Born in Bangor, Maine, author Kristen Taber spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realm of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read.
Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, several short tales, and five manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Ms. Taber is completing the five-part Ærenden series from her home office in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Hello Kristen! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion.
Thank you so much! It’s such an honor and it’s an honor to be here today, as well.
First, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and what has your experience been with self-publishing thus far?
I found indieBRAG through another writer’s blog while surfing the net a couple of years ago. To be honest, I don’t remember whose! But I’m glad I ran into it. It’s a wonderful group and community and I’m proud to be a part of it. In fact, I’ve found the Indie community at large to be a wonderful family environment. Every author I’ve met has been so willing to share advice and help their fellow Indie artists. I think this is what I love most about self-publishing. It’s not about competition, but about doing our best to hone our craft and become the best writers we can be; it’s encouraging and humbling at the same time.
How often do you write?
These days, not as often as I’d like. Typically I follow the 1,000 words a day rule of thumb for writing, because it can be difficult to spend hours at a time writing with a toddler and job to manage. Lately, though, that’s been difficult. I have my second child due in two weeks, so I’m prepping for her arrival. I plan on taking a month or so off after she’s born to get our new schedule settled, then hopefully I can get back to my minimum daily word count. At least, I’d better! I’m nearly finished with book 4 in the Ærenden series and I don’t want to keep my fans waiting any longer.
In your bio you mention that your Irish grandfather would tell you stories. Can you share one with us?
My grandfather is a private person. It’s not often that he gives me permission to share his stories, though I do have one story he allowed me to share on my blog; I hope you don’t mind me re-sharing it here. Someday I hope to get him to record all of his stories so I can write a book about his life. I have no doubt it would be fascinating.
He called me tonight, after I sent my mom an email requesting his permission to use some of his stories on my blog.
“Hello, kid,” he greets me, as he usually does. His down east accent drawls in my ear, a reminder of home as much as a reminder of the warmth his love provides. “How’s my favorite granddaughter?”
“When did I move up the ranks?” I ask.
He laughs. All five of us get that greeting, I think, unless he really feels like teasing us. Then we’re last.
But he gets to his point quickly, also as he usually does.
“Well, I can’t think of any stories right now, but you can use ’em. Can you not use the names?”
“I can change them.”
“Good, good. Well, see, there’s one. Did I ever tell you about…”
(They always start like this)
“…one of our ancestors? Tommy Collin was his name. He came across from Ireland direct. His family wanted him to marry an Irish girl, so they sent back to the old country for one. She came, a lovely girl, and they got married. One day soon after, he took her into town.”
He pauses, then says. “Well, this is a true story, you know. He goes into town with her on the trolley, then returns home. Only he forgot he was married and left her right there in town.”
“Wait, he left her behind?”
“Ayuh, without any money. She eventually got home, but until the day of her death, she never forgave him. She walked ten feet behind him for the rest of their lives. She refused to walk beside him. You’d think since he forgot her, that wouldn’t be the smart thing, but that’s what she did. She could always see him that way, you see. And that’s the God’s honest truth.”
Somehow, I believe it is.
That is really special, Kristen! How neat!
Please tell me about your story, Ærenden: The Child Returns and what genre does it fall under.
The Child Returns centers around two protagonists: Meaghan, a typical 17-year-old who lives an uneventful life on Earth, and her friend and love interest, 21-year-old Nick who rents the apartment above her parent’s garage. Of course, this is an Epic Fantasy, so it doesn’t stay uneventful for long. Meaghan soon learns that there are other worlds beyond hers and a much bigger purpose for her life, all while on the run from magical creatures intent on killing her.
What is a Mardróch?
A Mardróch is a part-human, part-monster created by Garon, the self-appointed King of Ærenden. Their supernatural powers, impervious cloaks, and lack of morals make them nearly impossible to defeat.
Could you please share an excerpt?
My pleasure! The following is the beginning of The Child Returns, a dream-memory that haunts Meaghan throughout the novel.
THE WALLS fell in first. A flash of light and smoke came next. Or could it have been the other way around? It happened so fast, she could not remember. The air smelled funny, like when Papa put out the fire before bed. It filled her mouth and her nose. It stuffed her lungs and clogged her breathing. Then it turned thick and black so she could not see. She coughed. She tried to stand, to run, but her legs sagged beneath her. Tugging on a curtain, she pulled three times before she grew tired of toppling over, and crawled toward her bedroom. She called for her mama, but heard only the sound of distant screams through the smoke. None of them was Mama.
“Mama? Mama?” she cried again, feeling her way along the floor. Her fingers brushed a rug, soft and cool compared to the stone floor. A glowing fire consumed part of the room, heating the stone. It crept toward her. Fires hurt. Papa had told her she should not touch them. Sometimes she thought about trying to see if he was right, but she did not want to try with this one. It seemed angry. Its flames popped and snarled.
The couch began to glow, and then disappeared as the fire swept over it. It folded in half, crashing to the floor with a loud bang. She yelped. Tears stung her eyes and wet her cheeks. Her arms shook. Her legs trembled. She backed away, and found the table that usually stood in the middle of the living room. It must have toppled over too. It lay on its side next to a body that looked like Mama.
What is one of the challenges Meaghan faces and how does it affect her?
Meaghan’s biggest challenge in this book is learning her true strength and identity. She starts out believing she knows everything about her life. She has a plan in place of exactly how she wants her future to unfold, but in one horrible day, she learns that everything she ever knew has been a lie. As more secrets are exposed, she must come to terms with who she truly is and decide if she wants to accept her new life or try to reassemble the fragments of her former world. Throughout this week-long journey, she also learns that her strength runs deeper than she ever imagined.
Why did you chose an epic fantasy saga to write and what interests you most about the genre?
I’ve always been a huge fan of epic fantasy, ever since I picked up my first copy of Lord of the Rings and then later, fell in love with David Eddings. I like having an element of reality to the stories, while still being surprised by elements of the impossible—dragons, elves, horrific creatures, nightmares and beauty beyond what we have ever thought possible, yet so believable at the same time.
I can’t say that I chose my first book so much as it chose me. All of my stories stem from dreams. In this case, I saw Nick and Meaghan in their confrontation with his mother (it’s near the end of The Child Returns, so I’ll say no more about it here!) and I had to continue following their journey, so I did. This happened way back in high school, so it’s been percolating for more years than I’m willing to mention. The fact it’s epic fantasy probably has a lot to do with the books I like to read, so as my dreams (and later writing) continued to unfold, they followed that familiar path.
Could you give me an example how you blend both a part-modern, part-medieval kingdom? I love the idea of that.
Although this story begins on Earth, which adds an element of modern times to both the plot and character experiences throughout the book, the kingdom of Ærenden also has its own unique blend of modern and medieval. They use electricity, thanks to an electrical power, and a clock system for time, yet they have no concept of guns or modern weapons. They use swords and arrows for their primary fighting (alongside their active powers, of course). This sort of juxtaposition and their knowledge of other worlds, like Earth, can sometimes lead to a fascinating blend of philosophy for the Ærenden people.
What is an example of how you utilize Celtic and tribal influences, in your story?
My tribal influences show up strongly with the Zeiihbuans. Although technically a part of the kingdom, they don’t consider themselves similar to the Ærenden people. They’ve lived as tribes throughout their history and hold some of the same philosophies attributed to nature-loving tribes on Earth, including some of their rituals and respect for animals.
Celtic influences tend to show up more in how I name my characters and creatures. I lean toward researching Gaelic and Celtic roots as a nod to my own heritage.
How long did it take for you to write your story and who designed your book cover?
The Child Returns took about 3 months to write and another year to edit, partly because I’m a strong pantser when I write. I’ve tried the outline route, but find that not only is it limiting, my characters go in different directions anyway. Of course, that means a lot has to change after the first draft to ensure the book doesn’t tangent too much.
Don’t you love the Mardróch on the cover? They creep me out! Katarina Vamvasaki designed the front and Lance Ganey designed the back and spine.
What advice would you give to a writer who wants to write in this genre?
Have fun with it. While it is important to make sure your story is believable, fantasy works best when you let your imagination run wild. So have at it! Take those creatures you imagine in the closets and under the bed and harness them for your books. The more you jump into the deep end of that pool, the more creatures will show for you, so exercise your creativity (but maybe sleep with a light on).
Thank you Kristen! It was a pleasure chatting with you!
Likewise! Thanks so much for having me on Layered Pages.
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A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kristen Taber, who is the author of, Ærenden: The Child Returns, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Ærenden: The Child Returns, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.