Alexandra Christo’s YA novel To Kill a Kingdom is not only one of my favorites of 2018 so far but also one of my favorite stories of all time.
(Seriously. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.)
After finishing To Kill a Kingdom, I naturally had quite a few burning questions about the world Alexandra Christo had created, her love for The Little Mermaid, and more. Luckily, she was more than happy to answer some of them for me!
About ‘To Kill a Kingdom’ by Alexandra Christo
Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?
Author Alexandra Christo talks about all things mermaids, fairytales, romance, and more!
What is it about The Little Mermaid that interested you in writing a dark retelling of sorts?
The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie growing up and when I read the Hans Christian Andersen tale, which is so beautifully twisted, I realized that the premise was quite similar: a powerful creature yearning to be a part of the human world and fall in love.
To me, anti-heroes and villains are always the most interesting characters, so I started to wonder what it would be like if this mermaid was the villain and if she saw becoming human as a curse. If she didn’t want to fall in love with the prince, but to kill him. I thought that would be a really cool dynamic to play out – two people who would kill each other given the chance, suddenly being thrown together.
What was the most fun part of this classic fairy tale to play with?
Definitely the spin on the princess falling in love being someone who literally rips out and collects hearts. I liked playing with the twistedness of that and the irony of Lira having collected so many hearts and yet not even knowing what love is. It was a fun parallel to draw. I also think that gave Lira and Elian a great dynamic, because love is the last thing on their minds and their kind have been trying to take each other out forever.
I found it interesting that mermaids get thrown under the bus, er, *ship* right away. What is it about sirens that made them a better fit for your story than mermaids?
To me, mermaids always represented the Disney stories and classic fairytales of beautiful creatures watching over sailors and wishing to be human. The sea creatures in To Kill a Kingdom are dark, murderous creatures and the last thing they want is to be human. That matched with siren mythology, which is far more eerie and filled with tales about luring sailors to their doom. They seemed like the type of creatures who could be warriors and killers. I still wanted to include mermaids in To Kill a Kingdom though, but they’re far from the beautiful creatures in fairytales!
Lira and Elian’s relationship is one of my favorite aspects of ‘To Kill a Kingdom.’ What motivated you to make it such a slow, slow burn rather than a more fast-paced romance (or even friendship)?
I wanted Lira and Elian to have separate journeys before they tied together. It was important to me for them to have their own goals and desires, and their own (sometimes selfish) motivations. They start out as mortal enemies who want nothing more than to destroy each other’s kingdoms, and that antagonistic relationship and distrust made for a slower build-up. They’re not the sort of people who trust easily, so it made sense for trust to be something they earned from each other over time.
Were there any characters or aspects of the world that you created that you wish you could’ve spent more time exploring but just couldn’t make it work?
To Kill a Kingdom takes place across the world and there are 100 human kingdoms, each with their own mythology. I wish I could have had Lira and Elian visit or explore them all! I wrote down so many stories about each kingdom and their cultures and it was so hard not to go into detail about every single one whenever they were mentioned. But that would’ve slowed the pacing and it just wasn’t essential to Lira and Elian’s journey. I would love to write some short stories, with some of the side characters (like Madrid) set in those other kingdoms though!
Did you ever consider making ‘To Kill a Kingdom into a series,’ or was it always a standalone in your mind?
It was always a standalone – I had a very clear story in my mind that I wanted to tell and I knew from the start how it would end. It was important to me that I didn’t drag out a story in two or three books, when I could say it all in one. I love the way Lira and Elian’s journey came to a close and think their characters ended up exactly where they were supposed to.
If ‘To Kill a Kingdom’ were to be adapted into a film, it’d be the only Little Mermaid adaptation/retelling I’d ever need in my life. Hollywood could cancel the three that are currently in the works and I’d be happy. If your story was ever brought to the big screen and you could choose anyone you’d want to be in it, who would you cast?
Thank you! I would love to see To Kill a Kingdom on the big screen! That would be such a dream come true. For casting, I think Sophie Turner would make a great Lira. She has a certain eeriness to her and could definitely pull of both Lira’s bad-assness and her wit. For Elian, Avan Jogia would play up the conflicted prince aspect perfectly alongside Elian’s snarky pirate side.
About the author
Alexandra Christo decided to write books when she was four and her teacher told her she couldn’t be a fairy. She has a BA in Creative Writing and works as a copywriter in London, both of which make her sound more grown up than she feels. When she’s not busy making up stories, she can be found buying far too many cushions and organizing food crawls all over the city. Alexandra currently lives in Hertfordshire with an abundance of cacti (because they’re the only plants she can keep alive). To Kill a Kingdom is her first novel.