I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Katy Haye to talk with me about her book, The Last Gatekeeper. Kate spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else’s imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling.
When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (well, she does have a very vivid imagination).
How did you discover indieBRAG?
I first heard about indieBRAG from author Alison Morton whose alternate history thrillers set in Roma Nova have all gained BRAG medallions (and they are fabulous and well worth reading as you’d expect from BRAG honorees). It seemed like a really good way to provide some unbiased assurance to readers that my book is worth taking a chance on.
Please tell me about your book, The Last Gatekeeper.
The Last Gatekeeper is a YA fantasy novel which tells the story of Zan MacKenzie, a seventeen year old girl who knows she’s different from other people – but has no idea how very much! The novel contains other worlds, alien superpowers, angels and fae, with life on Earth under threat if Zan (the gatekeeper of the title) can’t seal the gates between the worlds.
For those of who are not sure what electrical hypersensitivity is, could you please explain? And how did you come up with the idea for the premise? It’s so intriguing.
Electrical hypersensitivity is when someone has a sensitivity to electrical fields – they can feel when they are close to electricity and get a reaction to that closeness, with headaches and nausea being the most common symptoms. I once saw it described as being “allergic to the twenty-first century” and I thought the idea was fascinating and would make for a great character. The idea sat around in my head for a while and then surfaced in Zan, whose electrical hypersensitivity hides a big secret – that she’s not entirely human.
What are Zan’s strengths?
Zan has been raised in a very isolated way and as a result she’s very self-contained and self-reliant. But she’s also fiercely loyal to her family and the friends she has, so when they come under threat Zan will do anything to protect them.
Could you please share an excerpt?
Here is a scene where Zan discovers that her fane blood, which causes electrical hypersensitivity, also brings with it some much more desirable side-effects.
The wind that had been rushing around me was inside me. For a moment I was terrified, then a hot, surging sensation powered unstoppably through my veins. Fire combined with the wind, burning out my blood to replace it with something infinitely more powerful.
A scream ripped through me, emptying my lungs. I sucked in a deep breath, expecting more of the fire, looking forward to it, but next it was water that filled my chest and coursed through my body, spiralling around the fire and the wind, the three dancing together without touching. The ground beneath my feet felt different, but I understood immediately it wasn’t the ground that had changed, but me. I knew my body was separate from the Earth, but I felt a connection. Earth to earth, what made up the planet I was standing on were the same elements that made me. And I could shape them all. I had power over the world. The fire, wind and water roaring through me knew exactly what to do. Without moving, the power in me reached out. It was tentative, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, or even what I wanted to happen. I only knew it was connected with the power that had been sleeping inside me.
The ground rippled, releasing the fresh, suffocating scent of newly-turned earth, and a moment later particles of soil spun through the air around me. They split apart and I could see the different elements. Decaying organic matter rose up and the dust of ground rocks separated out. The water within the soil pulled together, gathering into tiny droplets that swung like molten silver around me. I laughed. The Earth was so beautiful. And I could control it. It was magical. I felt the wonder of it in every molecule of my body.
With a thought I pushed deeper, further, and watched a ripple of earth move through the ground around me. I created a circle, spinning to watch as the ground complied with my wishes. The earth lifted, springing up, creating a veil of soil around me. I could barely make out the shapes of Thanriel and Cal on the other side of it. Oh, this was wonderful! And it was fun.
It was so easy. I wanted to know what I was capable of. I didn’t doubt that I could do far more. I split the blades of grass individually from the earth, scattering them around me in a line of green spinning at eye level. Further away I saw a patch of dandelions and plucked them from the earth, then pulled each leaf away from the long, tapering root, pushing them away while I pulled the yellow flowers towards me.
I focused on the fire in my veins, forcing that to connect with the earth around me and a circle of tiny flames sprang up where there had been bare earth a moment before. I laughed, watching as the flames jumped and flickered.
It was nothing. The fire, air and water in my blood sang in a beautiful purr as I manipulated the world around me. There was more. There had to be still more. I wanted to test myself. I wanted to know where my boundaries lay – or perhaps discover that there were no boundaries. Not now, not for me.
Please tell me a little about Thanriel and Cal.
Thanriel is sent to tell Zan the danger the Earth is in and set her on the path to save it. He’s a gorgeous angelic being with some unusual powers of his own and he and Zan click immediately – which makes it a shame that he will have to return without her once the Earth is safe…
The relationship with Cal, Zan’s alien cousin, is altogether spikier. Cal has already fought in a war on his home world, Fane, and when he lost he was exiled to Earth. He thinks Zan has no chance against the Fane queen – until he sees what she’s capable of and starts to think maybe the cause he fought for isn’t lost, after all…
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
My main PC is in what’s grandly named the “music room” (one piano, two flutes, a bookcase and a filing cabinet), but I also write on a laptop in the kitchen (it’s warmer). I’m a big fan of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book on screenwriting, and I try to plot out my story’s “beats” before I start. I’m also pretty unusual for a writer in that I like to have a synopsis before I start so I can see whether I’ve got enough story to fill a book before I start writing.
Who designed your book cover?
My cover was designed by the incredibly talented Jane Dixon-Smith whose work I simply love. I’m so delighted she agreed to work with me because she’s also incredibly busy and in demand!
What are you working on next?
The follow-up to The Last Gatekeeper, named The Last Dreamseer, is about to head off to my editor (the also incredibly talented Rachel Daven Skinner). I’m aiming for that to be published in November. And then I’ll be polishing another YA novel (working title Across the Metal Sea) which is set firmly on Earth, but this time in the future where ecological disasters have made some big changes to life.
How exciting! I hope your submit, The Last Dreamseer to indieBRAG.
I definitely will!
Do you stick with just genre?
At the moment I’m sticking with YA novels, and while they roam around several sub-genres, they are all in the fantasy/sci-fi/speculative field (if you’re going to make it up, you might as well REALLY make it up, is my motto), but I do have a pet project I’m working on behind the scenes set in an alternate history steampunk world.
Why did you choose to write in the YA genre?
The vast majority of what I read is YA fiction, so it seemed natural to also write YA. What I love about it is that there really aren’t any limits – you really can explore any idea in YA, and while there may be genre conventions (happy endings in romances, for example), YA is wide enough to encompass any approach to any subject. I also like the fact that YA protagonists are on the cusp of adulthood, exploring who they are and what they want to do with their lives (these ideas aren’t limited to teen years, of course, but it’s more pronounced at this stage in life). I think everything I write is looking in some way at the question for characters of, “Who am I, where do I belong, and who with?”
How interesting that you are working on a project that is the scene set in an alternate history steampunk world. I look forward to hearing more about that.
Thank you. It’s been terrific fun dipping into something that’s a bit different to what I usually write. My main characters – England’s first ever female airship pilot, Isadora Calliver, and saturnine, wounded airship navigator James Lydon, refused to stay in my head and I’m sure they’ll eventually make it to a more public arena!
Where can readers buy your book?
Katy’s blog about reading and writing.
Make friends on Goodreads
Katy’s video How to Become a Writer.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Katy Haye who is the author of, The Last Gatekeeper, our medallion honoree 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, The Last Gatekeeper, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.