Kiersten White on her new novel, writing a Buffyverse story and what she’s reading now

Culturess chats with Chosen author Kiersten White about her new novel, writing a story in the Buffyverse, what she’s reading these days and more.

Author Kiersten White’s new novel Chosen hit shelves earlier this month. (And we loved it!) The story is the second in a duology set in the universe of popular TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It tells the story of Nina Jamison-Smythe  a Watcher-in-training turned Slayer who came into her powers just as magic was erased from the world. (By Buffy herself, of course.)

But thanks to her strong desire to help others and with some assistance from her friends, Nina’s turned their castle into Sanctuary, a home for lost demons of the non-lethal variety and other Slayers and supernatural beings who need help getting back on their feet. Now, all that’s left for her to do is figure out what’s up with the increasingly rage-y emotions she’s feeling, sort out why her twin sister left home and won’t take her calls, and find time to grieve for her sort-of boyfriend slash former Watcher, who kind of died while they were all trying to stop the apocalypse.

So, you know, no big deal.

Like many of White’s other novels – which include such popular titles as The Guinevere Deception and her “Conqueror’s Saga” trilogy – Chosen is an exciting, well-crafted tale with plenty of surprises and a strong, complex heroine that’s impossible not to like.

Culturess got the chance to chat with White herself recently about what it was like writing a story of her own in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, what she’s reading these days and what’s next for her now that this particular series has wrapped.

Culturess: Nina is such a relatable heroine – much like Buffy herself, she’s brave and strong and kind of a complete mess at the same time. What do you like best about her, and why did you want to tell her story?

White: Nina leads with empathy first, fists second. I spent a lot of time in the And I Darken books exploring a much more vicious path to power, and while I loved getting to explore rage and ambition, showing how powerful caring deeply about others can be was an incredible challenge.

We all know the fighting aspect of Slayers, but they’re also protectors. I loved that Nina let me examine that.

Culturess: How did you decide to tell this story in this way? Truthfully, I always assumed successfully writing stories from the world of Buffy had to sort of at least be about a character that had a direct relation to the show in some way, but Chosen really doesn’t, and is in fact better for it.

White: I knew the most important thing I had to do was get the feeling of the book right. I wanted reading it to feel the same as watching the show. And, while obviously Buffy’s characters were paramount, the other big aspects were the pacing, the tone, the way they talked to each other that made you feel like you were in on the jokes (and the pain).

It helped that Buffy was formative for me as a storyteller and influenced a lot of my taste and humor. The other part was making sure Nina had a very strong, intimate connection to Buffy, so while Buffy isn’t a main character, she very much feels present.

Culturess: Do you think there’s any chance you might write more stories in the Slayerverse in the future? If not with Nina and Artemis, maybe another character or slice of this world? (I’m very fascinated by it, if you couldn’t tell!) 

White: Thank you! It makes me so happy that people want more stories in this world from me—and just more stories in this world, period!

I’m really happy with where things ended with Nina and Sanctuary, but I’d love to tell a story set in the heyday of the Watcher Society, set at their boarding school/training academy. Whether that would work best as a novel or a graphic novel, I’m not sure, but how awesome would cameos from young, rebellious Rupert “Ripper” Giles be?

Culturess: Loved all the sly little references to various Buffy and Angel characters and stories. Who’s your favorite original Buffyverse character?

White: I mean, aside from Buffy, I’d have to say Anya. She’s so earnest and awful and wonderful and endearing. If I could have figured out a way for her to cameo, I absolutely would have. (But I was very delighted with the cameos I was able to fit into Chosen without disrupting any other timelines and plots of the graphic novels!)

Culturess: Favorite Buffy episode? (I know, I know, this is hard.)

White: Not hard! IMPOSSIBLE. I’ll say I love season three the best, but most of my favorite episodes come later.

If you held a stake to my heart, I’d probably say “Buffy Vs Dracula”. It’s so fun, and hilarious, and campy, but it’s also an absolutely brilliant episode in that amidst all the camp, the writers set up every single conflict for the entire season.

Culturess: You’ve got multiple books out at the moment – The Guinevere Deception, Slayer/Chosen, the And I Darken series – that all deal with characters whose broad strokes we’re all sort of familiar with. At least in the sense that we know what a Buffyverse story, a King Arthur story, a Vlad the Impaler story is supposed to be like. What made you want to – for lack of a better word – reinterpret/remix them?

White: I’m always dissatisfied, ha. I get a story and I want MORE. More representation. More nuance. More complex female characters. Or, in the case of Buffy, just more story, period.

Subverting what was already there to make readers question the original or building on what exists to excavate more story are such fascinating challenges, and I love it.

Culturess: What else are you reading these days?

White: I just finished The Monster of Elendhaven, a slim delectable nightmare of a book. I really enjoy horror and fantasy horror. I find it soothing. My favorite read last year was Gideon the NinthImpossible to categorize, absolutely brilliant.

Culturess: And what’s next for you, as an author? You have so many irons in the fire, I’d love to hear about what’s coming down the proverbial pike.

White: Imagine me staring pensively out a window and whispering, “What does come next?”

The second book in the Camelot Rising trilogy will be out in November, and I’m working on book three. But for the first time in years, I don’t have anything else under contract. It’s both exciting and terrifying! I’d love to branch into adult and middle grade while I wait for my next YA idea to seize me.

Next: Kiersten White’s Chosen will fill the Buffy-shaped hole in your heart

Chosen is available now, wherever books are sold. 

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