Court of Venom author Kristin Burchell on poison, character, and connection

For several years, Multnomah County Library has been working with local authors to share their self-published books via e-book platforms. Through the Library Writers Project, hundreds of books have been added to the e-book collection.

The library partners with Ooligan Press to publish one Library Writers Project book a year in print. This year, author Kristin Burchell, worked with Ooligan Press on the publication of her book Court of Venom.

Author looking at the camera holding up a library copy of their book, Court of Venom.

Court of Venom is a fantasy novel about Badriya and her journey in the beautiful oasis city of Aran which lies at the center of the Lost, a desert haunted by ghosts, demons, and witches who prey on unwary souls.

Q: What part of Court of Venom was the most fun to write?

KB: I would have to say the most fun was the interactions between Badriya and the other characters throughout the story. The camaraderie with her and Petra, how they develop their friendship through this fraught place. The relationships between Badriya and the Queen - their back and forth, and then separate from that the relationship with the Queen’s younger sister. There was also a character - a skeleton called the bones, I really loved writing their interactions as well. It was fun to hear what the bones would see because they had seen a lot.

Q: What inspired the idea of your book?

KB: Oh gosh, I've been working on this novel for quite a long time! I would start it and then put it away. I would come and go. When I first started writing it I got interested in the idea of poisons. When I was doing research on poisons, I kept finding information and stories around how people could use poisons to enhance their appearance. This was just so interesting to me…So what would be the dynamics that people would use poisonous cosmetics in different circumstances? If there is an assassin, how could they use cosmetics to poison people? People could use cosmetics as poison against each other as well. So what would make this worth the risk?

Q: What characters in your book are most similar to you and why?

KB: There’s probably a little bit of me in each character. So there’s Petra who is the best friend and observer and is probably the most like me I would say. She’s just watching all that’s going on and making sense of it all. In Badriya there is some of me. The thought process of how did I get into this situation and how am I going to get out of it? She’s always looking for a different solution or a different path that hasn't been seen yet. Connections are also important to me the same way they are to Badriya. So I would say for sure those two characters the most. I don't feel the furious revenge the Queen feels. As for the two mothers in the story, Solena’s mother and Badriya’s mother, I do feel the protectiveness that they each feel for their daughters.

Q: If you could meet one of your characters, what would you say to them?

KB: I would really like to talk with Badriya’s mother and have a whole conversation on just what drives her and what would it take for her to finally feel happy and satisfied and what is her connection to the desert and to the lost. I’m sure Badriya would love to know what would satisfy her so she can finally be content and happy.

Q: If you were to write a spin-off about one of your characters, which would you choose?

KB: My first instinct would be to tell more about the witch's story. Then I’d also want to retrace Badriya’s mother's past. As well as follow up with Najma and her future.

Q: Is there something you want people to know before going into the book:

KB: It was so exciting when the library picked it up as an ebook! And then to watch the process of Ooligan and for it to be traditionally published as a hard copy. There's a whole other element that Ooligan helped me add to it - like the astrology and star signs as I was going through some of the edits. And it was fun to see the constellations take place and form and to really move the book forward. This all just added more layers to the original book. I just appreciate the library being willing to get local writers recognized and out there.

Read more books from the Library Writers Project on OverDrive and Libby

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