Guest Post: Author Katya de Becerra Discusses Character Creation

Guest Post, Misc.

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.

Social Media Links

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.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_fragm_44.jpg 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.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Ring_des_Nibelungen#/media/File:Buhnenbildentwurf_Rheingold.JPG – 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.

Meet Author Bree Lenehan

Author Interview

a8b206_ab1ea89b746f4648a30c8ce1bce11d2b~mv2(1).jpgMeet Bree Lenehan.

Bree Lenehan is an Australian radio personality, singer, and author. Her passion for creativity and mixing magic with transformative morale through the power of words flows through all of her work. She may not have found the wardrobe to Narnia, the Bridge to Terebithia or received a letter from Hogwarts, but she did fall upon the passage to Moa’s Rock. The world inside Bree’s first novel Pembrim: The Hidden Alcove came to her many years ago, in the backwoods of her grandparents’ property, where she stumbled upon a secret waterhole that became her daily escape from the real world.

Social links:
Website – http://www.breelenehan.com
Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/breeelenehan or http://www.instagram.com/pembrimthebook
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40012317-pembrim

 

The Interview.

 

How did you use the death of the parents trope to really shape and strengthen your main character Halia?

Having lost both parents so young and growing up without them around creates a hole in Halia’s life that she fills with her curiosity for adventure. That curiosity is the very thing that leads her to a hidden world she’s always been destined to find… In the end, losing them brings her closer to finding her true self.
What was the hardest scene, line or character to write for Pembrim: The Hidden Alcove?

Oooh, this is a good question! I’ll have to replace one of the character’s names with ‘——’ for now to save giving too much away, but the hardest line/scene to write was: ‘“She’s gone…” whispered Halia, scooping ——’s hands into hers and cradling her tightly, as if love was powerful enough to bring —— back. But that’s exactly it, love was already more powerful than death, for death could take away the one you cared about, but it could never take away the love you have for them. Halia forced her fists away, and as she did, ——’s fingers unlocked to display a grey stone engraved with one last message: The forgiver.’ — The reason I struggled to write this scene was because 1. The death of a well-loved character is always heartbreaking, and 2. The message behind the engraved stone is one Halia needs to hear, but it’s not something she can take in lightly, so I myself even struggled to come to terms with the fact that this well-loved character’s dying wish was for Halia to forgive someone who did something unspeakable to her.

 

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing, editing, or publishing process?

My absolute favourite is seeing the world inside my imagination truly blossoming and evolving into something even bigger than I first anticipated it to be. Writing also gives me a reason to explore and dive deeper into how my characters are feeling, so if my MC’s are running through a forest, I too will go for a walk through the closest forest and take in all of the senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, taste… So that hopefully readers will feel the same cool breeze brush their hair from the nape of their neck, or the smell of sandalwood and dewy grass surrounding them. My least favourite (Australian spelling, hehe) part of the process is the never-ending rounds of formatting that I must undergo before it is finally perfect. But beauty is pain! Or so I’ve heard…
I loved that you mentioned your debut novel’s backstory in your bio. Have you visited the waterhole since finishing Pembrim?

You know what, I actually haven’t. But that’s a fantastic idea! I’ll have to take Pembrim down with me, it’ll be like a new-born baby meeting their father for the very first time! Hahaha. Too weird?
Share a character fun fact!

Sure thing! Each member of the water clan are born with a spirit companion, a creature that lives alongside them every day, a creature that hunts with them, a creature to protect them, a creature bonded to them so strongly that nothing could ever break it. Not even in death do they part, for if a spirit companion is killed, the warrior their spirit is connected to dies the same death, and if a warrior is injured, their companion of the spirit will share their pain. The coolest part about having a spirit companion is that if you close your eyes and focus on the bond between you and your spirit companion, you are able to see through their eyes. Should you find yourself in danger, your spirit companion has the power to see where you are and come to your rescue. I have lots more where that came from, all on my website under the ‘Sneak Peeks’ tab!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

I do, indeed! Firstly, I’m giving one lucky reader the chance to jump inside a future dystopian world and become a character in my upcoming series of books! Enter via the pop-up box on my website! And secondly, Pembrim: The Hidden Alcove is being released June 4th! The countdown is on!

 

Happy book birthday to Pembrim: The Hidden Alcove!

Find out more on Lenehan’s site now!

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Sky in the Deep Blog Tour

Blog Tour
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Brittani Hilles, Publicist, St. Martin’s Press Brittani.Hilles@stmartins.com | 646-307-5558

 

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*Named “One of the Most Anticipated YA Novels of 2018” by Bustle, BookBub, Justine Magazine, EpicReads and Bookish*

“Unlike the slew of lethal (but tormented) young ladies populating young adult literature, Eelyn is an unapologetic warrior, mercifully neither anachronistic nor modern-minded… Young’s staccato prose matches her fierce fighters, but the raw emotions and rapid pacing belie a well-honed voice and taut narrative. A rousing saga and moving coming-of- age tale, perfect for those who appreciate the wild and the wildlings, strong female protagonists, and cinematic battles.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review
“Young has woven a Viking tale of blood, gore, and love that keeps the pages turning. The author has taken Norse mythology and made it accessible to young adults. The characters are all fully developed, and teens will be rooting for them to succeed. With a little bit of a love story, there is enough action, blood, and gore to engage reluctant readers. A refreshing tale where life is tested and people have to overcome their differences to fight a bigger foe to survive. A fast-paced, action-filled fantasy for all YA collections.” —School Library Journal

SKY IN THE DEEP By Adrienne Young

As the news cycle broadcasts a new era of fierce feminists, Adrienne Young’s young adult debut novel SKY IN THE DEEP (April 24, 2018; Wednesday Books) dives right into this feminine power with a ferocious young girl warrior at the forefront. Drawing from the hugely popular YA fantasy genre, Young takes Eelyn, a young girl driven by family loyalty, and puts her among the ranks of Wonder Woman as a fearless leader in an action packed Viking adventure.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, god-decreed rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: train to fight and fight to survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Eelyn loses her focus and is captured. Now, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan settling in the valley, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who tried to kill her the day she was captured. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and find a way to forgive her brother while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Reading SKY IN THE DEEP will make you want to pick up your own battle axe and run straight into battle with Young’s heroine. A must read for any fantasy addict, action lover, or fan of addicting stories, this debut embodies “Ond Eldr” or “breathe fire” as Eelyn inspires the reader to attack problems with courage and power.

 

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About the Author

Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

SKY IN THE DEEP By Adrienne Young Published by Wednesday Books **On Sale April 24, 2018** Hardcover | $17.99 ISBN: 9781250168450| Ebook ISBN: 9781250168474

 

Excerpt

“I saw him. I saw Iri.”
He wrapped the torn cloth around my arm, tying it tight. “What are you talking about?”
I pushed his hands from me, crying. “Listen to me! Iri was
here! I saw him!”
His hands finally stilled, confusion lighting in his eyes. “I was fighting a man. He was about to . . .” I shuddered,
remembering how close to death I’d come—closer than I’d ever been. “Iri came out of the fog and saved me. He was with the Riki.” I stood, taking his hand and pulling him toward the tree line. “We have to find him!”
But my father stood like a stone tucked into the earth. His face turned up toward the sky, his eyes blinking against the sunlight.
“Do you hear me? Iri’s alive!” I shouted, holding my arm against my body to calm the violent throbbing around the gash.
His eyes landed on me again, tears gathered at the corners like little white flames. “Sigr. He sent Iri’s soul to save you, Eelyn.”
“What? No.”
“Iri’s made it to Sólbjǫrg.” His words were frightening and delicate, betraying a tenderness my father never showed. He stepped forward, looking down into my eyes with a smile. “Sigr has favored you, Eelyn.”
Mýra stood behind him, her green eyes wide beneath her unraveling auburn braids.
“But—” I choked. “I saw him.”

“You did.” A single tear rolled down my father’s rough cheek and disappeared into his beard. He pulled me into him, wrapping his arms around me, and I closed my eyes, the pain in my arm so great now that I could hardly feel my hand.
I blinked, trying to understand. I had seen him. He was
there.
“We will make a sacrifice tonight.” He let me go before he pressed his hands to my face again. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you scream for me like that. You scared me, sváss.” A laugh was buried deep in his chest.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I just . . . I thought . . .”
He waited for me to meet his eyes again. “His soul is at peace. Your brother saved your life today. Be happy.” He clapped a hand against my good arm, nearly knocking me down.
I wiped at my wet cheeks with the palm of my hand, turning from the faces that were still watching me. There were very few times I’d cried in front of my clansmen. It made me feel small. Weak, like the early winter grass beneath our boots.
I sniffed back the tears, piecing my face back together as my father nodded in approval. It was what he had taught me—to be strong. To steel myself. He turned back to the field, getting to work, and I followed with Mýra, trying to smooth my ragged breath. To hush the waves crashing in my head. We walked toward our camp, collecting the weapons of fallen Aska warriors along the way. I watched my father from the corner of my eye, still unable to shake Iri’s face from my mind.
My feet stopped at the edge of a puddle and I looked at my reflection. Dirt spattered across my angled face and neck. Blood dried in long, golden braids. Eyes a frozen blue, like Iri’s. I sucked in a breath, looking up to the thin white clouds brushed across the sky to keep another tear from falling.
“Here,” Mýra called to me from where she was crouched over an Aska woman. She was lying on her side, eyes open and arms extended like she was reaching for us.
I carefully unbuckled her belt and scabbard, piling them with the others before I started on the armor vest. “Did you know her?”
“A little.” Mýra reached down to close the woman’s eyes with her fingertips. She gently brushed the hair back from her face before she began, the words coming softly. “Aska, you have reached your journey’s end.”
In the next breath, I joined with her, saying the ritual words we knew by heart. “We ask Sigr to accept your soul into Sólbjǫrg, where the long line of our people hold torches on the shadowed path.”
My voice faded, letting Mýra speak first. “Take my love to my father and my sister. Ask them to keep watch for me. Tell them my soul follows behind you.”
I closed my eyes as the prayer found a familiar place on my tongue. “Take my love to my mother and my brother. Ask them to keep watch for me. Tell them my soul follows behind you.”

I swallowed down the lump in my throat before I opened my eyes and looked down into the woman’s peaceful face one more time. I hadn’t been able to say the words over Iri’s body the way I had when my mother died, but Sigr had taken him anyway.
“Have you ever seen something like that before?” I whispered. “Something that wasn’t real?”
Mýra blinked. “It was real. Iri’s soul is real.”
“But he was older—a man. He spoke to me. He touched
me, Mýra.”
She stood, shifting an armful of axes up onto her shoulder. “I was there that day, Eelyn. Iri died. I saw it with my own eyes. That was real.” It was the same battle that took Mýra’s sister. We’d been friends before that day, but we hadn’t really needed each other until then.
I remembered it so clearly—the picture of him like a reflection on ice. Iri’s lifeless body at the bottom of the trench. Lying across the perfect white snow, blood seeping out around him in a melted pool. I could still see his blond hair fanned out around his head, his empty eyes wide open and staring into nothing.
“I know.”
Mýra reached up, squeezing my shoulder. “Then you know it wasn’t Iri—not his flesh.”
I nodded, swallowing hard. I prayed for Iri’s soul every day. If Sigr had sent him to protect me, he really was in Sólbjǫrg—our people’s final sunset. “I knew he would make it.” I breathed through the tightness in my throat.

“We all did.” A small smile lifted on her lips.
I looked back down to the woman lying between us. We would leave her as she was—as she died—with honor. Like we did with all our fallen warriors.
Like we’d left Iri.
“Was he as handsome as he was before?” Mýra’s smile turned wry as her eyes flickered back up to meet mine.

 

“He was beautiful,” I whispered.

 

 

SKY IN THE DEEP is available for pre-order!

Grab your copy soon!

Huge thanks to St. Martins Press for accepting me on this tour!

My Review: Everless

Book Reviews

***Disclaimer: Opinions are my own. Just to be safe, this may contain some spoilers or spoiler-y hints.***

“A strange feeling flowers in me, like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, looking out to the green-and-blue sea, which I’ve only ever seen drawn in books…” Sara Holland, Everless

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Everless Review
By: Yours truly – Rae

Ten years ago, Jules and her father were forced to flee Everless to save her life. But what happens when in desperation she returns to the royal household against her father’s cryptic warnings?
Everless begins with Jules Ember hunting to then sell her catch for rent money. Her father is ailing and selling his blood to get by and he has reached his limit. She can see him fading away, the fatigue eating his body and mind. She’s determined to save him but at what cost? Here the explanation of blood becoming a coin when mixed with iron, becoming currency, is introduced along with a pending royal wedding and the arrival of the Queen. Not to mention, hello mythology! I was hooked. The plot is fast, intense, and leaves you wondering at the layered secrets until the very end. I didn’t stop reading until I finished. Time was running out *pun intended*
But… My main problem(s)? I had two.
First, I couldn’t quite connect with Jules. I always felt a little standoffish with her. I wanted to like her and I understood her plight, was even moved by it on some level, but something was still amiss for me. She had dimensions. She had a purpose. She didn’t feel fake. She handled herself well when secrets were revealed – a little too well actually. But I loved her relationship with her Papa and the relationships with minor characters felt mostly genuine, more so when she gets to Everless than at home. It was only at the end that I had this “ahhh” moment where I wanted to see more of her and how she will grow.

The second issue I had was the romance. I’ve come to accept I can’t just read straight romance anymore. With Everless, Jules first crush, love, obsession is the younger Gerling son whom she knew as a child. Of course, they haven’t seen each other in 10 years and he is engaged now to the Queen’s adopted heir. Oops. While I didn’t get the impression that Jules was pining away for him during their separation, as I read it became apparent her 7-year-old self had idolized dear outgoing, happy, Roan and therefore he was it for her. She wanted him to remember her, to get swept away the rekindled affection from their childhood. Then… well let’s just say that romance didn’t turn out how any party wanted. The ending love interest, yes there is a love triangle with a character we know throughout the story, made me both happy and annoyed me. I didn’t like how it went from one strong emotion to… BAM love – maybe. I did like the unexplored love interest and want to know more about him besides his consistent portrayal of BAD. *sigh*

Regardless of my two problems, I would recommend readers to give Everless a try. The mythology, secrets, and world are dazzling. I will conclude with that shout out. Looking forward to book two and seeing where Holland takes us next.

 

Want to know more?

Want to buy your copy of Everless?

Click here.

 

My rating: 4/5

Get to know Rachel Lynn Solomon

Author Interview

Meet Rachel Lynn Solomon.

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Rachel Lynn Solomon lives in Seattle and loves tap dancing, red lipstick, and new wave music. A former journalist, she has worked for NPR, produced a radio show that aired in the middle of the night, and currently works in education. Once she helped set a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place. YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE (Simon Pulse, 1/2/18) is her debut novel. Another YA contemporary is slated for 2019. You can find her online at rachelsolomonbooks.com and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.

Onto the interview!

 

So you write about unlikable girls, bad decisions, and complex relationships. Love it! What made you decide to create that trio of motivation when writing?
Those are the kinds of books I’m drawn to! I never need to “like” a female protagonist to be invested in her story; I simply need to relate to her and understand her motivations. Courtney Summers, Amy Reed, and Corey Ann Haydu write some of my favorite protagonists. They’re never 100 percent likable, but they’re always interesting, always compelling.
Bad decisions—I don’t want to read a book about characters who make the right decisions every time (not at all realistic, especially in YA), so I probably wouldn’t want to write one, either ;).
Most of my book ideas begin with a complex relationship. For You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, I knew from the beginning I wanted the sisters to receive opposite results from a genetic test. That premise crackles with tension and conflict, and if the sisters are already not quite on speaking terms at the beginning, it complicates the relationship even more.

 

Congrats on your debut novel, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, releasing soon! What was the hardest scene to write between the twins?
Without giving too much away, the book’s climax contains an explosive fight between the sisters, and the hardest scene to write was actually a scene that follows this one. Denouements are the most difficult part of writing for me because I never want to wrap everything up too neatly. This scene I’m thinking of, though, has the sisters finally stripping away their preconceived notions of how the other is feeling and beginning to understand where the other is actually coming from, and feeling heartbroken about the test results all over again.
What was your most surreal experience to date on your publishing journey?
While at the airport heading to a writers’ workshop, I struck up a conversation with a guy in the security line. He had a dog with him, and I am very much a dog person, but I am not a casual-conversation-with-strangers person. Apparently, he was, and as we talked, the conversation led to my book, which he actually pulled up on Amazon and preordered while we were still in line!
Can you share any juicy details for your upcoming 2019 publication called A Year of Bad Ideas? If not, did someone in particular, or something, inspiring your next novel?
I can share a little! I’m working with my editor on revisions right now, so some things—including that title!—are subject to change. It’s about the aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends, complicated by the fact that the donor is in love with the recipient. It’s dual POV, like You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and deals with friendship codependency, identity, and music.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?
Thank you for having me! You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone is a deeply personal book, and I can’t wait until it’s out in the world.

 

Love what you read?

Visit Rachel on her media sites above and grab your copy of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone out today!

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