Hello lovely book lovers!
I had the opportunity to read What the Woods Keep and then interview the author, Katya de Beccera.
I loved this book and I’m so excited to share this interview with you.
What the Woods Keep is an epic debut that combines science and physics with dark fantasy and mythology.
When Hayden turns 18 she inherits her childhood home from her mother who went missing in the woods ten years ago.
Hayden has tried to put her past behind her and make a new life for herself in Brooklyn but when she decides to go visit her newly inherited house in her old home town her past and her mother’s secrets start to catch up to her.
This book was insanely mesmerizing and kept me hooked the entire way through!
Here is the interview I conducted with the wonderful Katya de Beccera.
Where did the inspiration for What the Woods Keep come from?
I’m obsessed with magical forests and portal stories. And also unexplained mysteries. My debut is my love letter to all the things that fascinated me as a teen – and still do! I also love mythology, anything Nordic and Slavic in particular. The mythological race of beings in What the Woods Keep was something I’ve read about many years ago and it must’ve stayed with me.
I absolutely loved the mix of mythology, the paranormal and physics in this novel. What inspired you to mix these different genres together?
Thank you! I’ve added the physics to be true to Hayden, the protagonist. Her dad is a physicist and she considers herself someone in possession of a scientific mind. It only made sense to use physics and Hayden’s reliance on scientific explanations as her modus operandi. The blending of science, mythology and the paranormal came naturally to me. I just had to ensure that the moments when the genres meet are as seamless as I could make them.
I really enjoyed the physics theories mentioned at the start of the chapters and how they related to Hayden’s current situation. Do you have a background in physics?
Awesome to hear that! I myself don’t have a background in physics, though it was my favorite subject in school. But I did grow up surrounded by scientists. My dad is a mathematician, one of my aunts is a physicist and another, a mathematician. I’m not sure exactly how I ended up studying anthropology in university!
You mention different physics principles in the novel. Do you have a favourite one?
It’s hard to choose! There’s a lot of poetic beauty in physics. But I’m a big fan of Newton’s third law of motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction states. In other words, what goes up must come down. Also, not a principle per se, but I’ve recently read a book by Lisa Randall called Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (I highly recommend it!), and I love how Randall uses these unusual metaphors to explain dark matter as something we know is out there but which cannot be seen or detected. She compares it to walking through a forest at night and hearing all this presence of life out there, like nocturnal creatures shuffling through the leafage or a bird landing on a branch. It’s brilliant and so spooky.
When I first started reading I wanted to ask you if the myths in the story are real or made up as I had never heard of the Nibelungen legends before which was rare as I am a huge mythology fan. Where did you first hear about these legends and how much of what is mentioned in What the Woods Keep is based off real mythology?
I’ve read about the Nibelungs when I was a kid. My aunt and uncle had this encyclopedia of myths in their home and I used to skim through it whenever I visited. I specifically remember seeing this image of Siegfried battling a dragon and it burned itself into my memory. Having said that, while I do draw on the real Nibelungen myths as well as their cultural interpretations (like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or that opera by Wagner), the Nibelungs of What The Woods Keep are very different to what you’d read about in the mythology books.
I really enjoyed the extra stories from history mentioned in the novel. What gave you the idea to do this and are all the stories true? (For reference the story about the Russian Skiers on page 221 or the disappearances of people on page 279)
Great to hear! I put a lot of effort into researching those, so it’s wonderful to know that it worked for you. Most of these stories are true. Sadly, the Dyatlov Pass Incident (the one with the Russian skiers) is true. It remains a great mystery to this day. (As a side note, there’s this 2013 movie called The Dyatlov Pass Incident: Devil’s Pass, and it’s not terrible. Just saying. Though the explanation that they offer to what really happened is the weirdest thing you can thing about. Seriously. The weirdest!) But that bit in my book about various disappearances of people are fictional, though I’m sure history is full of strange stories that are similar in nature to the ones I’ve written about.
How much research did you have to do for this novel?
Lots! I had to read a lot about physics (my editor helped too – he’s into science and science fiction, and it was great to have him on board to double check everything!). I also had brush up on my mythology, history, the unexplained phenomena, etc. I have extensive research notes, the file almost as big as the book itself. A lot of things were edited out to streamline the main story, but I might still use those bits in another book project perhaps.
How long did it take you to write What the Woods Keep?
That’s tough to answer. Probably a couple of years. Or more! I had to do one major revision before I even queried agents, that’s why it took so long overall. But my second book was written in a few months. Each book is different.
What is your writing process? Do you need to stick to a strict schedule or do you write whenever inspiration strikes?
I don’t have a specific schedule unless I’m on a deadline. If I have to write or revise something quickly, I write through weekends and through my lunch breaks during the work week (I have a day job). And I always have my phone ready – in case I need to write down an idea or even an entire scene. I send lots of emails to myself!
Do you have a favourite place to write? Any writing rituals or favourite snacks to eat while writing?
Well, I don’t have an office at home or anything like that. So I just write in the bedroom or on the couch in my living room. One day I hope to have a dedicated writing space, where I can go in, close the door and disappear for a couple of hours. As for snacks. I try to eat healthy, so usually it’s berries or celery sticks or something like that.
What was the hardest scene for you to write in this book and on the flip side what is your favourite scene?
The hardest scenes for me to write in general are the ones where I have to reveal something major. I always struggle with how my characters would react versus how I would react! My favorite scene in What the Woods Keep is the one in the very end. Like the last line pretty much. You know which one I’m talking about?!
What made you want to be a writer? Was it always something you wanted to do?
I’ve always been writing something but when I was a child I wanted to be an archaeologist. Egyptologist, specifically. But then I also wanted to be a rock star. And a police detective. I guess becoming a writer is a compromise of sorts, because now I can be all those things – on page.
If you could meet any author living or dead who would it be?
I’d love to meet Leigh Bardugo. I adore her.
What is your favourite book you have read this year?
Tough to pick just one, but since you asked… I finally got to read Night Film (Marisha Pessl) this year, and this book is just so completely bananas and weird and strange that my mind keeps coming back to it again and again and then I’m shaking my head in confusion but also in awe.
What are you currently reading?
I’m about to finish The Traitor’s Kiss (Erin Beaty). The Wicked Deep (Shea Ernshaw) is next for me.
Are you able to tell us what you are currently working on or what plans you have for future books?
Sure! My second book is called Oasis. It’s set to release in late 2019. It’s a standalone young adult novel about a group of teen who get into some serious trouble in the desert during a sand storm. I’m also working on my secret third book project as well as a non-YA adventure novel.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thanks so much for reading and (hopefully) enjoying What the Woods Keep! Please check out my future books, too. And if you loved what I’ve written, drop me a line!
A massive thank you to the amazing people at Allen & Unwin for giving me a review copy of this book and organising this interview and a huge thank you to Katya for writing a fantastic book and answering all my questions.
What the Woods Keep will be released in one week on the 26th of September 2018 and I highly recommend you pick up a copy!