Gravemadiens by Kelly Coon: Author Interview

I am so thrilled to be apart of the Gravemaidens blog tour and I’m also on Kelly’s street team! Gravemaidens is all about sisters, the sacrifices willing to be made for family, how beauty can be a curse, and secrets lurking in the kingdom. It’s a fantastic book and I loved being able to talk with Kelly about it and more!

Before anything else, here’s some more information about Gravemaidens and some links to check it out!


The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence. Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself. 

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And if you pre-order and submit your receipt, you can get some amazing pre-order swag! Click on the picture and it will take you all the information you need!

GRAVEMAIDENS features a relationship between two sisters. What was one thing you felt was really important to include in their relationship?

Reality. Sisterhood is messy. There’s a lot of love there, but there’s also a lot of fighting and jealousy and pettiness. But when it comes right down to it, a sister is someone who will defend you when no one else will, and often roots for you more than you even realize. Kammani, the older sister, loves and feels protective of Nanaea, her younger sister, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t irritated by Nanaea a lot!

 Kammani and Nanaea have completely different goals, which sets up the main plot of the book. How did you manage balancing both of their mindsets and making sure the conflict it causes shines through?

It was normal in Nanaea and Kammani’s city-state to want to be chosen to be a bride for the lugal in the afterlife because it’s backed by religious tradition. Everyone in the city rejoices when the brides are selected! So, I supported Nanaea’s belief system with the tradition upheld by the city.

Kammani is the anomaly. She comes to believe that being killed to be a bride for the lugal is no privilege because she’s a healer. She has seen people die and knows that Nanaea isn’t going to simply be “passing to the other side.” Kammani realizes that death can be painful and scary and wants to spare her sister from it as long as she can and doesn’t want to lose another member of her family, either.

But she also loves Nanaea and knows that she wants the honor, especially since their old beautiful life was stripped from them, just as Nanaea knows that Kammani wants to heal the lugal so she doesn’t die.

Their love for each other pulls them in one direction, while their instincts pull them in another.

I tried, as much as possible, to weave in Kammani’s love for Nanaea, while making them bicker like sisters do and discuss their very different goals. We never get inside Nanaea’s head, so her desire will seem silly to us until we realize, around the 75% mark of the book, why Nanaea wants the honor so badly. She isn’t as shallow as she first seems!

Kammani is a healer! Was a lot of research required for this aspect and if so, what is the most interesting fact you learned?

OH MY GOSH, YES. I watched birthing videos, researched natural remedies for pain, learned how to cauterize a wound, watched endless videos of people getting stitched, examined, and healed, and looked up all sorts of ways to heal various illnesses without modern medicine. There’s a lot of weird stuff out there, but tons and tons of great information.

One interesting thing I learned is that honey was (and can still be!) used as an antiseptic. If you wake up with a pimple, you can put a little bit of honey on it in the morning. It inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes breakouts. I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but if it’s good enough for Kammani….

Being a debut can be scary! What are some things that helped you deal with all the feelings about sending a book into the world?

Heh. Am I managing? That’s the question.

I think one thing that really helps is having a team of supportive people around me with whom to talk. I’ve met a lot of writers who are also debuting and knowing that we’re all feeling a similar level of anxiety about our books being in other people’s hands has been very reassuring.

Also, I exercise (gahhh) and that truly gives me an endorphin boost that calms my nerves, although on most days I don’t want to go to the gym. UNFORTUNATELY, exercise is another natural remedy that Kammani would probably recommend, and I’d have to agree.

For the Gravemaidens sequel, has your writing process changed a lot since the first book? Has it been easier, harder, or about the same?

In a lot of ways it was easier. First, I’d already sold it, so I knew I was writing something that would one day be on a shelf. For some authors, this causes a lot of anxiety, but I felt relieved that I didn’t have that hurdle to overcome.

Second, I’d already thought through a lot of the plot points because it was sold as a duology, so I went into it with a very firm outline. I knew where Kammani, Nanaea, Dagan, Iltani, and everyone else needed to end up, so I could write with that direction in mind.

Third, I knew I had an amazing team behind me who could help me solve all the plot problems I would face. (AND WOW, DID I HAVE SOME ARGH) My agent is an amazing editor. My Delacorte Press editor is ridiculously talented. And I have a team of beta readers and CPs behind me who are generous with their time and can show me the way when I get lost. So, I felt confident in my team and I cannot WAIT to show you what we’ve done with the sequel.

And here’s more about the fabulous author and where you can connect with her!


Kelly Coon is a young adult author represented by Kari Sutherland of Bradford Lit, an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, and the author of two test prep guides, ACT STRATEGY SMART and ACE THE ACT.

Kelly was the test prep expert for About.com for seven years, and has been published with both Scholastic and MSN in the education arena. In the parenting realm, Kelly has been published in The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, ParentMap, Folks, and others sites, regaling tales of life in the trenches with her three boys. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she’s living near Tampa with her sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. Gravemaidens is her debut novel.

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Gravemaidens comes out October 29, 2019 from Delacorte, which is super, super soon! I highly recommend checking out this fierce fantasy with a fantastic main character, an adorable love interest, and an amazing sister story!

Thank you for reading!

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