Next, I’ll announce the winner of ENTICE. The winner is:
Congrats. E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview Karsten Knight about his debut book WILDEFIRE that was released in July. I loved the different world mythologies he used in the story and Ash’s unique powers. I read this on vacation and it totally made my lonely airplane rides enjoyable.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Every flame begins with a spark.
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.
Hi Karsten. Thanks so much for joining us. 1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
To trace my origins as a writer, you’d have to go back twenty years to when I was six. It was the first grade, and I started this picture book series about a zany worm who went on adventures to exotic locations—the Wild West, sunken ghost ships…it was very popular with my classmates. At some point I made the switch to novel-length fiction, but I sort of lost myself as a writer when I graduated college and joined the Real World. After I lost my job as an admissions counselor back in 2009, I turned back to writing and started work on a draft that eventually became Wildefire.
2. I always admire people who knew they wanted to write as a kid. I had no clue as a kid that I’d ever write. Glad you turned back to it. You draw on a lot of different mythologies—Polynesian, Shinto, and Zulu, to name a few. What research did you do and what sources did you use to learn about these different mythologies?
I did a fair amount of research, using databases like Pantheon (fantastic website)…but I didn’t want Wildefire to read like a mythology textbook. In the end, these characters are reincarnations of gods, so some of the major questions they face are: do we come back the same every lifetime? Do we have the opportunity reinvent ourselves, in new environments, or are there innate facets of our personalities that manifest the same way every reincarnation? While I drew from their divine namesakes, I wanted the freedom to let their powers and personalities percolate and evolve naturally in the book itself.
3. Ooh, I’ll have to check out that website. But I agree that it’s fun as a writer to not be totally bound by the mythology in creating your story. Being an adoptive mom, I love that Ash is adopted. What made you decide she should be adopted? And what were the challenges writing from her POV?
All of the reincarnated gods in the book are actually adopted. Part of the eerie mystery of the series is Ashline and the others trying to figure out where they really come from, since they just sort of appear as infants around the world without any visible birth parents. So the adoptive choice was in some ways a practical one. But since as I mentioned before, the story is so focused on the question of how much environment affects our character development, I thought it would be really layered to see how a Polynesian volcano goddess might grow up raised in a mostly monochromatic community where she’s struggling to find a sense of belonging. Actually, the scene between Ash and her adoptive parents in the first chapter didn’t appear in the original draft; I wrote it as part of a revision suggestion from my editor, and it’s now one of my favorite scenes in the novel.
4. I love that scene. And as an adoptive parent, I know many of us struggle with these questions for our kids as we try to give them a sense of belonging and of their racial identity that is not part of our own experience. A major focus of the story is Ash’s stormy relationship with her sister Eve. Tell us how you developed this aspect of the story and what real life experiences, if any, you drew on.
The central focus in so many YA books, especially paranormal, is usually the “mysterious new love interest.” Honestly, while I enjoy romance as much as the next reader, I sometimes grow a bit weary of reading crush-centric YA. While there’s definitely a romantic element to Wildefire (the elusive Colt Halliday) I wanted the series to revolve around the complexities of family instead—particularly sisterhood. The relationship between Ashline and her wild-child sister Eve is basically sibling rivalry magnified and ignited through the lens of two volatile Polynesian goddesses.
5. I like when the romantic element isn’t the major focus too. Ash is Polynesian-American and many of the other characters are also ethnically diverse. Do you have any tips on developing diverse characters and the right balance for showing their ethnicity in regards to their character development?
I love seeing multiculturalism and diversity in YA lit…but I think it’s just as important to make sure it’s not depicted one-dimensionally. By that I mean: it’s great to have a character reflect on their own diversity, even struggle with it, but don’t make that their sole focus every waking moment, and definitely don’t be afraid to let them have some fun outside of that bubble. A Polynesian character doesn’t need to be contemplative of her heritage 24/7. A gay character can have moments where he’s not preoccupied full-time by his sexuality and where it fits into American culture. Let their differences and uniqueness enrich and complicate their lives in both relatable and surprising ways, while not letting it solely define them. Our childhoods are the product of so, so many things, and while we struggle to find our place, don’t forget those moments of joy that shine through when we’re not burdened by the bigger questions. Scott Tracey’s WITCH EYES is a great recent role model for this in YA.
6. That’s such great advice. Funny that you mention Scott Tracey because I just interviewed him last week. Guys, there’s a link at the top of the blog to my interview of Scott and you can enter to win a copy of his book.
Tell us a bit about your road to publication and how you got your agent, Mary Kole.
My road to publication was sort of backwards from the natural progression. I started querying Wildefire back in Spring 2010, just to a very few, select group of agents, including Mary who was one of my first choices from the start. I really wanted to test-drive my query and sample chapter, rather than spamming the entire agent database at once. I was lucky enough to get three bites almost immediately for full manuscripts. At the same time, somewhat unbeknownst to me, a classmate in my Master’s program who worked at Simon & Schuster passed along my book to my future editor there. A few days later I got a call from Courtney Bongiolatti (my editor), saying she’d just finished Wildefire on the train and wanted to make an offer. Mary was just finishing up reading the book as well, loved it, and stepped into handle contract negotiations and all of my future works. Unorthodox, but I was lucky enough to land my dream editor and dream agent in the same day, and they’ve all blossomed into great pairings.
7. I’d call your journey one we’d all love to experience. That’s awesome that Mary was one of your top agent choices. She sounds like such a great agent. I’ve always wondered how authors decide on the blogs to include in a blog tour. I noticed you did a lot of interviews on your own blog tour. Can you tell us how you arranged that and how you decided what blogs to include?
I was lucky enough to have a great blog tour coordinator take care of most of the work for me! Cindy at Books Complete Me was one of Wildefire’s earliest fans, before its release, and offered to take care of scheduling the tour. As much as I enjoy vlogging, I actually usually am not crazy about doing promo—it distracts me from writing, which is what I’m really here to do. So we kept it light, over 7 great YA blogs, and we kept it goofy…so basically in step with my bizarre sense of humor.
8. Thanks for sharing how that worked out. What are you working on now?
Wildefire’s sequel, EMBERS & ECHOES, is now done and in copy-edits—that will come out August 28, 2012. I’m also working on AFTERGLOW, Book 3, as well as a top secret non-Wildefire project that I will choose to remain mysterious on…for now.
Thanks Karsten for sharing all your great advice. Good luck with your books. You can find Karsten at his blog.
I’m giving away my copy of WILDEFIRE for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on January 7th. I’ll announce the winner on January 9th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. On Wednesday, I'll be doing a special blog post so I can interview Shelli Johannes-Wells as part of her blog tour for UNTRACEABLE. I'll be giving away a copy of her book. Then on Monday I'm interviewing Louise Caiola and giving away a copy of her debut book WISHLESS. I’ll do one last post in December the following Monday where I interview a teenage guy who’s mom is a published author for my ASK THE EXPERT series and I’ll be doing a book giveaway as well.
Then since I know everyone's going to be busy with the holidays and maybe not reading blogs as much, I want to give you a heads up about my first interview in January. On January 9th I'll be interviewing Marie Lu and giving away a copy of LEGEND.
Hope to see you Wednesday!