Interview with Kali Wallace, author of Shallow Graves

1. Can you tell us a little about your book? ShallowGraves_cover reveal

Shallow Graves is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Breezy Lin who is murdered after a high school party. She wakes up a year later in an unmarked grave and discovers that she has become an undead creature of the night with some alarming magical powers. She doesn’t understand anything about what’s happened to her; she didn’t even know that magic and monsters were real before. She goes looking for answers in a journey that takes her halfway across the country, during which she meets all kinds of interesting people, some who are human and some who mostly definitely are not, and far too many who totally want to kill her for the monster she’s become.

So it’s a story about magic and monsters and the seedy dark corners of the supernatural underworld, but it’s also very much a story about a teenage girl who had a good life and a bright future that were brutally taken away from her. There are scary parts and sad parts and parts that are all action and parts that are all feelings, and the whole range of everything in between.

2. Who is the inspiration behind your main character?

Nobody! All fictional characters have bits and pieces of real people in them, of course, but it’s just that: bits and pieces. What I wanted to do when I created Breezy, the main character in this book, is a teenage girl who has a pretty good life, a loving family and good friends, lots of drive and ambition for the future –and then to figure out what the hell she does when all of that is taken away and what she’s left with is a world she doesn’t understand and never asked to be part of.

3. Are you more of a plotter or do you write whatever is in your head?

I don’t plot out much of anything beforehand, when gets me into a lot of trouble in the long run. I generally start with a single vivid image or idea and start writing around it to get a feel for what I want to do with it, and it grows from there. I only plan the plot points and action a few scenes ahead for most of the book. Once I’m more than halfway into the first draft, I generally have a much better idea where the rest of the book will go, but I still never do anything as organized as outline. It takes me several drafts to get book into shape.

4. Is your book a part of a series or is it a standalone book?

Technically–I don’t even know if I’m supposed to tell people things like this!–this book began life as a companion to another book, one that is only tangentially related because it’s about different characters. That book never sold because everybody on the planet (well, at least everybody in the publishing world) said it is far too dark and bleak. So right now Shallow Graves is very much a standalone–and even if I ever do publish that first book, or write more in this world, I want all the stories to be able to work on their own.

5. Do you listen to music while writing or do you require silence?

As I type this there is a work crew jackhammering out the driveway across the street, so all I can think is that literally anything at all would be better than this. Usually, though, on my more normal jackhammer-free days, I do listen to music while I write. I especially like movie soundtracks. The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack is an old favorite, and the entire three-movie Lord of the Rings soundtrack is a good option because it goes on for a long while, but recently I’ve been relying on the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack for my writing hours. I disclaim any responsibility for the sudden appearance of plot-relevant flamethrower guitars in all future novels.

6. Are you currently writing a new book?

I am pretty much always writing a new book, and when I am not writing a new book, I am editing a new book. I have a second book that’s going to be published in 2017 which is now in the calm-before-the-storm pre-editorial stage before my editor and I dig into the gnarly process of whipping it into shape. It’s called The Funeral Trees and it’s about a haunted apple orchard. I’ve also been working on a middle grade fantasy novel about a magical city, and I’ve just started the first draft of a YA science fiction novel about a homicidal spaceship.

Goodreads book page:


For most of her life Kali Wallace was going to be a scientist when she grew up. She studied geology in college, partly because she could get course credit for hiking and camping, and eventually earned a PhD in geophysics. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, and She was born in Colorado and spent most of her life there, but now lives in southern California. Shallow Graves, her first novel, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in January 2016.


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