Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Interview with Kate Pentecost for Elysium Girls

Elysium Girls

by Kate Pentecost
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 14th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.

When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she's a liar, she knows she's a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn't shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa's exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.

Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium's favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.

Can you briefly describe ELYSIUM GIRLS and its characters?

Elysium Girls is a loose retelling of Seven Samurai, featuring a girl gang of witches who are fighting against the goddesses of Life and Death to save their walled city, Elysium, in a Weird West version of Dust Bowl Era Oklahoma. It features, among others, Sal, a young witch coming into her own as the successor of the mysterious old witch who runs Elysium, Asa, a human obsessed daemon given human form in order to affect the Game, Lucy, a cosmetics creator turned nurse who figures out what’s lurking beneath the surface of Elysium, Susanah, an inventor who escaped from a Native American boarding school and who has built a cavalry of mechanical horses to literally fight the apocalypse. :) It’s super strange, but I like it.

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

I really like Susanah, Lucy, and Mr. Jameson. Susanah because she is very driven and creative, and is able to sort of reclaim some of what has been lost to her through her inventions. Lucy because she undergoes so much change throughout the book, going from a girl who sells illegal cosmetics to one of the key players inside Elysium. And Mr. Jameson because he’s loosely based on my dad. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

Honestly, it kind of sprang into my mind fully formed (strange for such a weird story.) I’d heard a song that had sirens in it—probably a Sleigh Bells song—and for some reason imagined Weird Western witches, a walled city, and a divine battle. I’d also been watching a lot of Japanese cinema at the time, so I’d recently seen Seven Samurai and was amazed by it. I suppose it all added up to Elysium Girls.

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Probably “Kids” by Sleigh Bells.

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

Oh, I don’t have any idea. I’d actually prefer any actors in a film version of my books to be new or unknown rather than big names. And I’d have to somehow make sure that the cultures of my characters were well-respected. For example, it’s very important that Susanah is Comanche. I’d hate for her to be whitewashed. I’d be totally fine with any of the characters being represented by trans actors, though.

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

As far as drinks go, I’d recommend whiskey or mezcal with this book. As far as places, a night in the desert or the mountains. Somewhere rugged. But if that’s unreachable, reading on a rooftop is always perfect, no matter where you are.

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish ELYSIUM GIRLS?

Oh, there are a lot! I think the main two I would recommend would be The Good Luck Girls and Walk on Earth a Stranger. Both are really great in very different ways and feature badass, strong girls standing up to authority and the elements in a historical setting.

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Just keeping with it, really. It’s very easy to let the drama of everyday life get in the way of any goal. But just as it is with getting in shape, learning a language, or finishing any other the of project, you have to keep passionate about it, and just keep going. Even if it’s just writing one sentence or just gathering a little bit of inspiration, you have to keep working. 

What’s next for you?

Working on the next book! Always working on the next book. :)

Kate Pentecost was born and raised on the Texas/Louisiana border, where ghosts and rural legends lurk in the pines and nothing is completely as it seems.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was recently nominated for a Rhysling award for her poem "Small Town Witches."

Her debut novel, Elysium Girls, is forthcoming from Disney Hyperion in 2020 in print and audio formats.

She is obsessed with the Romantic Poets and can be identified by the enormous tattoo of Percy Bysshe Shelley on her arm. She lives in Houston (H-Town, Space City, etc.)