Meet Our Freshman: An Interview with Kim Liggett

Freshman Fifteens author Jen Brooks  chatted with fellow Freshman Kim Liggett about her forthcoming debut, BLOOD AND SALT (Putnam/Penguin, Fall 2015).


BLOOD AND SALT is Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words seventeen year-old Ash Larkin hears before her mother flees their home in New York City to rejoin the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. Determined to get her back, Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, to unravel their family legends of alchemy, immortality, and revenge.

But something sinister and ancient waits for Ash among the rustling cornstalks of this small village lost to time. As charming traditions give way to cult ceremonies and a string of gruesome deaths, Ash begins to feel things she never thought possible. A new and seductive power pulses through her veins as her very blood reaches for an achingly beautiful boy she can’t have, harkening back to the town’s centuries-old tales of unrequited love and death.

As the community prepares for a ceremony over five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself. She’s desperate to discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

What was the origin of your idea for Blood and Salt?

It started with a legend, a scent, a feather, and a ribbon.

The title, which is an integral part of the story, came from something my grandmother said to me on her deathbed. She told me that I would dive into life headfirst — blood and salt. I think she meant to say “body and soul” — it was her favorite song, but the words haunted me.

Blood and Salt is (mostly) set in a Kansas cornfield in the middle of nowhere. I’m remembering you used to live in the rural Midwest? Tell us a little about the development of your setting.

There’s a lot of similarities between my fictional setting and the real place I grew up in. It was a small gated town. I never fit in. I felt trapped. It’s funny, I couldn’t wait to get out of there as a teen, but it’s all I seem to write about now. There’s magic and horror in the landscape itself. I think there’s a part of my soul that never left those fields.

My favorite part of your novel is the intricate plotting. There isn’t a detail in the book that is insignificant, and so many details become essential to the climax of the story. Can you talk about your plotting process? Did you think of the details first and build the plot around them? Did you know where the plot was going and have to make the details up to fit?

All of the above. Plotting is like childbirth — you tend to block it out. I always write the beginning and the ending first. Those elements of Blood and Salt never really changed — it’s everything in between that was up for grabs. I have a tendency to over-plot and under-write, which is an interesting combination. My editor really reined me in — made me accountable for every choice. I’m grateful. I learned so much.

There are references in here to historical figures and events. There is also a Native American language spoken. Plus there’s black magic, strong scents, alchemy, and symbology. Oh yeah, and a real live cult. How much of your story is research and how much is imagination when it comes to these elements of the book?

Coronado really came to Quivira in 1541 searching for the land of gold. I spent my childhood running around the woods like an animal, digging up arrowheads and making up the stories to go with them. I was obsessed with the Quivira tribe — their history and their stories. A lot of research went into this book — most of which I never had the opportunity to use, but I had a blast spending all that time in the Coronado Quivira Museum and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. This story has been with me for a very long time.

Why do you write in the horror/romance genre?

It’s not because I’m a creepy perf — well, okay, I might be, but I find in all great horror there’s an element of seduction and in all great romance there’s a whiff of death.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read a ton. I was a late reader — didn’t really start reading for fun until I was around nineteen. I’m dyslexic, so it didn’t come easy for me. I guess I’m making up for lost time. I love films, too. I’m also a pretty badass bowler.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books?

I always go back to the books that made a huge impression on me — books that came into my life at the exact right moment: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I could go on and on.

I will read anything by Stephen King, Clive Barker, Gillian Flynn, Holly Black, and Melissa Marr.

What has been your greatest challenge as you travel the road of traditional publishing? Your greatest reward?

Greatest challenge: Patience. It’s been a long hard treacherous path into murky water. I’m still trying to feel my way around. Greatest reward: the friends I’ve met along the way. My writing friends are the best friends I’ve ever had.

What advice would you give to other writers? Anything specifically for teen writers?

Take risks. Don’t censor yourself. Don’t be afraid to show people who you are through your writing, because I guarantee you there’s someone out there who needs to read it.


twitter-headerKim Liggett is the author of BLOOD AND SALT coming Fall 2015 from Putnam/Penguin.

At sixteen, Kim left her rural Midwestern town for New York City to pursue a career in both music and acting. While attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Kim sang backup for some of the biggest rock bands in the 80s. After settling down to have a family, she became an entrepreneur, creating a children’s art education program and a travel company specializing in tours for musicians.
She’s married to jazz musician Ken Peplowski, has two grotesquely beautiful teens, and a very neurotic dog that drags her through Riverside Park everyday on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

You can find Kim online: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook 

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One Response to Meet Our Freshman: An Interview with Kim Liggett

  1. Kim- THis writing excerpt is amazing. I can’t begin to imagine all the scenes that have run through your head as you’ve written this book. Happy to see you featured here. I know you’re excited that 2015 is right around the corner!

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