Friday, March 23, 2018

Author Spotlight: The Continent by Keira Drake + Interview

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 4:51 PM

Keira Drake is a full-time author and enjoys writing and music in addition to novels. She is an avid gamer with a soft spot for titles that feature epic and astounding storytelling (favorite series include Fallout, Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia and Halo). When not writing or gaming, Keira is likely reading, napping, golfing, drawing or spending time with her sweet, sassy daughter. She lives in Utah and loves it, but is a native Californian and will remind you of that fact at every opportunity.

Title: The Continent (#1)
Genre: Young Adult Adventure/Survival
Author: Keira Drake
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication: March 27th 2018
Cover Rating: 4/5
Reading format: Provided ARC

The Continent by Keira Drake is the story of Vaela Sun. She is training to be a Cartographer so her parents have managed to get tickets to tour The Continent so she might be able to make a map of it. This is an adventure story that takes place in the heart of a war that has been going on for hundreds of years. This is also a love story, but not just a love story between two people, it's a love story between Vaela and The Continent.

Vaela is from The Spire, a place that has removed itself from the violence of the war down on The Continent, and established a new type of community. There is no violence here. Most people are upper-class from what I could tell. There doesn't seem to be poverty here. Generally, to most, it would seem like a utopia. Until you have a closer look later in the book.

On her birthday, Valse received ticked to go tour The Continent. The place where The Spire branched off from when people got sick of the war. People from The Spire love touring The Continent, by heliplane of course, because they get to view all the horror and violence without having to be involved or get their hands dirty. But during this trip, something goes very, very wrong and Vaela, her parents and the other family who went with them on the tour end up in great danger when the heliplane malfunctions and crashes. Vaela is saved but everyone else appears to be lost. 

After the crash, Vaela finds herself to be stranded on The Continent with no food, actual shelter or any way to contact someone for help. She is then rescued by a member of one of the two warring factions, an Aven'ei by the name of Noro. Noro takes her back to his town and there she is given a job and a home until they can figure out how to get her back home.

While Vaela is a guest in this Aven'ei village she becomes very educated on how things work on The Continent and she cannot believe how ignorant she was raised to be while living in the spire. Things are a lot worse than she was taught and she has such a big heart that she wants to fix things, save everyone. And that is exactly what she intends to do. 

The writing style of this book is beautiful. The author has a way with words that makes you want to keep reading all the way through, without stopping. She also writes some pretty brutal and amazing fighting scenes that just had me a little shocked. I was very vocal while reading this book and it's very rare that books make me actually react to things. I found myself yelling at characters, cheering them on and there might have been a little bit of crying. THANKS KEIRA DRAKE FOR MAKING ME CRY!

In the end, I was so surprised by everything that happened and the entire conclusion of the book. It didn't end on a cliffhanger, per say, but it had enough openness that I cannot wait to see where the next book takes us. This book gives us all a look at the plights of people who live in wartorn areas of the world. This might be a work of fiction but the problems are very real.

Overall, I gave the book 5/5 stars.

1) What is the best part about being an author?
I have been writing as long as I remember. Stories and poems and music, all from a very young age. Eventually, I turned writing into a career, working first as a marketing assistant and copywriter, and then as a freelance marketing consultant, running my own business and helping to direct many companies toward success. I was good at it, but I didn’t enjoy it—not really. I wanted to write creatively. I wanted to tell stories! I took time off from 2011-2012 to write what is probably the worst YA sci-fi novel of all time (no, you can’t read it, not ever!). I queried it, too. Not a single request. It was my practice book. It’s where I learned about story structure, and, more importantly, stakes (of which the book had none), and it’s also where I knew that all I ever wanted to do in the future was write books. Good books, not crappy ones.

So I went back to square one. When the inspiration struck for The Continent (see next question) I felt that I was onto something special. There was a specific story I wanted to tell. So I wrote the book, and the original version turned out to be quite problematic. That was heartbreaking and incredibly humbling, but the criticisms I received were valid. And so I wrote it again, with much help from others, and much more criticism. Life Pro Tip: Criticism is the thing that will make you a better writer, so get a thick skin RIGHT NOW and embrace it. ☺

Now, I feel the current version of The Continent is the story I was meant to tell. The best part of being an author? Learning, improving, and hoping that my stories will resonate with readers. When a reader tells you he or she has fallen in love with your story and characters—that is AMAZING. But with The Continent, I had something quite specific to portray, which is how our own privilege allows us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. And I have had many people tell me that the book caused them to think twice about this very thing. What more can an author ask for? That, truly, is everything.

2) What was the inspiration behind The Continent?
I was driving in my car one afternoon, listening to NPR. There was an interview taking place with a woman in Baghdad, who was describing the bombing in her city and talking about how it affected her family. It was horrifying. She was a civilian, and she was talking about how her family—toddlers to grandparents—would huddle together at night, listening to the bombs go off in the city, wondering if any moment might be their last. I was BAWLING. You could hear the fear, the distress in her voice. I could not imagine that kind of terror.

The interview ended, and I switched off the radio. And then I realized—wow. I can hear this story, and turn off the radio, and it never needs to affect me again. I can go to Starbucks, buy a coffee. Go and pick up my kid from school. This woman’s experience is thousands of miles away, and I have the privilege of ignoring it, if I so choose. That was devastating to me.

And I thought to myself, what if someone like me, someone accustomed to living in relative safety, was suddenly thrust into a wartorn country, and could not just switch off the radio, could not turn away from the violence there? What would that honestly be like?

By the time I got home, the idea for the Continent was born, and I began to write it that very day. Vaela does not represent me specifically, but she is 100% representative of a person of privilege.

3) If you could bring any of your characters from the Continent to life, who would you pick and why?
Every single one of them, because they all have a worldview that ought to be discussed. Except Mrs. Shaw. I might let her go. I mean…she’s quite racist. And very concerned about her luggage. And not much else.

4) Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite book (and series) is Dune by Frank Herbert. IT IS EVERYTHING.

I love Diana Gabaldon. God, can that woman write. I love Chelsea Sedoti (her YA is EVERYTHING), Rena Olsen (her adult fiction is EVERYTHING), Stephanie Dray (her historicals are EVERYTHING), C.S. Forrester (his novels about Horatio Hornblower are EVERYTHING).

What else…I love true crime (Ann Rule RULES), and general nonfiction as well. Sebastian Junger is my favorite nonfiction author (if you have not read The Perfect Storm, please do so immediately), with Jon Krakauer following closely on his heels (Into Thin Air—wow).

I love Jane Austen, Moby Dick, and The Count of Monte Cristo, but otherwise, classics generally slip my attention. That’s shameful, I know. But it’s true.

I will read just about anything as long as the premise catches my attention. I have read EVERY SINGLE BOOK by Catherine McKenzie, who manages somehow to have an incredibly compelling premise (followed by great writing) in every single book she writes, and they are ALL different. How does she do that? How? P.S. Start with Hidden or Fractured. You’ll be hooked.

Mysteries and horror are not quite my thing, but there are always exceptions, and I’ll devour everything YA horror writer Amy Lukavics writes, even though it is ALWAYS DISGUSTING AND HORRIFYING. In a good way. She has a book in which people swallow teeth. It’s so gross, yet so compelling. She’s gross. Seriously. And it’s awesome. Anyway, as for mysteries, I do have a weakness for Poirot (peut être parce que ma deuxième langue est le français), although Miss Marple leaves me bored sometimes.

5) Are you currently working on anything new?
I’m just about to wrap up the second book in The Continent trilogy. It’s bloody and wonderful, with new themes (while book one was largely about addressing the way privilege allows us to ignore the suffering of others, along with the moral questions of war—for which I have no answers, only questions), book two addresses the themes of division, prejudice, and the things that hold us apart culturally. I love book two. I hope everyone else will, too. And maybe even book one. Here’s hoping!


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