Guest Post: Author Katya de Becerra Discusses Character Creation

Meet Katya de Becerra.

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Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. She is the author of What The Woods Keep, and Oasis (2019).

What The Woods Keep can be purchased wherever books are sold.

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The Guest Post.

My YA debut, What The Woods Keep, is a crossgenre multimedia novel about one girl’s quest for truth about her mother’s decade-long disappearance.

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Like most book projects, What The Woods Keep started small, but soon morphed into a many-headed monster I had to tame on a daily basis as I was writing it. One of its complexities had to do with the process of creating a supernatural race that was both grounded in history and mythology and governed by the laws of the science fiction genre. My main task, as I saw it, was to maintain that intricate balance between creating something decidedly otherworldly and still keeping it within the realm of the believable “this could happen here” situation.

This is how I’ve done it.

guest post photo 1 Nibelungenlied Fragment, Berlin, SB, Fragm, 44

The Nibelungenlied has always been one of my obsessions, ever since I first laid my eyes on a certain weathered collection of international myths and legends at my uncle’s house. It was in this book that I also had my first glimpse at the dragon-slaying Siegfried in all his sword-and-armor glory. As the child-me was comprehending for the first time the concept of a mythic hero and their quest, my brain was busy absorbing all the details of the Nibelungen lore: from their visual aesthetic to the obscure quality of legends that chronicle their strange fate.

Years on, as the grown-up me was just starting to write what was to become my eventual debut, whatever mark the Nibelungs have left in my mind have resurfaced and recaptured my imagination with renewed ferocity.

But… the story I was writing was set in the modern world. This meant that the legendary Nibelungs had to become a seamless part of this world too.

While the ancient language I imagined the Nibelungs inhabiting the world of What The Woods Keep spoke was an essential part of the process of (re)creating them from myth and lore, since I’ve already written about it elsewhere, in this post I want to focus on another important aspect of my world-building process: the science and science fiction ideas that I drew on to flesh out my particular brand of the Nibelungs.

guest post photo 2 – A photograph taken of Hoffman’s 14 set designs for Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen opera in 1876.

Due to its modern world setting, the narrative of What The Woods Keep draws on the principles and laws of physics which govern our lives on Earth. Hayden, the book’s protagonist, is particularly fond of physics as a way of defiance of her father who, in her eyes, has rejected the discipline in favor of some crackpot theories. But when Hayden encounters the eponymous woods of the book she has to dig deep into her own established views of the world to understand what exactly she is facing. Specifically, the question of how the phenomenon she experiences in the forest fits into the natural world that she thinks she knows so well is on her mind a lot. When Hayden finally draws a blank in her analysis, she needs to start thinking in a divergent way if she wants to prevail in her quest. And so while most of what we know about the Nibelungs in What The Woods Keep can be explained with help of theoretical physics, there’s that one elusive bit that evades theorization: the otherworldly element which adds “super” to the “natural” and makes my debut a fantasy/science fiction mashup. I hope that readers enjoy reading my creation because I most definitely enjoyed creating it and bringing all the things I love – science, mythology and mystery – together to make What The Woods Keep a strange beast that it is today.

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