YEM Author Interview: C.K. Donnelly shares the inspiration for her Kinderra Saga characters

C.K. Donnelly is the author of The Kinderra Saga. The second book of the Saga, Trine Fallacy, came out back in July. The book follows Mirana and her mentor as they journey across the lands of Kinderra to find the answers they seek to save her beloved Kinderra and its people. The novel explores its own magic system, intense political intrigue, and a compelling cast of characters. YEM was able to speak with C.K. Donnelly about her favorite part of fiction/ fantasy books, her favorite scene to write, and about her writing inspirations.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first realize that writing was something you wanted to do?

C.K. Donnelly: As a young child, I loved making up my own stories in other worlds. I did my own riffs on M*A*S*H, Bionic Woman, and a ton of other TV shows I grew up watching. It was only a matter of time before I’d start writing.

YEM: What is your favorite part of fiction/ fantasy books?

C.K. Donnelly: A very clear, well-developed magic system is what really attracts me. That’s a common problem I see in many fantasy books, especially indie-produced stories. The magic is either not very unique or muddled by being overly complex. At worst, writers find ways to make their main characters “break the rules” on their magic systems as a poor fix to plot hole or advancing the story itself.

YEM: What can you tell us about the Kinderra Saga?

C.K. Donnelly: I wanted to write an epic fantasy series that would appeal not only to fantasy fans, but those who’ve never read the genre or have never liked it. “The Kinderra Saga” really isn’t YA Fantasy despite the protagonists being 16 years old. Two of the four points-of-view are adults. I think readers aged 15 to 105 will find something or someone with which to identify and insert themselves into the story.

YEM: What would you say the biggest difference between the first two books of the saga is?

C.K. Donnelly: Mirana Pinal, my main character, really grows from a precocious teen to a young adult in “Trine Fallacy.” She learns to stand on her own two feet. Her love interest and co-protagonist Teague Beltran also moves from being the “angry young teen” into a mature young adult who begins to understand his own self-worth.

YEM: When writing your books, is there a scene that sticks out to you? Whether it be your favorite or the hardest to write?

C.K. Donnelly: Oh, Lord! There are so many. One of my favorites is Teague’s dissociative internal monologue at the end of “Trine Rising.” I really wanted to capture that sense of shock that’s so crippling the mind cannot process what’s going on. There’s some interesting character development when Teague’s anger brings him out of his shock.

YEM: Are any of your characters inspired by any one in your personal life?

C.K. Donnelly: No, as a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mirana was inspired by a minor but pivotal character in a “Star Wars” fan-fic novel I wrote years ago. That said, I think all the characters—even the Dark Trine—have a bit of me in them. Kaarl Pinal, Mirana’s father, is in his 50s and wondering if he’s past his shelf life. Teague feels so inadequate to the people around him. Mirana is desperate to the “right thing” but she doesn’t know what that is. The Dark Trine is equally desperate to save the land of Kinderra and end the centuries of war (a very good thing!) but it’s his methods that are, well…you’ll have to read the books! All of these reflect facets of me.

YEM: What would you like your readers to take away or learn from your books?

C.K. Donnelly: I want them to have had one of the best times reading a book. That’s it. There’s no huge moral truth here, no issue I’m trying to spotlight under the guise of a story. Life can be so hard, we’re all just trying to survive the day. I want to give folks a good story that they will enjoy.

YEM: What is some advice you may have for those who want to become writers?

C.K. Donnelly: Work on your craft. Go to workshops and writing events. So many are available online now and will probably remain so, you can learn from professionals around the world.

And be prepared to be tested beyond your limits. You will be crushed—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Whether you have the fire and passion to get back up and continue is up to you.

Pray. Hard. A lot.

YEM: Who are some of your writing inspirations?

C.K. Donnelly: I was inspired by a lot of fantasy writers in the 1980s when I began to really get into the genre: Ann McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern), Katherine Kurtz (The Deryni Chronicles), Terry Brooks (Shannara Saga) were all huge influences. Also, J.R.R. Tolkien and “The Lord of the Rings,” of course. I read “Dune” by Frank Herbert when I was 12 and it made a huge impact on me. By far, the biggest influence, however, was “Star Wars.” I loved the original three films. It is the cultural phenomenon that brought me into fantasy and science fiction.

YEM: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

C.K. Donnelly: I love the second draft and taking it to the final draft. I *hate* writing rough drafts. But once that’s done, editing, tweaking, playing with the scenes that are finally down is the most fun I have as a writer.

YEM: Do you know how the saga is going to end, or do you get the ideas as you write?

C.K. Donnelly: I’m a hard-core plotter, so I absolutely know how the saga will end. That will be in Book 8 or 9. I have a sequel series, two character origin trilogies, and a companion graphic novel series planned as well.

YEM: Have you learned anything about yourself as a writer through the writing process?

C.K. Donnelly: When you’re an indie author, everything is on your shoulders, especially the marketing. You are less an author than a small-business owner who writes books. I learned I have really, really good business skills. And I learned to trust those instincts. You face some of this, too, as a traditionally published author, but you definitely wear all the hats when you’re producing your novels yourself.

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