Portland has a ghost problem.
Sixteen-year-old Claire wants her father back. His death left her only memories and an empty locket. After six difficult years in foster care, her vocabulary no longer includes “hope” and “trust.”
Everything changes when Justin rides his magical horse into her path and takes her under his wing. Like the rest of the elite men who serve as Spirit Knights, he hunts restless ghosts that devour the living.
When an evil spirit threatens Claire’s life, she’ll need Justin’s help to survive. And how could she bear the Knights’ mark on her soul? Everybody knows Girls Can’t Be Knights.
Author, Gamer, Squirrel Aficionado
Lee French lives in Olympia, WA, and is the author of several books, most notably the Maze Beset Trilogy, The Greatest Sin series (co-authored with Erik Kort), and assorted tales in her fantasy setting, Ilauris. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.
She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association and the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, and serves as the co-ML for the Olympia region of NaNoWriMo.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m originally from Silicon Valley in California. I grew up amid orchards, open space, and low-traffic freeways. It’s changed quite a bit since then. I’ve also lived in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Massachusetts, and now live in the Pacific Northwest with my parents and two kids. We’re all happily coexisting in one big house, aside from the occasional argument about the metal dragon sculpture I put in the front yard.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
This book began as a riff on Les Miserables. I first saw it on stage in San Francisco as part of a high school field trip. A few years ago, the traveling musical came close enough to home that I was able to go see it, then the movie came out, and my love for the music was rekindled.
The original idea had two men facing each other, each the hero of his own story and the villain of the other. There’s still some of that in the book, but I introduced Claire as an element to give them something to fight over. As I worked through the outline, I realized I’d made a grave mistake and this story about two men wasn’t going to hold my interest.
Claire became the main character and I never looked back. You can still see elements of the original conflict, but it’s not the focus of the story. Family is the focus—losing it, finding it, being jealous of it, and appreciating it.
How do you create your characters?
Each character begins with a core trait and a life situation. In Girls Can’t Be Knights, Claire began as a feisty orphan forced to challenge a strict patriarchy by forces outside her control. From there, I wrote a few scenes and added more detail, more history, and more attitudes. I find characterization, especially through dialog, to be the easiest part of story crafting.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
My ideas come from all kinds of places, often in single moments. My next Young Adult book is scheduled to release in December, and the idea came from a song by Ilana Harkavy that I stumbled upon by pure chance. She’s co-writing that book with me based on her Lipstick Liars song about a girl who’s absorbed so many toxic messages about self-image that she has to unlearn how to see herself to be happy.
What do you like to read?
My favorite genre is Fantasy, though I’ll give nearly anything a chance. I’m an omnivorous reader. As an indie author who knows lots of other indie authors, I tend to skew toward indie books. Having author friends is a great way to find new reading material.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Write words. Lots of words. The one primary thing that distinguishes a writer from a non-writer is writing. If you can’t write on a consistent basis, you’re not a writer. Besides that, read everything you can get your hands on, all the time. Most of the time, I read a book a week. Good or bad, you always learn something by reading others’ work.