1. Hey Kamilla! Describe THE UNICORN HUNT for me in 3 words.
Wish-full, Wonder-full, Sister-full. (You didn’t say they had to be real words!)
2. Okay, now you can describe it in a sentence or two.
The UNICORN HUNT explores that idea that magic exists in anything that requires creativity as well as in family relationships—specifically, sisterly bonds.
3. Where did the original idea for the UNICORN HUNT come from?
I was inspired by two things: a painting and a tapestry. When I was eight, my aunt painted a picture of two girls—me and my sister—stumbling upon two unicorns in a sunlit meadow. It was the most magical thing I had ever seen, and I always wished I could step inside the brush strokes.
Then when I was 22, I went to The Cloisters in New York City and saw the Unicorn Tapestries that depict a medieval unicorn hunt. These beautiful images are woven of silk and gold, but the milk-white unicorn is covered in blood. There are seven tapestries all together, but one of the panels has been torn and only fragments remain. I asked myself, “Why would anyone want to destroy a tapestry of unicorns?” and by trying to answer that question, The Unicorn Hunt was born.
4. Share a bit about your path to publishing. Have you always wanted to write, in addition to becoming an editor?
Funnily enough, I always wanted to be an editor, not a writer! At the age of 11, I was reading in the field behind my great aunts’ house, and this thought came to me: Someone thought that I should read this book, and I want to be the person who helps put stories out there. I didn’t know until I asked my mom that what I was describing was called editing/publishing.
I was lucky to land a number of internships during college: at Foundry Literary + Media, Simon & Schuster UK, and Viking Children’s Books. Later I was hired as an editorial assistant at HarperCollins, and now I work as an editor at Paper Lantern Lit. Things came full circle for me at PLL, when authors I had read as Stephen Barbara’s intern—Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer—were now my bosses, and Stephen became my agent.
I find nothing more intimidating than a blank page, and as an editor, I never had to face them. But as I worked with Lauren and Lexa, both writers as well as editors, I was inspired to write down my own stories for the first time. With their encouragement, I drafted the first chapter of The Unicorn Hunt…and then I found I couldn’t stop writing!
5. Fill in the blank: “Fans of _____ by ______ will love THE UNICORN HUNT because… “
Fans of THE PRINCESS ACADEMY by SHANNON HALE will love THE UNICORN HUNT because both follow young girls who feel ill-prepared to face the shifting world around them and must rely on an inner strength they didn’t know they had. Plus, there’s a pinch of magic in both!
6. Okay, last question! What’s one Middle Grade book that should be mandatory reading for all adults?
Ugh, that’s so tough! I’m going to cheat and give you two. One is from my childhood that helped me as I grew up and perfectly captures children’s frustration of not being in control of their own destiny, and one that I read now, as an adult, that I wish I could have read as a kid. The first is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and the second is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.
Thanks for joining us today, Kamilla!
Any of our readers dream of being a double-threat and edit as well as write books? 🙂
KAMILLA BENKO spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. After interning and working for several publishing houses, she now dreams up stories as an editor for Paper Lantern Lit. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots.