Karissa Laurel is joining us today to talk about the anthology, Unbound: Stories of Transformation, Love, and Monsters, and her story inside “Of Marshmallows and Monsters”. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A dull AP English assignment interrupted by the resurrection of a 5,000-year-old mummy. A “boy meets boy meets time travel” tale. An ancient evil summoned from the Scottish moors. A sentient garden turned matchmaker. A troubled teen who rehabilitates monsters. A sinister society where love is punishable by death. A medieval pirate queen in love with a ghost. A demon who rebels against her birthright. A mysterious Power that turns people to stone. A girl who guards the secret behind her best friend’s disappearance. A violinist on the brink who learns to listen to her heart.

The stories in this anthology have one common theme: Transformation. They include international ownvoices perspectives; a New York Times-bestselling author; Emmy, SIBA, and ILA award-winning writers; and emerging, independent voices in YA fiction. The collection’s authors, like its stories, are UNBOUND—diverse voices exploring identity, love, betrayal, and becoming. They give us a glimpse into what can be: stories of possibility, love, friendship, the monsters around us and within us.

What’s Karissa’s favorite bit?


My short story, “Of Marshmallows and Monsters” currently appears in UNBOUND: STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE, AND MONSTERS, a YA anthology from Five Points Press.  My favorite bit about writing that piece was how the idea for the story came into existence. From a few disparate parts, a whole and cohesive story was formed.

A few months ago, I was talking with my author friend, Mary Fan, about a novella series in which she’s been invited to participate. The stories in that series are supposed to be all about cryptids. Mary said she wanted to write a story that made the cryptid more sympathetic and less of a monster. Naturally I thought that was a brilliant approach, but it also got me joking about rehabilitating cryptids into emotional support animals. That bit of silliness evolved into an idea akin to the TV show, Pitbulls and Parolees, but with cryptids. Quickly it stopped being a joke. Inspiration flared, and I knew I was on to something with real potential.

Around that same time, Emily Colin (co-editor and contributing author) reached out to me about participating in the Unbound anthology. She’d told me it needed to be a young adult story with “transformation” as one of its major themes. The story seed that had rooted when I talked to Mary evolved again, this time into a juvenile delinquent living at a half-way home that focused on rehabilitating wounded wildlife. And what if some of those wild creatures were secretly a little more arcane and rarer than others?

When I started writing, I wondered what my main character could’ve done to wind up being a juvenile delinquent needing redemption and transformation. I’m a true-crime junkie and have an addiction to Dateline. Not-so-coincidentally, I had just listened to a podcast story about a young Bonnie-and-Clyde-type duo whose crime spree eventually ended in the murder of an innocent couple. In my mind, the girl in that Dateline podcast became my main character. She hadn’t committed the murders, but a desperate need to belong and be loved made her susceptible to her boyfriend’s manipulations. The girl in that Dateline story showed little remorse, but my character, Astrid, had many regrets and wanted badly to redeem herself by saving someone, or something, else.

At the beginning of writing this story, the conclusion seemed so unlikely, like trying to fit together pieces from different jigsaw puzzles. Cryptids and Dateline? Yet, somehow, they do fit, and the completed picture looks like it was always meant to be the way it ended up.


Unbound: Stories of Transformation, Love, and Monsters Universal Book Link






Karissa Laurel is a fantasy, science fiction, and romance author living in central North Carolina with her son, her husband, her father-in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Her favorite things are water sports, Star Wars, Southern cuisine, and Hindi cinema.  Karissa serves as co-assistant editor at Cast of Wonders, a young adult speculative fiction podcast. Most recently, she is the author of Touch of Smoke, a paranormal romance novel available from Red Adept Publishing. She’s also the author of The Norse Chronicles, an urban fantasy series, and The Stormbourne Chronicles, a young adult, epic steampunkish fantasy series. Her  short stories have appeared in various anthologies, most recently including Bad Ass Moms (Crazy 8 Press, 2020) Thrilling Adventure Yarns; Volume 1 (Crazy 8 Press, 2019) Wicked South: Secrets and Lies (Blue Crow Publishing, 2018). Her short fiction has also appeared at Daily Science FictionLuna Station Quarterly, and Cast of Wonders.

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