How would YOU stop a massacre … if you were only seventeen?
If the cops didn’t believe you?
If your mom never listened?
If your friends thought it was a joke?
If the faceless nutjobs trolled your halls and somehow knew your every move before you made it?
Majesty Alistair, who’s biggest aims of late have been to best Grief and keep any nearby 2x4s from colliding with her crush’s head, has to figure that out and go all Veronica Mars when she overhears two fellow students planning a church shooting. Her hammering pleas to investigate her father’s recent death and other possible crimes-in-the-works have totally killed her cred with cops, so, armed with just the bits and pieces she caught, she strives to ID the gun-toting freaks herself before they act. But when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, she becomes the centerpiece in a ruthless game that casts even her closest friends under suspicion and puts her in a conundrum where winning or losing will leave blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.
Please join me in welcoming Courtney Vail author of KINGS & QUEENS
Hi Courtney, tell us a little about your current release.
At the heart, it’s about friendship being tested by adversity and danger. I like to see how teens and kids deal with grown up issues and dangerous circumstances. You know how they have those St. Jude specials that feature kids with cancer, kids who are mightier in heart and spirit than almost anyone you’ll ever meet. That is so inspirational and unforgettable. I like to discover that strength in my characters and to put it to the test again and again because I believe that is what makes a character most memorable. And naturally, in that kind of struggle, relationships get caught up in the fallout and aftermath. When the smoke clears and all is said and done, who will be there standing in the ashes? Sometimes I don’t know. While writing Kings & Queens, I knew there’d be some happiness but also plenty of tears.
What was your inspiration behind this book?
Mostly a dream. One night I dreamt I overheard two people planning a church massacre and I escaped them in this little town. Before that I’d had a loose love triangle in my mind, but I had no suspense element to plunk it into. As soon as I had that dream, I knew that that was exactly the seed I needed to bring the story to life. I didn’t know how much it would grow and twist along the way though. So many turns took me by surprise.
Why did you choose this particular genre?
I love thrillers, and there aren’t many that lean girl with strong girls at the center. And I love complexity, so I wanted a book packed with twists and turns. Kings & Queens has a little of everything. Mystery, drama, suspense, romance, action and even a dash of sci-fi. I aimed for a book that would be just as fascinating and engrossing for adults as for teens. And I wrote this long before Twilight and the YA boom. I had it finished in 2003, but it went through two critique circles, several rounds of editing and a literal tornado to come to press. Now it’s finally here! And it fits directly into that ready, hungry audience.
Tell the readers a little about you.
I love outdoorsy activities, running, amusement parks, bacon and coffee. And I’m not ashamed to admit I eat Lucky Charms. I’m obsessed with sports. I even hang on the off-season stuff like drafts, contract negotiations, team restructuring, and I listen to sports radio, WEEI, daily. Beyond the typical and popular Pro and college sports, I’ll watch just about anything, bowling, golf, even extreme sports. I’m not picky.
What inspired you to become a writer?
A lack of what I like to read. I’ve always loved to write, but I think I just wanted more kickbutt-girl books out there that fuse a whole bunch of genres, and that also have a dash of weirdness.
What do you find is your biggest writing struggle?
Getting books finished. I’m super picky. And although I write without an outline, which is the only way I can write, I tend to edit as I go, which slows me down and gets me obsessing over perfection.
Any tips for new writers?
Know that not everyone will like your voice or style. You’re not going to please every reader because everyone has different tastes. You just have to write the best you can. If you write authentically and are true to the work and characters and learn your craft, you will find your audience. Be happy with the ones you find, who passionately love your work, and don’t worry about the rest.
Any other books in the works?
Sapphire Reign, the sequel to Kings & Queens will be coming out this fall. I also have a non-fiction book for aspiring novelists called Novel Writing for the Clueless coming out this winter. Both are through Little Prince Publishing.
Thanks for stopping by Courtney and I look forward to reading Kings & Queens!
This was not how Majesty liked to spend a Saturday night. The stuffy monotony presently engulfing her had to be much worse than the dullfest she’d have to endure in—She glanced at her watch—an hour and a half. No humidity. What a waste! She groaned, tossing Derek the ball again. He caught her wild throw but had to step out to do so.
“Sweet slaughter Wednesday, huh?” he said. “Wish we could add your ferocious bat to the lineup. I think we need a bit more muscle to bag it.”
“You’re so brutal. You know I wanna be out there and our softball team can’t play for crap. You haven’t answered me. Why’d you ask me over? We’re just shooting the breeze about nothing and playin’ catch when you have a date.” She secured his toss bare-handed and whipped it back with a vicious spin.
He snatched it in front of his chest and kept it in his glove. “Well, we haven’t been spending much time together lately.”
“Oh please. Spill.”
“Okay. Ya got me. It’s … uh, kind of embarrassing, but I wanted to know if you could help me pick out somethin’ to wear.”
“Ya kidding me?”
“No. You know I don’t have the best fashion sense, Maj.” He lifted his arms. “I’m a total bum.” Yeah. His stained Sooners T-shirt and shabby sweatpants did call for pity.
“Okay. I’ll help.” Then you’ll see what a ditz she is, that I’m the one you want. “I can’t stay long though. Skyewatch.”
They headed toward his house.
“Derek. Do you, um, by any chance know any Satanists? Those nutjobs were talking trash about Jesus. Maybe—”
Derek snickered and rubbed his face. “They were. Pretty cliché, don’t ya think? Satanists? Crazy. Lots of people talk trash about Jesus.”
“Stop laughing. Cliché doesn’t mean untrue. It’s a start. I don’t know what police are doing, to stop it I mean.” She bit her lip, fighting the urge to purge the worst of it. “What if—”
“It’s a gross misconception. Satanists don’t kill babies or shoot up churches. Idiots do. If you start nosing around, you’re just gonna, uh…” Derek gawked.
“Don’t ya think that’s a little … convenient?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they heard you, and it’s just a joke like I said.”
Freakin’ threatened me on the phone. “I’m not taking that chance!”
“Okay. Right. Then, let’s say it’s real, and the shooting happens, maybe they want direction slanted elsewhere and are using you to do it.”
“I guess … They mentioned—”
“Whatever the case, I don’t believe it’s Satanists. Look, sorry to blow you off, but—”
“Right. Your date.” ’Cause this is so much less important. “Where ya taking her?”
“McKinley House in Megan’s Corner for dinner, then a jazz concert in the park.”
Yes! That’s way lame. “Oh that’s fancy. She should be impressed.” They plodded up to his room and set the gear in the closet. Majesty noticed the corner of his carpet had buckled before Derek flattened it with his foot. The rug in her closet did that too. Motivated by an unquenchable desire for minute sabotage, instead of selecting something suave and cool, she handed him a churchy outfit: black pants, white dress shirt and a wolf-in-the-woods tie. “Need anything? Flowers?”
Of course! That’ll scream geek to a slut-bag like her. “You’re so clueless. You didn’t think to get some for your ‘Date of the Century’?”
“I did think of it, but forgot to go out and actually buy them. My mind was on other things.”
“Yeah, like undressing her in your car I’m sure.”
He snickered with a nod. “Can’t hide anything from you, Maj.”
She cringed at the jab. Why was she even surprised? “A keen fashion sense isn’t the only thing you lack. Want me to get some?”
“Sure, if you think it’s necessary.” He held out $100 like it was $1.
She snatched it. “Yep. Get ready. I’ll zip to the shop and back.”
“What’d I do without you, baby? You take such good care of me.”
Majesty rolled her eyes and pocketed the bill as she exited through the French door. She tore through his backyard, pumping her fists, fuming more with each step on the way to his driveway. She plopped her helmet on and mounted her bike, then pedaled off with reckless speed. Her heart and lungs were heavy with sadness and wind licked away the evidence from her cheeks as she zipped down the street. She turned right at the end and wiped away the remaining moisture from each side of her face. After a quarter mile, she hung a left onto Summer Street and slowed as she neared the bridge.
A delivery truck hovered behind her, motor growling, exhaust stinking. Pulling further into the shoulder, she waved the driver past.
“Go!” No cars traveled in the opposite lane, giving plenty of room to pass. Stiffness gripped her shoulders. What’s the deal? She gulped and wobbled her bike when the truck didn’t go around.
It kept looming like a shadow.
About the Author:
COURTNEY VAIL writes totally twisted YA and adult suspense. She enjoys braiding mystery, suspense & romance with some kind of weirdness. Her addictions to crazy coffee concoctions, Funny Bones, Ben & Jerry’s, and bacon keep her running and writing. She currently lives in New England with a comedian stud and a wild gang of kidlets.
Connect with Courtney here: