Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Katie Keridan Interview - Reign Returned


Photo Content from Katie Keridan

Katie Keridan made her literary debut at ten years of age when she won a writing contest by crafting a tale about her favorite childhood hero, Hank the Cowdog. After that, Katie continued to write, through college and graduate school and during her career as a pediatric neuropsychologist. While Katie enjoyed being a doctor, scientific research didn’t bring her nearly as much joy as did creating her own characters and worlds, so she slowly left the medical world behind to focus exclusively on writing. In 2018 she self-published a poetry book, Once Upon a Girl, and her work has been featured in Highlights Hello Magazine, The Blue Nib, Youth Imagination Magazine, Red Fez, The Red Penguin Review, Sand Canyon Review, and Every Day Fiction, to name a few. She loves sharing her writing with others who feel different, misunderstood, or alone. Katie lives with her husband and two very demanding cats in San Jose, CA.

        
  

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Connecting with readers! I love hearing from readers, especially when something about one of my characters encourages them to share something personal with me, maybe about a time their heart was broken, or their struggle to communicate effectively while being incredibly shy, or how a character inspired them to be brave in a particular way. I also love hearing from people who at one point thought bats were nasty or horrifying, then read my book and developed a soft spot for Batty and learned what amazing and necessary creatures bats are.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Jodi Picoult famously said, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” I’ve always found that so inspiring and so freeing, and it never fails to help me overcome writer’s block. Just get the words out…you can always fix them later.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
Sabriel, by Garth Nix. I first read this as an older teen, and I immediately fell in love with the characters and the world-building. When I was younger, so many female protagonists were described as being “tall and thin, with long blond hair and blue eyes.” My great-grandmother was Native American, of the Iroquois tribe, and I’m a short brunette with dark hair and dark eyes who struggled to relate to so many book characters…until I met Sabriel, who was described as having dark hair and dark eyes. That instantly piqued my curiosity, and the more I read, the deeper in love I fell…my mind was blown reading a book where a girl rescued a boy, instead of the other way around, and I loved the idea of possessing powers that were traditionally viewed as “bad” but using them for “good.” Mogget absolutely influenced the concept of Cyphers in my book, and I (obviously) love the idea of exploring death as both a process and a place.

What is the greatest thing you learned in school?
How to do my own research. Don’t just mindlessly absorb what others around you are saying…fact-check their information and their sources and make up your own mind.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
Reign Returned is definitely getting a sequel that will be released Fall 2023. I’m also working on a middle grade fantasy book about a girl with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who learns she has magical powers.

In your newest book, REIGN RETURNED, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
It’s a coming-of-age, enemies-to-lovers YA fantasy novel featuring themes of discovery, destiny, and a love strong enough to outlast time.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT REIGN RETURNED
  • 1) I started writing this book on nights and weekends while working full-time as a pediatric neuropsychologist at a children’s hospital.
  • 2) I considered using angels and demons as characters, but ultimately chose Astrals and Daevals, as I didn’t want to deal with the religious implications of those particular terms.
  • 3) My yellow Labrador, Dante, was my real-life Cypher until he passed away due to complications from diabetes (he has an entire paragraph in the “Acknowledgements” section of the book dedicated to him).
  • 4) I love caves, and much of Sebastian’s cave is based on Luray Caverns in Virginia.
  • 5) There is a REIGN RETURNED playlist on Spotify.
  • 6) I truly couldn’t believe when my publisher agreed to put a bat on the cover of REIGN RETURNED, but I was beyond thrilled, because he’s such an important character. Also, people have a lot of incorrect beliefs and assumptions about bats, and I hope those will change as they learn more about these helpful creatures.
  • 7) Much of REIGN RETURNED was drafted and edited while attending Laura Munson’s fantastic Haven Writing Retreat in Montana…I can’t recommend this program enough, as I loved connecting with authors of other genres and ages. We still continue to support one another to this day; writing can be lonely, so it’s important to have a community around you (https://lauramunson.com/haven-writing-programs/).
  • 8) I love astrology and pulled from it frequently while creating characters. Sebastian’s birthday is January 17th, making him a Capricorn, and Kyra’s birthday is October 5th, making her a Libra.
  • 9) I listened to “They Don’t Know About Us” by One Direction so many times while writing this book.
  • 10) I love mood and aesthetic boards and used Pinterest to make boards for my characters, Cyphers, and realms.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope readers enjoy the plot and world-building, but I especially hope they like the characters. I hope they see aspects of themselves in the characters, as well as finding traits or characteristics to aspire to. I also want them to see parallels between situations in the book and situations in our current world and be inspired to stand up for the things they believe in.

What part of Kyra and Sebastian did you enjoy writing the most?
Let’s start with Sebastian…he’s always been the easiest for me to write because we share a lot of the same traits (he’s a Capricorn, like me). He often doesn’t know what to do with his emotions, and he’s more comfortable being logical and making decisions based on evidence instead of assumptions, and I’m very similar. He also likes animals more than most people, which is something else I can relate to. While I had a wonderful time writing his action scenes, I most enjoyed the scenes where we see glimpses of his true character…he puts up so many walls and has so many defenses, but in his unguarded moments, we see things he’d rather keep to himself. His vulnerabilities were so endearing to me, and I loved writing those little unexpected moments that ultimately reveal a lot.

Now for Kyra…my editor will absolutely confirm I struggled with her, especially in the beginning. I knew I wanted her character arc to be different from Sebastian’s. We meet him and he’s as assassin and a generally “bad” character who becomes better over the course of the book, but I didn’t want Kyra to start “good” and end up “bad,” so I had to figure that out. Ultimately, I came to understand her as a character who has worked hard and done everything she’s been told to do her entire life, only to have everything she thought she knew turned upside down…she unexpectedly learns she possesses the ability to do magic that’s been outlawed in her realm for centuries. She loses someone incredibly important to her. She’s also forced to interact with someone with silver blood, someone she has all kind of prejudices and biases against, and that forces her to realize everything her schooling and government has told her might not be true, which leads to the unravelling of so many things. So, while it required me to upend her life, watching her master her power and embrace her destiny was immensely enjoyable.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing REIGN RETURNED?
I turned in what I hoped would be the last draft of the book to my phenomenal editor, AR Capetta, while of course knowing there would still be a few changes to make following their feedback, and I was reading through all of their notes and comments and got to the very last line of the book, and they’d written in all caps, “THIS.IS.BEAUTIFUL.” And I just burst into tears, and I remember thinking, for someone to feel that way about something I’d written, it was absolutely priceless and the best feeling ever and what I secretly hoped someone would think when they finished my book. I’ll never forget it.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love to introduce Kyra’s Cypher, a lynx named Aurelius, to Mogget, a magical creature from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series who often takes the form of a white cat. They’re both a little snotty and believe they know best, even though they ultimately have good hearts, and I think they’d have a wonderful time sitting around lamenting the short-comings of those they’re forced to guide and interact with. Just hearing the two of them talk about deigning to share their wisdom and experiences with peasants incapable of truly appreciating them would be hilarious. Even though Cyphers technically don’t need to eat, I imagine there might be salmon involved, as well.

TEN RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME
  • 1) I love to kayak, especially in the ocean, and go to Monterrey Bay as often as I can.
  • 2) I grew up on a ranch in Texas, which no doubt inspired my love of nature.
  • 3) I love to travel, and one of my favorite experiences was riding a camel in the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
  • 4) I grew up with horses and still love them. I donate as often as I can to organizations like Skydog Ranch & Sanctuary, a fantastic group of people who rescue mustangs and donkeys being rounded up and shipped off to other countries for slaughter (check them out at www.skydogranch.org), as well as The Medicine Horse Project, a wonderful organization dedicated to caring for and rehabilitating abused horses (www.medicinehorseproject.org).
  • 5) I’m a dedicated yoga practitioner and love what it does for my mind, as well as my body.
  • 6) The musical artists I currently listen to most are Pet Shop Boys, Khruangbin, Air, and Moon Boots, but growing up, I loved NSYNC, Five, Britney Spears, B*Witched, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and the Spice Girls.
  • 7) The first time I left the United States was during my Master’s in Public Health program, when I went to Ghana to learn more about the mental health needs of former child soldiers as part of my dissertation.
  • 8) I’m hopeless at styling my own hair, so if you see it looking nice, assume someone else deserves the credit.
  • 9) One of my favorite movies as a teen was “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and I’d ride my horse across the pasture, pretending I was dodging tanks and villains and carrying a little journal in my saddlebags with a hand-drawn map.
  • 10) While I come across as outgoing and extroverted, I’m actually an introvert and need quiet time by myself to recharge after being around a lot of people or going to a big event.
Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
I don’t carry anything super cool or fun, but one thing I will always have is some kind of hair tie or pony-tail holder. As much as I love my long hair, I also can’t stand when it gets in my way or sticks to my neck when it’s hot out, so in those situations, up it goes!

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Fail spectacularly. Lose everything. Hit rock bottom where you can’t fall any further and the only place to go is up. While I don’t wish for others to experience pain, I know from personal experience that you don’t grow when things are great…it’s when things are hard that you’re forced to look within and uncover what you’re really made of. I struggle to relate to people who’ve never failed, who’ve never experienced rejection, who’ve never had to take care of themselves…you develop a different kind of strength when you have to overcome hardships. And once you’ve rebuilt your entire life from the ground up, you stop being so afraid of things that “might” happen because you’ve seen firsthand what you’re capable of ,and no one can ever take that away from you.

What is the best date you’ve ever had?
My first date with my husband, Cameron! We’re actually kind of similar to Kyra and Sebastian in that we got a second chance to have a relationship…when we first met, the timing was all wrong, and while there was an instant connection, we were headed down two completely different paths. I ended up marrying someone else and moving to the East Coast. After the man I was married to lost his battle with ongoing mental health struggles and took his own life, I moved back to California and eventually reconnected with Cameron. Our first date was at a music festival in San Francisco, and it was perfect, because how often do you get a second chance at true love? We just celebrated our five-year anniversary.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
There are so many, it’s hard to choose! I’m going to say my relationship with my husband…how often do you meet someone, feel insane chemistry, go your separate ways, then reconnect a decade later, only to find you’re both single and the feelings are stronger than ever, ultimately leading to you marrying each other and living happily ever after? It sounds so sappy, but it’s true; if I hadn’t lived it for myself, I doubt I’d believe it.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
I was born in Austin, Texas, and lived in Texas until I was 24, at which point I moved to California for graduate school. I currently live in Silicon Valley, California.


Kyra Valorian is the most gifted Astral healer the golden-blooded realm of Aeles has seen in ages. When tragedy strikes, Kyra discovers she possesses a life-changing gift: she's a Recovrancer, able to enter the realm of the dead and recover those who've died before their time. Unfortunately, recovrancy is outlawed in her realm. Desperate for answers, Kyra will do anything to get them . . . even partner with a dangerous enemy.

Sebastian Sayre is the most sought-after Daeval assassin in all of Nocens. A silver-blooded Pyromancer, he wields fire and dreams of finding Rhannu, a legendary sword that makes its holder invincible. Since the sword was long ago stolen from Nocens and hidden where no Daeval can retrieve it, however, such a dream seems impossible . . . until he encounters the one Astral who might be both able and willing to help him.

As Kyra and Sebastian work together to uncover the secrets of their realms, they also uncover secrets within their own pasts--pasts that are far more intertwined than they ever imagined. Ultimately, in this tale of discovery, destiny, and a love strong enough to outlast time, remembering the past just may prove to be the only way to change the future.

You can purchase Reign Returned at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KATIE KERIDAN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Reign Returned by Katie Keridan.

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