We have a treat for you today: an interview with Kate Klimo, author of a new trilogy called the Centuriad geared at readers 12+. The first book, Daughter of the Centaurs, is out now. This is the first stop on her blog tour (more information on that below) so please join me in welcoming Kate to the blog. And make sure you stick around to enter a giveaway courtesy of the lovely folks at Random House!
Hi, Kate, and welcome to Tynga’s Reviews! We’re so pleased you’re able to visit us on your blog tour. First off, would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me over. For starters, I guess you could say that I am a publishing insider. I have been working at the job of children’s book publisher since the age of 27. I took a job in publishing right out of college, because I wanted to be a writer and I figured I’d benefit from a certain proximity to the biz. While I wrote some children’s books as a child—a fantasy epic starring a unicorn, which I co-authored with my best friend Justine (we still have the elaborate maps of the world we drew up)—by the time I got to college, I had a hankering to write adult books. I was knowledgeable about children’s books, having been an avid child reader, so I chose children’s publishing because I figured it was a tidy step removed from the adult world. During my first twenty years in publishing, I managed to write four adult novels, two of which actually got published (even if they didn’t burn up the world!). But during that same time, I also got married and had three wonderful sons. As a working mother who wrote on the side, the best quality time I could offer my kids was to read aloud to them. Returning to children’s books as a mother (even more, perhaps, than as a publisher), I saw first-hand the important role that a belief in things magic and an immersion in worlds of fantasy played in their development. And what can I tell you? I wanted back in! I started storing up ideas and, when my kids left home, I finally got down to turning them into stories.
Daughter of the Centaurs isn’t your debut but it is the first book you’ve published for young adults. Was it a challenge to transition to YA fiction after writing the Dragonkeepers series, which is for a younger audience?
It was a challenge. But more than a challenge, it was a revelation. Justine and I had been pint-sized magical adventurers. We grew up on Long Island Sound, in a place called Sea Cliff, one square mile that was chock-a-block with Victorian gingerbread and dusty old dimestores, a second-hand bookstore with a wheel-chair ridden proprietor straight out of The Twilight Zone, and a whole slew of curiosity shops. The actual cliff of Sea Cliff was riddled with crannies and hollows that offered us infinite opportunities for magical investigation. We burned with the conviction that magical worlds existed and that, like Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, we, too, might stumble upon the portal if only we tried hard enough. The Dragon Keepers series drew largely upon my life with Justine in Sea Cliff. But in 1964, the Beatles invaded and, almost overnight, Justine and I transferred all our passion and our magical thinking to the Fab Four. We were firmly convinced that she and I were meant for John and Paul, and that all it would take for them to know this was for us to throw ourselves in their paths. (Us and 90 million other screaming girls! Talk about fantasy!) We went right from the Beatles to boys and to relationships that aped adult ones. Writing YA was a revelation because I feel that, as a young person, I skipped over the YA reading stage. When I wasn’t listening to the Beatles, I was reading Anais Nin, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare. Not that YA literature, as a body, was a patch in the 60’s on what it is today, but I also feel like I skipped over being a young adult in many ways. All my big crushes were on adults. I wanted to be an adult NOW. In many circles, I faked being an adult (and did a pretty good job of it.) But by doing this I missed out on a crucial stage. It’s like crawling is to a toddler. You know what psychologists say about toddlers who skip the crawling stage and go right to walking? They say that some part of their brain doesn’t get developed as a result. As adults, they benefit from regression therapy. They go back and make themselves crawl in order properly to develop that underdone part of their brain. In many respects, I feel like writing YA is a way for me to go back and experience emotionally, experientially, my own “skipped” stage of development.
One of the things that stands out about Daughter of the Centaurs is the setting. What inspired you to create a world that incorporates mythological figures like centaurs and has human beings an endangered species? It feels ancient and alien all at the same time.
I’m actually not entirely sure how I came to write about centaurs. My editor and colleague, Mallory Loehr, and I had been talking about how under-explored centaurs are in juvenile literature. JK Rowling wrote about one, CS Lewis had them as walk-ons, but nowhere is there a full-blown centaur character, let alone a society. I started doing research about centaurs in myth and of course I ran smack dab into tales of violence, of rape, and plunder with the most frequently told tale being one about a band of centaurs who crashed a wedding and ran off with the bride. So as the focal point of the world I created a society of centaurs who had been, at one time rapists and plunderers, boozers and rowdies, just like the ones in myth. These centaurs waged a battle against one of the last human settlements. They killed all the humans and took over their city. But a centaur named Kheiron, who had access to a large body of human knowledge, came along and reprogrammed, if you will, these centaurs to be sober, upstanding citizens. A faction of centaurs rejected Kheiron’s teachings and ran off “to the north”. So I have the super civilized centaurs with the shady past and the wild centaurs ranging out in the world somewhere as the two counterpoints for the story.
Did anything (or anyone) surprise you while writing Daughter of the Centaurs?
Through six drafts (possibly more, but who’s counting?), the most surprising turn the story took was in the second draft when it wound up being set in the far, far distant future. As soon as I decided to do a story about centaurs, I had a choice. I could have done an OtherWorld setting peopled by centaurs. I could have done an AncientWorld setting with a bunch of folks running around in togas. Or I could have done a FutureWorld. I think I started out with OtherWorld but veered off into FutureWorld. I think that as soon as I decided to introduce hibes—human-animal hybrids—in addition to centaurs, I had to figure out how these creatures had evolved. In the second book (which was originally, as so often happens, the second half first book), I send Malora and the centaurs north to a place called Kahiro. The Ka are hybrids of human and frog. I saw such a creature in a museum on an Egyptian frieze and discovered that Ka was the Egyptian name for it. That’s how I came up with the Kingdom of the Ka, the frog-people who dwell in what is left of Egypt. Once I figured out that my story was taking place in Africa, it made a certain amount of sense. Africa: cradle of civilization. Africa: harborer of the last human on earth. Around about this time, my husband and I went on a riding safari in South Africa and Botswana. In South Africa, we went to a spa once, in the middle of the bush. It had white doric columns and a mosaic on the wall of centaurs running with zebras and giraffe. Was the universe trying to tell me something? It was in Africa, scrawling in my journal at night in my tent, that I came up with the scienticians, scientist-mages who had played with the building blocks of life and created a whole slew of hybrids of human and animal in an effort to instill in humans sympathy for the animal kingdom, which they were rapidly driving into extinction. These scienticians not only had a sense of humor, but they also had a knowledge and appreciation of ancient myth. Many of the hybrids they created: centaurs, fauns, minotaurs, the ka, were derived from the myths of ancient civilization: flesh-and-blood classical allusions, if you will. Others, like the Leatherwings, were more whimsical and fiendish. At some point it seemed natural for the hybrids to have turned upon the humans—in classic Frankensteinian/Dr. Moreauvian fashion—and destroyed them. Almost all of them, that is.
And finally, what can we expect in the rest of the Centauriad trilogy?
Quests and adventures in the world outside of Mount Kheiron. Wild centaurs and battles and, for Malora, the discovery of a very surprising but perfect mate.
Thank you very much for joining us, Kate, and good luck with the rest of your tour!
Want to know more about Daughter of the Centaurs?
Malora knows what she was born to be: a horse wrangler and a hunter, just like her father. But when her people are massacred by batlike monsters called Leatherwings, Malora will need her horse skills just to survive. The last living human, Malora roams the wilderness at the head of a band of magnificent horses, relying only on her own wits, strength, and courage. When she is captured by a group of centaurs and taken to their city, Malora must decide whether the comforts of her new home and family are worth the parts of herself she must sacrifice to keep them.
Kate Klimo has masterfully created a new world, which at first seems to be an ancient one or perhaps another world altogether, but is in fact set on earth sometime far in the future.
Want to know more about Daughter of the Centaurs?
You can follow Kate's tour around the Interwebs:
Monday, February 20 - Tynga’s Reviews
Tuesday, February 21 - Insatiable Readers
Wednesday, February 22 - Taking it One Book at a Time
Thursday, February 23 - Literary Escapism
Friday, February 24 - Total Bookaholic
Saturday, February 25 - Livin’ Life Through Books
Tuesday, February 28 - Bibliophile Support Group
Wednesday, February 29 - The Compulsive Reader
Thursday, March 1 - Sea of Pages
Random House is kindly offering up one (1) copy to a lucky reader!
To enter, obey the Rafflecopter.
Ends March 4, 2012.
a Rafflecopter giveaway