Monster New York City: K.A. Linde On Building The Wren in the Holly Library’s Immersive World

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Monster New York City: K.A. Linde On Building The Wren in the Holly Library’s Immersive World

Sitting on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art eating a black and white cookie from my favorite New York City bakery, I was looking at the world with double vision. On one hand, the beautiful bustling Manhattan that we know and love today. On the other, a monster-infested world only a few years out of a grueling war that upended their lives. I sat on those steps enjoying my cookie; a thief sat on those steps eating babka and wondering if she should enter into a deal with the devil. It was this dichotomy that drew me to New York City as a setting for my novel, The Wren in the Holly Library.

Set in a post-Monster War Manhattan, Kierse McKenna steals from the wrong monster and is forced into a bargain with the alluring man who she knows will be her doom. When I wrote the first draft of this book, it was early 2020. I’d already had the idea to write the hero, Graves, two years earlier when he makes a one chapter appearance in my Blood Type series. But it wasn’t until I found the heroine on the streets of Manhattan that it started to come together.

I wrote the novel in a fugue. What feels like without eating or breathing or even blinking. But it would be four and a half years, many rounds of edits, and even more trips to New York before it became what it is today.

One particular research trip really set the tone of the novel. My husband and I traveled to New York for a week with a plan to follow in the footsteps of my heroine. Everywhere that she went, I went.

I started at the hero’s brownstone on the Upper West Side, a large, beautiful building off of 75th Street. I walked Central Park, where I had written that mer now lived in Central Park Lake. I, of course, sat on the MET steps and ate babka from William Greenberg around the corner. I rode the subway south to the Lower East Side where I ate Russ & Daughters lox and imagined the heroine’s home around the corner. I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge to trot around Brooklyn and through Druid territory. I braved Times Square at night and found the source of my Chelsea nightclub.

Each step felt like reliving the book. And one of the most interesting parts of the trip was seeing how I had overlaid the monster world on top of our own. During the Monster War, much of New York was destroyed and is only just now being rebuilt in the wake of the Monster Treaty, a truce between humans and monsters that not everyone agrees with. In the meantime, gangs and monsters have claimed parts of the city. Times Square is disputed territory and still unsafe for most people to venture into. The Upper East Side is vampire headquarters. There’s a werewolf nightclub in Chelsea, Five Points, named after the infamous Irish gang. A wraith owns a successful business in midtown. Trolls guard the subway entrances and require payment to enter.

My favorite piece of New York history that enters into this book is Track 61, a secret underground tunnel beneath the Waldorf Astoria that connects to Grand Central Station. It was built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and used at one point by the president. I fashioned the warehouse and connected subway as a monster underworld. Not a place for unsuspecting humans, but a delightfully dangerous location for monsters hoping to return to former monster glory.

While New York City is my favorite backdrop, it was even more fascinating to return after the novel was complete and find myself once again inside my book. The Feast of San Gennaro festival in Little Italy is a focal point in the beginning of the novel. A chase scene takes place as the heroine is running for her life. The festival was taking place the weekend of my sister’s bachelorette party. I was unaware the festival was going on until I was transported to the scene in my book, standing in the middle of the street at as it occurred all around me. It was so accurate that when my sister read the book, she said, “You put in the festival!” But it had been in there from the beginning. The only thing we were missing were the nymphs dancing in the streets.

While our New York might not be crawling with various monsters who may or may not do you in depending on their view of the Monster Treaty, it brings me joy every time that I visit. And the best thing about the book set in New York is that somehow it takes the familiar setting that we see in many books and movies and makes it a unique experience unlike anything you’ve ever had. So you too can sit on the MET steps and feel like you’re living both your life and Kierse’s. And you just have to decide if you’ll make your own deal with the devil. 

K.A. Linde is the author of The Wren in the Holly Library, which is available now wherever books are sold.  

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