Interview with C.L. Polk, Author of ‘The Midnight Bargain’

If you’re an ardent fantasy fan, then you’ll know C.L. Polk from her World Fantasy Award-winning debut, Witchmark, the first entry in the Kingston Cycle series. This year, she’s stepping away from the world of the Kingston Cycle with her first standalone novel, The Midnight Bargain, which follows sorceress Beatrice Clayborn who must make a choice between her family and her ability to cast magic.

We got the chance to pick C.L. Polk’s brain about audiobooks, what inspired her to write The Midnight Bargain, and which book she’s most looking forward to this year. Keep reading to see what she had to say. What can readers gain from listening to the audiobook version of The Midnight Bargain that they might not necessarily get from reading the print version?

C. L. Polk: I really love audiobooks because they’re my perfect accompaniment on walks, while commuting, and even washing the dishes at home. The Midnight Bargain is enhanced by the companionable feeling of listening to someone read to you, bringing the voices of the characters and the world to life, all so the story can take you away. This will be your second collaboration with narrator Moira Quirk, who also narrated your previous audiobook Stormsong. How involved are you in the casting process and what do you look for in an audiobook narrator?

C. L. Polk: I was so happy to have Moira Quirk reading for me again. She really brought Grace to life in Stormsong. My involvement in the casting process is limited, so I’m very lucky to have Moira again! This is your first standalone novel. How did it feel to venture away from your Kingston Cycle series?

C. L. Polk: I really enjoyed writing The Midnight Bargain. I had been spending years in the world of the Kingston Cycle, and as the trilogy was coming to a close, it was time to do something different, and Beatrice’s story was waiting there, fresh and different and twirling in a circle to make all those skirts bell out. It’s always bittersweet when a saga comes to an end, but The Midnight Bargain was far too absorbing a project for me to feel sad about the end for long. The Midnight Bargain grapples with a world in which women forfeit the right to practice magic after marriage in order to protect their unborn children. Why did you decide to explore the issue of reproductive rights through a fantastical lens? What did the genre allow you to do or say that you otherwise couldn’t have?

C. L. Polk: This is what I always do. I’m writing about different worlds where magic is real—but the problems our world faces are problems there, too. I had the beginnings of The Midnight Bargain in my head for a few weeks, but I wasn’t really getting the traction I needed to make the story fly. But current events had me thinking about reproductive rights, and how we still have to fight, sometimes bare-knuckled, to control our lives. But to talk about that in a fantasy story, I had to provide a better reason than just warring opinions. The idea of the spiritborn provided that reason. Do you think you’ll ever return to Beatrice Clayborn’s story in the future?

C. L. Polk: I think if I did return to the world, I would have to tell a different character’s story, and so far, no one has volunteered! I think they’re wary of the ordeal Beatrice went through, honestly. In addition to your book projects, you also run a blog about the craft of writing. What advice do you have for all of the aspiring writers out there?

C. L. Polk: To thine own self be true. Write what you love. Please yourself. Always prioritize your enjoyment. Writing novels is hard work. it takes a long time. And you need to love the book for years and years afterward. What’s one book, real or one you wish was real, that you’re dying to read or listen to?

C. L. Polk: I need to read Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. I loved her Sixth World books so much, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on her new series since the announcement.

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