Darkbeast Guest Post and Giveaway
I’m off doing Guest of Honor stuff at Northern Michigan Anime Con this weekend, so I turned the blog over to my friend Morgan Keyes to talk about her new book, and how she transitioned from writing more adult books as Mindy Klasky to a middle-grade novelist with a spiffy new pseudonym.
Also, she’s giving away a free book, which is always cool.
You can read an excerpt from Darkbeast on her website.
Many thanks to Jim for allowing me to visit here and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast. Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter, chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
Before writing Darkbeast, I published sixteen novels in a variety of genres, ranging from traditional fantasy for adults, supernatural chicklit, light paranormal romance, and traditional category romance. (Those last couple of books – spicier than I was comfortable having my mother read – are the reason that Darkbeast is published under a pen name!)
For the past several years, though, I’d felt a pull from “The Darkbeast”, a short story that I wrote for the anthology Fantastic Companions, edited by Julie Czerneda. In a couple of thousand words, I’d built a world that I longed to return to. I wanted to learn more about darkbeasts, about how they worked as scapegoats for their people, about what happened to rebels who struck out on their own in a society controlled by religion.
The novel Darkbeast started out as a story for and about young adults, teenagers who had a fair degree of autonomy. But as I wrote the novel, I realized that more interesting questions were posed when rights and power were taken away. I wanted Keara to be most vulnerable, to be faced with tough decisions and even more difficult social restrictions.
And so, Darkbeast became a middle grade novel.
In many ways, that transition was destined from my first days as a speculative fiction writer. As a child, I always enjoyed reading, but I hit my speculative stride in middle school. I discovered A Wrinkle in Time and the Narnia series, The Hobbit and the Deryni. I role-played my favorite characters (although I wouldn’t have known that term if you’d asked me), and I wrote my first fanfic (ditto).
Middle grade reading was magical for me, and now I wanted to share that magic with others. I wanted to give young readers that feeling of escape, that urge to stay up late reading under the covers, that desire to create new stories that lived on in the light of day.
At the same time, I wasn’t willing to give up complex characters and difficult moral choices. I definitely wasn’t willing to dumb down my vocabulary. I learned about people and ethics and language from the reading I did in middle school; there’s no reason not to give today’s children the same keys to their world.
And so Keara became twelve. And a pen name was chosen. And Darkbeast has been released into the world.
When did you first discover a love of reading? Do the plots and themes of those treasured books still inspire you?
Morgan can be found online at Facebook and her website.
Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including: Amazon | B & N | Indiebound
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.
September 7, 2012 @ 10:57 am
Is this the right place to post to enter the drawing? I’m interested in seeing what this is about. It sounds cool!
Jim C. Hines
September 7, 2012 @ 11:00 am
Yes it is. The book will go to one commenter, picked at random tonight.
September 7, 2012 @ 11:08 am
Thanks for the lovely post, Morgan. I have to admit I have not read your books but I am now intrigued and will check out your work. Another author FTW! I really resonated with your comments about how much reading meant to you as a kid. I fell in love with books in third grade when I lived down the street from the library. I fell in love with Winnie the Pooh, The Black Stallion, Big Red, Misty, and then made my way into more imaginative works. My favorite book at that age is this wonderful book by Jane Langton called “The Diamond in the Window.” This book is very magical and inventive, about dreams shaping reality. I still carry some of the images in the book with me.
September 7, 2012 @ 11:08 am
I am subbing in a middle school media center as I am typing this. Your mentioning how magical reading was for you at this age just hit me. The kids I am working with are so excited to check out favorite authors or find new ones it is amazing to see the spark of reading growing in them.
September 7, 2012 @ 11:25 am
Hello, again, Morgan Keyes! We chatted a few weeks ago in the comments to your guest post on Marie Brennan’s LJ. Wanted to say I’m looking forward to browsing through your companion website after I’ve read Darkbeast. Congratulations on the book!
September 7, 2012 @ 11:29 am
I’m really excited to read this one — it keeps getting mentioned in my various circles and people seem very enthusiastic about it. AND it just sounds really cool.
September 7, 2012 @ 11:38 am
This sounds like just the thing I would have picked up as a middle schooler! Well, I still pick them up. 🙂 I read more mid-grade and YA than adult novels. Even if I don’t win I will be getting my hands on this book!
September 7, 2012 @ 11:43 am
Ah! I saw this from when Jim was posting before, and I am so interested. I started reading by myself when I was three, and have been swept up in the worlds books open ever since. Fingers crossed!
September 7, 2012 @ 11:55 am
I first remember going on a reading frenzy in 4th grade. It was a new school for me, and a huge library with the Green Knowe series, Encyclopedia Brown, the Wrinkle in Time series, and Narnia, for starters.
It didn’t take long to find Have Spacesuit Will Travel and move on to other Heinlein novels. I think I single-handedly support Scholastic all those years, and have hundreds of those free posters still…
I try to share the love of reading with my kids, even if they find different genre’s they like. Considering the girls are 11 and 12 right now and have both read the Percy Jackson series, it sounds like they will enjoy Darkbeast also.
September 7, 2012 @ 12:15 pm
“When did you first discover a love of reading? Do the plots and themes of those treasured books still inspire you?”
I basically hated reading until almost high school. Then, although ‘below my reading level’ I discovered Animorphs. Not the first book in the series mind you but one of the ‘special’ slightly out of order books then went back and started the series. Even now that I’m an adult, I still love reading young adult books, and have a number on my bookshelves.
September 7, 2012 @ 12:18 pm
I haven’t read any of your books, but I need a book to start somewhere right?! At least I am now aware of you as an author. Thanks for the giveaway! *fingers crossed*
September 7, 2012 @ 12:28 pm
Jann – How I loved those animal stories! One of my strongest memories as a kid was going to a store (a department store, actually, when they still sold books!) and having Marguerite Henry sign a book for me. Everyone else was buying Misty, so I rebelled and bought BRIGHTY OF THE GRAND CANYON instead 🙂
September 7, 2012 @ 12:28 pm
I worked for years as a librarian in a special library, but I’ve often thought about doing school library subbing, once I’m retired from the writing gig. The thought of being able to open up all those minds… Thanks for all your hard work!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:29 pm
LauraA – Thanks so much for your interest in the Darkbeast Encyclopedia! I had a lot of fun putting it together, and I’m thrilled that readers are able to use it, just as I was when I was writing!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:30 pm
Rachel – Thanks for your interest! I’ve been gratified that so many people are spreading the word!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:31 pm
Bran – Thanks so much for your interest. I, too, spend a lot of time reading YA and MG books. Often, they seem to capture the issues so clearly, so precisely… Or maybe that’s just my remembering days when the issues seemed so simple 🙂
September 7, 2012 @ 12:31 pm
Liari – Thanks for your interest! I was actually a relatively late reader — I knew my letters, and I’d memorized lots of books, but it took a super teacher in kindergarten to help me make that leap into actually reading!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:33 pm
A.J. – You couldn’t have supported Scholastic on your own — they got a lot of my money, too! (Quarters, if I remember correctly, painstakingly counted out to my parents…) I *still* have some of those well-loved books on my shelves!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:33 pm
I love that you’re posting different discussions at your various blog stops – it makes following you fun.
I’ve been reading FOREVER it seems (Mom tells me I “read” to my little sister when I was 3). I’ve always loved reading and love that books can take me so many different places. Some of my favorites have already been mentioned – Black Stallion, Misty, Big Red in grade school; moving on to Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov in middle school and high school.
Good luck with Darkbeast. It sounds wonderful!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:34 pm
Kalindra – I talk to a lot of readers who share your experience. For whatever reason, reading just didn’t click as an enjoyable pastime, until a single book (often, technically, below grade level) sparked some special interest. Often, I find that those readers are some of the most voracious out there!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:35 pm
Stephanie – Thanks for your interest! I’ll cross my fingers on your behalf 🙂
September 7, 2012 @ 12:36 pm
Riva – thanks for following me around! It would have been boring for me to post the same things at different blogs. 🙂
That’s interesting – I’d never thought of the animal books we loved as being “secondary world” speculative fiction, but in many ways they work that way — new worlds narrated through different-from-the-reader eyes…
Many thanks for your kind wishes!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:45 pm
Epheros – Thanks for your interest! And good luck in the drawing!
September 7, 2012 @ 12:58 pm
I’ve recently been unpacking books onto shelves, and that includes a whole lot of my middle and high school books – I reread the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede last week. That was one of the ones I read multiple times as a kid. I learned to read when I was four and pretty much always loved it. I completely understand your point of middle grade reading being magical and Darkbeast sounds exactly like the type of book I would want to read!
September 7, 2012 @ 1:46 pm
I found a love of reading really early on, it helped that my parents read to me and that my father was a big reader. I did find that it messed with my verbalization – I could look up an words I did not know but I gave them my own sounds in my head. Like meeting Phoebe in Louisa May Alcott’s book “Eight Cousins” – I’m pretty sure I pronounced it as Fae Oh Bee until I finally met someone with the name!
I loved speculative fiction, because like many children, I firmly expected that something magicial/ left of center was possible at anytime.
September 7, 2012 @ 2:54 pm
Rebecca – There’s something wonderful about unpacking old favorites — it’s sort of like finding them all over again!
September 7, 2012 @ 2:55 pm
Monica – My father always called those “reading vocabulary” words. I can’t count the number of times I used words in conversation — fully aware of the meaning, but utterly ignorant of the pronunciation!
September 7, 2012 @ 3:05 pm
Hi Morgan, if Darkbeast is published under a pen name, what are your other novels published under? Forgive me if that’s a dumb question (or if you’d rather not answer since you’re trying not to cross the streams).
September 7, 2012 @ 4:33 pm
Waves at Morgan/Mindy to let her know some of her long time readers were already here too. Good luck with your book signing tonight 🙂
September 7, 2012 @ 4:35 pm
Oh good. It’s not just me then?
September 7, 2012 @ 4:38 pm
I think most of them are under Mindy Klasky and her Glasswright’s series is appropriate for YA (IMO). I’m not sure about her more adult themed books though – since I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet
September 7, 2012 @ 4:43 pm
This sounds great! I’m 28 and I still love “middle grade” (or YA or whatever it’s usually called these days) fantasy. Luckily my library has a very liberal holds policy so I don’t end up lurking in the YA section like a creeper.
My parents read to me a lot growing up – we did not have a TV in our house until I was in high school – and I always loved it; the first books I remember being enthralled with were Narnia and Heidi. I actually resisted learning to read because somehow I was convinced it meant they wouldn’t read to me anymore, though that was not the case at all. Once I let myself learn I started reading “chapter books” along with my picture books within a few months, as I was used to them being read to me already. When I was learning I know the first things I read for myself were Richard Scarey books and Stephen Kellogg books. I still have some of those, and have large portions of them memorized… 🙂
I had a lot of books I fell hard for – Narnia again after I finally agreed to learn to read in Kindergarten; Watership Down in first grade; Sherlock Holmes in second grade; Lord of the Rings in third grade. I’m still pretty passionate about Narnia, Sherlock Holmes, and LotR. Oh, and I DEVOURED Loisa May Alcott like candy for some reason; I think she was my personal version of “Babysitter’s Club” that my friends all read.
September 7, 2012 @ 5:15 pm
Sounds worth checking out. I’ll recommend it to my 11-y/o great-niece, but i want to read it first!
Amy (who got not cupcakes)
September 7, 2012 @ 8:53 pm
I saw your Big Idea post on Whatever, and thought your book sounded fascinating — the look at what one gives up during adulthood ceremonies. I’m also always on the lookout for books to give to my nieces with female protagonists to counteract princess culture. I’ll be checking your book out for sure!
September 7, 2012 @ 9:36 pm
I don’t think I really started to love reading until freshman year of high school, in which a friend introduced me to Dragonlance novels. Before I had loved reading Goosebumps and other such things (I was young and all), but such things wouldn’t have kept me indoors. But then I found Dragonlance, and some years later, my mother introduced me to the Duncton Wood tales by William Horwood (and an HS teacher gave use 1984 and Watership Down to chug down), and I was pretty much lost.
I won’t say all of the stuff I fell in love with still inspires me. Some of the Dragonlance books are pretty damned awful, and some of the fantasy novels I loved are now in my “I will never read you again because I still want to love you next week” pile. But if it wasn’t for those books and my mom and all that, I wouldn’t be an aspiring writer or a PhD student in English partially studying Caribbean genre fiction, and so on and so forth.
I feel like singing The Reading Rainbow now…
September 7, 2012 @ 11:28 pm
::grin:: *Definitely* not you, Orla!
September 7, 2012 @ 11:30 pm
Galena – Orla beat me to the answer. Mindy Klasky’s glasswrights series is pretty YA-friendly. The Jane Madison Series and the As You Wish Series are appropriate for older teens (and boy-crazy middle teens), although a lot of the plots deal with first jobs and crises with bosses and that sort of thing. Morgan doesn’t talk about Mindy’s romances that are a little too spicy for young readers’ eyes 🙂
September 7, 2012 @ 11:31 pm
::grin:: Great to see you here! The signing was fun – wish you’d been there with your bobbin lace, though, as you were for earlier readings 🙂
September 7, 2012 @ 11:34 pm
Ah… WATERSHIP DOWN – oddly, that hasn’t come up in this conversation before. I loved that book! (Although I was truly disappointed in Adams’s other novels…) I haven’t read it in years — maybe it’s time for a re-read…
September 7, 2012 @ 11:35 pm
Thanks for your interest! (I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read before I’ve given them as gifts…)
September 7, 2012 @ 11:36 pm
::grin:: Yeah, Keara isn’t a princess — in reality, or in attitude. Thanks for your interest!
September 7, 2012 @ 11:39 pm
::grin:: I love your point about discovering that some of our childhood favorites aren’t all that worthy, standing alone. I have one author who I *adored* in middle school; I recently read some of her much-more-recent work, and I found I was barely capable of skimming it — all of the magic was dried to dust, with background research and worldbuilding taking center stage. I re-read one of the early books, understood what had captivated me in my youth (and how far the recent novel had strayed from that past) and refused to read the others that I’d loved, lest they be spoiled…
September 8, 2012 @ 7:37 am
Can’t wait for this one, it sounds so good. The idea of Darkbeasts reminds me of the His Dark Materials trilogy, some of my favourite childhood books.
September 8, 2012 @ 11:42 am
Ginny – some readers have seen similarities between Pullman’s books and mine, but the tone and the specifics are different. Still – close animal companions helping children to make the right choices as they mature – yep!
September 8, 2012 @ 11:45 am
And those crossed fingers worked! You’re the winner of the free copy of DARKBEAST (chosen from among all the platforms where Jim’s blog is mirrored)! Send your street address to me at email@example.com, and I’ll have Simon & Schuster send you a copy!
Thanks for participating!
September 8, 2012 @ 3:24 pm
Sad to say it’s been FAR too long since I’ve sat at my pillow. But I’m getting a lot of knitting done. Even finished my first pair of “my” socks. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it to a reading sometime but it’s harder now that I work in Baltimore.
September 10, 2012 @ 1:35 pm
I feel the same about his other novels! When I re-read Watership Down in college, I couldn’t figure out why I’d loved it so, other than my obsession with rabbit language. For YEARS I would swear in Lapine (Frithrah and hraka), I suppose because I never got in trouble for those words. My dad always laughed… 🙂
September 11, 2012 @ 8:41 pm
Looks like an interesting tale, and has great reviews on Amazon.
I know what it’s like to lug a book collection around. Growing up, we moved constantly, often more than once a year. We couldn’t have pets, but my parents were very generous about using some of their allowable pounds for my books. I learned to read at a very young age–I was put in school early because I was already an advanced reader. Books were the doorway to magical places and I treasure my memories of them. As wonderful as they were, tho, the choices were far more limited back in the Dark Ages. I’m amazed at the sheer number, not to mention the quality, of books available to young readers now. So many choices! It’s like the Aladdin’s Cave of books today.