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INTERVIEW: K.B. Hoyle, author of The Enchanted

Friday, May 24, 2013

Karin Hoyle (published under her initials K.B.) is in Sydney this week, appearing with me and Sulari Gentill at the panel session ‘Fantastical Tales’, in which we’ll be talking about writing fantasy for young adults and why the genre is so phenomenally successful (lucky for the three of us!)

The event is on Sunday at 10am, in the Philharmonia Studio. Details here.

K.B. Hoyle is the American author of The Gateway Chronicles series published by TWCS which have gained a strong following with young adults and grown-ups. She combines timeless themes and deep concepts with how teenagers today think, talk and react. While writing the first four books in the series: The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread and The Enchanted she taught history to High School students and brought up her three sons. She finished her first novel aged 11.

I’m looking forward to meeting Karin – it sounds like we have a lot min common. In the meantime, she has answered a few questions for me about her books, her life, and her inspirations:

What is your latest novel all about?

I am in the middle of writing my YA fantasy series called The Gateway Chronicles. Book four, The Enchanted, was published in October of 2012, and currently I'm looking ahead to the publication of book five, The Scroll, this coming fall. 

The series is about a group of teenagers who find themselves in an alternate, magical world after stumbling through a gateway at a summer camp. They have prophesied roles to fulfill to help save this world, including, for main character Darcy Pennington, a marriage to the prince of the realm. 

In The Enchanted, the story focusses in on Darcy and the prince she is supposed to marry, Tellius, as they navigate falling in love in the midst of life-threatening trials, Tellius's ascendancy to the throne as king, and a journey to face a dangerous enemy. The Scroll picks up one year later when Darcy heads back to Alitheia, the magical land, to discover that Tellius has been captured by their enemy, and the only way to get him back is to solve an unsolvable riddle. 

How did you get the first idea for it?
The idea for the series came from my experiences at summer camp growing up. Summer camp was a very special time for me, and I had great friends at this camp that I only saw once a year. The time spent with them in the woods and on the water, away from the rest of the world, was so magical that I wanted to memorialize it by writing a series of books about it. So the story is grounded in reality, at its core, and from there I just began to ask the "what if?" questions. What if there was a magic gateway at this camp? What if six friends found a parallel world on the other side of that gateway? What if they had a prophesied job to do and went back every year? Then I mixed in all the elements I like in a good story - realistic dialogue, a lot of action, a little romance, symbolism, riddles and oracles, etc. - and made it all into a coming-of-age fantasy adventure romp. 

What do you love most about writing?
I feel alive when I write, and I think this is probably because I love the act of sub-creation (a concept J. R. R. Tolkien describes in his brilliant essay On Fairy Stories). To be able to take the known, that which is all around us, and craft it into something rather unknown - something new yet old, creative yet traditional, something that entertains while informing - just thrills me to my core. Writing is like painting a picture with words. If the story comes alive for me as I write, I know I'm onto something, and I feel a sense of euphoria. It makes me want to throw up my arms and, like Tom Hanks in Castaway, shout, "I have made fire! I have made fire!" 

But I always feel a sense of humility with this sub-creative thrill as well, for I believe in God, and I believe my writing desires, drive, and abilities come from him with a responsibility attached - to create something true, something beautiful, and something good. When I feel I have done all of these things, it is then that I feel the most alive. And it is unlike the joy and satisfaction I get as a wife, a mother, and a teacher; it is something truly unique to writing. 

What are the best 5 books you've read recently?
I am rather picky when it comes to the books I read, and it is rare that I label a book as being truly excellent, but there have been a few over the course of this year that have struck me in unique ways. 

1) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I had never read it before this year, and I was so shocked by the narrative misdirection that I literally shouted aloud when I read the reveal scene. I thought it was pure brilliance. 

2) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I've read it many times before, but this year I taught it as a seminar class, and I was struck anew by the majesty and the poetry of the story, which is to me like beautiful classical music. This book far outstrips all others in my reckoning. 

3) Fire by Kristin Cashore. I try to keep up with what is selling well in the YA genre, since that is of course my genre as well, and I picked up Cashore's books after I saw some of my students passing them around. Fire was my favorite, and while I don't hold all the same views as Cashore in certain aspects, I found her storytelling and pacing brilliant. Her stories unwrap one later at a time, and as such are both predictable and unpredictable in all the right ways. 

4) Matched by Ally Condie. I'm getting really into Dystopian these days, and this is probably my favorite Dystopian YA novel I've read since The Hunger Games. I found Matched to be sharp and insightful and a realistic picture of where the world could be going. 

5) How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger. Like The Lord of the Rings, this is a book I've read several times before, but I always come back to it when I'm writing. Granger's analysis of why Harry Potter appeals on so many levels is excellent to study when one is writing one's own fantasy series, and it is a must-read staple on my bookshelf! 

What lies ahead of you in the next year? 

This coming year promises to be almost as crazy as last year was, when I edited and marketed three books, wrote two more, and had a baby while working full time. My publisher, TWCS, will be releasing The Scroll in the fall, and by that time I will also be well on my way into writing the sixth and final book in The Gateway Chronicles series, The Bone Whistle. While I'm writing The Bone Whistle, I'll be continuing plans for my next series, a YA Dystopian Romance trilogy I hope to publish through TWCS, and continuing to market the rest of my books. I have readers chomping at the bits to get their hands on The Scroll, so I'm very excited to see that title released. I'm furthermore making plans to promote my books in October at the Austin, Texas book festival with my publishing house, and I will be at another book festival in Atlanta, Georgia in September, so lots of traveling in the near future! I'm also a wife, a mother to three little boys (ages 1, 4, and 6), and a full-time teacher, so those things will continue to keep me busy as always. Next year will be a good year, I can feel it. 

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