In the middle of a silent meditation retreat with no pen or paper, former Mercer Island resident Alison Kimble was suddenly struck with a series of strange images: an 18-fingered orange god, worlds separated by mist and a horse.
Eight years later, those peculiar pictures became the foundation of her debut novel “Strange Gods,” a young adult fantasy that comes out July 20.
“I love fantasy, but really what matters is having a good human story at the heart of it,” Kimble said. “When you tell a human story and add dragons to it, you get this extra layer of fun and discovery. It’s like traveling to a new place in the real world. When you travel somewhere new and see how things are different, it causes you to question what you assumed to be the status quo at home.”
Kimble moved to Mercer Island as a child and attended schools in the Mercer Island School District from fourth grade through the end of high school.
She said that because her novel is a young adult (YA) book, her experience at Mercer Island High School (MIHS) was influential in her writing.
“I think one of the reasons that YA is so popular is that people grapple with these questions that young adults face throughout their lives, but there’s a concentrated time period when you are dealing with the biggest questions of identity: who am I, who am I in comparison to other people, what is my place in the world? And the hotbed of that is high school,” Kimble said.
“Strange Gods” follows a group of teen delinquents across worlds filled with gods and monsters.
Kimble will host a book-signing launch event July 31 at Island Books, and said she is excited to “come full circle” at the bookstore she loved growing up.
“I hope that ‘Strange Gods’ is a refreshing break from stories that may start to feel repetitive. It is pretty strange, as the title suggests,” Kimble said. “I hope that it takes [readers] on a wild external journey and a meaningful internal journey as they follow the main character as she grows and changes throughout the story.”
Kimble said she is inspired by authors like Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness and Seanan McGuire, whose novella “Every Heart a Doorway” is Kimble’s favorite book. Her favorite series is the Harry Potter series.
At MIHS, Kimble said she was encouraged by her teachers and also gained confidence in putting herself out there creatively through extracurricular activities like the Mercer Island Drill Team.
“I had amazing teachers, like Mr. [Chris] Twombley, who was an English teacher who was really inspiring. Mr. [Aaron] Noble was my physics teacher. I just had an incredible experience being encouraged to let my light shine in the world. Although I didn’t know at that time that I wanted to write, that motivation and inspiration is incredibly powerful,” Kimble said.
Although the idea for “Strange Gods” first came to Kimble eight years ago, as her first novel, she didn’t feel ready to begin writing it immediately. The writing and publishing process has taken Kimble about three years.
She said she hopes she can pass on what she’s learned to others in the Mercer Island community.
“This is the start of a really exciting chapter for me and I only have space to grow,” Kimble said. “I hope I can give back to the community and offer anybody who thinks of that path for themselves insight into how it’s been for me starting this journey.”