Shimmer #22: Kelly Sandoval

Kelly Sandoval
Kelly Sandoval
Tell us how “The One They Took Before” came to be.

In modern fantasy, magical beings are always trying to disguise themselves. Angels wear trench coats, demons hide their burning eyes behind dark glasses. But I live in Seattle, where people make a point of not noticing. You could walk down the street with goat hooves and antlers and the most anyone would say is, “Well, that’s a new look. Wonder where she got the horns made.”

In the city, magic could leak in around the edges of the real, unnoticed. So, who would recognize it? And why would they care?

Can you tell us anything about your current writing project?

It’s a fantasy novel that explores different forms of power. I struggle with the the “strong, female character” who is admirable because she’s just like her male counterparts. She even shares their disdain for all things considered traditionally feminine.

I know so many strong women, and they’re strong in so many different ways. That’s what I want to write about. One of my heroines is deadly with a blade. The other has been trained from childhood as a priestess of hospitality. Neither respects the other’s strength at first, and the novel is about how they grow past that.

You’ve said, “I can’t seem to write anything without a dash of heartbreak.” Can you tell us more about what drives your work?

I think I’m drawn to broken things. There’s beauty in overcoming. There’s even beauty in failing to overcome. My stories follow characters who are struggling, because I’m struggling. Everyone is. And that hurts. But there’s something healing in fiction about characters who fail, and make bad decisions, and keep going.

It’s clear that Clarion West had a tremendous impact on your writing. Can you give us a before-and-after with respect to how you approach your fiction?

It’s a hard thing to quantify. I take fiction more seriously now, in the sense that I push myself harder. I try to write daily, and I make myself finish things. At the same time, I have more fun. I don’t wait for a single perfect idea. When you have to write six stories in six weeks, there’s no time for a single perfect idea. And I needed that push, I needed to learn that even my stranger ideas could be polished and strengthened with effort. Rewriting is a big part of my process now. Before, if a story was broken, I just gave up on it.

What films are in your Netflix / Hulu / Google Play queue? What’s the one film you’re not sure we’ve seen but are sure we should watch?

Maybe I should be embarrassed, but most my favorite movies are kid’s shows. Right now, I’m excited about Big Hero 6. The cast is diverse, the animation looks excellent, and I want a giant cuddly marshmallow robot of my own.

I think more people need to see From Up on Poppy Hill. It’s a Studio Ghibli movie but there’s no magic in it. And I understand why someone might be disappointed about not getting another Spirited Away. But From Up on Poppy Hill has the same beauty and wonder. It’s such a lovely, gentle story.


The One They Took Before Shimmer #22 | Subscribe to Shimmer


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