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Ask Kelley Armstong

Mr. Pointy

A sharp stick - it's true
May 24, 2002
Black Thorn
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Pointy Productions is proud to present the first ever BB Q&A with famed author and Angel comics writer Kelley Armstrong (also known as "nerd4hire bonds with a fellow Canadian and Whedonverse VIP", as I've begun to think of it ;)). Questions were submitted by Buffy-Boards members.

In addition to her work on Angel: After the Fall, Kelley is the author of the acclaimed Otherworld series, as well as the Darkest Powers YA series and Nadia Stafford series. She graduated with a degree in psychology, then studied computer programming before becoming a full time writer and mom. She currently lives in rural Ontario.

For more information, check out Kelley's website at KelleyArmstrong.com

Enjoy :)


clemxens: How has it been working on the Angel series?

Kelley Armstrong: It was an amazing opportunity. Working in someone else's universe was tougher than I thought, but I gave it my best shot and really enjoyed it.

clemxens: Do you think you would rather work on Buffy, or at least write an issue for Buffy?

KA: Writing Buffy would be a lot of fun, but I was just as interested in Angel. I love both series.

[ Some questions from me. Hey, she's one of my favourites...you didn't think I'd miss the opportunity? ]

Mr. Pointy: Do you have a mapped-out plan for the Otherworld series with an end in sight or are you just writing the stories as they come to you and (hopefully) continue delighting us for many years to come?

KA: I don't have an end-point in mind. I'm still enjoying them as much as I did with the first book, so I'll continue as long as readers (and publishers!) want more.

Mr. Pointy: Who has been your favourite Buffy/Angelverse character to write for?

KA: Surprisingly, the one I liked writing the most was Kate. I wasn't that keen on her character in the show, but when she appeared briefly in After the Fall, I saw new possibilities for her.

Mr. Pointy: Do you really think that Buffy season 4 was 'sub-par' (Stolen)? Or is that just Elena's opinion?

KA: No, that was just Elena. Writing first-person fiction, there's always the danger of giving characters only opinions I share, so I go out of my way to avoid that!

AndrewCrossett: Would you like to have a comic book series based on your books? Are there any plans for one?

KA: I'd like it very much! Unfortunately, the graphic rights to my books are held by my publishers, so it's entirely up to them. Someday, though, I'd love the chance to do an original Otherworld graphic story. I was contracted to do one by a European company, and I wrote the script, but their planned urban fantasy line has stalled.

Lyri: Are there any Angel characters you haven't written yet but you would like to?

KA: Cordelia or Fred. I know Cordelia appeared, but it was so brief that I couldn't really play with her character.

[ At this point nerd4hire has a lot to ask of Kelley. ]

nerd4hire: Inquiring Canucks want to know...Being a Canadian writer, do you think there can be anything like a uniquely Canadian perspective to fantasy, horror or science fiction?

KA: I think there can be, but I hesitate to suggest anything specific, because I know it wouldn't apply to all Canadian authors and wouldn't be uniquely Canadian.

nerd4hire: More precisely, do you think you bring anything to your work driven by a regional or cultural underlying precept?

KA: I do tend to not to take myself too seriously or hold any institutions in such high regard that they can't be questioned or wryly mocked. That seems more common for Canadian writers, at least in genre fiction. I can have Elena poke fun at Canadian politics in my books and never hear a peep about it, but if a character makes a comment about US politics, I get loud and angry complaints. I've learned to be more careful about that.

nerd4hire: Have you encountered any problems in the writing game you would call uniquely Canadian?

KA: Nothing major. It can limit my travel opportunities. I recently had a speaking engagement invitation rescinded when the organizer discovered I was Canadian and feared "travel complications." Other than that, there's just the danger of using Canadian-isms"”words that I don't realize are uniquely or primarily Canadian. My beta readers and editors usually catch those, but not always!

nerd4hire: Do you have a method of operation when you switch over from a text driven to a more picture driven format?

KA: I do a lot more outlining for a graphic format. With books, I have a very rough outline that I stray from all the time. With comics, I use a detailed outline with page counts for each scene, so I know exactly how long it'll be and whether it's a good blend of action and "talky" scenes. If I want to veer from it, I redo the outline rather than just wing it as I would in a novel.

nerd4hire: What's your strategy? What are the problems, and solutions?

KA: I do a lot of outlining, as I said. The biggest problem is dividing the story into the proper number of issues and pages per issue. In novels, I don't have to deal with those restrictions. But the outlining really helps.

nerd4hire: Oh, and more generally...read any good books lately?

KA: A recent one I really enjoyed was actually nonfiction"”Erik Larsen's The Devil in the White City, telling the dual stories of the Chicago World's Fair and H. H. Holmes, the serial killer who took advantage of the fair to lure young women into his hotel.

[ Pointy note: Check out the Supernatural Season 2 episode 'No Exit' which uses the HH Holmes story as part of the plot. ]

Scobro: How do you think (assuming it has) your background in psychology helped you write, and specifically, write more tangible characters?

KA: I like to think it helps me with character development. If I want a character to turn out a certain way, I can come up with a back-story to explain her personality. Likewise I can start with a life experience and decide how it could affect a character.

goldenboy: I'd be curious if Kelley had any difficulty adapting to the comic book medium"”in terms of having to be so succinct and sparse with the writing, dialogue. Does your editor help a lot with that process?

KA: I've done screenplay writing and taken courses"”just for fun and to see how it can improve my novel writing"”and that really helped because it taught me to be succinct. It also helps, I'm sure, that I'm not the most descriptive or poetic novel writer in the world. My prose tends to be very simple and spare.

goldenboy: Also, how is it working with an artist? Do you give specific direction to an artist...in terms of setting a scene visually or describing a character's expressions, etc?

KA : I did give direction, but I also made it clear that it was just my thoughts and changes or suggestions were very welcome. I was well aware that I'm an amateur at this and the artist was the expert.

Buffy Summers: How difficult was it to write for characters created by someone else?

KA: More difficult than I expected. I really wanted to do this, and I threw myself into research (rewatching the whole series, studying After the Fall.) The more I researched, though, the more I realized that I could never remember all the details and I was never going to nail the characters as well as I'd hoped. I'm accustomed to writing in my own fictional universe, where I'm the expert. Here, I wasn't, and that made me a lot more anxious than I am with my own work.

Buffy Summers: Do you prefer telling stories in novel or comic book format?

KA: Of all the forms of storytelling I like novels the best, because it's the least restrictive. But I'd go nuts if I couldn't write anything except novels. I have to mix it up with other forms"”short stories, novellas, comics, screenplays"”because it keeps me challenged and keeps things fresh.

Buffy Summers: How did you get your big break? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers on how to break into the industry?

KA: My big break was finding an agent to champion my book. Except...I didn't find her. And she initially didn't even want to read the book. I was recommended to my agent by a writing instructor. She heard the words "werewolf novel" and wasn't interested, but finally agreed to take a look. I sent the novel. Two weeks later she called and offered to represent me. Within a couple of months, I'd sold North America and UK rights, various foreign rights and movie rights. That came after years of rejections and several unpublished novels. My advice is simply to keep at it. If you want it badly enough, you'll keep trying in spite of endless rejection.


Many thanks to Kelley for giving us some of her valuable time in doing this and also to Kelley's assistant Alison for her great help in organising it.


Care Bear With Fangs
Aug 25, 2009
I love Kelley Armstrong! I read her books "The Summoning" & "The Awakening" before I even knew she wrote for the Buffy and Angel comics! I sent her fanmail a while back, and she was nice enough to send me bookplates and bookmarks. I really wish I had known then that she had wrote for buffy, because I would have gone all buffy fan-girl on her in the letter!
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