What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.
On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.
Can you tell us a little about your debut novel, What the Woods Keep?
My debut is a genremashing small-town mystery about one determined girl’s quest to unearth a reality-altering secret behind her mom’s decade-long disappearance. There’s Norse mythology, ceremonial magic and a creepy forest. I don’t know about you, but these things warm my dark dark heartJ
What made you decide to be a writer?
I was a reader first. Thinking back to my earliest memories, I think I’ve pretty much always had a book in my hands! Though I’ve been writing for a while too, mostly poetry; but after I got seriously hooked on YA fantasy (thanks, Richelle Mead!), I knew I had to try my hand at writing novels. Bringing What The Woods Keep into the world was also a great way to keep my head from exploding while I was laboring over my PhD back in 2012-13 or so.
Who is your favorite character in What the Woods Keep and why?
I love my protag, Hayden. She’s really just “marching to the beat of her own drum”, you know. And I love her bestie, Del, and I love the way they are together, and how they’re always there for one another, even though they’ve got very different personalities and quirks. Oh and I love my villains tooJ
Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?
Yes and noJ Full disclosure: What The Woods Keep definitely has elements of horror, but it’s not a full-on horror – I’m too much of a wimp to write horror! Having said that, yeah, I’ve always been drawn to horror, even though I know I won’t sleep at night for weeks (months, years?!) after watching or reading something of the kind. I mean, I’m still to this day haunted by F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot – and it’s been decades since I’ve read these books!
You have another book titled, Oasis, coming out next. What’s the difference between that one and What the Woods Keep?
While my debut is more of a contemporary fantasy, Oasis is a psychological adventure – you guessed it – with horror elements. Oasis is set in Dubai as well as in my hometown of Melbourne, and features a diverse cast of teens who get into some major trouble in the desert. While it took me a while to get What The Woods Keep ready for the agent querying stage, Oasis got written relatively fast – I knew its central premise and how it was all going to end from the very beginning of plotting. My two books are massively different, but both have a dark mystery at their core and a relentless girl for a lead.
What was your inspiration for What the Woods Keep?
Norse mythology, creepy small towns, unsolved mysteries, and the symbolism of the magical forest. I got totally hooked on Norse myths as a kid, and I was also obsessed with The Nibelungenlied. It comes as no surprise to me that, many years on, I’ve written a book influenced by the Nibelungs and all those Norse myths I loved so much.
What was your inspiration for Oasis?
The Mummy horror movies. All of them.
When you write are you an outliner or just type and go?
It differs with each book. Though, I tend to start writing once I decide on a key premise, and then only outline if I’m stuck or when the plot gets super complex and I need to keep track of what I’ve been doing.
What’s your favorite book—both an old one and a new one.
Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is my all-time fav. It’s brilliant! From the newer ones… Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns, and Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.
What’s your favorite color?
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t follow trends – they come and go, and likely will change by the time you’ve finished writing. Instead, write what’s close to your heart. Write what you have to write. Also keep in mind: there’s lots of rejection in publishing, and it just comes with the territory, but you’ve got to be picky about which criticisms to take close to heart and which to ignore – listen only to people you respect and trust.
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