Folks, please give a warm welcome to Keira Gillett! I’ve really enjoyed the first 2 books in her Zaria Fierce series (The Secret of Gloomwood Forest and The Enchanted Drakeland Sword) so it’s a real pleasure to have her on the blog today. We chat about Scandinavian folklore, cover art, magical quests, and plenty more! Also, please check out the audiobook giveaway at the end of the post!
Susan: Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?
Keira: Great question, Susan! I believe all fictional stories regardless of genre help to shape the world around us because they shape the people reading them. Things that were once the stuff of science fiction are today the norm – flying machines, submarines, space stations. Anything that sparks the imagination towards discovery and progress is a great thing. Fantasy is the same, and while we might not be riding around on great winter-wyverns like Norwick, there is always more to learn about the world around us. I read an article recently about a new species of whale that’s been discovered. A whale! Those creatures are huge! So I think fantasy keeps readers interested in how things seen and things hidden intersect and connect with each other. They share a sense of wonder and hope that anything is possible.
Susan: What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
Keira: I’m lucky because I don’t think any of the jobs I have held have been difficult or beyond my capability. The hard part was probably the commute. Writing can be done anywhere. Zaria’s story in its current form started when I was in the car driving and I pulled out my phone at a stoplight and opened the voice memo app. I started talking about her, introducing her to readers, and later transcribed it. The hardest part about writing is distractions and research rabbit holes that I fall into. I love looking into things and figuring out how to adapt and incorporate them in the Zaria Fierce world. Sometimes I would be so involved I’d look up and it’d be time to go to bed and not a lick of writing had been done.
Susan: If you were sent on a magical quest, which 4 other children’s books authors would you take with you?
I love quests and there are authors out there who really understand how to get into and out of trouble. If my quest involved an ancient culture I would snag Rick Riordan. He’s got his fingers on the pulse of several and would be handy to have around. If it involved magic and alternate worlds connected to our own, then C.S. Lewis is a definite must for the party to succeed. If the quest would involve politics, years of travel, and dangerous objects J.R. Tolkien would be my go to guy. The last person I would bring is Cressida Cowell, for she is the best in the world for dragons, which almost always guard hoards of secret treasures.
Susan: In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts. How do you build your research into your fictional works?
Keira: For one, I read a bunch of folktales, and in fact, I am reading right now another book of them that I found recently for Norse and Scandinavian folklore. The Tall Ships Race actually exists and has been held in Fredrikstad in the recent past. I watched several videos on YouTube featuring ships and people from the event. I even got a map/brochure of the different events happening around the city tucked away. The castle and its grounds that are in the Under Realm are based on real Scandinavian castles. I look at maps and try to keep my kingdoms in real locations so readers could say to themselves, maybe… maybe it’s there if I look hard enough.
Keira: I haven’t really a story about fans or authors, but I did write Robert Pattinson a letter once. It was really bad, but I remained cool and didn’t express my undying love or anything. LOL But it was bad enough that not even his people bothered to send me back a form letter thanking me for writing. Mostly when I gush I gush to like-minded individuals near me and not to the objects of my intense gushing. I spare them the indignity of having to pry me off.
Susan: Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. Your books have great cover art. Can you tell us a little about how you found the illustrator and the collaborative process that lead to the book covers?
Keira: Thank you! I love my covers too. I think they really stand out and grab attention in the best of ways. They were a collaboration with Eoghan Kerrigan. He provided the cover art and I set up the covers with fonts and backgrounds. I found Eoghan through a series of events.
On one of my rabbit hole research trips, right after I had decided Zaria would be set in Norway, I found myself looking into John Bauer’s art. He created such ethereal landscapes and fantastic little trolls. Somewhere in that search I found a piece where an artist copied Bauer’s style on Deviant Art, but when trying to locate that artist down the road as the story neared its conclusion proved impossible.
I spent hours looking at other artists on the site and discovered Eoghan Kerrigan’s magnificent trolls. I fell in love with them on the spot. I tracked him across several websites trying to determine if he was open to commission work and lucky for me it turned out he was. We connected on Facebook and then by e-mail and the rest as they say is history.
Eoghan is fantastic to work with. He’s very open during the process. We did a few rounds of sketches to determine how Zaria and Olaf would look like, and another round for the covers. Once that was sorted I gave him carte blanche to pick what he wanted to illustrate for each chapter and I’m so glad I did. His style brings such realism to the books, characters, creatures, etc.
Susan: What is the first book you remember reading on your own?
Keira: The first book I remember reading on my own is probably Nancy Drew. I read that series until there wasn’t a single yellow book on the shelf left. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Baby-Sitters Club. The first book I remember being read to me is Half Magic. My mother read it at home and would volunteer to read it at my school too. Great books.
Susan: You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?
Keira: Can it be a zipline course? I love those. Getting to climb around in the trees and soar across spaces is so much fun. Food is probably some sort of meaty, hearty fare to keep you full and ready to tackle the next obstacle. I’d probably bring friends and family and make a day of it. Thanks for having me at Dab of Darkness, Susan. This has been a lot of fun! If you keep scrolling there’s information about a giveaway below.
Book Three in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy
Summary: “Nothing can save you now, Princess.”
How can anyone be tricked twice? Isn’t there even a saying about that? Zaria Fierce is determined to get things right this time and with the Drakeland Sword in her possession she’s ready to take on trolls, dragons, and whatever else may come… but first she and her friends are going to have to figure out just how much trouble they’re in at home.
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes (Book 3):
“That’s the great thing about the Zaria Fierce trilogy: adventure is fast, furious, and loaded with Norse mythology, but the friendship between Zaria and her group of friends is the heart that drives this story.” Rosemary, Mom Read It
“Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was the magical conclusion this trilogy asked for. Filled with action and adventure, Zaria and her friends showed us the importance of teamwork, friendship, and having courage in ourselves. The perfect ending to a fun series, I recommend this to all fantasy lovers, middle school and beyond!” – Emily, Midwestern Book Nerd
“Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was a spectacular conclusion to a great trilogy (though the ending left the door open for more adventures). Filled with magic, a great story line, amazing and real characters, wonderful settings and beautifully explored themes, Keira Gillett created a trilogy that I will always cherish and will visit anytime. If you like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Spiderwick Chronicles or simply love a book filled with Norwegian folklore and fantasy, then this is the ultimate series for you to read, devour and lose yourselves in.” – Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book
Hector was right that the group wasn’t far from Malmdor. They reached the entrance before night fell, and in the gloomy dusk that slipped around them like a cloak, they reached the edge of the forest and stopped. Below them in a wide clearing was an abandoned quarry filled with water.
The lake was nestled at the bottom of a deep, steep pit. Its deep blue water was smooth and glassy, protected from wind by the rocky walls and surrounding forest. Zaria could see the lakebed in the shallower areas. Something large swam in the center, too deep to see clearly.
“What is that?” asked Filip, having spotted the creature at the same time.
Hector said, “It’s a water-wyvern.”
“Is that like the Loch Ness Monster?” asked Christoffer. “Cool. No wonder they can’t find it in Scotland.”
“You haven’t seen a winter-wyvern,” Zaria said. “I bet it’s more like Norwick.”
“The flying snow leopard-bear-bat thing you told me about? Even better,” Christoffer said, rubbing his hands together in glee. “Do we get to meet it?”
“Is it friendly?” worried Geirr.
“The beastie is not friendly,” said Hector, grimly. “And yes, we will be meeting it. Water-wyverns are wild, unpredictable creatures. This one is particularly nasty. It was captured and transported to this quarry lake over a century ago. It can’t escape – water-wyverns aren’t able to live out of water for very long. This makes it very angry. The lake is too small for him.”
“That’s what I was afraid of,” Geirr said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “So, can it eat us?”
Hector nodded. “It once devoured an entire legion of dwarf handlers because they smelled bad. They’ve showered regularly ever since.”
Geirr looked at Zaria. “Why?” he moaned. “Why do we have to meet it?”
“Look on the bright side, mate,” Filip said, clapping Geirr on the back. “Maybe we get to ride it.”
Hector shook his head. “The water-wyvern is the guardian of Malmdor. Its job is to keep out all trespassers.”
Christoffer sighed, disappointed. “Too bad. I would have loved to ride him.”
“Will we have to feed it to get by it? What does a water-wyvern eat?” Aleks asked, readjusting his backpack and bow.
“It eats whatever it can catch,” Hector said forebodingly. “We’ll have to be careful as we near the shoreline. A water-wyvern might not have much in the way of limbs, being adapted to the water, but it has enough leg-power to propel itself onto the shore and attack.”
“At least it can’t fly,” said Geirr, relieved. “Small favors.”
Zaria and her friends gasped as it breached the surface, blowing out a large stream of air. The water-wyvern was magnificent with a gray-and-white pattern. It had a seahorse face, with a long snout, and no ears. The top of its head bore a wavy crest that trailed down its neck.
As the creature dove beneath the water, it flipped its body into the air. There were no scales anywhere on it, as far as she could see. Zaria half-expected a whale fluke, but its tail looked like an eel’s. The thing was massive, at least four times bigger than Norwick, and hideous.
They stood there, watching the shifting, undulating, shadow in the water. Aleks wore a pensive frown, his brown eyes narrowed. “Does it have a name?”
“The dwarves call it Vingar.”
Author Bio: Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.