Blog Tour, Guest Post & Giveaway: Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal
Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal is releasing this Tuesday, the 11th, and we are thrilled to bring you a special guest post from the author as part of today’s blog tour stop!
Be sure to enter the tour-wide giveaway and check out the instagram tour for a separate giveaway as well!
Ink in the Blood (Ink in The Blood, #1)by Kim Smejkal
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
on February 11, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
iTunes, Book Depository, Amazon
A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.
Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.
Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.
To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
Can you share more about the gender identity expression and the acceptance of queerness in this world you’ve created? (So excited to read this aspect!)
Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m still in a state of shock that Ink in the Blood will be hitting bookshelves soon. I can’t wait to see it in readers’ hands (and, side note, if anyone wants to tag me in pretty pictures or fan art, I will love you forever)!
Ink in the Blood is full of tattoo magic, fierce friendships, theater, and religion. It’s a story that has a dark side, courtesy of one creepy, manipulative deity and her zealots, and a wild side, thanks to the antics and riddles of the Rabble Mob theater troupe.
I adore so much about this book, but with this post I’m going to deep dive into one aspect of the world-building that I’m particularly proud of: the acceptance of queerness and the deconstruction of the gender binary.
From the beginning, I set out to make Ink in the Blood as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the world of Profeta, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are along fluid continuums. There are multiple facets to this: language choice, the concept of fluidity, and the expression of gender in terms of roles and appearance.
First off, let’s discuss the language in Ink. Our own world is a pretty binary one: the default is to think and speak in terms of boy/girl and man/woman, as if people exist in opposites. Pretty restrictive. Pretty false. So I took the freedom that fantasy allows and made the world within Ink not do that. It began with being very cognizant of my language choices. Instead of “ladies and gentlemen,” for example, we have “gentlesouls.” Instead of girls and boys, we have Kids.
The only allowance I made was with familial relationships, because there is usually a third, ungendered option in our language. So for example, you can be a mother, a father, or a parent; a sister, a brother, or a sibling…etc. It isn’t perfect, but I did my best to include nonbinary folks as part of the norm.
After making that decision to avoid binary terms as much as possible, I needed to figure out how I could “show” the idea of gender complexity and fluidity. To that end, I developed the concept of tenors: visible and fluctuating auras. Everyone has a tenor, they’re as unique as fingerprints, and they’re constantly changing—some more than others. The prevalence and combination of the flickering colors give cues to others about the person’s pronouns at that moment. In Ink we use she, they, he, or avoid pronouns completely. “Reading” tenors in order to use the correct pronoun is an art more than a science, but it’s one that Kids learn early and is so engrained in the society that everyone does it automatically. Again, this isn’t a perfect system because pronouns themselves aren’t perfect, but it definitely allows for more nuance.
And, perhaps most importantly, because tenors are tied to the soul of a person, they make gender independent from outward appearance. Tying everything together meant flipping around stereotypes for clothing, gender roles, and looks. In Ink, people wear what they want and are who they are. I think my characters are pretty darn lucky: Caspian can wear his beloved skirts, and Seer Ostra can be tender and maternal with her super-fuzzy chest, and Celia can flow between she and they, and all without the world around them batting an eye. How freeing!
Everything I’ve mentioned so far regarding gender naturally leads to more diverse representation regarding sexuality. I introduce Celia’s two mothers in the very first line of the prologue so as to establish and normalize queerness as part of the world right away. Celia, and most of the other characters, are openly pansexual. Relationships of all kinds are presented on the page.
The world-building in Ink is special in many ways, but this is perhaps the part I treasure most. I tried very hard to be inclusive and authentic. Thank goodness for my sensitivity readers who helped me craft my way through such complicated issues; if I made any mistakes, I claim them entirely.
I know gender and sexuality are complicated. I still confuse myself with philosophical what-ifs on the regular. In Ink, it’s all very utopian, and I get that there are issues with that too. I just… tried to ambitiously open up the world so there weren’t the same predefined boxes we normally see. I wrote some of my personal wishes into existence. My hope is that all LGBTQ2S+ readers see themselves represented in Ink in the Blood. People are a rainbow, and I tried to put all the colors into Ink so it absolutely sparkles. <3
Win (1) of (2) finished copies of INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal and temporary tattoos (US Only) Ends 2-19-2020a Rafflecopter giveaway