. Who knows? If I could only get more time to write. Hmm.

What made you go down the self-published route?
The novel won one of youwriteon’s Book Of The Year awards and the prize was free publication. I asked if they would wait awhile because I had only just started submitting to agents. One agent bit, but asked if I could cut the word count by 40% to save on production costs. If I could do that they would be willing to pitch it. I gave it a go but it just wasn’t working. Whether simply incapable or incredibly vain or a mixture of both I told them no thanks and decided to collect on my prize. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand where this agent was coming from. I know very well that production costs are paramount, yet I had written the epic that I wanted, and if that meant going it alone in order to make my desired mark then I was very happy to do so.

Are you still in touch with that agent? Would they be interested in future work from you?
I’m not in touch with that agent but I am considering contacting them again with a view to pitching the sequel.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
Not at all. Never any goals. I prefer just to write and see what happens. Some days I scrape the barrel, other days I dig up gold. Writing is a lovely place to be.

There is some “swearing” in the novel that made my eyebrows rise. I’m not an avid reader of YA so I’m not sure if this is the norm or not, but how’d you get away with the word “shit”?
I find it amusing that I can eat brains, kill crows, shoot holes through greylian guts, murder people in cold blood, and get up to stuff Hannibal Lecter would be jealous of, yet use the word `shit` once (or is it twice?) among 90,000 words and it raises eyebrows. This brought up interesting discussion with the first school collaboration. Pupils decided unanimously that the small amount of cussing brought a realism that they appreciated. Swearing in Y/A fiction is commonplace – Kimi is quite tame in comparison to some.

How do/did you deal with rejection letters? Any tips?
I haven’t submitted anywhere for a couple of years, but in the early stages when I fired those begging letters off I made the same mistake that 99% of submitting writers do – my work, my writing, was simply not good enough. If you’re considering submitting you should consider the basics before you send poop to the agent’s doormat.

Two simple fundamentals:
·                     Have you had an editor look at your submission?
·                  Have you had a proof-reader look at your submission?

Most submitting their begging letter to agents have not. And it shows. A good editor will advise not just on the original worth of your work, but on voice, viewpoint, pace, structure, characterisation, dialogue, story arc, as well as offering suggestions for story/prop/scene improvements and solid advice on blurb, synopsis and begging, sorry – query - letter. And a good proof-reader will give your submission the final polish ensuring it will slip gracefully into grateful agent hands.

You work as an editor as a side-line. But who edits/critiques your work?
I’m very fortunate to have had the guidance of a top wordsmith: Mr Mathew Cohn. The guy is a genius, taught me a helluva lot, and shaped Kimi’s Secret into what it is. I owe him so much I even named Kimi’s adversary General Cohn after him. Apart from Mathew I am fortunate to belong to a small but intelligent writing group (if it’s pants they tell me it’s pants), and I have the eyes of a dozen beta readers to keep me straight. On top of that I am currently collaborating with the pupils of Blaenavon Heritage VC Primary School in Wales for the sequel, so I think it’s fair to say that with so many helping hands moulding the ingredients, the end result is sure to be pretty tasty.

You had the help from pupils of Portree Primary with Kimi's Secret?
Portree Primary worked with me on Kimi’s Secret.  Blaenavon Heritage VC Primary School are involved with the production of the sequel. Working with the kids, receiving their drawings, notes, feedback, is an absolute joy. We have only just got started and have many competitions lined up to take us through to the summer holidays.

Now I've finished reading Kimi's Secret, I'm interested in how you came up with the plot. It’s amazing how you finish the story, how it all comes a full circle and everything ties up. And then just when you think it’s all over it isn’t and the whole thing is given an extra twist.
Many readers have commented on the twisting plot, wondering how I put it together. The answer is time, perseverance and continuously consulting half a dozen internal writers on every plot point. Simply, I would reject the first two or three ideas I came up with and dig deeper until I came up with better. My plotline storyboard ended up a confusion of pins, arrows and crisscrossing threads but the end result was worth the effort.

Click and listen - spooky: Kimi's Secret by SCHMUCKFENSTER

In the northernmost spire of his black-brick chateau, John Hudspith edits fiction by day and scrawls scary stories by night. 

Kimi's Secret won a highly coveted youwriteon book of the year award and has had huge acclaim in every room in John's house. 

John may look handsomely ancient but he's really only 30. Five years to write a first novel takes it out of one's mojo - that and the time-travel. But Kimi is alive now, waiting to suck you in and thrust you onwards. John is working on the sequel and hopes to see daylight before Christmas.


  1. Wow! Looks interesting! When I get the money together, I'll be sure to check it out. And hide under my covers...

    I have a sneaking suspicion that fans of Barry Hutchison would like this book, too. Children's Horror/Comedy/Madness.

  2. Thanks Paul. I'll look Barry Hutchison up.

  3. I am a committed YA fan and would recommend Kimi's Secret to anyone: YA or Adult. I've always felt YA books have a more rounded form than thier so-called grown-up brothers and sisters, a clever concise form of literature. Kimi's Secret is exactly that.
    Terrific interview Louise and perfect answers, John. Thank you.

  4. Prue, it was my first trip into YA after I dipped my toe with Twilight. I thought I'd find it as I found Twilight (annoying and childish). How wrong was I!

    I've been converted for sure.

    Might even see what's all the fuss about with Harry Potter! :)

  5. Great posts.

    Stopping by from the list for the tour of SHADES OF MURDER. I will stop back when you have your review done. I have read the first two books of Lauren Carr's. You will love the characters and the storyline.

    Nice to meet you.

    Stopping by for a look around.



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