Author Interview: Shakeil Kanish

We all want to be next. The next superstar, the next star athlete, the next social media darling, the next intellectual prodigy. There’s this belief that excellence means worth, and that to be special is to be worthwhile.

Shakeil Kanish knows something about excellence. He wrote an excellent book with his co-author, Larissa Mandeville. He also knows something about the ordinary: a self-described ordinary gay boy, horror movie lover, and LGBTQ+ author. 

But sometimes, ordinary is exactly what the world needs. Sometimes, ordinary is magic.

(You can read my review of The Sigil here.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m just your everyday lover of karaoke and horror movies! An LGBTQ+ member who just wants to write amazing novels for people like me so that I can see myself in books. I work for the AF and am super proud to serve my country while also serving up some amazing novels! And I just hope it can only go uphill from here! 

Tell us about your novel, The Sigil.

It’s a story about a gay boy trying to find his place in the world after his brothers mysterious death, and just kind of accepting that you can be just as big a hero being normal. You don’t need fancy powers or magic. 

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

I really always loved A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t know what it was but something about just it being a normal everyday kind of day and then bam they’re just thrown into this crazy world with a crazy antagonist… it just always got me super hyped and it def inspired me to want to write my own novels. 

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

I hope they finally get to see an LGBTQ+ character and a POC being the forefront of novels growing up. We didn’t have enough of those so I really wanted to do that for myself and others who wanted that too. I want them to just see themselves in some of the characters and kinda of show that anyone can be a hero. 

What is different about your novel?

I think the characters are very unique. Nova is so brash. I think some people will think she’s over the top but she’s based on a real person I know so it’s important to know people of all shapes and sizes exist and not everyone has to be this quiet, like every other girl cliche. I think the twist at the end is pretty out of left field so I hope readers really enjoy that I LOVE twist endings. 

What are your plans for future novels?

So The Sigil is a duology so I’m actually working on the sequel as we speak so keep an eye out for that . 

What inspires you to write?

Just wanting to tell a story and hoping that even one person wants to listen is more than enough to keep me going. 

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Getting to work and collaborate with other people and just making your novel the best it can be is super exciting and fun! As far as struggles just creatively sometimes we are not on the same wavelength so finding that balance is super important . 

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Probably just writing in general sitting down and actually putting words to paper is SO hard as any writer knows but sometimes you just gotta power through! 

How can we purchase your book? 

It’ll be available on Amazon and the 3 Furies Press website!

Book Review: The Sigil

Lake’s brother Devlin was murdered right in front of him. Simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time…Or was he?

The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish and Larissa Mandeville is the first part of a dark urban fantasy duology with a gay protagonist, that tackles questions such as the morality of segregation of societies, the effect of the cult of excellence on our youth, and how the bonds of found family can overcome any obstacle. 

And it does it all with nether-monsters, a magical academy, and a main character who walks in slow-mo.

As far as Lake is concerned, there’s nothing special about him. Denied from every college he applied to, he’s taken his role as an average gay man in stride, despite having an adopted brother that excels at everything he tries. He’s not happy with his lot in life, but he’s not going to fight it either. Fighting isn’t the kind of thing Lake is good at, after all.

Everything changes when Dev is murdered in front of his eyes. Convinced that Dev somehow knew of his impending death, Lake investigates his brother’s murder, only to stumble on more than he could ever imagined.

Magic is real.

And he’ll do anything to be a part of that world.

Audience

As always, beware the trigger warnings. You’ll find them at the bottom of the review if you have concerns about whether this is the right book for you.

The first thing you need to be aware of about The Sigil is this book is dark. Not needlessly so—it’s certainly not akin to a slasher film. Every bit of violence and gore has a purpose, and the authors take care that there is relief to the tension so it’s not one giant emo moment. It’s not spooky, nor is it gore-fest. 

This reads more like a gothic horror than anything, where the darkness is a feeling of being unsettled, that things may not necessarily all turn out in the end. It’s interesting to have some of the same tension and emotion of a classic gothic horror in an urban fantasy story that is very modern and diverse. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition, especially when you add in that there are also more humorous moments. It leaves a taste that is at once familiar and unique, harking back to different traditions but combining them in a way that lends itself to the diverse ensemble cast.

Keeping that in mind, if you are one of those readers who need a happy ending, this may not be the book for you. It’s a great novel that I really enjoyed personally, but it is dark, and the ending reflects that.

If the possibility of a not-so-happy-ending doesn’t deter you, and the thrill of a chill down your spine piques your interest, I’d like to add there’s also magic, monsters, average heroes, friendly demon possession, gay pining, and a whole lot of snark. What’s not to love?

What I Liked

The Sigil has a decently-sized cast of characters, with two point of view characters, Nova and Lake. I much preferred the chapters where we were brought along Lake’s journey, as I found that Nova rubbed me the wrong way on a personal level. But even as I didn’t love her as a person, I could see the strength of her characterization.

That’s one of the hallmarks of this novel—unique characters with autonomy. Kanish and Mandeville created a unique group that each have their own idiosyncrasies and backgrounds that come to life on the page. I especially liked the backgrounds and characters of Stone and Knox, along with Lake of course. 

The truest indication that I’m interested in a book is when I’m tempted to skim forward to see what happens further into the book, not out of boredom, but because the tension is palpable enough that I get anxious. This isn’t something that happens to me often, as I’m usually able to compartmentalize, but I found myself having the urge many times. This book just got under my skin.

The plot had a lot of twists and turns, and though I did have an inkling as to the puppeteer behind the mayhem, I didn’t nearly have the understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ that came to pass by the end of the book. I also never would have guessed some aspects of the ending, and I have to mention—this left me with one of the strongest ‘book hangovers’ I’ve ever experienced. I was actually distraught, because Kanish and Mandeville had gotten under my skin, and made me really care about these characters. I became invested in their stories, and the end result left me reeling.

Trigger Warnings

Death, Grief/Loss, Graphic Violence, Gore