It’s June and that means it’s time for another year of Pride Month spotlights! I’m so excited to spotlight My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham and share the interview with the author!
Welcome Kayla! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Thanks so much for having me! I’m Kayla Cottingham and I’m a YA author and librarian. My debut novel, My Dearest Darkest, was released March 29th, 2022.
How would you describe My Dearest Darkest in one sentence?
My Dearest Darkest is a YA Sapphic Horror novel about a group of girls who accidentally summon a mysterious creature beneath their boarding school, Ulalume Academy, and must work together to banish it before it consumes their entire town.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of My Dearest Darkest?
Absolutely! The main characters are Finch Chamberlin and Selena St. Clair. Finch is a shy piano prodigy who recently survived a terrible accident that killed her parents. She transfers to Ulalume Academy at the beginning of the book and immediately makes an enemy out of Selena after accidentally ratting her out for having booze on campus. Selena is the de facto leader of Ulalume’s popular crowd, known for her looks, her ambition, and her wicked charisma. She’s also a dancer with dreams of attending the Boston Conservatory.
What representation will readers find in My Dearest Darkest?
Selena is bi and Finch is questioning, though she ultimately comes out as a lesbian, and Selena’s on-again-off-again partner Kyra is a lesbian as well. While the two main characters are white, side characters include Simon, who is Black and has ADHD, Sumera, who is British-Arab and Muslim, and Risa, who is Japanese.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
It really depends on the book! I used to be a pantser and just go where the story led me, but now that I write under contract with deadlines, I find it much easier to write with an outline and know what the end will be.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
There’s a party scene mid-way through the book where Finch is in the middle of having a bit of a crisis over whether or not she might be queer, and winds up drinking too much and kissing Simon before realizing she’s definitely into Selena. It was super fun to write a scene where typically buttoned-up Finch goes a little off the rails, aha.
What is something readers will find in My Dearest Darkest that they may not realize based on the synopsis?
Not to toot my own horn, but I think it’s a pretty funny book. I rarely take my writing super seriously, so I always wind up adding in a fair amount of comedic moments for my own enjoyment. For the most part, those moments all made it into the final version of the book.
What’s something you hope readers will take away from My Dearest Darkest?
I put a lot of my own coming out story into Finch’s character arc. I hope that readers–especially queer readers–will take away that, while overcoming interalized homophobia is a terrifying thing to do, it’s a really rewarding process once you begin to accept yourself for who you are.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed My Dearest Darkest?
Squad, The Dead and The Dark, and The Devouring Gray.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
I have a second YA Sapphic Horror coming out with Sourcebooks Fire next year! It’s about a group of flesh-eating ghoul girls who decided to attend a Coachella-esque music festival in the summer before they all head off to college and wind up in hot water when they accidentally murder a member of a boyband. We haven’t settled on a title quite yet, but I’m hoping that (and the cover!) will be released very soon.
ABOUT THE BOOK
WILDER GIRLS meets THE CRAFT in this Sapphic horror debut that asks: What price would you be willing to pay to achieve your deepest desires?
Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the ultra-competitive Ulalume Academy… but she’s also not what she seems. Months before school started, Finch and her parents got into an accident that should have left her dead at the bottom of a river. But something monstrous, and ancient, and terrifying, wouldn’t let her drown. Finch doesn’t know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she’s felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.
Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena’s suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another.
One night Finch, Selena, and her friends accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts―beauty, power, adoration―in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed, before it consumes the entire island.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kayla Cottingham is a YA author and librarian. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Kayla lives in Boston where she loves to go hiking in the woods, pet any and all dogs, and play RPGs. She is passionate about connecting young people with books featuring diverse voices so they can see themselves and their communities represented on the page.
Her debut YA horror novel, MY DEAREST DARKEST, is out March 29, 2022 from Sourcebooks Fire.