Hey Rhi, thank you for having me here. I’m very excited to talk to you about THE MARKED SON.
To introduce you to my readers could you please tell us a little bit about your career thus far as a writer?
I’ve been writing forever, but only seriously for about ten years. Breaking into this business hasn’t been the easiest thing to do. I’ve had great support—my agent Laurie McLean—and she’s kept me on track, pushing me to write what I love but with more focus. She tirelessly shops my work around and I’ve been fortunate to have caught the attention of two publishers, Entangled Publishing and Variance Publishing. I feel very blessed.
The Marked Son, the first book in The Keepers of Life series, is a contemporary young adult fantasy I'd dare say falls into a vein somewhat like the fan-favorite The Iron King. Your previous works have been historical and epic fantasy. What inspired the switch to a modern setting?
I love epic fantasy, so I naturally swing that way when I start thinking about a fantasy book, but I also write adult contemporary fiction, so I decided to try a modern setting, and Dylan poured onto the page and swept me along into this amazing story. I’m terrible at describing my stories, (I get tongue-tied and my brain flashes on too many details) so every time I tried to explain it to my agent, I ended up saying, “Trust me, you’re gonna love it.” Thank God she did.
I'm not quite finished with The Marked Son at the writing of this interview so correct me if I'm wrong... Kera and the people of Teag are not called fae but there are very fae-like qualities to them. Being harmed by iron, able to control nature, pixie-like creatures and dwarves. They're not quite the frightening sidhe popular in Urban Fantasy but neither are they the cutesey fairies popularized by Disney either. That said, do you think it's fair to compare the series to say Aprilynne Pike's Wings books or Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey?
(giggle, snort) Those are two series I’ve yet to read (though as soon as I’m done with mine I’ll definitely pick them up). I try to stay away from books that are too similar to what I write. The Firsts in my book lean more toward the traditional Fae, though I’ve taken the liberty of making them my own. They’re called Firsts because they were created before humans and consider humans inferior.
The night I sat down to start reading The Marked Son I fell asleep reading. Not because it was boring but because it was so engaging from the first page that I couldn't put it down. Alternating chapters between first and third person perspectives, Dylan's and Kera's respectively, is unusual but I think it really works to establish that this is primarily his story, while she plays a significant role. What made you decide to try this uncommon narrative style?
It’s always a risk when you have two strong narrative voices in a book. A lot of people won’t like the story because I switch back and forth between the two. Sadly, it just annoys them. I took the risk because I wanted to separate Dylan and Kera in a dramatic way, but I also wanted to make sure it’s clear this is really Dylan’s story, though hers is just as compelling and linked in a way that they can’t be separated. She impacts his world when she appears, but he completely changes her world once he enters her realm.
I have to admit that I cried when Dylan's mother abandoned him with his grandparents. I can't say how strongly this will resonate with other readers but Dylan says, "I love her, but I don't count. I can't remember a time when I did." That's some powerful stuff. When you wrote The Marked Son did you intend to make Addy, Dylan's mother, a villain or simply one to pity?
Addy. She’s one messed up mama, but she gets everything rolling. I don’t necessarily want the readers to hate her, but I know some will. I pity her. She’s still very much a child, so selfish. She’s not strong. She’s made a lot of mistakes, and she’s running after a memory that is so powerful, it’s warped how she views life. The way the Firsts impact humans is like an addiction, and when it no longer exists, the withdrawals last a lifetime.
Previously titled Shattered, The Marked Son, was a 2010 Golden Heart® Finalist. For my readers who aren't familiar with the contest it's intended to 'promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts'. Of course, this means there's a strong romantic thread within the storyline. With two books following it can readers expect a HEA for Dylan and Kera by the end of the series? (If you feel like the answer would spoil the entire storyline for the series would you instead tell us a little bit about how your manuscript went from contest to finding a publisher).
I’m in the midst of writing the next story and because I’m not a plotter, I have only a very basic sense of what’s going to happen, so I really can’t say until I get to the end. I will tell you this, I’m not much of a romance writer, not because I don’t like the genre, but because my storytelling doesn’t tend to swing that way. Don’t know why. For me, it’s not about everyone living happily-ever-after so much as what ends up happening is the right course for the story and the characters, and it brings on a sense of reader satisfaction.
If it were up to me, no one would ever have any problems and life would be all rainbows and lollipops, but that’s boring to read, so I make trouble for my characters and pray they’re smart enough to get out of it. But if not, then they or someone else pays the cost, which can lead to a whole new set of problems…and adventures.
In recent years the popularity of Young Adult fiction amongst an adult audience seems to have sky-rocketed. As an adult who reads a large amount of 'teen fiction' I tend to review and suggest YA novels to adult readers. What about your novels do you think will most appeal to the teen audience? Are there any parts of writing books intended for teens that you think are more challenging?
Living with a mob of teens, they have no problem telling me exactly what they want to read. Adventure. Love. Betrayal. Heartache. Redemption. But with that said, I have no idea what teens will connect with and what they won’t. The great thing about teens is they are just as diverse in opinions and personalities as adults. What one will love another will think is totally lame. Frankly, I’m just hoping nobody eggs my house after reading my book.
I didn’t write any part of the book specifically for teens. I just wrote a story I wanted to read and what I hoped my kids would enjoy. As adults, writing for teens can be challenging because you have to resist the urge to lecture. Story is first… just like in adult books. A good book is about the unfolding story, not about any perceived lesson you want to impart. That’s not to say there won’t be a lesson at the end of the book, but it’s not the main focus. The characters are the main focus. You know you’ve done a poor job when you find yourself explaining just what the lesson or moral or theme you wanted the reader to take away from the book when you’re near the end.
A favorite question with readers seems to be the classic 'if you were picking your dream cast for the movie version of your book...' but I've decided I'm going to be asking authors a slightly different one so you get to be my guinea pig. ;) If The Marked Son was being turned into a film what songs or musicians would be in your dream soundtrack?
(hee-hee-hee) I’m not one who listens to music while I write, but when I think of Dylan, I think he’d listen to Linkin’ Park, Disturbed, Red, Eminem and Flyleaf. When I think of Kera I think of Marie Digby, Adelle, Christina Perri, Mumford and Sons, and Florence & the Machine.
Personally, I’m a big fan of movie soundtracks, and I love instrumental ones. Some of my favorite movie soundtracks are Gladiator, Star Trek (okay Chris Pine might have something to do with my love of this), Tomb Raider (first one), Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley one), Sherlock Holmes… Okay I could go on and on so I’m gonna stop here.
The Keepers of Life series already has three books scheduled for release and you have five children! How do you balance the full-time job that is being Mom with the other full-time job that is writing novels?
I ignore them. (grin)
Seriously, I write on and off from 8:00-3:00. That’s when the little imps start rolling in from school and what not. Family is really important to me. It’s my belief that if I’m an amazing writer but a so-so mother, then I’m a failure. My kids are the most precious gifts ever given to me and it takes all my concentration not to mess them up.
You're very open about your struggles with dyslexia and have cited romance novels as a motivating factor in keeping at the fight. What are some of your favorite romances (or romance authors)?
This list could get really long, but I’ll behave and keep it to my top five (which will kill me to do) and I’ll list them in no particular order since I’m just thinking out loud:
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Sarah Addison Allen
When you're not writing or reading what are some of your other interests?
I have attention problems, so anything that keeps me moving is awesome. My number one activity is kickboxing. I have amazing instructors who are very patient men.
In the lets-keep-it-mellow category of entertaining me, I love movies and reading and playing board games.
Now before we write another novel with our interview here is there anything special that you haven't had a chance to share in recent interviews you'd like to get out there to your readers?
Believe it or not, I’m not an extrovert by nature. Over the years I’ve forced myself to step up to people and start talking. Plus, I have a fairly strong “play” mentality. I realized early on I needed to find others who will play along with me otherwise I’ll just sit there doing nothing, and that’s horribly boring.
Thank you so much for answering my crazy questions and I wish you the very best with this new series!
Connect with Shea Berkley...
Now about that giveaway...
Shea's awesome publicist Danielle has hooked me up with one e-book copy of The Marked Son that I can give away to one of my readers.
I'm going to keep this one pretty simple.
To enter I want you to pop over to Entangled Publishing's website and check out their offerings then leave a comment telling me which book (or books) they've published (or that's coming soon) that you'd most like to read.
You do NOT have to be a follower, though I would love you to be, but please make sure you include your contact email in your comment. Entries without an email address I can contact you at will be excluded from the giveaway.
This giveaway only runs 24 hours from the time this post goes up but is open internationally!