The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin
1- 1- Are there any charities you plan to support on Giving Tuesday? (#GivingTuesday refers to the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a movement to create an international day of charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season.)
For Giving Tuesday, I encourage everyone to check out Write Girl, an amazing foundation that supports young, diverse female voices from the ground up! It’s a very special mentoring program for writers from underprivileged backgrounds and I’ve just started getting involved with them. You can donate online at WriteGirl.org or if you’re in the LA metro area, you can volunteer in person!
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Sometimes the best critique of your work can come from you, 6 months to a year after you wrote something! This happens to me all the time.
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
I have always been passionate about writing, ever since I learned to read. In my kindergarten class we had a make-your-own storybook corner where the teacher supplied blank books and art supplies, and you wrote your own children’s book. I chose that activity so many times my teacher eventually had to force me to try something else! But that’s my earliest memory of writing. I remember writing a short story about a polar bear and a seal who get separated from their mothers and have to trek across the Arctic to find them. It was 100% a Land Before Time ripoff but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere.
4- Is there a religion, myth, or legend you used as the basis for this book?
One of my favorite myths is that of Persephone, and Orpheus is a close second. Both stories, of course, have all the Underworld vibes. While this book was definitely influenced by the Greek concept of the afterlife, I also peppered in imagery from Dante’s inferno, ideas about reincarnation, and inspiration from texts like the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I don’t think I pulled from any one particular religion or mythological construct. The point of this exercise, for me, was to create something entirely new with touchstones of familiarity. Every culture since ancient times has had their own concept of the afterlife, and while many of these beliefs are quite different, they also intersect in really interesting ways. I was definitely inspired by that.
5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
My Twitter is @Liz_Kerin and three writers I’d love to shout out to are Jacqui Castle (@JCastleWrites) who is writing a sequel to her award-winning book THE SECLUSION, Bridget Tyler (@CaliforniaB) a fellow NYU writing alum and badass author of THE PIONEER, and Matt Harry (@MattHarry) who has a sequel to his MG adventure fantasy CRYPTOZOOLOGY FOR BEGINNERS out this Fall!
6- Would you share a picture with us of your book among the trees or in another fun setting?
7- In your opinion, can everyone redeem themselves if they truly regret their wrongdoings and genuinely try to make amends, or are a few people beyond forgiveness?
Without spoiling anything from the book, I believe that redemption is a bit of a spectrum. If you go out of your way to choose darkness, there might be no turning back. But if you find yourself lost in darkness and make some bad choices, that’s not quite the same thing. There’s a difference, and I think the book takes that stance, too.
8- What most motivates you to read a new book?
If all my friends are raving about it, I’m helpless against peer pressure. I am desperate to get in on the conversation! Thankfully, my friends all have awesome taste. Even if I don’t love something as much as they do, it’s always in my wheelhouse and fun to discuss.
9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name: Naomi Alderman @NaomiAllTheNews
Title: THE POWER
Love because: I finally picked this one up and I’m so glad I did (though I’m slightly ashamed that I’m 3 years late to this party!). It’s such a grounded, evocative speculative fiction about how the tables might turn if women were suddenly blessed with a supernatural, physical advantage over men. It fits beautifully next to Margaret Atwood on my shelf, another one of my all-time favorites.
10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
I have no idea who my biggest fan is but if I had to shout out to anyone, it would be my awesome aunt who took my book on her trip to Europe and bookstagrammed up a storm! I think pretty much everyone who has read the book and enjoyed it is a Haben stan and you know what, SO AM I. He’s the weirdest and the best and there’s a reason we all love him. I also get a lot of comments about the three sisters and Norryn, people saying they hope they show up more in future installments (they totally will!).
11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I hope readers are excited by the parallel worlds and the connections between the characters, this idea that love transcends the laws of the physical universe. I also love a great female-driven revenge story and I hope readers rally around Seycia’s quest, even if her motives might be a little questionable sometimes. The scene I hope resonates most with readers comes toward the very end of the book, when Seycia finally has to deliver on her promise to Haben. For me, this was the most poignant and cathartic scene to write and I hope it has the same impact on readers.
12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
I have a few! I really like the cozy shots Morrigan’s books takes. I also love the minimalist arrangements Sadie at Curioser and Curioser does. And just the other day I saw an awesome bookstagram of Phantom Forest by Dana’s Book Nook that was so beautiful and autumnal I had to share it ASAP!
13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?
I hope the concepts of the afterlife in this book might help people who are looking for a creative, out-of-the-box way to cope with loss. The idea that nobody is ever gone for good is really powerful for me. Writing this was very therapeutic in that sense. I hope readers feel similarly.
14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
Probably the nasty double scars on General Simeon’s face: one left by Seycia, the other by her father. He wears their vengeance on his face wherever he goes. He’ll never escape what he did to these people, nor should he.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Seycia and the Khronasans are an incredibly diverse, vibrant community that reflects a futuristic version of the world we currently live in. While the Khronasan culture is fictional, I hope when readers picture Seycia in their minds, they take note of the way she’s described on the page. She is a female lead of color. Even though her heritage isn’t the focal point of the story, I think it’s important that the characters reflect the world around us—particularly in this futuristic setting where a new, spiritual awareness has united people across the world. Another example of this is the goddess Irem, a nonverbal character who is also the most powerful force in the entire story. She was written this way for a reason, and I’m glad readers notice.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
I adore Kaleena at Reader Voracious. She writes such insightful reviews and even if a book didn’t vibe with her, she is open to the idea that it might be someone else’s favorite and explains why it may work for them. She also has fabulous taste and I blame her for making my TBR explode! She was one of the first blogs to really support THE PHANTOM FOREST when the ARCs hit the town, and I’m eternally grateful.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I went with Inkshares because I was shortlisted for the 2016 Launchpad Manuscript Competition and they were the sponsoring publisher. I’ve worked as a screenwriter for several years before publishing a book, and their business model worked well with the readership I already had and my relationships in Film/TV.
18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?
I think reviews, especially positive ones, help authors more than anyone realizes, in so many ways! Word of mouth is essential. Not everyone has the marketing budget of the big publishing houses. So if you love something, don’t keep it to yourself! We writers appreciate it more than you know!
19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
What’s your favorite afterlife story and/or myth? I realize it’s not right to classify all of these as “myths” because many people of faith consider these stories to be part of their beliefs. But I would love to know if there’s an obscure, interesting tale about the afterlife I’ve never heard before.
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
I’m tinkering with the idea of a prequel podcast and of course, writing the next book in this proposed series, so please do follow along on Twitter and Instagram for news and updates. I’ll also probably be doing a few bookstore/library events on the West Coast in early 2020, so stay tuned!
Check out my review of The Phantom Forest on Goodreads. Goodreads.com/review/show/2952218899
The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin