Guest Post: Coming Close to Catastrophe by BLACKFIN SKY Author, Kat Ellis

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I’ve never liked candyfloss (dirty, sickly stuff) but getting a stick covered in pink spun sugar is mandatory at the circus. I think that’s why the smell of it mixed with sawdust stirs up happy memories from when I was a child. My dad used to take me every summer, and I always loved it. But I had no idea back then that the circus would play such an interesting part in my adult life. 

A travelling circus visits my town every year, and I go with my sister and niece, Daisy, to watch the performers. While I’m sitting there in the stands, I generally spend a solid amount of time fantasising about being able to do amazing trapeze stunts, and learning to throw knives with deadly accuracy. But when we all went four summers ago, I was actually in more of a sulk.

I’d started writing a new manuscript a few weeks earlier, and I was pleased with it. More than pleased, actually – I thought it was kind of special. It started with a girl named Sky who drowned on her sixteenth birthday, then showed up at school 3 months later acting as though nothing had happened. I loved the possibilities this threw up – the logical explanations and the illogical ones, and I knew that I could make this a really interesting story. The trouble was, I went through all the logical and illogical explanations for what had happened to her, and none of them seemed right. I couldn’t figure out where to go with it next… hence the sulking.

So I sat there watching the stunts, wondering how many times the trapeze artist had fallen before she finally mastered her tricks. I wondered how many times the boy having a straw whipped from between his lips had caught the cutting tail of the whip against his skin. I wondered how many times the knife-thrower had missed—or not—and shed blood for the performance. And how many times had each of them come *THISCLOSE* to absolute catastrophe?

Trying to figure out probable odds for these scenarios, a spark of an idea hit me, and it turned into a solution for my plot problem. What if the knife-thrower appeared to have missed, but his knife had simply hit a mark the audience hadn’t expected? What if Sky, too, had come *THISCLOSE* to catastrophe before her life veered off on another track?

I left the circus in a much better mood than when I’d arrived, and I went back to my story and finished it. That story became my first novel, BLACKFIN SKY. To date, nobody has told me that they anticipated what happened to Sky before it was revealed in the story, and I hope anyone who reads BLACKFIN SKY is surprised by the path her adventure takes.

It was created with circus magic, after all.

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