Erec Rex author Kaza Kingsley says: "Robbie - Thanks for having me on your site! What a great place to start a blog tour! I had a great time with your interview questions, and I'll be watching to see if any of your readers have questions for me. For fun, below, you have a baby picture of me. I'm spreading out some baby and kid pics of myself through all the posts on my tour."
Robbie F: How did the idea for Erec Rex come to you?
Kaza Kingsley: I've always been interested in mythology. And, independent from that, I always was writing something, from short stories to nonfiction articles. But I'd never really put my two loves, mythology and writing, together.
I'll never forget - I saw an incredible play called Metamorphosis, right before I started the Erec Rex series. There was no plot in the play, but it was the most beautiful reenactment of some of the ancient Greek myths by Ovid. The actors performed the short scenes in and around a huge pool of water that filled the stage.
It was so haunting, the images stuck with me for months. So I was inspired again to pick up some mythology reading - and this time I got into Norse and Celtic mythology as well as re-reading things like Jason and the Argonauts.
Long story short - the Erec Rex is a (drastically varied) retelling of the Hercules legend, along with other cool mythological stories I love. Okay, there is a ton more going on in the books as well - a lot more non-mythological threads, really. But mythology is the backbone of the series.
And, to me, a great series needs a great backbone. I've been happy with this one so far!
RF: What initially prompted you to write YA fantasy?
KK: The first novel I wrote is still in a drawer. It's not even fully finished. It's an adult novel, so I haven't always been tied to writing for kids. But I find it interesting to compare what happened when I wrote that novel, and when I started the Erec Rex series. Sometimes you don't even know where your heart is at until the project is underway.
What seemed like work with my adult novel became pure pleasure when I wrote Erec Rex. I would write for hours, and always feel like it was hard to tear myself away when I got up. I didn't even know until I was well into it that this was really what I should have been writing all along.
And it makes sense. I love fantasy. I read tons of YA fantasy for fun, always have. Then again I read adult fiction and nonfiction, too. I hate to rule out that I won't go back to that someday.
RF: Who is/are your favorite character(s) in the Erec Rex series?
KK: Erec and Bethany, but that's no surprise. I love Jam Crinklecut. (He's in Monsters of Otherness.) And Aoquesth, the dragon. He's a favorite of mine!
RF: Are there any characters you personally identify with?
KK: You know, as I write the books I tend to identify more and more with all of them! Bethany had parts of me in her, but is mostly herself. Erec started out as the older brother I never had, responsible, someone to watch out for me - but he really just became his own person, too.
RF: How far do you plan to take this series?
KK: There will be eight books in the Erec Rex series - not including any side books or companion books, of which I have planned a few. I'll be done with Book Three, Erec Rex: The Search for Truth, soon. Then I'll be writing a side book about the family history of the dragon Aoquesth, possibly in short story form. I also have plans for a Cookbook of the Keepers! I keep coming up with great recipes for it - I think it will be fun!
RF: Do you already know how the series ends?
KK: OH yes. And it's a big one. Not just a "who wins" type thing. I like endings that are unexpected, and totally turn things upside down.
I plotted the whole series out for months before I wrote a word of Book One. I really find it necessary - this way I can drop hints and clues in early books, which adds so much for the reader later. And not just the end of Book 8, either. Knowing what's going to happen (in essence) in each book lets me build clues toward other books' ending as well. Makes it fun for me, too!
RF: Is there any magic in your stories that you particularly wish you could do in real life?
KK: Someone just told me they could use a pair of Erec's Sneakers, he comes in late and wakes up his roommate all the time!
I'm not sure. If I had to pick one thing it might be an Inquizzle - the idea of something that will give me a correct answer to any question I could ask is incredible to me. But I'd be afraid to waste it! I'd probably ask something metaphysical about the meaning of life - but, then again, it only answers with a "yes" or "no!" I think I'd want a room full of Inquizzles...
Erec's Seeing Eyeglasses would be cool - to peek in on a loved one at any odd moment. How intrusive is that! I'd be afraid to have a scepter, though. Tempting as it sounds, I'm sure it would take the fun out of life.
RF: What do you regard as the "mission" or objective of your books, or of YA literature in general?
KK: Hmm... as far as YA in general, and more so with YA fantasy, it's to offer a complete escape. One of the best parts of fantasy (adult as well as YA) is it lets the reader completely get out of Dodge. Go somewhere where they can completely get involved in mystery, drama, and action, and forget the regular junk we all have to deal with.
Hopefully YA lit also encourages a love of books, and draws kids in to read more.
For my series, specifically, I hope the above applies. Beyond that, there are a few things I'd like my readers to take away. For one, there are themes in my series about trust, acceptance, and courage that I hope will inspire all readers to examine the way they look at things. Erec is faced with tough choices about doing the right thing versus the tempting thing. He faces issues of prejudice, especially in Book Two. I hope these ideas will inspire readers.
Also, I hope that, along with reading my series, kids and adults might be drawn to learning a little more about mythology!
RF: Do you feel that the popularity of Harry Potter, and/or other books, has helped or hindered you? In what ways?
KK: I think there is no question that the Harry Potter series has opened major doors for kids' fantasy writers. Rowling's series has created a world of kids who are not afraid to pick up big (long) books. And who can't wait for the next fantasy story. I guess R L Stine did that as well even before her, getting kids into alternative reality books. The only way I wonder if the Rowling series has hindered me (and this is not directly) is that peoples' perception that the artwork is similar may make people think that my series is similar to the Harry Potter one. I think it brings out the comparisons.
So many of my reviews (thank goodness they're good ones!) bring out the old HP comparison. Luckily, when people get to Book Two, they start comparing it to Book One, not Harry Potter. It's becoming its own thing in people's minds - finally!
RF: In a nutshell, what do you consider unique about your work?
KK: Most good books are unique because they give you a story that could only be told by that specific writer, with his or her own unique voice and way of looking at the world. Probably nobody else could have come up with an advice vending machine in the wilderness with a wise little man sitting inside. (Okay - someone will point out that it's in some novel somewhere I've never heard of.) I tend to have a wacky imagination. And a love of tying things together. And mythology. I don't know if any one thing is unique in any book - but as a whole the series is entirely unique!
RF: Do you think someone should or will make a film based on your books?
KK: Should? YES!!!!!!! (Cross fingers!) Would be Awesome.
RF: Do you have any "dream casting" in mind in case they do?
KK: Actually, no! I really just picture my characters as who they are, not as actors at this point. There are a few famous kids that love my series, though, so I would tend to think of them. Devon Werkheiser, who was the star, Ned, on Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide (daily on Nickelodeon) might be a great Erec.
RF: What question do you most hope fans will ask you?
KK: How can I buy 10,000 copies of your books! Just kiddin'. I just love the questions that show they're as into the series as I am. Who is Erec's real mom? That kind of thing.
RF: What question do you most fear fans will ask you?
KK: How did you get into this gig? You stink! Get a job as a waitress, or something. Luckily I haven't been asked that yet!
To continue following Ms. Kingsley's blog tour, check out the following blogs on the listed dates. Or, check out Ms. Kingsley's blog. Amazingly, there will be no overlapping questions in all of these interviews, so there are plenty of great pictures and all-new stuff for you to enjoy!
1/8 - Books4Ever
1/9 - Baseballs and Bows
1/10 - Fanatic Space Blog
1/11 - Bibliophile's Retreat
1/12 - Children's Literature Book Club
1/13 - Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-A-Holic
1/14 - A Year of Books
1/15 - Author Chris Rettstatt's blog
1/16 - Deliciously Clean Reads
1/17 - Into the Wardrobe
1/18 - Real Gurlz Magazine
1/19 - Chauceriangirl
1/20 - Kaleb Nation's Official Website
1/21 - The Jay
1/22 - Young Adults & Kids Books Central