Author Spotlight: Kelly Coon

Oct. 25, 2019

Today we are excited to feature YA author Kelly Coon and her debut novel, GRAVEMAIDENS (Delacorte Press, Oct. 29, 2019). Enter to win a copy!

cover design © Sammy Yuen

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

Thank you for having me! I’m currently an editor for a company called Blue Ocean Brain, a former high school English teacher, a test prep book author, essayist and now…a fiction author! What a surreal sentence to write. I always wanted to be a writer, so the fact that I get to do it for a living is thrilling. 

I think I connect with a teen audience because I honestly love teenagers. Teenagers have so much hope, creativity, and energy that they regularly inspire me to be better than I am. 

Congrats on your debut YA novel, GRAVEMAIDENS. Tell us about the book and what inspired you.

I’m one of those weirdos who likes to check out graveyards. I’m always wondering who is lying beneath the headstones and what they were like when they were alive. What did they see? Who still remembers them? 

Before I wrote GRAVEMAIDENS, I wondered what it would be like to be told that it was an honor to end up in a cold tomb. To lie with a king to be his bride in the afterlife. I wondered how an older sister might feel if her little sister had been chosen for the “honor” and what she might do to save her. 

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Oh gosh. Long and winding for sure. I’ve written seven novels; GRAVEMAIDENS is the fourth in that list. The first three will never see the light of day (which is honestly better for everyone, haha). It took me ten years, 106 agent rejections, and thousands of hours of hard work and tears to get my two-book deal. I doubted myself so many times and wanted to give up, but there was something in me driving me forward. I’m grateful I had the wherewithal to keep going.

What other projects are you working on now?

I am working on the line edits for the sequel to GRAVEMAIDENS which comes out next fall with Delacorte Press (title to be revealed soon!). I’ve also written a YA SFF which my editor is deciding on right now, and I’ve just finished the rough draft of a YA contemporary with speculative elements. 

What are some of your favorite recent YA picks?

Oooh, good question. I loved YA contemporaries IMMORAL CODE by Lillian Clark, YOU'D BE MINE by Erin Hahn, I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal and THE GRIEF KEEPER by Alexandra Villasante among about a dozen others. In the fantasy realm, I swooned over Joan He’s DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE, Shelby Mahurin’s SERPENT AND DOVE, Katy Rose Pool’s THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS, and I can’t wait to dive into KINGDOM OF SOULS by Rena Barron. It’s been sitting on my TBR pile for weeks and I can’t wait until my book tour so I get some plane time to read it! 

What is your best advice for aspiring authors?

Have a growth mindset. For the ten years I was trying to become an author, I was stuck in a fixed mindset. I was under the very mistaken impression that because I was a good writer, I was a good novelist (laughs until I cry). Those two things are not the same thing at all. I was nothing if not persistent, but I was persistently doing the wrong things. Be willing to learn. Join local writers’ groups so you can get some more eyes on your work. Read craft books and don’t think you’re above following the advice. I strongly recommend K.M. Weiland’s website, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, and The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas. 

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I took piano lessons from the age of five through eighteen, and I think it broke me. Haha, I cannot stand playing the piano in front of anyone anymore, but when I’m home alone, I like to sit and play the piano and sing at the top of my lungs. =) 

Where can people find you online?

I’m at and also on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @kellycoon106. You can also get a copy of GRAVEMAIDENS here:

YA author Kelly Coon is an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, ACT test prep book author, and a wicked karaoke singer in training. 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 three sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. GRAVEMAIDENS is her debut novel.

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  1. This sounds like a fascinating tale! Thanks for sharing with us! Congratulations!

  2. I've enjoyed visiting some historic graveyards--the ones in D.C. and that area are really interesting, and there is a great one in Rochester, New York, as well!

  3. This book sounds amazing! I love reading about kick-butt female characters :)
    Megan S.

  4. I requested this book at my library because I'm so excited to read it. The premise sounds suspenseful and unique. I admire this author's persistence and belief in her writing to overcome all those years of rejection/not finding the right editor for her book.

  5. This sounds so good! Definitely one of my most anticipated reads of the year!

  6. I like the precis, I'd love to have a copy of the book.

  7. This sounds wonderful. I’d love to win this book. 😉

  8. Gravemaidens sounds fascinating - I love the title!

  9. Ooh, I visit cemeteries wherever I go -- would love to read this.


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