Sword & Silk is pleased to welcome Kyra Whitton
Her novel A Burden of Ice and Bone, is a NA Romantic Fantasy comparable to The Bear and the Nightingale and Snow Child.
When the daughter of polar bear hunters chooses the life of a polar bear over her best friend, she must find a way to forge a truce between man and a fabled polar bear king or face exile from her village.
Everything Dira Cloon loves, and all she has ever learned in her village of ice and darkness, depends upon her pulling the trigger. But something about the white bear shakes her aim. It’s stronger than her love for her family who believe the only safe polar bear is a dead one. It’s deeper than the village legends of a lost world, a vanished civilization, and the whispered magic of an ursine king. It’s more broken, more alone, than Dira’s own heart.
If she pulls the trigger, the life she knows will take her back, the cost a piece of herself and her dreams. But if she puts down the gun and follows the bear into a vast, frozen kingdom of snow, she may change her people and their lust for blood. And for herself, find a cursed life more beautiful than the one she leaves behind.
Kyra Whitton tries not to stop moving. Since taking herself from the Atlanta suburbs where she grew up to study creative writing at St Andrews University in Scotland, she’s cultivated a life with her amazingly supportive Army Officer husband and 4 children that allows her to live and travel across the world, finding the stories that lurk in each diverse geography.
A keen lover of myth and romance, she’s never found a fairy tale she didn’t love, and as a graduate of The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, she is also well-versed in the history, technology, and society of our less fantastical world. Kyra loves cooking and baking, feeding her insatiable cat, Hoagie, and snuggling with her favorite basset hounds, Eugene and Flynn.
When she isn’t writing, she is probably planning vacations (for herself and others), driving her kids to swim practice, or volunteering in the Army community. But, by far, her favorite hobby is dreaming, whether it’s a new story or her family’s next adventure.
An Introductory Interview with Kyra
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I grew up in an Atlanta suburb, living in the same house until I left for university (and then came back… and then left… and then came back again. Oops). My first experience with higher education was at St Andrews University in Scotland where I studied creative writing. I would have absolutely loved to have continued studying there, but unfortunately, they expected me to pay them money for every semester and despite a wildly successful early career as a lifeguard and swim lesson instructor, the university and I couldn’t agree on tuition I could actually afford. I ended up with a full scholarship to The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) where I changed my focus from creative writing to history, technology, and sociology. After graduation, I went on to graduate school studying creative writing and American studies at Kennesaw State University where I worked in administration for several years before my role as a military spouse really kicked off.
After my husband commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and we moved clear across the country from Atlanta to Seattle, my writing career officially started. I began writing as a contributor for academic textbooks while working on the first novel I ever queried. Since then, I have lived in seven more locations across the country, written more than a dozen novel-length manuscripts (some published, most not), and added four kiddos to our unpredictable life.
We currently live outside of Savannah, Ga on Fort Stewart. When I’m not writing, I work as a vacation planner, volunteer for various unit and garrison organizations, drive kids to swim practices, double as a basset hound bed, and try to convince the cat he doesn’t need to eat twelve times a day.
Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
Army life isn’t always deployments. Sometimes it’s lots of shorter trips that range from a few days to a few months that take your spouse from home, and a few years ago, my husband was gone for a little over a month, which meant I was hoping for a little extra help wrangling my gaggle of young kids. My dad ended up coming to stay with us for part of that. At the time, he was on a documentary kick and was telling me about a series he’d recently watched about Churchill, Manitoba. We ended up streaming Polar Bear Town on the Smithsonian Channel—him for the second time—and that’s when the first inklings of A Burden of Ice and Bone formed. Over the next few weeks, I binged every documentary I could find about polar bears and the arctic, movies that took place in the arctic, Norway, Sweden… all of it.
I don’t remember what reminded me of a movie I used to love as a kid (and it was a truly terrible movie), The Polar Bear King. I ended up reading through all the iterations of that story (White Bear King Valemon, East of the Moon West of the Sun), and after only four weeks, the first draft of A Burden of Ice and Bone was born.
What is your writing process? Plotter or Panster? Are you a morning or evening writer? What is your tried and true method for getting words on the page?
My writing process is ever-evolving, but it mostly just starts with obsessing over a story and building it piece-by-piece in my head. One of the first things I do once I decide to get out of my head and write something down is work on my main characters, their backstories, and their wants, needs, and philosophies about their world. I tend to spend a lot of time making mood boards and researching names before I start building out the story.
I try to be a good plotter, but I almost always stray from my outlines and/or scene cards. I’ve found that I do better focusing on character motivations a la Story Genius by Lisa Cron than I do plotting mechanisms like Save The Cat. If I get too much in the weeds with the math of writing a story, I end up focusing too much on what isn’t working and the whole thing falls apart before I even get a first draft written. Which means I end up writing a lot of drafts, and most of them look nothing like the original draft.
I tend to do most of my writing in the late morning after I’ve gotten my kids to school, gone on my morning run, and had a chance to shower. I usually make a cup of tea and then sit down for a couple of hours before I stop for lunch. I also tend to do a little bit of writing at the pool while my kids have swim practice, and sometimes again at night before I go to bed. It sort of works out to a schedule, but because I’m so loose with it, if I am particularly busy with my other job or have volunteering scheduled some other time during the day, it doesn’t keep me from writing at all that day, I just pick up in the evening or after everyone goes to bed.
The thing that helps me get words on paper more than anything, though, is making it a habit. Just like I won’t run at all if I don’t do it every day, I won’t write if I don’t write every day. I give myself a very attainable daily goal, and I try to hit it every weekday at least, though every day is better. For me, 1000 words a day is my bare minimum.
Authors often impart pieces of themselves into their stories. Which character best reflects you? Do you share any personality traits with your protagonist?
I think there are pieces of me in most of my characters in A Burden of Ice and Bone. I don’t think any one reflects me more than another, but Dira, Valemon, and Granny Grin are the most like me. Dira’s impatience and her intense emotional reactions are very much personality traits we share.
What drew you to your genre as an author?
I’ve been an avid reader of romance since before it was probably age-appropriate for me to read romance. I’ve always been drawn to many of the tropes found in historical romances, but despite having degrees in research-heavy fields, when it comes to writing, I am a very lazy researcher. Fantasy allows me to use many of my favorite historical romance tropes and the flavor they bring without shaving to stay true to historical evidence. I’ve also loved fairy tales since I was three and would spend hours watching the same Sleeping Beauty VHS every day. Adding a new take to classic tales is something I find incredibly fun and satisfying.
If you could give your teenage self one piece of advice what would it be?
It’s not nearly as urgent as you think it is. Take your time. Enjoy the journey. Not everything has to happen immediately.