Time for another edition of the Splashdown Blog Tour where I hang out with my fellow Splashdown authors and discuss their new releases. Next up, we have the delightful Kat Heckenbach, author of the YA fantasy novel Finding Angel and its brand new sequel Seeking Unseen! Let's get right to it!
Greg Mitchell: Kat, we’ll start with your absolute favorite question first: Tell us, what is Seeking Unseen all about? :p
Kat Heckenbach: Oh, sigh. Yes, my favorite question—not :P. I have such a hard time with the “tell me about” thing. It’s why I hated writing synopses and query letters!
Seeking Unseen is a continuation of the story from my first novel, Finding Angel, which is about a girl who finds out she’s from a hidden magical island on the other side of the globe. She returns and discovers a prophecy that she’s convinced involves her—and she becomes determined to solve the mystery that’s springing up around her.
In Seeking Unseen, all that stuff has settled down (or so she thinks) and Angel decides to finally make the wish she was given at the end of Finding Angel. While following through on that—and returning for her little foster brother, whom she believes is in danger—Angel ends up reuniting with an old friend named Melinda. And Melinda…well, let’s say she has a way of taking over things. It becomes her story, her struggle to fit in and find real magic inside herself.
GM: This is the sequel to Finding Angel. How many novels do you have planned in this sequence? Is it a series that needs to be read from the beginning or can anyone jump in on any of the novels? I only ask this, because I hate this question. With my own novels, I always shout absolutely you should read them all. In order. Right now :p But some people make things a little more “standalone-y” than I do.
KH: I have it planned as a trilogy. I know—a fantasy trilogy, how unique… Seriously, I started this all as a stand-alone, but the story from Finding Angel seemed to have another adventure in the works. And as I started working on Seeking Unseen, another adventure began to form in my mind. I don’t see it going beyond that, though. However, I have an anthology of companion stories planned as well. Many of those have actually already been published in various places, but there are a few unpublished ones (and possibly a few yet-to-be-written ones) and I’d like to have them all in one place.
As for the order—they could be read out of sequence. BUT, in the words of River Song, “Spoilers.” (OK, *word* of River Song.) The second book has enough back story presented that you could totally follow it without reading the first, but it would also totally spoil the plot of the first one.
GM: When we talked about this interview, you had said that you deal more with “contemporary” fantasy—writing about the hidden places of our own Earth, right now, right where we’re at. I make it no secret that I’m not much of a swords-and-sorcery type of guy, but your brand of fantasy sounds a lot more like my kind of thing. Was this a conscious leaning—to make it more contemporary fantasy—or is that just how it turned out?
KH: I like some sword and sorcery, but not a lot. It all starts sounding the same to me. I tend to have certain favorites and leave the rest alone. But I devour contemporary fantasy novels. The idea of finding a secret world is one that fascinates me. Secret worlds, secret passages…secret and undiscovered. The whole thing probably started with me reading books like The Phantom Tollbooth, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and A Wrinkle in Time.
That said, you’ll find some traditional fantasy elements in my writing. Just a touch. Like Elves in a Lord of the Rings style. Well, mostly. LotR with tattoos and electric guitars…
GM: I’ve read about Finding Angel, and the thing that strikes me is that you spend some time dealing with the scientific reasons behind magic. Magic sounds almost like technology in your books. What was the inspiration behind that approach? How have people reacted to that? I know that you’re not writing to a particular “Christian” audience, but I also know that your book is being advertised in Christian circles. Have you met the anti-Harry Potter crowd in your travels?
KH: That’s just a natural tendency for me. I’m a science geek. I have a bachelor degree in biology and I love the idea of magic having some kind of base in the logical. Obviously, it can’t be entirely scientific—it’s magic after all—but I wanted it to be serious magic, believable magic.
The Harry Potter thing probably contributed to that. I am ever frustrated by the "Harry Potter is evil" mantra. I *do* respect the beliefs of people who choose not to read such books, but I felt like I could write something that showed a distinct line between the occult magic that the Bible warns against and the magic of fairy tales and story books.
So far, it hasn’t really been an issue. I have two friends who are very against the Harry Potter series but read Finding Angel because they wanted to support me. I told them that I absolutely, positively did NOT want them reading anything that made them uncomfortable. But by the end of the book, they both said they loved the story and never got at all uncomfortable. Still, at my last signing, a little girl told me her parents wouldn’t let her read Harry Potter, so I told her she probably ought to pass on Finding Angel.
GM: As I understand it, these books are a bit of a departure for you, as you deal a lot with darker horror material. How did that come about? Or do you see this as a departure from your other writings?
KH: Most of my short stories are horror, and most of the ones that aren’t horror are fairly dark. My novels do have dark threads running through them. I’ve had several readers comment in their reviews that they could see my horror writing tendencies come through. My villains are murderous and vile. My characters get put in some rather dangerous and creepy situations. I see my novels as spanning the gamut actually—with some very cool, fun, adventurous parts, and some dark and possibly disturbing parts.
GM: Going a little bit deeper: Why write “fantasy” at all? What do you think is the draw for audiences to tales of magic and fantasy? I think every speculative genre answers a need—sci-fi the exploration of the cosmic “What if”, and horror (at least for me) is the outlet for identifying nameless fears and facing them. In your opinion, what need does fantasy fulfill in our psyches?
KH: To me, it’s two things. One, the exploration of the idea that there is just more than this physical world. Magic implies something beyond ordinary physics at work. It makes us step back and go, “Can this really be all there is?”
The other is the opportunity for pure adventure. Exploring a world that is unlike anything we’ve ever known. As I said above, discovering secret places. I think no matter what age you are, what your experiences, when you enter a fantasy world you are doing so with innocent eyes.
GM: So you’re a writer. Why not be a plumber? What made you pick up the pen and subject yourself to a life of self-pity and public ridicule?
KH: Well, I figured it’d be an easy way to become a millionaire. Write a best-selling book, and spend my life living off the royalties.
What? That’s not how it works?
Just kidding! Really, I’m not sure where it came from. I was feeling…unsettled. And when I talked to my husband about it, he said, “If you want to write a book I’ll be supportive.” I had no idea that’s what I was saying! But things started to make sense—the pit in my stomach when I’d look at the names of authors on my favorite book covers, for one. I decided I simply *had* to try. I had no idea if it was in me, no idea if I had any writing talent at all. But the words came. And I decided if I was going to play this out, I’d take it to the wall. In short, I’m stubborn.
GM: How did your relationship with Splashdown Books come about?
KH: Oddly, through a drawing of a key. Grace, the owner of Splashdown Books, posted on a writers loop (The Lost Genre Guild) asking for an artist to do a rendering of a key for a book cover (The Duke’s Handmaid, by Caprice Hokstad). I answered the call-out, and she did use my drawing. During all our communications, we ended up discussing my writing and Grace asked to see the manuscript for Finding Angel. She loved it, but was wary since she’d never published YA fiction before. But I believe she saw my dedication and felt I was worth taking a chance on. And we also knew from working together on the artwork that we worked very well together. I’m happy to say we still work great together!
GM: Alright, enough with deep writery stuff. What’s your favorite scary movie? Why? Or, if you wanna get down to the nitty gritty—what’s your favorite scary SCENE from a movie?
KH: Well, first I’m not at all into slasher type movies—I like the psychological kind of scary movies. And I read a lot more horror than I watch. So, I’d probably have to say, off-hand, that The Number 23 is my top. The whole idea of becoming obsessed like that, feeling like someone’s mucking around in your head. It’s very intense. But if you want pure edge-of-your-seat-don’t-open-the-door….maybe Alien? That movie was classic. (At one time I’d have said Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but I saw the movie before reading the book, and after reading the book I can’t watch the movie—the book is soooooooooooo much better.)
Favorite scene…favorite scene…um…This is going to sound awful and I know it’s not what you’re asking, but it is the first thing that popped into my head. As a family, we were watching The Village. My son was maybe ten years old, and he was sitting on the edge of the coffee table. The scene where the guys are in the watchtower and you see a snatch of red whip by through the trap door…my son shot about two feet straight up in the air. I think I may have pulled a muscle laughing :). Before anyone shakes their finger and calls me a rotten mom, he laughed too, and still laughs about it today.
GM: Thank you so much for hanging with us today! Any parting words?
KH: Just thanks for having me here, and for the cool questions! I had fun answering them!
That's all we have for this time. Be sure to follow along with the tour!
That's all we have for this time. Be sure to follow along with the tour!
|R. L. Copple||http://blog.rlcopple.com|
|Diane M. Graham||http://dianemgraham.com/blog/|