Kylie, I’m so excited to have you on my blog today! I want to ask you more about your book, Six Wings. I think we can all agree that Reese is adorable in his snarky, sarcastic way. Did his character come out the way you wanted it to? What was your inspiration for him?
Thank you! And thanks so much for having me, Sydney! I think I must have multiple personalities (maybe all authors do 😅), because all my characters seem to stem from different sides of my own personality. Reese seems to be born of some of my worst characteristics. For some background, I had just finished my previous novel, Aura, which had a very different feel—it was a modern-day fairy tale with characters who were meant to be loveable. There’s a time and place for that but, for me, writing with the goal of “I want people to love my characters” added some unnecessary pressure.
So, when I started writing Six Wings, I wanted to just throw out all pretenses and refuse to care what people thought. In fact, I went so far the opposite direction that my new goal was to write a protagonist that wasn’t likeable. Reese is basically the personification of my own cynicism, sarcasm, pride, stubbornness, jealousy, my critical nature, and my difficulty expressing vulnerability. Because of that, I found that Reese was probably the easiest character I’ve ever written. He seemed to come to life and his voice was so clear. At times, it felt like he was holding the reins, not me. And ironically, I began to love him! I found that Reese has many good qualities that I didn’t initially see. He loves intensely. He’s fiercely devoted. He’s passionate. He’s hard-working and dedicated. He’s doesn’t feel the need to fake anything. And he’s not as emotionally restrained as I initially thought—he just expresses himself through metaphors rather than straightforwardly. Reese became more layered than I anticipated.
That’s funny that you gave him some of your worst characteristics. What does that say about me that I adore him so much? Haha! But really, he’s such a great character. In your book, you put a unique but realistic spin on the ghost romance idea. Did you research a lot while you wrote this? What was the most interesting thing you learned?
Yes! I’m not exactly a paranormal aficionado, so yes, I definitely had to do a lot of research into that world. I had no idea how much of a ghost noob I was! There are so many different types of “ghosts” in popular mythology, religion, and so forth. Probably the most interesting thing I learned is that most people around the world seem to believe in some sort of unembodied beings, whether they call them “ghosts,” “angels,” “spirits,” or whatnot. The belief in unembodied or disembodied spirits tends to be pretty universal. So, there’s gotta be something to it, right?
Oh, I sympathized so hard for Reese! The poor guy. Was his story a hard one to write? Were you bawling the entire way through this book? Or was that just me?
It was hard! I’ve always been drawn to the idea of romance with physical barriers, and what greater barrier is there than death itself? Or being unable to touch the one you love? This story may have been at least partly a result of my own experience in a long-distance relationship. I think anyone who’s been in that kind of a relationship can relate to the feeling of being in love with a ghost. The one you love is there and real and the feelings are very real, but you can’t actually reach out and touch them. They’re here but not here, you know? So, I think that’s where this idea came from. It felt very natural to write the feelings associated with loving someone who’s not physically present.
So then, the challenge becomes: how do you write a love story in which the characters aren’t able to touch? When one party can’t even see or hear the other party? How do you show love between Reese and Ann in this highly unusual situation? I think it really stretched me as a writer and forced me to consider what love actually means. To me, love means selflessness, sacrifice, and putting the wellbeing of the other above your own. My hope with Six Wings was that it portrayed two flawed people loving each other in the true sense of the word.
I love the physical barrier of death weaved throughout the book. There was so much emotion involved with not being able to communicate with the person you love. Tell us more about the illustrations in your book! You did them yourself, is that right?
Yes! Drawing is my first love. It was the first way I learned to express myself creatively. So, when I started writing Six Wings, it felt right to add some sort of visual art to the project. I wanted the illustrations to complement the feeling of the story, particularly Ann’s feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and desolation. I decided early on that there would be no people in my illustrations, only settings. I intended the illustrations to be from Ann’s point of view. She can’t see Reese. Everywhere she looks, he’s nowhere to be found. But I like to imagine that Reese is invisibly standing in each of the illustrations, just beyond her capacity to see.
There’s also some hidden meaning in the art. Symbolically, six is a very important number in this book, so there are six illustrations in total, and the number six is also a running theme in each of the drawings.
I love the hidden meaning in the illustrations! It gives the book even more depth than it already has. I’m also very interested in the theme centered around the waltz. Where did you come up with this idea?
Well, as I mentioned before, there’s not a lot of physical touch in Six Wings, but there is one instance in a flashback, where Reese and Ann shared an important dance just after they were married. To me, this represented their physical relationship. This waltz was one of the few times Reese totally let his guard down—he didn’t worry about work and he let himself enjoy time with his wife. Ann was teaching Reese dance steps at the same time she was teaching him how to love. I’d say this waltz was the height of their relationship, and the memory of it was a poignant reminder of what they lost when Reese died. So, it made sense that this waltz helped lead Ann to find some important knowledge about their relationship hidden in the attic.
Did Six Wings change at all from one revision to the next? Any deleted scenes?
Yes, it did change, but not drastically. If I remember right, there was only one important story alteration that happened just before I finished the first draft. There’s no way to say this without giving away spoilers, so SPOILER ALERT, Reese and Ann suffered a devastating miscarriage. Though this was an aspect of the story that was added in later, it was one of those things that seemed like it was always meant to be. The miscarriage showed that Ann truly was a “death magnet” as her sister so tactfully called her. At the risk of sounding overly cryptic, this revelation also gave me the title of the book: Six Wings. Ultimately, the story to me became about the importance of families—or that our ties to our families can make us better than we are on our own.
Oddly enough, I don’t think there were any deleted scenes from this book. In fact, the story only grew in length during the revisions. My sister, Jessica, was my amazing editor, and I loved her additions during the editing process. She added a lot more depth and humor to the story.
Oh boy, a death magnet. So true. What was your favorite scene to write?
All of them! Any scene with Creepy Cora was fun, and of course any scene where Reese got to insult Calvin was satisfying. But more specifically, I loved to write the scene when Reese first encountered the poltergeist next door—or the shadow of what he could become if he refused to forgive himself. I’d never written anything even remotely scary before, so attempting to write something like that was outside my comfort zone. I was alone in the middle of the night when I wrote it, and I found myself becoming a little jumpy afterward. I don’t know if it spooked anyone else, but it definitely spooked me! 😅 While writing that chapter, I found that the skills involved in writing romance and horror are similar in some ways. The key to both is suspense. And in both genres, the things that are held back are more impactful than the things revealed. Because of that, I’d be willing to bet Stephen King could write an incredible romance, and perhaps Jane Austen could scare the heck out of us!
I would love to read a romance written by Stephen King! I honestly wouldn’t even know what to expect. Do you have any writing projects you’re currently working on? Please say yes. Please say yes.
Yes! I’m currently working on a three-part graphic novel series called Crossing Horizon. The story is about angels (keeping with my obsession with spirits, I suppose 😅), specifically ministering angels. What are angels like? Probably pretty similar to you and me. They’re not perfected beings, and I imagine they still have emotions, desires, and even flaws. This is a story about various angels who are called to minister to (or help) mortals on earth. And while they help these mortals, the angels also learn and grow in the process. Perhaps no one more than Theo, the least angelic angel in heaven, who’s called to help a seemingly perfect mortal girl. As the plot progresses, the stories of a few angels and their assigned mortals begin to intertwine. It’s a fun, light-hearted look at what it means to put others first, or in other words, to be an angel.
Drawing this story has been a challenge, but so much fun! Any time I get to combine two different artforms, it doubles the catharsis for me. It’s been my dream to create a graphic novel for years, but I’ve always felt too daunted to start such a labor-intensive project. Recently, I felt inspired to just go for it. I expect the first volume will be finished around the beginning of next year. However, I will be releasing individual chapters as previews before then, so keep an eye out on my Facebook page!
Shifting gears completely, I also wrote a non-fiction, biographical book about my mom’s unique journey to God. I just received word that it was accepted by an amazing publisher. Hopefully, I’ll be at liberty to say more soon!
The graphic novel sounds fun! And congrats to your mom for getting her work accepted. So exciting! One more question. What is something someone might not know about you?
Besides the fact that I talk about my imaginary friends like they’re real? Well, I’m learning Japanese! This probably isn’t news to some, but I’m obsessed with Japanese culture, art, entertainment, food, etc. One of my dreams is to visit Japan someday, so I’ve been teaching myself Japanese daily for the past two years. I suck at it. 😅
Kylie, I hope you get a chance to visit Japan one day! And thanks so much for being on my blog. I loved learning more about Six Wings!
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Blurb for Six Wings
He’s a ghost. His wife is alive. She’s dating an idiot. What could possibly go wrong?
When cynical Reese Durand becomes so obsessed with work it literally kills him, his spirit is forced to haunt his living wife, Ann. In perhaps the most awkward third-wheel story in history, ghostly Reese is bound to Ann while she attempts to re-enter the dating world. This might be easier on Reese if Ann’s new boyfriend wasn’t peppy, bow-tie-wearing Clive–Clarence–Chloroform–what’s-his-bucket who is everything Reese wasn’t. Sometimes it takes death to realize what we should’ve been living for. Can Reese find the strength to “move on”? Can Ann do the same?
I haven’t been here since my funeral. Which means Ann hasn’t been here either. I don’t blame her. Driving all the way out here to look at a big hunk of stone. Stupid. Waste of time. Waste of gas.
It’s colder than it should be this time of year. The wind blows through Ann’s hair, her shallow breath wafting on its current in white puffs. She stands in front of the tombstone, a clean, rounded rock unsullied by time or the elements, nothing like those around it. The other graves, cracked and eroded, moss creeping up their sides smoothed by countless storms, watch with envy. They don’t have a beautiful woman in a navy dress, her pale fingers grasping her trench coat’s lapel, to mourn them.
Ann stares forward. Her eyes are empty, blank, frozen on the engraved words: REESE DURAND; but she doesn’t see it. A rock staring at a rock.
I don’t know how long she stands there or how long I watch her before she breaks the silence with a whisper. It’s low enough to be the breeze.
A murder of crows bursts out of the gnarled sycamore five or six paces from a neck-high cross stone. They caw and screech and flap their withered wings until the irregular melody dissipates over tree canopies.
Ann raises her voice. “You’re gone.”
No. I’m definitely here.
“You’re,” her voice catches on the word, “dead. You’re not coming back.”
But—I walk around my tombstone and face her—I’m here.
About the Author
Kylie Malchus is an author, illustrator, portrait artist, animator, photographer, and Latter-day Saint. Her hobbies include eating, over-thinking, and canceling plans. She is often found writing in dark corners to distract herself from her neuroticism. Kylie lives in Utah with her mom, sister, and giant puppy.