#LoveOzYA Q&A with Kate Murray for WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW
Stories have been a part of Kate Murray's entire life. Most of her favourite story elements - science fiction, family - have made it into her debut novel, WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW.
Kate recently chatted to #LoveOzYA's Bianca Breen about the book. You can find the full interview over on our YouTube channel!
For those who don’t know, can you tell us what WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW is about?
WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW is a YA urban fantasy set in a wild future where monsters from an evil universe are invading our world, and super-powered Hollow warriors are humanity’s last line of defence. It follows a young Hollow warrior-in-training, Priscilla, who is the youngest in a long line of famous Hollow Warriors but who doesn’t feel as though she lives up to the legacy of her name. So she attempts a ritual to give her better superpowers, but it goes horribly wrong, and she makes herself quite dangerous. She tries to juggle the problems that she’s caused, alongside a family reunion and dating someone new.
It's such a great concept – there’s this beautiful magical world but real, relatable things when you’re a teenager, like not feeling good enough or dating. What was the inspiration behind the story?
It was quite a funny journey – I hadn’t actually planned to write this book. I was working on something else at the time – an adult space opera – when I found a call out for novella submissions. The idea hit me almost fully formed about a family of all-female superheroes getting together for Christmas. I knew I wanted the story to be a feminist one, with a lot of female characters. I pulled inspiration from the Amazons of Themyscira and Wonder Woman, that concept of fierce warrior women, and I also pulled inspiration from Practical Magic for that cosy witchy family vibe. Also, from basically every superhero movie that’s ever been made! I submitted the novella to a couple of places with no luck, but I couldn’t let this story go. It had been so much fun to write, and I’m a big proponent of following the joy in writing. It hit me one day that it was supposed to be a Young Adult novel, and Pricilla’s voice and personal struggles already fit the category, so I built the novella up from there.
I love that story! What I really loved about the story was the family ties – something we rarely see in YA fantasy! You could feel that that was the heart of the story.
I love writing about families – those that are born and those that are made. I know that sometimes in YA fantasy and dystopia families can be absent, so I’m please that WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW has family at its core and none of them die! Priscilla has very loving, very present, very alive mothers.
The other part I really loved was the dystopian future world. Can you talk a little bit to how that came about?
I love setting, it’s one of my favourite aspects of writing. I love worldbuilding and description, and I’m quite a visual reader and writer. When it came to writing WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW, I just jam-packed it full of everything that I love. One of the things that I love is science fiction, so that’s why it’s set in a future where we’ve had several generations of dealing with monsters from the Hollow and Hollow Warriors are now keeping the peace, and that love of science fiction is also why there’s a futuristic city and flying vehicles and the storms – which I took from climate change patterns. I hope readers will enjoy that it’s set in our world and be able to see familiar places.
It was done really well, not in-your-face dystopia – it was just enough hints for readers to fill in the gaps. There was a lot in the novel that felt familiar yet strange for a YA fantasy – how did you find the balance?
When I started writing, I wasn’t thinking about a certain genre. I was just pulling out the things I enjoyed writing about and would worry about the other stuff later. So it was just a matter of ‘I enjoy futuristic settings so I’ll put that in there’ and ‘I want superheroes but why does the world have superheroes’, which led to the monsters. The monsters and the heroes’ animal familiars are plucked from folklore, from so it was just a matter of sticking all of those things together.
I read on your website you’ve been writing stories since you were eight, but WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW is your debut, can you talk to what your publication journey was like?
I’ve been writing my whole life, but it was about ten years ago that I started to apply myself seriously. I set a goal to become published and I’ve had to work hard to get there. I had a lot to learn about the craft of writing, and especially had a lot to learn about how to actually finish a novel. I’m a slow and somewhat lazy writer, and easily distracted by new and shiny ideas. I have a lot of beginnings behind me, but not very many ends. So ten years ago I said, ‘Okay, I’m actually going to finish something’, and WE WHO HUNT THE HOLLOW is the third book that I’ve written since I set that goal. But it was the first one I worked the hardest on to get to a high quality standard. I went through multiple rounds of edits and sought feedback from critique partners, so that’s why that story was the one. It was about learning what it really takes to finish a book.
Do you have any advice for what it takes to sit down and finish a novel?
Ten years ago I sat down and I wrote an epic adult fantasy. It was very complicated and very long, and I could feel my attention slipping but I stuck at it, thinking I had to finish it. It’s like a job: sometimes you don’t want to do it and it’s not always fun, but you have to put the hard work in.
Is there anything you’re hoping young readers take away from this book?
Overall, my goal was to write a story that would sweep the reader away into a different world and for them to enjoy that ride. But I would love for readers to feel the cosy warmth of the scenes with Priscilla’s family and to cheer her on as she struggles to overcome her self-doubt, because I think that struggle is relatable to people. Trust in your own strengths and your own abilities, and try not to compare yourself to other people.