What happens when humans become too far disconnected from the natural world? What are the dangers of our overconsumption? Will our planet survive without us?
Kira Jane Buxton's debut humorous fantasy novel Hollow Kingdom takes a look at these existential issues through the viewpoint of a domesticated pet crow who survives the apocalypse.
Buxton's crowtagonist made me laugh endlessly, teamed up with other unforgettable animal heroes, and even made me think more deeply about my own habits and change my lifestyle. It's one of my favorite books that I read last year.
Originally published in August 2019, Hollow Kingdom is new in paperback this week. To celebrate, we're revisiting Buxton's full-length interview for our Breaking In column. An abridged version was published in the October 2019 issue of WD.
Where do you write from?
Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing and getting published before breaking out with this book?
I had been writing a series of humorous mystery novels that I overedited. I’d lost the soul and grit of them by fussing with them too much, which was heartbreaking at the time. I then started freelance writing to build my bylines. In hindsight, all of it was necessary to find my way to Hollow Kingdom. I don’t believe that our written words are ever wasted.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
It took me four months to write the first draft of Hollow Kingdom. It also took me 35 years to write the first draft of Hollow Kingdom. Both are true.
How did you find your agent?
My agent is the inimitable Bill Clegg. When I felt my manuscript was ready, I cold queried my dream agents. I was lucky enough to have several express interest in representing me. I flew out to New York and when I met Bill we chatted for several hours. Actually, due to the excitement of it all, I lost my voice and sounded like a cartoon frog, so the truth is that I croaked at Bill for several hours.
What were your biggest learning experiences throughout the publishing process?
I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed the editing process. I was fortunate enough to work with the incredible Grand Central Publishing team whose instincts were consistently spot-on and who were judicious with every suggestion. I’ve been blown away by how passionate, hardworking, and kind everyone I’ve met in the publishing industry is.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
Having writing placed in well-respected publications helped me to garner respect and confidence as a writer. I also think that letting go of outside expectation while writing Hollow Kingdom afforded me the creative freedom to take great risks. I also built community and support by attending Hedgebrook’s Vortext year after year—having a supportive writing community has proved invaluable.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I’d try to worry about everything less. Fretting about things can siphon the joy of a journey.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
I am on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I try to think of it as “gaining friends” rather than building a platform. I’m interested in real connections, and I try to post things that are in line with my interests or what I’m writing or reading. I like to support other writers. I try to keep it positive—we need more of that in the world.
What are your best pieces of writing advice we haven’t discussed yet?
Just have fun with it. Write the thing that’s burning inside you. And write it soon—there has never been a more urgent need to better the world with your words.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of my little crowtagonist. I hope to continue taking big risks and to always remember that writing is a joy and a celebration. Ray Bradbury said so.