With degrees in forensic science and psychology, and passions for Muay Thai and gaming, Skye Knizley brings a unique voice to all the stories she writes. And from a small town and with her dog Piper, she has produced bestselling novels that mix mystery, magic, and horror, and contain female leads free of clichés. With her Storm Chronicles series currently being developed for television as well as an incredible resume, I was lucky to be able to interview Ms. Knizley about her career for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what stories did you love reading? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Skye Knizley: When I was very little my mother read these ancient Disney storybooks. Not the “little golden” everyone has, these were old, hard bound and thick. I got my love of reading from her and was a voracious reader as a child. One of my favorites and one I go back to on long hikes or flights is Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny. I bought it with my own money at a used bookstore in Lakeland, Florida. Since then I have owned four copies. It isn’t a great book, its good. But something about it I go back to over and over again. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of handing that quarter over for the book, the smell of the paper, or just the story, which isn’t written in a linear fashion. I have a copy with me even now.
Another favorite is by Dean Koontz, whose work I read and hope to one day equal. The title is Lightning published in 1988. I read it when I was eleven, my mother had gotten it from one of those Book of the Month clubs and gave it to me when I was whining about having nothing to read. I fell in love with the characters and the story, I read it so many times pages started falling out. I bought another copy and have been careful to keep it in good shape.
Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? Do you think there was a specific experience that pushed you the most in this direction?
Knizley: I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. It began with role-playing games, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was ten and was the DM by the time I went to my first game convention when I was thirteen. I was always the one telling ghost stories and urban legends by the camp fire during the summer and it was a natural progression from there to writing game adventures, short stories and novels.
The catalyst for me focus on a full length novel was being injured. I was in an accident and started writing while I was recovering. My first novel Stormrise was the result of that recovery period.
Yanes: You are a huge gamer. How do you think playing games has helped you improve as a storyteller?
Knizley: I have spent the majority of my life sitting at game tables and being the Game Master, which is essentially a storyteller, if you aren’t into pen and paper roleplaying. About half of those games were at conventions, where I sat with six to eight players and it was my job to entertain them for four hours or more. I never wanted a player to leave my table unhappy. And I could tell by expressions and actions if they weren’t having fun. I learned what made a good story, and I took that into my novels. I know what appeals to the kind of readers I want to attract, and I stick to that when I write.
Yanes: Your bio highlights how your books feature strong female leads. What are some steps you take to make sure your female leads stand out?
Knizley: It is so important to me that the characters in my novels seem real and are memorable. Growing up I always hated that the female leads in everything were always the damsel in distress or the “smart one” while the male was always the leader and the “strong one.” Its stereotyping nonsense that doesn’t fit the modern world at all. When I create my characters, I look at the women in my life, the women I have worked with and the one I see in the mirror. Real women who step up and get the job done every single day. That’s really all it takes to make a strong female lead.
At the end of the day, its about making sure she doesn’t fold at the knees because society expects her to. You won’t find any of my characters wearing standing on a table because a mouse or spider walked by.
Yanes: One of your recent projects is the novel series, The Storm Chronicles. What was the inspiration for this series?
Knizley: The Storm Chronicles were born from one of my pen and paper RPG games that came to an unceremonious end before I was really done telling the story. Raven is based on my own character from the game, a non-player character unless another player had a story idea. When the game fell apart due to real life concerns, I transferred my ideas and my characters to the novel Stormrise, using the background and locations I’d built for the game. Marie’s, the Night Shift, The Manor, Club Purgatory and Isle of Night are all locations that transferred directly from my game to the books. The “Storm Chronicles Bible” is one of the most detailed novel play books in the industry.
Yanes: The Storm Chronicles follows Detective Raven Storm. How do you approach setting up a case for Detective Storm to solve? Do you have a guideline for inserting clues for your readers and Detective Storm to find?
Knizley: Raven’s cases always begin as a real life murder that happened over the last two hundred years. The only exception is Storm, which was inspired by my own experience with a “ghost ship.” When I start the outlines I comb the library and Google for interesting, preferably unsolved, murders or thefts. I research what really happened, the locations and players involved, then let my imagination run wild with those facts, twisting them to fit Raven’s world. By the time I’m done, it’s a fantasy-horror novel full of twists and turns that have nothing to do with the original idea, but there is still that kernel of “this could happen” at its heart.
Once I have the origin I start sprinkling in clues that fit Raven’s world. I make up ways the murder could have happened if the rules of the Storm Chronicles actual existed, and it grows from there. Its one of the most entertaining parts of the job. Like many authors, however, I find some of the events in the novels have nothing to do with what I planned. Raven lives in my subconscious and sometimes does things I didn’t intend, which in turn results in a clue only my subconscious knew existed.
Yanes: Storm Chronicles is currently under contract with Council Tree Productions to be developed into a TV show. How does it feel to know that a production company sees so much potential in your work?
Knizley: I’m not a big “feel” person. I am also very confident in my abilities. My goal since day one has been to see Raven on television or the big screen. The stories are written in a visual style for that reason. I am grateful to be working with people who share confidence in me as both a writer and a person, and I’m proud of what we have already accomplished together. If anything I feel confident that Raven will be on television sooner rather than the “later” I had anticipated while building my base and brand. I never expected to be working on scripts and series bibles in less than four years since the first book was released.
Yanes: Given the difference between television and print, what are some elements of the Storm Chronicles you think will pop on screen?
Knizley: Raven, for one. Its one thing to read about her hair and the eye-shift when she uses her abilities, its another to see that unfold on the screen, to see the power and rage rise in her eyes when she calls upon her vampire side. I’m hoping the first time that shift happens, viewers have a “holy shit” moment.
Viewers will also get to see Club Purgatory, which no matter how good I am at describing is something that really has to be seen. It’s a Goth club taken to the extreme, with vampires, lycans and faeries rubbing shoulder with one another or vying with one another, depending on the day. I’m looking forward to helping bring it to life on the screen in a tastefully violent and gory fashion.
Lastly, the relationship between Aspen and Raven. Television will give viewers a chance to see their relationship grow and blossom, something that is hard to convey in the novels. A glance, an accidental touch, a smile, little things that seem stupid in a novel can be done on screen in a subtle but meaningful way. I think that will mean a lot to viewers as well as existing readers of the series.
Yanes: When people finish a story from The Storm Chronicle (whether it is as a book or TV show), what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Knizley: My stories are fun. I don’t often write morals or meanings into the story on purpose. Yes, Raven is confronted with choices, and sometimes she makes the wrong one. She struggles with balancing her sense of duty with her love for Aspen. But those are side notes to the main intent, which is fun. I want people to finish a Storm Chronicle feeling like they just went on an exciting ride or ate their favorite dessert. I despise stories that are tear-jerkers or crammed with unnecessary drama. Life has enough drama and tears, entertainment should take you away from all that, otherwise why bother?
Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects you are working on that people can look forward to?
Knizley: I recently started a project I am extremely excited about. It will be both a television pilot script and series of novellas called Highwaymen. The series revolves around Kaija Schuman and the Highwaymen, a rag-tag group of survivors trying to exist and fight back in an apocalyptic setting full of “Mad Max” type cars, over the top villains and battle-hardened heroes. It was inspired by my love of muscle cars, 80’s action movies and the 1970’s era, where the series is set. I see it as a badass teen alternative to Twilight‘s female stereotypes.
I am also working on the novel and movie script Havoc. Havoc is set in a dystopian future where nuclear weapons cracked open a gateway between our plane and a plane of magik and demons. The wealthiest of humans have taken refuge in mega-cities for security against the rising hordes of undead and mutants born from nuclear fallout, while everyone else scratches out a living in the ruins. The protagonist is Angel, a young woman raised from the dead to help fight the monsters and save the world. Archangels, demons, vampires, dragons, pop-culture references, it’s all in there minus the campiness and cheese.