We are excited to add a new YA thriller to the Blink lineup this fall, Every Stolen Breath by debut author Kimberly Gabriel, a fast-paced and suspenseful mystery that shows just how hard one girl will fight back, knowing any breath might be her last. Every Stolen Breath goes on sale November 5, 2019. We sat down to talk with Kimberly to get a behind-the-scenes look at the book!
The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable—random attacks on the streets of Chicago by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, but Lia Finch has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim. Lia teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. Though if Lia and her network don’t stop the person pulling the strings—and fast—Lia may end up the next target.
Hannah VanVels: Hi Kimberly! Every Stolen Breath was inspired by the real-life “flash mob” violence that hit Chicago in 2011. *goosebumps* Can you tell us a bit about how Every Stolen Breath began to take shape?
Kimberly Gabriel:Hi Hannah! I *still* get goosebumps thinking of those attacks from 2011. I was a new mom living in the city and pregnant with my second child when a series of flash mob attacks broke out near our home. Stories of these teenage mobs dominated the news. Involving up to twenty participants, teens would emerge from a heavily populated area and descend on a single victim to mug and attack. I remember being terrified by the random and sudden nature of the attacks in a proclaimed “safe” and crowded area. Throughout the next several years, I read about similar occurrences throughout Chicago and other cities, my fear of them led me down the “what if” path. What if the attacks became an epidemic? What if they got bigger? What if they grew worse? What type of person would stand up against that kind of violence? From those questions emerged the Swarm, a dark and unpredictable threat, and Lia, the unlikely hero to fight back against it.
Hannah VanVels: A former Chicagoan myself, I was excited to see places I recognized in Every Stolen Breath, and I loved that the book began at Navy Pier! How does setting factor into the story? How did you decide where to set some of the major beats of the story?
Kimberly Gabriel:I loved featuring Chicago in this story! I had just moved to the suburbs when I started drafting Every Stolen Breath, and at first it was all about nostalgia for me. I started throwing in places that I loved or visited frequently, mostly because I missed them. Obviously, I *had* to have a scene at the Harold Washington Library. Then I also included or mentioned the Chicago Theater, the Water Tower, Michigan Avenue, Shedd Aquarium, the Peninsula, Millennium Park. There’s a restaurant that Lia and her best friend eat Thai at which is modeled after Penny’s, one of my favorite Thai places. Even Lia’s school was modeled after this old, beautiful brick school we used to live near. Of course, Lia’s Chicago has a difficult political climate, and I altered the geography slightly because of it. In the backstory for Every Stolen Breath, the mayor repealed a city ordinance from 1919 protecting the park land along Lake Michigan and sold it off as private real estate in order to save the city from its debt. This means Chicago’s public beaches, harbors, and running path—some of the best parts of the city—have been replaced by private beaches and homes deemed the “Millionaire Mansions.” The lakefront is one of my favorite features of the city, so it wasn’t easy destroying it in Lia’s fictional world. But without spoiling anything, worse things than that happen in this book. 😉
Hannah VanVels: One of the things that we love about the main character, Lia, is that she feels so authentic. She has asthma. She struggles with mental health issues. Tell us a bit how Lia came about and why it’s important for readers to meet characters like Lia.
Kimberly Gabriel:It was important for me to have a strong heroine, but with the Swarm killing people by exerting their physical strength, I wanted Lia’s strength to be internal and also realistic. Some of the strongest, most determined people I’ve ever met have become so by battling their struggles, and I wanted Lia to reflect that. To me, that’s what real strength is. Lia has asthma, anxiety, and PTSD—perceived weaknesses she must push through to fight back against the Swarm. I’m hoping readers can connect to her because of it and perhaps even realize that our struggles don’t define how strong or brave we are. Instead, our character is more often formed by the way in which we face them.
Hannah VanVels: Our hearts were racing through this whole story! In terms of writing, what goes into building such great suspense and tension? How do you balance these kinds of emotions with, say, romance?
Kimberly Gabriel:As a reader, I LOVE tension in all shapes and sizes, especially the romantic tension, which is my favorite in any story. One of my big aims was to keep the tension thick and layered in Every Stolen Breath, and a huge part of that was by including romantic tension and slow-burning chemistry between Lia and a mysterious boy, whose motives we’re not really sure of. So whether Lia is running for her life, which happens multiple times, or we’re waiting for her to kiss the boy already, which also happens multiple times, there is something that keeps the reader turning the page.
Hannah VanVels: The cover of Every Stolen Breath is so moody and atmospheric! Can you unpack this amazing cover for us?
Kimberly Gabriel:I’m so in love with this cover, and I’d be delighted to talk about it. My main character, Lia, has lost her father to the Swarm and is now hell-bent on discovering who they are and dismantling them. While Lia is strong, resilient, and determined in her pursuit, she also has debilitating asthma and PTSD, which sometimes leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality. This is reflected in the upside-down city, which *might* be my favorite part of the cover. Lia’s stance gives the reader a sense that she might be caught unaware of an attack and creates a sense of unexpected doom. The blurred people make this crowd look overwhelming and anonymous, and possible ridden with Swarm. Because the Swarm—a mob of crazed teens—begin their attack by blending in with the crowd, it suggests Lia might get attacked at any moment.
Hannah VanVels: Any spoilers that you can share?
Kimberly Gabriel:Ooh—spoilers!! How about this—because my favorite type of tension is the romantic tension, I include several slow-burn scenes between Lia and Ryan, which leads to at the very least one kiss between them.
Thanks, Kimberly! We are so excited for this book to come into the world in November!
About the Author
Kimberly Gabriel is an English teacher who writes every chance she gets and struggles with laundry avoidance issues. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s enjoying life with her husband, her three beautiful children, and a seriously beautiful boxer in the northern suburbs of Chicago. You can find her online at kimberlygabriel.com, on Twitter @KT_Gabriel, or on Instagram @kimberlytgabriel.