Valkyrie Bestiary FAQ
Believe it or not, I wrote 4 complete novels set in Kyra’s world before writing Dragons Don’t Eat Meat. None of those first novels quite captured the spirit of the story I wanted to tell so they remain unpublished. But all that writing means that there was a lot of world-building and backstory created before I even started this book. Here’s a little bit about Kyra’s world to get you started.
Kyra is half Valkyrie and half dryad. She lives in Montreal Ward in the year 2080, fifty years after a devastating war broke countries, killed billions and severed the ley-lines to bring magic rushing back into the world. She is a pest controller who specializes in wrangling class three fae creatures. She lives in Sayntanne on the west end of the Montreal island which is protected from the wastelands (known as the Inbetween) by a heavy-duty magical ward. The ward was built by fae magic and is maintained by the alchemists. Kyra has a crush on Henry Mason, captain of a vigilante group known as the Guardians.
Below are questions from readers taken on various polls online.
Q: Can you tell me more about the flood wars that are mentioned in the books?
A: The flood wars happened 50 years before the story starts. Kyra was living in Asgard at the time and missed the worst of it. Magic trickled back into the world, opening the way for the fae, demons and all manner of creatures to return. Some people say that the return of magic was the Earth spirit fighting back against man's encroachment. Whatever the reason, humans quickly did what they do best and weaponized the new magic. This started a world war that devastated all the continents. Now people live in isolated city-states surrounded by the Inbetween, a dangerous land where magic is the only rule of law.
Q: How did Kyra meet her roommate?
A: Kyra’s roommate is a banshee named Gita. There introduction is the focus of my current work-in-progress. Without spoiling it, all I can say is that their meeting concerns a water dragon and a very handsome young fisherman. It takes place many years before Book 1. Check out the story in the prequel, The Girl Who Cried Banshee.
Q: How did Kyra meet Mason?
A: Almost a year before the events in Dragons Don’t Eat Meat, Kyra was called to her old middle school to investigate an infestation of satyrs. Unfortunately the satyrs woke up a troll living under a nearby bridge. Mason was trying to capture the troll when they arrived. You can read this adventure in the prequel novelette, Three Half Goats Gruff.
Q: What was the most dangerous creature Kyra faced?
A: That’s a tough one. Kyra has faced some pretty dangerous creatures, from hallucinogen-inducing frogs to giant corpse-eating grubs. Not to mention crazed were-bears and fire-spitting chimera. But I think the winner would have to be a tie between the opji vampire and the rock troll. These were the only two creatures that got inside her guard, forcing her to seek urgent medical attention.
Q: How many critters does Kyra take care of?
A: In Dragons Don’t Eat Meat, Kyra has a basilisk, 2 madras, a very large bejeweled snail, 2 vampire slugs, 2 rats, bearded dragons, an eel, a pygmy kraken, an ice sprite and a cat. And a dervish who desperately wants to live with her. And now a baby dragon. There are others that aren't mentioned, and many others that she re-homes back to the wild land known as the Inbetween. She gets help caring for them from her banshee roommate/nanny, Gita.
Q: How old is Kyra? She sounds around mid 20’s.
A: Kyra is 78 years old at the beginning of the series. What? I know that sound crazy. But she went to live in Asgard when she was 18 and ate the famed Golden Apples. They kept her young. Now that she's back in our world she doesn't know if she will age any more. She looks to be about 25, but she takes a wait-and-see approach to immortality.
Q: Is the series complete?
A: No. Currently there are 5 books in the series, plus 3 short story prequels. (See the Series Reading Order page). But books 1-3 complete the first story arc that deals with Mason’s past. I am currently planning 9 books total (with some spinoff shorts). Books 4-6 will focus on Kyra’s past and we’ll meet some of her family from Asgard.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I wrote my first book of poetry when I was eight. It started like this:
Cats have fur.
They often purr.
And it got worse after that. I’ve been writing all my life. I published my first novel in 1999. After that I focused on children’s books for many years. In 2016, I turned back to my real fictional love, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Suspense. I’ve been publishing in those genres ever since.
Q: How big could a pygmy Kraken get?
A: Hunter is fully grown. He’s not getting any bigger
Q: Jacoby treats Errol almost like an elderly grandparent that he protects and carries and aids. Is it possible that Jacoby has lost someone special and Errol has filled that hole in his heart?
A: Dervishes are normally solitary creatures. Kyra has only ever met one other. And in book 1, Jacoby tells her that he gave himself his name (after Papa Jacoby cookies). To me, this means that he hasn’t ever had a family before. I don’t think dervishes make great mothers or fathers. He’s been on his own for a long time. Family is something that is important to Kyra. It’s a theme that runs through the books. But with Jacoby, we see that family can be important to critters too. So my take on it is that yes, he treats Errol like a Grandpa, but not because he lost his. It’s because he never had one before. And he doesn’t want to lose his new family.
Q: Have you ever thought of putting a tree spirt in her rescue maybe for her backyard?
A: Yes, I have. And I'm still thinking about it. I want to have a tree being of some sort, but it's hard to compete with Ents from Lord of the Rings. I want to create my own version. And in fact, I did for book 5. You'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Are the dragons gonna make a come back?
A: The dragons will make a come back in a novella I have planned for next Christmas (2022). That's part of the bittersweetness of being a rescuer. Sometimes you have to let the critters go--back into the wild or to a good home.
Q: Was the white cat with Grim also a Night Sun cat or an everyday cat?
A: The white cat at the end of Book four is a normal housecat. Grim is sowing some long overdue wild oats.
Q: Will you be writing about Fairy Creatures like Pixies or Mermaids lost or kidnapped?
A: The fae that Kyra has come across so far tend to be the Sidhe kind. Tall, willowy and elfish. Or gnomes, brownies etc. I do love pixies and I may feature them at some point. Mermaids are interesting too. It's just the logistics of having some or most of the story take place in the water. Unless Kyra grows gills, I'm not sure how to make that happen. Though Book 5 may feature some selkies.
Q: What made you chose to use Montreal as Kyra’s home?
A: It's where I was born and raised. Though I haven't lived there in 20 years, I get back to visit often. It will always be home to me. Abbotts Agora is based on my old college. Many of the place names in the book are mutated names of real places.
Q: What about Gita? Will she continue to live with Kyra?
A: Yes. Gita will stay with Kyra. I say that, but things change as I write. Let's just say, that as far as I know now, Gita stays. She hasn't featured much in the last few books because the stories took Kyra away from home. Gita is a home body. But when the stories come back home, Gita will be there.
Q: Do they still have a version of poutine in Montreal ward?
A: Definitely. Though unfortunately Lafleur's was destroyed in the Flood Wars, and they had the best poutine.
Q: What’s been your favourite animal to write about?
A: That's a hard one. I love Jacoby because he can talk and still be cute (that's hard). But Hunter has been a hoot to write. I love coming up with new places for him to hide.
Q: How do you select the critters for each book? How long does it take you to research each critter's background and how do you make them your own. I.E. A pygmy kraken?
A: I have always been a critter person. I always had animals and many times in my life I have spent months or years volunteering at animal shelters. So the critter thing came easy. Finding new and unusual critters gets harder with each book. Saying goodbye to some critters is even harder 🙁 Most of the wierdness comes from my own twisted sense of what's cute and funny (did I mention I like slugs?). But I do research a lot of obscure books to find creatures. This month's reading includes "Gods and Robots" (for a possible new series) and Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods_ With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts, written in 1910. Book 5 will be fun!
Hunter was originally going to be a cycloptopus. But mini kraken seemed sassier.
Q: When you're writing a book, do you edit out scenes to be used in later books? Are there any examples you can point out from the current books (without giving away spoilers). Or do you pretty much stick wtih what you have in your head for the current book?
A: I do cut scenes, but I never throw anything out. Some scenes end up in future books, but those tend to be short. Maybe just a conversation. There have been some scenes that I loved, but I had to cut, but couldn't fit anywhere else (sometimes you need to kill your darlings, as they say in the biz). I posted some of those on my website at https://kimmcdougall.com/deleted-scenes
Q: Who does your cover art and the illustrations of Ollie & Hunter?
A: Ollie and Hunter were brought to life by the amazing artist, Pamela Francescut. She took the vision I had for these characters and made them more amazing than I could have wished for. Pamela also created the hellhounds on book 3. I love her unusual take on the otherworldly canine.
Sergey Velikoluzhskiy created the cover art for Grimalkins Don't Purr and The Girl Who Cried Banshee. Grim turned out exactly as I pictured him.
Q: We met a key part of Kyra's core family in book 4, how many more members of her family are we going to meet in future books?
A: You might have seen the sneak peek at the end of book 4 that hints about Kyra's cousin Gunora. She'll be in book 5. But Kyra eventually needs to go back to Asgard, if she can ever figure out how to get there. I would like her to see her mom again. Of course that means she'll also have to see her nasty Aunt Dana.
Q: Do you have a system for determining classes of critters? or do you just make it up as you go?
A: Hub has a classification system for the fae that they use for criminal justice purposes. A class 1 fae is a sentient being that could almost pass for human. They are treated like citizens and subject to all Montreal laws. Class 2 fae are also subject to laws, but they tend to fall between the cracks and sometimes get treated more like beasts. These are fae with language, but can't pass for human. These are the brownies, imps, ogres, etc. They are often considered to have less intelligence though Kyra thinks they just have a different kind of intelligence that Hub doesn't understand. Class three fae are the fae beasts, those without language that can be understood. These are the troll-bats, mandras, basilisks, ice sprites, pygmy krakens, etc. Again, these are Hub's classifications, not Kyra's.
Q: How long, and how many books did you write, before you were officially published?
A: I published my first book in 1999 under a pen name (no, I won't tell you what it is because the book was terrible.) Then I published several children's books under the pen name Kim Chatel. In 2016, I went back to publishing my first love, which is paranormal suspense. My first series in that genre was Hidden Coven. Valkyrie Bestiary is my second series. And I am just starting the branistorming for a third series. Visit the Publications Page for a complete list of my published works.
Q: How long does it take you to write a book? I know from some other authors I follow it can be quite labour intensive, do you find that so?
A: Some authors can write a book a month. Unfortunately that's not me. It takes me about 3 months to write a draft and another 1-2 months to polish it. I published 4 full-length books and 3 novellas in the last 2 years. I'm not sure I could produce more than that and keep my sanity.
Q: How many rules does Kyra have?
A: Critter wrangler rule #1: when forest creatures stop moving, something bad is near.
Critter wrangler rule # 2: When scary things run away, something scarier is coming.
Critter wrangler rule # 3: Don’t ever take on a two-headed beast that could spit fire with one end and bite your head off with the other.
Critter wrangling rule #4: There isn’t much you can’t kill, confuse or disgust with a can of bug fogger.
Critter wrangler rule # 5: Just because something smells dead, doesn’t mean it can’t kill you.
Critter wrangling rule #6: Don’t take in a rescue that can burn up in a fiery tornado. That one’s just common sense.
Critter wrangling rule #7: Some monsters just need to die.
Critter wrangler rule #8: Beware the sparkly lure; it’s usually attached to a vicious hook.
Critter wrangler rule #9: Sometimes overkill is just enough kill.
Critter wrangler rule #10: Cuteness kills just as much as ugly
Critter wrangler rule #11: If it can bleed, it can die.
Q: Will there be griffins in your books?
A: Yes! I love griffins. In fact, my cat is named Griffin. We will definitely see Griffins at some point.
Q: Do you refer to any mythology when you write about your critters or are they just sprouting straight from your brain?
A: I refer to all different mythologies. Right now I’m reading a book written in 1910 called Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwood. I also have a particular fondness for the Greek classics. But then some critters are pure imagination. Jacoby, for one. Don’t bother looking up fires dervishes. I made them up. Alvin and Theo, the madras too.
Q: Will we get to see Kyra interact with Gabe's family? And is he coming back?
A: See the question about the planned 9 books in the series. Books 4-6 will be about Kyra and her family. But in Books 6-9 (if we ever get there), Kyra will be back in Montreal dealing with some civil unrest in the ward. Gabe and his family will be a focul point of that story.
Q: Are we going to see a spin off/novella/book of Angus and his newly acquired inhabitant?
A: Yes! I have 2 more novellas planned. One will be about Angus and Naomi. Which is why his absence is noted in Book 4. The other will be a Christmas short for next year, that will feature a grown-up Ollie.
Q: Is there going to be a story with Hunter (the Pigmy Kraken) as the main side character?
A: Hunter's origin story is Three Half Goats Gruff. He will appear in future stories too. But the "main" side critters will continue to be new characters to keep the stories fresh.
Q: What are you most excited to explore with Kyra or any of her friends?
A: Writing is equal parts excitement and dread. For instance, I've been thinking about the story that's coming up in book 5 for years, so I'm pretty excited to finally be writing it. But I'm also dreading it because I always worry that it won't translate to the page. It won't be the amazing story that I see in my head. Or that nobody else will "get" it.
That being said, I'm pretty excited to write about Angus's story. I'm hoping to get that down as a novella for next year. I'm very grateful that readers have embraced the minor characters so well, and been receptive to spin-off stories because I love writing them.
I'm also really excited to write about Kyra meeting her Aesir family again. I always intended the story to get there at some point. And that point is coming soon.
Q: What do you like to read when you're not writing?
A: I will read anything you put under my nose, I have a BA in English Lit, so I still have fondness for the classics. But I'll read just about any genre. My favorites are historical fiction, suspense, sci-fi and epic fantasy. But when I'm feeling blue and need a comfort book, I reach for Urban Fantasy.
Q: Is there a map of Montreal and its environs post Flood Wars?\
There are no official maps for post-Flood-Wars Montreal and surrounding. I do have some rough maps that I use when writing, but nothing that would be fit to print. Basically, I take a screenshot of a Google map and overlay my changes onto that, making the map fit the story, as well as using my memories of Montreal (I was born and raised there). For instance, the layout of Abbott’s Agora is very similar to John Abbott College. And Grandill prison where Grand Ile and Valleyfield are now. I reshaped the river a bit, for post flood erosion.
On a side note, I have very detailed maps of Kyra’s apartment, Mason’s house and other scenes that are used regularly.