Undertow Series Q and A

L to R, authors Meg Kassel (Blackbird of the Gallows), K.R. Conway (The Undertow Series), and Alex Lidell (The Tides Series) at Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts

As I count down the days to the Daybreaker release, I thought I’d answer some questions I’ve had over the years related to the series and writing in general.


When you first started writing Undertow, did you know how the series was going to end?

HA! Not really. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure it was going to be a series at all, but when I realized that the story was doing well, I knew I wanted it to be a series – there was life left in the characters and their ridiculous journey. And I had a general idea of where I wanted to go with the story, but it has evolved several times. I listen to the characters – they tell me where they are headed and I follow. I’ve followed them for more than 600,000 words.


Do you have a favorite character?

What sorta cruel question is THIS? It’s like picking a favorite child, LOL.  I can tell you, as a writer, I love writing MJ – especially in Last Light and Daybreaker. That said, I love writing all the characters, but the greatest challenge has been Raef. He battles inner demons more than the others and bringing that constant struggle to his POV without making him irritating is not easy.


Limited edition postcard for True North Launch.


Was Rillin always planned?

Yup. Next question. Stop drooling.






Are there scenes that are tougher to write than others?

Oh, good grief, yes. Complicated fight scenes are structurally difficult and often require the most rewrites. But some of the toughest scenes emotionally were what I call “one takes” – they are literally the exact same in the published book as the first time I typed them. I believe that visceral moments in books are often best written in a dark frame of mind so that the writer can let their agony pour onto the page, unadulterated. It’s also how I grow gray hairs.



Do you have a favorite scene?

No, but I think Cruel Summer (the novella) has some of my best “literary” writing. I find that readers and librarians often reference lines from that book more than others. It was the first book that I’ve ever written that was more quiet and thoughtful than the others. It was this intimate look at three people, all carrying burdens and doubts. And even though all three characters (Kian, Ana, and MJ) have supernatural aspects, those abilities take a far backseat to the very human issues in the book. I’ve been told by abuse survivors that Cruel Summer is tough to read because it is darkly accurate and deeply heartbreaking. I did write the book with a sensitivity reader making sure that I stayed true to the mindset of Ana Lane. It’s a small book that holds a special place in my heart.




Now that Undertow is over, do you have any new stories you are writing? 

I’m always writing, often in my head. I’m playing with several story ideas right now – its a matter of which characters speak loudest and which ones I see clearest. Whoever stands out, gets written. The boys of the Hell Cat book stand out sharply to me at the moment. Below is a working piece of the manuscript:


Not many people traveled anymore either, and though the security was tight at the airports nowadays, stuff got missed. Last month alone, two jets were blown from the sky, the bombers having replaced their own teeth with dentures that activated crystalized explosives in their mouths. One plane managed to land, with only a few lives lost, but the other hit a church in rural Kansas, killing nearly half the occupants and a pastor who was painting the building with a few volunteers.

And, yeah, people still celebrated birthdays, had BBQs, and went to the movies (though there was always a police presence or embedded Legacies at any event that involved a bunch of people). Even the Super Bowl managed to go off without a hitch, thank God.

But that was the problem with the Terror War we were fighting – the hits came out of nowhere. There was no pattern, just pure carnage. A statement, made by the enemy, that said they intended to kill us. Every one of us.

I knew the ATTF also covered hundreds of specialized black-ops teams who were trained to infiltrate and take out terror cells, but the enemy had gotten smarter. Faster. We were still playing catch up while people died.

I clenched my gun in my hand, frustration and anger sliding through me as Mr. Martin’s old house came into view. Why didn’t he help when the bombs hit Westfield? Why didn’t he run for the building and pull kids out before they burned alive?

He did nothing that day, and I hoped the bastard was paying a high price in the Netherworld for being a coward and an asshole. The papers said he’d been dead three weeks before the mailman noticed the smell and found his body decaying in the living room of his rundown house. They said he died of a brain aneurysm, and I took some satisfaction in the knowledge that the mice may’ve chewed on him a bit before the police removed his body.

We stopped at the border between the orchard and Martin’s overgrown front yard that led up to the house. Trig and Will looked over the sagging roof and rotted front porch as I sighed. “Fuck. I guess we gotta check it out.”

The guys gave a resigned nod, and we wove our way towards the house, the tall grass brushing over our elbows and sliding between our gun holsters and buckles. “I swear, if I’m covered in ticks by the end of this night, I’m blaming you,” muttered Trig, glancing at me.

“Why me?” I demanded.

Trig shrugged. “I don’t know – you’re an easy target and the one that said we had to check out the woods. Works for me.”

I flipped him off just as we reached the front porch. Will stepped up first, testing his weight against the questionable floorboards which protested loudly. He glanced at me and winced. So much for the advantage of a sneak approach – the house was destined to give us a way.

J moved around one side of the house, and I mirrored him on the other side while Will worked his way towards the front door. I glanced through the windows, many edged with cobwebs and a variety of moths, some of who met their end by a hungry Charlotte or two. Inside, shadows fell over much of the house, the moonlight filtering into the space from the windows. In the darkness, I accidentally stepped into a window well and something squeaked near my boot, causing me to leap back from the house.

Damn rats.

Trig rounded my side of the house just in time to see me dodge out of the cellar’s window ditch, and he smiled as I rapidly scanned the ground. “Don’t step on Mickey,” he warned with a chuckle, walking past me. I muttered a curse, following Trig, and the two of us wandered back to the front to where Will was waiting for us.

He stood on the porch, his back to the front door, and smiled. “I looked in the front windows, but didn’t see anything weird, so I tried the front door and . . . voila!” Will’s hand twisted on the tarnished brass knob and the door clicked, the hinges groaning loudly as the weight of the door caused it to drift open.

“Holy crap, it’s not locked?” I asked, floored.

Will shrugged, “Not like Martin could do a damn thing about it, since his last departure was in a body bag.”


When is Daybreaker coming out?

March 10th! Details are below!


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