In Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series, three young queens are vying for the throne. The one to wear the crown will be the one willing to dirty her hands by killing her competition. The second installment, One Dark Throne, takes readers back to this dark world and follows each queen in her attempts to stay alive. Here, Blake shares the inspiration for her murderous storyline, her thoughts on endings, and where our favorite characters may go from here (if they survive).
Bookish: At its heart, this is a story of young women taking their power and agency back from a society that strives to control them. Can you share with us what drew you to this theme?
Kendare Blake: I’ve always enjoyed putting people in sticky situations and seeing how they deal with them. And I enjoy working with complicated women. But the premise of Three Dark Crowns was wholly inspired by a beehive: a matriarchal system where an exiting queen will bear multiple queens and those baby queens kill each other. So it was that brutal bit of nature that drew me to this story specifically!
Bookish: Katharine emerges from the Breccia Domain a changed queen. She starts to break free from Natalia’s plots, but she isn’t completely in control herself. What can readers expect from her in the next book?
KB: In One Dark Throne, expect for her to be almost completely changed, as far as her drive for the crown is concerned. Her physical weaknesses don’t seem to be bothering her anymore either. But the new strength comes at a price.
Bookish: Unlike her sisters, Mirabella spent her life believing she’d face no competition for the throne. But now, everything she thought she knew is slipping away, and she’s struggling to face a future where she may be killed. What were the challenges of writing a character who is experiencing that kind of realization?
KB: Ah, Mirabella, the most powerful and favored triplet. When I started writing, I didn’t think I would like her. She was so sheltered and, despite her love for her sisters, I thought she would react badly when confronted with the realities of her situation. She was the most difficult character to write, perhaps because she and I are the least alike in personality, but I thought she showed surprising spunk, and was open to learning and changing her mind in a way that the other sisters weren’t.
Bookish: With three protagonists each making decisions that impact and change the story, is your plotting process for this series different from the way you plot your other books?
KB: The setup is more complex, setting all the pieces on the board at the start of the game, if that makes sense, but I still don’t really plot. I let the characters go and see what happens. With this many conflicting interests, and this many forceful personalities, they’re bound to get into the dickens without much interference from me.
Bookish: You’ve said you were thinking about this story for a few years before writing it, and now it’s developed from a duology to a four-book series. Who or what has changed the most since that original conception?
KB: Actually, not much has changed, despite adding books and other content (novellas, bonus scenes, etc.). One Dark Throne still ends more or less where it always would have. Now I just get to write the after, when before it would have been left to the imagination. I’m glad to be able to spend more time on the island, and with many different queens, but part of me is melancholy about that. Knowing the end. Knowing the rest. I like unanswered questions, and I don’t really believe in endings. But, I suppose by the time I reach the close of the fourth book, enough questions will have spun out from new conflicts to be able to leave some things unknown.
Bookish: This series is set in a matriarchal society. Did you research similar societies for inspiration or was your focus instead on subverting patriarchal norms?
KB: The only real inspiration was the beehive. It was fun to write the boys who come to the island from patriarchal cultures and watch them try to acclimate. And it was interesting to watch myself make mistakes, like giving characters the wrong last names (the last name should follow the mother’s line) or the wrong inheritances (daughters inherit first).
Bookish: Both titles follow a pattern of Number Dark Object (Three Dark Crowns, One Dark Throne). What’s your process for coming up with titles? Can readers expect them to follow the current pattern?
KB: Ha, you noticed! Yes, we’re sticking with the pattern. It might irritate some people that we’re not going in order—one, two, three—and I’m pretty sure there won’t be a title with the number four in it. So for the folks who like things just so with their numbers, I’m very sorry!
Titles usually show up fully formed for me. If the book is ready to be written (meaning I’ve tossed it around in my head for a few years), it has usually titled itself. Anna Dressed in Blood was one of the first titles that came to mind. It named the ghost and was wholly the title from day one. Three Dark Crowns was originally titled Three Black Witches, but then I wrote the book and they were more queens than witches. Witches is a mainland word in their world, a foreign word.
Bookish: Which character’s journey are you most excited to explore in future books?
KB: I’m excited to continue on with the relationships between the characters. I want to see how they change within their new situations. But I don’t want to name names… because then readers will know they live!
Bookish: Which scene are you most excited to see readers’ reactions to?
KB: The whole thing, really! Those last hundred pages or so the ropes tighten and the bodies start to drop. I just hope they enjoy it. I hope the queens take them for a ride.
Kendare Blake holds an MA in creative writing from Middlesex University in northern London. She is the author of Anna Dressed in Blood, a Cybils Awards finalist; Girl of Nightmares; Antigoddess; Mortal Gods; Ungodly; and the New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns series. Her books have been translated into eighteen languages, have been featured on multiple best-of-year lists, and have received many regional and librarian awards. Kendare lives and writes in Kent, Washington. Visit her online at www.kendareblake.com.