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  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Debut Author Interview: DaVaun Sanders and Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have DaVaun Sanders here to share about his MG fantasy Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew. It sounds like it has fantastic world building, and Keynan sounds like a great character. This has been on my TBR list for a while.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

"Impossible to predict... Your new obsession." —Mark Oshiro, co-author of #1 New York Times bestseller The Sun and the Star

This new middle grade fantasy series follows Keynan's quest to unlock his freestyling magic and unravel the secrets of Peerless Academy.

Keynan Masters doesn't know the truth about Peerless Academy. He thinks it's just a fancy art school that can’t teach him anything he doesn’t already know (how to write fire poems) and won’t solve his problems (the massive storms that threaten his home and family).

But at Peerless, Keynan discovers:

  • Secret passageways and unexplainable portals
  • A corrupt magic that the school is barely able to contain
  • That he can churn up the magic by putting his poetry to rhythm

Together with his crew of new friends, can Keynan prevent the magic from destroying the school—and the world?

Hi DaVaun! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi there, hello! Thanks for letting me chatter with you today. I’m a SFF author, editor and publisher based in Phoenix, and the current executive editor for the award-winning FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. While I’m not a native Arizonan, I’ve been out here for just over twenty years. I’ve worn my fair share of hats in that span, with stints in philanthropy, nonprofit work and architecture—but writing has always been a throughline for me, kind of waiting to bubble up from beneath the surface.

Spoken word was a major component of my early years out here, and helped instill a passion for writing and connecting with people through that medium. An actual novel wasn’t on my radar for several more years, not until I had a dream vivid enough to be a movie trailer. I woke up and was like, ‘what am I supposed to do with that?’ A book turned out to be the only answer that made sense, so I set out to write that, which eventually became my indie-published World Breach series.

2. Where did you get the idea for Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew?

I’ll try to answer without spoiling! A core germ of Keynan is how people navigate a landscape where magic itself was broken, and how that dilemma would impact the characters. A school (the titular Peerless Academy) as a main setting grew organically from that initial worldbuilding and created a lot of different, conflicting entry points to understanding magic for the characters.

This naturally led to the question on how (or if) the characters can heal this place, where music and art interacts with corrupt magic in unpredictable ways. More inspiration for Keynan came from all over the place, like Jordan Peele’s Us, the Chernobyl limited series on HBO, some episodes of the Deadline City podcast with Dhonielle Clayton and Zoraida Córdova, and the Shimmer in Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation.

About Your Writing Process

3. It’s great that you found some inspiration in many places. Tell us about your world-building and magical system development for your story. Is there anything you would do differently if you wrote another fantasy?

I wrestled a lot with how magic itself was portrayed in this story because I’m coming at it from a completely different angle. Keynan and his friends don’t get to cast spells and wave wands to make their magic happen—they first have to learn the dangers of corrupt magic and how to guard against it, then they are basically reverse engineering their working knowledge to try and make magic do what they want. So hopefully this is a fresh take on how we’ve seen magic schools portrayed in the middle grade space.

The elements of Hip Hop quickly became a grounding presence in this story—I loved how they are critical to restoring broken magic. The characters in the story are rediscovering Black cultural expression that gives them strength and guidance in the midst of chaos, and it was important to me to establish that connection.

I definitely have more fantasy stories on deck—this is a perfect place for the Vince Carter meme—and my approach will shift to match the story.

4. Are you a plotter or pantser? Share about this process works for you.

Definitely depends on the project! I oscillate along the spectrum—sometimes in mid-chapter—and do my best to ensure my process molds itself to the story’s needs. My comfort level and familiarity with the characters and the world factor into those choices, and also if my inspiration tank is topped off and what the deadline situation looks like.

5. What was a challenge you faced in writing Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew? How did you overcome it?

Pacing was definitely a challenge, as I tend to favor a breakneck, action packed unfolding of events. That led to plenty of cutting (always painful) and refocusing on characters to make sure they are showing up on the page. I’m grateful to critique partners and editors who tell me when to pump the brakes.

Your Road to Publication

6. Mary C. Moore is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I’d pitched Keynan for #DVPit, and got the best response out of anything I’ve ever shared to a pitch event, leading to several offers for rep from agents I followed up with or cold-queried directly afterward. A dear writer friend got Mary on my radar early in the process. I was encouraged by our initial communication and vibe after she read the story. I’m so grateful for our partnership and her faith in my work. We did some pretty hefty edits on Keynan before going on sub and sold after, I want to say, a month.

7. That’s great that a friend suggested Mary to you. What is something about the craft of writing that you learned from working with your editor and how did this strengthen your story?

Claire Stetzer brought a level of detail and intention to every element of Keynan, ensuring characters were consistent, ironing out description—especially critical for such chaotic worldbuilding—and just being an all around pro’s pro. I’m sure she’s taught me stuff I won’t fully realize until I’m working through edits for my next project.

Promoting Your Book

8. Your book was released on October 17th. How did you celebrate its release? What other plans do you have for promoting it?

We had a release event at my local indie, Changing Hands. Allie and their entire staff was just amazing to work with and I’m so fortunate to be a part of their established community. My soon to be nine-year-old twins got to come out and that meant the most because I doubt I’d be writing at this age level without their presence in my life. Afterwards we had tacos so it was basically a perfect day.

Promotion...I’ve got some school visits on deck, and I really want to dig into some concept art and animation to share more of Keynan’s adventure with the world! I’m really trying to dig into how I can be a resource for promoting literacy and getting young folks excited about reading in this age of constant screens. Educators, don’t hesitate to reach out!

9. That’s so cool that your sons came to your release event. What are you working on now?

I’m putting the finishing touches on another middle grade I’m really excited to share (but can’t yet!) and after that going to tinker with an adult fantasy that won’t leave me alone.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, DaVaun. You can find DaVaun at:





Giveaway Details

DaVaun’s publisher, Inkyard Press, is generously offering a hardback of Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crewfor a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by November 25th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or DaVaun on hs social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

 Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Thursday, November 16th I’m participating in the In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 20th I have an interview with author Natalie Richards and a giveaway of her MG thriller 13 Secrets to Survival

Friday, December 1st I’m participating in the Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, December 6th I have a guest post by debut author Dana VanderLugt and a giveaway of her MG historical Enemies in the Orchard

Thursday, December 7th I’m participating in the Let It Snow Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 11th I have an agent spotlight interview with Ashley Reisinger and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Thursday!



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Very cool how he incorporated Hip Hop into the story!

Ms. Yingling said...

I already have a copy, but thanks for the great interview!

Danielle H. said...

I like the idea of reverse magic and incorporating music into the world building. Thank you for the interview and chance to win a copy. I follow Natalie on Twitter and Instagram and the author on Instagram. I shared this post on tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

Liz A. said...

It's amazing where inspiration can come from. Ideas get pulled from just about everywhere.

Faith E. Hough said...

Thanks for the fun interview! I love hearing about the process.

Greg Pattridge said...

A very engaging and informative interview! DeVaun has a great process and a perfect sounding story that will appeal to many young readers. I'll have to pass on the giveaway since I just recently was a winner of another contest sponsored by Natalie and Literary Rambles.

thebooknerdscorner@gmail.com said...

I have already read KEYNAN, so it was fun to read through the interview! Thank you for the opportunity! :)

Carol Baldwin said...

I really appreciate that the main characters have to figure out how to combat corrupt magic. Kudos for that idea!

Computer Tutor said...

Love hearing your story to publication, Davaun.

Kate Larkindale said...

I love how people get inspired from so many different places and things!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Restoring broken magic - a wonderful idea for a story.

Sandra Cox said...

Many congrats on your new release. That's very special that your kids were at your book's come out:)
'Lo, Natalie;)

Rosi said...

Another wonderful interview. This sounds like a terrific story that kids will love. I will pass on the giveaway. Too many books and not enough time. Thanks for the post.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Congrats to Keynan!

Valinora Troy said...

For some reason, the concept of corrupt magic that needs to be fixed always appeals to me, and I love that Keynan and his friends have to learn to fix it. It sounds a great story, and I really enjoyed the interview! Best of luck to DaVaun with the launch, and thanks for sharing!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.