Hi everybody! (I know, my greeting is different today.) I hope you are having an awesome start of the week! What are your favorite genres? My top two are historical fiction and fantasy, so whenever I see a historical fantasy come out, I know that I have to read it. Books that combine multiple genres intrigue me, and one such book is What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra, which infuses thriller, suspense, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction all into one story. Today, as part of the blog tour, Katya is here on the blog to talk about “exploring the subconscious” with her debut novel. I hope you enjoy and check out this amazing book! (Thanks so much to Tale Out Loud for hosting this tour! Karlita’s an amazing person, so go check out her blog!)
About the Book
Title: What the Woods Keep
Author: Katya de Becerra
Published by: Imprint Macmillan
Publication date: September 18, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Thriller
Synopsis: What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.
On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.
Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep
What scares you?
Is it that moment when your eyes adjust to darkness and you begin seeing shapes that don’t belong there? Or perhaps it is the sound of rustling dry leaves underfoot that keeps on long after you’ve stopped moving? Or maybe, like me, you break into cold sweat at the very idea of hearing your name spoken when there’s no one in the room but you?
Innocent sounds that take on a new sinister meaning, shapes that materialize in the dark just as the eyes adjust and the viewer regains her equilibrium – all of it plays on our strings of perception in hopes of triggering that disturbing sensation of uncanny. Uncanny is exactly that: what happens to our perception when reality is distorted. It is a type of emotional and cognitive dissonance you might feel when you stumble upon something that used to be familiar but not anymore. It might still look right, but it feels decisively wrong.
The horror genre has been known to play on the idea of uncanny by utilizing all of the above (and more!) as techniques designed to set the reader’s (or the movie goer’s) nerves on fire, to provoke a visceral response.
My debut YA novel, What The Woods Keep, doesn’t shy away from its own tribute to the uncanny phenomenon, though I hope that it offers its own genre-bending take on it and its associated horror genre tropes.
In the novel, the protagonist, science-minded Hayden, at some stage fatefully states: “We are attracted to mysteries. Our perpetual drive to solve the unsolvable, to know the unknown, makes us human. The unknowing bothers us.” And so, true to her words, in one of the novel’s early key scenes designed to signal the uncanniness of what’s yet to come, Hayden ventures into the dark to investigate, possibly to help someone’s in trouble. It is then, for the first time, that she experiences the moment of extreme irrational fear. It is so intense that Hayden’s rational mind wavers for a moment, pushing her to give in to primal fear. In that moment, familiar objects are distorted, Hayden’s sense of smell is assaulted by the raw stench of the upturned earth, her skin ripples in the cold draft… And then there’s the pinnacle of her journey into the dark: what was once familiar morphs into something strange, unsettling, as if possessed by an otherwordly force. It triggers Hayden’s fight-or-flight response and even someone as cool-headed as she finds it hard to resist.
I did scare myself a little while writing that scene. But it also helped me to analyze what I found particularly scary and why. I’m glad I’ve woven my darkest fears into my YA debut.
After all, the act of telling (or hearing) a spooky tale brings about a form of emotional catharsis allowing us to experience fear in a controlled, safe environment and by doing so, hopefully, get over it.
About the Author
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. What the Woods Keep is her first novel.
Hello! Last week on the #BBTC Twitter Chat (hosted by the lovely Brittany’s Book Rambles!), I got to meet a wonderful author whose debut book is probably one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! The Traitor’s Kiss sounded so amazing that I wanted to interview Erin Beaty so much, and I’m so happy that I’m able to host her on our blog! It was so fun last week, and to those that were there with me last week (or to those who were not), here is my exclusive interview! Go pre-order it today! TTK comes out May 9, 2017!
1. In your own words, how would you describe The Traitor’s Kiss?
When I was pitching the story to agents and later to publishers, I called it “Jane Eyre meets Mulan.” It’s about a girl who lives in a society where the vast majority of marriages are made through a system of matchmakers. Sage is completely unsuited for marriage herself, but she gets hired as the matchmaker’s apprentice, and a big part of the job is spying on people. They’re headed to a national marriage conference with a group of specially selected brides when Sage gets romantically involved with one of the soldiers from their ceremonial escort. The problem is, she has to lie about who she is, but so does he. In the middle of all this secret-keeping from each other, they uncover a treasonous plot that threatens to plunge the whole kingdom into civil war.
2. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
Until very recently, writing was something I only did on the side. Growing up, I loved to read, but I was all about science and math, and writing was just another skill to master. My dad was pretty insistent on communicating clearly, and I would often go 15 rounds with him on various history and English papers- and this was back before Microsoft Word! I studied engineering in college, but I did so well in my humanities classes, a few professors suggested I change majors. And somehow I always roped into doing the write-ups in our group projects. Did I like writing? Sort of. Mostly I was just glad our lab results were presented clearly.
Years later I had a blog, but it was mainly to keep family in the loop about our lives as we moved around the country. People who read it were always telling me I should write a book. I thought that was just weird until one day I got hit with an idea so hard I actually sat down and started typing. Now I’m like, why did it take me so long to realize writing is awesome?
Really, though, I look back over years of blog entries, and I see a lot of improvement in my story-telling. I wasn’t ready until now, so I don’t feel too bad about waiting this long to start.
3. Who are your favorite authors, and which ones have had an impact on you? Who has affected your writing style the most?
I really do love Jane Austen, because she has this dry, observational wit and her heroines don’t compromise what’s important. I love the precision of Michael Crichton and Robert Heinlein (and their science) and the historical narratives of Michael and Jeff Shaara. As a teen, I was all about Tamora Pierce, but her influence was more in living rather than writing. I’ve been pretty eclectic in my reading, though, and I don’t know if I can really nail down where my style comes from. Even now when I read books I feel like I’m learning something craft-wise. I think I will always be evolving.
4. What are your favorite genres to read and write? What are your favorite books?
I read whatever sounds interesting, and generally contemporary is lower on the list- I guess I never felt like I fit in my own time. You can be pretty certain I will never write a contemporary novel. I like sci-fi and fantasy, but I can be picky about it, especially if I think it’s going to take a lot of effort to understand the world. I adore historical fiction, but it has to be accurate.
My all-time favorite book is Michael Crichton’s Timeline, because quantum physics and medieval history make my nerd heart beat fast, and this has both. Other books I’ve read over and over are everything by Jane Austen, Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and his short story anthology The Past Through Tomorrow. All those had huge influence on me in my teens and twenties, and I go back to them like comfort food.
5. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
Oh lordy. I have five kids and am married to a Navy man, so my life revolves mostly around running a household and moving every two years. The only reason I have time to write is because I’m anti-social. I’d say it’s part-time, but I don’t have any other real paying job, though I teach at the local writing center. Until we move again, that is.
6. Would you want to be a spy? If so, what would be your code name? What would also be your dream mission?
I think I’d be a terrible spy- even calling people on the phone makes me hyperventilate, but I might be able to handle the type of spying Sage does. She kind of studies people like a naturalist studies ants. My code name would be Mama Bear, and the best mission I could handle would be where I’ve got a background job, but I’m really looking for signs of human trafficking or abuse.
7. Before you started your writing career, you worked in the U.S. Navy as a weapons officer. How was being in the Navy like? How did your experiences help you write this book?
There were so many good things and bad things, but I honestly don’t think most of the bad things were that unique to the military. Jerks and incompetence exist everywhere. There was sexism, yes, but also incredible support and empowerment. I learned so much about myself- what I was capable of, what my weaknesses were, and what was ultimately important to me in life. I learned how to prioritize and how to get stuff done. There were miserable times, but I dealt with them and came out stronger. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
There’s nothing specific in THE TRAITOR’S KISS that relates to lessons I learned, but there’s an underlying theme of what it means to be a leader, especially a military one.
8. Your novel is “Jane Austen meets an espionage twist!” Which Jane Austen character can you relate with the most? Which character relates to Sage Fowler, the protagonist of The Traitor’s Kiss, the most?
Is it vain to say Lizzie Bennet for myself? She sees the absurdity in everything and so distances herself from the world a bit. Sage is actually more like Jane Eyre than any other literary character – she starts with bitterness and loss, and she’s probably rougher around the edges than any of Austen’s characters. Definitely doesn’t have any of their refined manners.
9. In your own opinion, what is your favorite quote from your novel?
The one that always makes me smile is when Sage goes to apologize to the matchmaker and says, “You see, the way this works is, I say I’m sorry for the horrible things I said, and then you say you’re sorry for the horrible things you said. Then we smile and pretend we believe each other.”
10. If your book was turned into a movie, who would you want as the director and cast?
I love Kenneth Branaugh as a director (and an actor, but I don’t see a part for him). I’d always envisioned Duke D’Amiran looking like Richard Armitage, which is interesting because I think he’s kind of hot, and the character is the main bad guy. Majel Barrett would have been a great matchmaker, but that’s not possible. There’s an actress named McKenna Knipe who kind of has Sage’s looks, but I have no idea if her acting is any good. All the guys I can think of are too old. Wouldn’t mind sitting around looking at candidates all day, though.
11. Could you describe your reaction when you found out you were going to be published?
When my agent called to say I was going to an acquisition board at Macmillan, I was ironing a bunch of shirts for an upcoming wedding. I very carefully set the iron to the side and sat down on the couch behind me and said, “What?” Then I started shaking all over. For the rest of the evening, I was bumping into things left and right.
A week later I was lying on a bed at my in-laws’ house, staring at the ceiling and waiting for the results of said board. When my agent called to say I had an official offer, I just closed my eyes and shook my head for about ten minutes. Then I got up and got all the kids dressed for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner, where I imbibed heavily.
12. What is your go-to cure when you get a case of writer’s block?
I break out old fashioned notebooks. Writing things out by hand unlocks the creative part of my mind. But if my brain is just tired or stressed, I’ll watch a movie or read a favorite book. The book or movie has to be something I’m already familiar with, though, so there’s no real effort to understand what’s going on.
13. Do you have a favorite snack, drink, or song you like to listen to when you write?
It’s hard to eat and type or write, so I often have chai or lattes on hand. I’ll snack while I edit sometimes. I have a few mood playlists, but interestingly, I can’t listen to anything with words if I’m editing, only writing.
14. As a debut author, what is one thing you wish someone told you before you started writing and publishing?
I’m kind of glad I didn’t know how much work it would be or I might have chickened out. There were many things I heard over and over – that each level of success only brings a new (and often worse) kind of stress, that I would experience horrible jealousies over other writers’ successes, and that I would leave some of my early writing friends behind – so I expected them, but I was unprepared for how they felt.
15. What are your current plans with your writing career?
I guess I’ll just keep writing books as long as it’s fun and people want to read them. I have several stories I want to develop, but right now life (moving) is getting in the way, and the priority in writing is finishing what has now become a trilogy. I let the writing genie out of the bottle, though, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put it back.
16. Do you have any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?
Critique other people’s work (in a partnership), and learn how to do it well (it’s not easy). That was the best thing for finding the problems in my own writing. And write what you would want to read. Believe it or not, there’s lots of people out there who will like it, too.
Thank you so much, Erin, for coming onto our blog! I loved your answers! I’m so excited to get The Traitor’s Kiss in May!
If you want to get some more of Erin Beaty through her social media accounts, or if you want to pre-order her book, check out the links below!
I’ll try to be at #BBTC tonight for anyone who wants to join me!
Do you like the classics like Jane Austen’s books? Do you like books infused with espionage? Will you pre-order this book, or is your interest piqued? What’s your most anticipated 2017 read? Comment below with your thoughts!