The Secret Genesis of COURT OF FIVES In Title IX at YA Bibliophile

YA Bibliophile Kate Elliott reveals Novel Secrets on COURT OF FIVES at YA Bibliophile, (where you can also enter a giveaway to win a free copy of COURT OF FIVES!).

When I was a girl the books written “for girls” almost never included the girls themselves being involved in thrilling sword fights, arduous overland treks, riots, and revolutions even though that was exactly the story I most wanted to read. Boys got those stories, not girls.

[…]When I was a young teen the girls often did not even have official leagues. Girls played “club” sports while boys played official high school sports, with leagues, play­offs, and state titles. All that changed with Title IX. Girls had to get the same opportunities as boys.

Read more about this Novel Secret at YA Bibliophile!

The Novel Secrets Blog Tour lets readers discover fascinating behind-the-scenes information connected to brand-new YA novels! Thank you to Heidi at YA Bibliophile for participating!

COURT OF FIVES Behind-the-Scenes at Read, Breathe, Relax

Can’t get enough COURT OF FIVES? Head over to Read, Breathe, Relax for Kate Elliott’s guest post, “From Idea to Publication: The Journey of COURT OF FIVES,” to learn more about the writing process and inspiration for Efea.

Meanwhile, my spouse became co-director of an archaeological dig in the Delta region of Egypt, a site called Tell Timai that flourished during the Greco-Roman era (about 300 B.C.E to 600 C.E.). Naturally I got interested in the history because of his work, and over the next few years I began reading research books and articles on the period and jotting down ideas. Other inspirations also came together at this time, merging into a larger plot.[…]

Eventually I sat down to write…


Read more at Read, Breathe, Relax.

Thank you to Lisa of Read, Breathe, Relax for hosting this stop of the blog tour!


Diversity Panels: Where Next?

I’m writing this post not because I have answers but because I have questions.

I just returned from WorldCon 73/Sasquan, held in Spokane, Washington, from 18 – 23 August 2015. From my perspective both Sasquan programming and everyone who organized and volunteered for Sasquan as a whole did a fine job in a particularly difficult and fraught year. I say that to make it clear this post is not about Sasquan but rather about the general situation within the SFF field and the larger world of publishing and popular culture in general.

In the past SFF conventions have sometimes featured panels on “using foreign lands and histories to give new color and detail to your SFF,” a format I personally find appropriative (even though I can be accused of doing just that in my writing). Those aren’t panels analyzing and opening up for discussion the need for and presence of often-marginalized writers/artists and stories and characters, and how (usually USA) publishing (and Hollywood) culture supports or hinders these efforts.

In the wake of 2009’s #Racefail discussion, LJ blogger delux-vivens (much lamented since her passing) asked for a wild unicorn herd check in to show that people frequently told they don’t read SFF and aren’t present in SFF circles do in fact exist. In some ways I personally think of this as the first unofficial “diversity panel.”

Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo launched the Diversity in YA tour and website in 2011. At that time, featuring a diverse group of authors talking about the existence and importance of Diversity in YA seemed fresh. In 2011, when the World Fantasy Convention took place in San Diego, Lo wrote to the programming committee to offer to moderate a Diversity in YA panel for convention programming. Instead, WFC programming scheduled a panel titled “I Believe That Children Are the Future” whose description began, “How do we convert YA fantasy readers into adult fantasy readers?”

These days, more conventions & comiccons feature panels on diversity: what it is, why it matters, how we can support it. I’ve seen examples of these being absolutely packed, especially when they first became features of the con and library landscape, because they addressed a pressing need to discuss how the publishing industries too too often marginalize many as they highlight the same few and provide more publicity and visibility to certain kinds of stories while neglecting others in a systemic way.

Now, however, without in any way suggesting that the need for discussion is over or that we have solved the problems, I am wondering to what degree the “diversity panel” may be beginning to become less effective and perhaps even to exacerbate the problem.

I’m not the first person to bring this up or ask these questions, not by a long shot. [Please feel free to link to related discussions in the comments.] I emphasize I don’t have answers; I only have questions, and I’m writing this post not to suggest solutions but because I am wondering what people think and what their own experiences are.

For example, at Sasquan I was on a Diversity in YA panel with Fonda Lee, Cynthia Ward, Cassandra Clarke, and Wesley Chu. First of all, Fonda Lee did a fantastic job moderating: She prepared for the panel by emailing us a list of questions she planned to ask and a course of action she planned to take as moderator to cover as much ground as possible in the 45-minute time frame we were allowed. The panelists all had smart things to say. But let’s look at the line up.

Ward was placed on the panel because she and Nisi Shawl wrote a well-known and much cited work on “Writing the Other”. Lee and Clarke have both published YA (Young Adult) novels, Zeroboxer and The Assassin’s Curse, respectively. My YA debut fantasy Court of Fives was released the week of Worldcon. Chu, however, has not written YA or MG although his debut novel, The Lives of Tao, did receive a special citation from YALSA as a novel that could also work for teens. As Chu himself pointed out, there really was no reason for him to be on the panel except that he is of Asian ancestry and thus fits in an obvious diversity box.

Chu’s fourth novel Time Salvagers was published in July, a straight-ahead SF time travel story, yet at Worldcon he was not placed on any of what I’ll call “mainstream” science fiction programming items in which he could discuss, as a writer with other writers, writing science fiction, science fictional ideas, and the use of science fiction to comment on trends and futures. This strikes me as the very opposite of what we might hope to accomplish with an emphasis on more “diverse” programming.

In this same fashion, besides a reading, autographing, and Kaffeeklatsch (small group meeting), I participated in five other programming items: two I proposed (a dialogue with Ken Liu (The Grace of Kings) on world building and a powerpoint lecture on Narrative Structure and Expectation), one last minute (and really fun) Ditch Diggers live podcast (hosted by Matt Wallace and Mur Lafferty), and two “assigned by the convention,” which were both YA panels, one on world building and the other on diversity. I was also offered a panel on Teen/YA Romance, which I asked to be taken off of.

That’s three YA panels. Now in one sense I believe the programming committee was kindly acknowledging that my YA debut was out that week, and yet I couldn’t help but notice that although I have a new epic fantasy series whose first volume comes out in November (not so far away) and although I have under my belt multiple multi-volume series, I was not asked to be on a panel titled “Writing the Multi-Volume Series” (populated by four male authors all of whom, I hasten to add, are bestsellers). This isn’t the first time in recent years I’ve been given programming in diversity or gender and not in multi-volume series and/or epic fantasy, which has been my main sub genre for — oh — all of my career.

I understand the desire of a convention committee to present bestselling authors on their panels (or much beloved older authors at Worldcon given the importance of fannish history). People naturally want to see them! I do too! Yet at the same time if they are the only ones consistently tagged for such panels, the practice ends up highlighting the visibility of a limited number of (often already very visible) people.

I wonder if the “diversity panel” is in some circumstances becoming a way to “fulfill” the pressure to have the diversity conversation while meanwhile funneling it off to one side in a way that prevents actual diversity from fully integrating into the “regular” “mainstream” discussion.

I’m not saying this happens deliberately on the part of organizers but rather that people may need to pause and reflect on how decisions like this get made. The need for discussion remains acute, and a diversity panel may be an effective way to introduce people to concepts they haven’t thought much about, yet discussion only takes us so far. Dismantling the systemic biases embedded in our culture is the ultimate goal but obviously is a vast, complex, and long term endeavor.

Meanwhile: Visibility matters. Action matters.

Here’s a final observation from Sasquan. My world-building dialogue with Ken Liu happened to be scheduled back-to-back with the Diversity in YA panel, in the same room. Ken and I had a full room, while the Diversity in YA panel (which took place in the next time slot) had perhaps a third of the audience. While I understand that most who came to the world building panel were writers hoping for insight, I can’t help but think that people are increasingly looking for diverse panels rather than diversity panels.

What have your experiences been with diversity panels? Where next?



The diversity conversation includes many voices. I list a very few here:

An Interview with Supernatural Snark

Supernatural Snark
Check out more insight into COURT OF FIVES at Supernatural Snark, including more about Kal, Jes, and, of course, Kate Elliott. (There’s even a five-word sneak peek at the second book in the trilogy!):

If Jes was helping you train to compete in The Fives, what would the first words out of her mouth be on day one when she evaluated your fitness and strategy?

“I have so much respect that you have come to train, Honored Lady, but at your age I have to suggest that you might think twice about setting your sights on the highest levels of competition.”

Read more at Supernatural Snark!


More Interviews w/ Flying Through Fiction & Book Rambles

Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES blog tour continues with a two-part interview with Brittany of Brittany’s Book Rambles and Mariam  of Flying Through Fiction, in which she discusses setting boundaries as a writer, obscure research facts, and her dream cast for COURT OF FIVES :

Do you have a dream cast or soundtrack for your book?


I haven’t had time to figure out a dream cast, and I honestly prefer to see who readers come up with because readers’ takes on how they think people look is much more interesting to me than my own. However I do think model Hideo Muraoka (although he’s too old) looks something like I imagine Kal looking. You can see how Kal looks HERE

Stuntwoman Jessie Graff doesn’t look at all like Jes (and she’s about 13 years too old for the part anyway) but she’s built the way I imagine Jes is built: tall, lean, strong, and an acrobat (in fact, Graff is former competitive gymnast AND pole vaulter: what a combination!). Watch Graff’s fantastic performance at the Venice Finals of the 2015 season of American Ninja Warrior to see how I imagine Jes might look on a Fives court, and especially watch how intently Graff plots each obstacle in her head before she tackles it.


Read the first part of the interviews at Book Rambles, and the second part at Flying Through Fiction. Thank you to Mariam and Brittany for hosting these interviews!


Want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of COURT OF FIVES? Keep up with the COURT OF FIVES blog tour with Kate Elliott:

8/11 The Book Wars
8/16 Artsy Reader Girl
8/18 Two Chicks on Books
8/19 Once Upon a Twilight
8/21 Eater of Books
8/22 Adventures in YA Publishing
8/24 Brittany’s Book Rambles & Flying Through Fiction
8/25 Supernatural Snark
8/26 Read. Breathe. Relax.
8/28 A Reader of Fictions

Kate Elliott Interview – Adventures in YA Publishing

Thanks to Adventures in YA Publishing for the recent interview on Kate Elliott’s YA debut, COURT OF FIVES!

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The hardest scenes to write were those in which Jes is running the Fives. It’s difficult to combine describing a sport that doesn’t exist with the physical effort and emotion of a person playing it, and I worked over and over again on the Fives scenes to make them feel immediate and emotional, and to give the reader a visceral sense of Jes on the court. I wanted readers who love playing and/or watching sports to be excited by what’s happening on the obstacles, while also giving an emotional hook to draw in people who might otherwise skim over that kind of action scene.

I’m most proud of the final scene in the book, but if I told you why it would be a spoiler!

Read more about staying true to your vision, advice for other writers, and more on COURT OF FIVES at Adventures in YA Publishing.

Eater of Books Guest Post

Continuing on her COURT OF FIVES blog tour, Kate Elliott discusses “Creating a World with Regressed Women’s Rights” at The Eater of Books:

I’ve seen a few readers refer to the novel as a dystopia. That surprised me because I did not write it as a dystopia, and I never intended to write a book that fit into the dystopian genre of YA…

In fact over and over again I rarely needed to make up ways in which the women of the Court of Fives world labor under regressed rights. All I had to do was borrow from actual historical legal traditions.

Read the full post at The Eater of Books.


As always, COURT OF FIVES is now available at your local independent bookstore, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other online and bricks and mortar stores TODAY (USA & Canada only).

Five Inspirations for COURT OF FIVES at Once Upon a Twilight

Once Upon a TwilightKate Elliott is at the Sasquan 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, WA this week (see her schedule or follow her adventures on Twitter), but you can still learn about the inspirations for her YA debut novel, COURT OF FIVES (available now in the USA & Canada) over at review blog, Once Upon a Twilight.

These five things are at the core of Court of Fives: In a world of magic and peril, four sisters try to make a difficult transition to adulthood in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege. Fierce, determined Jes wants nothing more than to make her mark in the most popular game in the country, but disaster is about to strike her family, one that will bring her into stunning contact with her long-buried heritage.

One of the great pleasures of writing fantasy is being able to combine many very different elements and create something new.

Find out what these five inspirations are at the link!

Book Smugglers Guest Post + Two Chicks on Books Author Playlist

Want to know more about the influences for COURT OF FIVES (available today!)? Head over to The Book Smugglers to read Kate Elliott’s guest post on history and myth-making, the life and myth of Cleopatra, and the setting of Greco-Roman Egypt as Efea’s template.

“As I was writing I took to heart the story of Cleopatra. People often say that history is written by the conquerors and that history has an agenda. This is true of how the Romans wrote about Cleopatra and certainly true of how later historians and tale tellers turned Cleopatra into the seductress queen rather than the hard-headed, ambitious, and fiercely intelligent woman she obviously was.

It’s that gap between myth and history that is part of what inspired me to write Court of Fives…”

Read more at the link and enter to win a copy of COURT OF FIVES!

Two Chicks on BooksAlso, be sure to check out Kate Elliott’s handpicked playlist, “I Am the Best,” for COURT OF FIVES at Two Chicks on Books.

I write to music, and I love to create unique playlists for each of my series…The key is to set a mood that matches the feelings I hope to evoke. For Court of Fives, a fantasy story set in a world of Patrons and Commoners, with a heroine who is a fierce competitor in a sport she is not supposed to be participating in, I needed a playlist that reflects the conflicts and the range of emotions in the book.

Listen while you follow Jessamy’s story in COURT OF FIVES, which you can pick up at your local independent bookstore, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other online and bricks and mortar stores TODAY (USA & Canada only)!

Thank you so much to The Book Smugglers, Two Chicks on Books, The Book Wars, and The Artsy Reader Girl for all the COURT OF FIVES love. (P.S. Check out The Book Wars’ latest review of COURT OF FIVES, too!)



It’s here! Kate Elliott’s YA debut novel, COURT OF FIVES, is out TODAY in the USA and Canada!

COURT OF FIVES is available at your local independent bookstore, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other online and bricks and mortar stores!

Court of Fives_Elliott_CourtOfFives_HC-LO

On the Fives court, everyone is equal. And everyone is dangerous.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test Kal’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
Recent reviews:

“Elliott immediately thrusts the reader into Jes’ head and heart, and the result is a wonderful immersion in both familial love and the tensions at work within these relationships. […] What makes this such an outstanding novel is Elliott’s experienced hand at revelation and building compelling characters. […] the woman knows how to write and tell a damned fine story, and those skills translate seamlessly into this YA tale.” – Robert H. Bedford,

“Elliott’s ability to create intricate societies with tangled social, political, and economic realities that generate obstacles for her characters is one of her great strengths, and this book highlights it wonderfully. This is a sharp, gorgeous, brutal story about familial love and the complex nature of trust, and an excellent beginning to a new series.” – Renay Williams, Barnes and Noble

“Jes will remind readers of fearless Katniss with her skill and strategy for games. But it’s the fascinating descriptions of traditions, royal interactions, and, of course, the intensities of the Fives that will enthrall readers most of all. Let the games continue!”―Booklist, starred review