What The Woods Keep by Katya De Becerra
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: 18 September 2018
Genre: Young Adult/Speculative Fiction
Synopsis: 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.
I got to interview the lovely Katya de Becerra on her debut #LoveOZYA novel, what it’s like to be an anthropologist and her upcoming projects. Thank you Allen & Unwin for setting this up.
What the Woods Keep is your debut, which is fantastic! What was the creative process like when it came to researching rituals and all of those dark elements in your novel?
Thank you so much! Most of research I’ve done for What The Woods Keep had to do with physics and psychology. I wanted to ensure that scientific explanations were spot-on and believable, so I’ve read lots of topical articles and gave it all a lot of thought. My editor helped tremendously. As for the dark rituals and magic featured in this book… All of that is a courtesy of my brain that was brought up on a steady diet of dark fantasy and horror!
What was it like shifting from anthropologist to writer? Were there any differences/similarities?
Great question! I’ve said it in other interviews that I started writing fiction when I was about half done with my PhD in anthropology. The shift came naturally to me at the time, probably because my brain was so overloaded with academic work that it was begging me to do something – anything – different. So I guess I wrote myself out of a potential nervous breakdown by creating What The Woods Keep. Though I think having anthropological background definitely helped my transition into a writer: academic writing is a big part of my day job and it involves in-depth research, analysis of data and interpretation of findings, etc. The skills a writer needs are not that different. Though having said that, balancing a full time job and a fledgling writing career is very tough as there’s never enough time in the day to do everything I want to do on both fronts.
Why did you choose to write this novel as YA rather than adult fiction?
It wasn’t something that I specifically chose. It just felt like this particular story would be best told from the point of view of a younger person who’s still searching for her identity and trying to figure herself out. And this just happens to be classified as YA.
A lot of people have been calling your debut a thrilling and lush experience, which is amazing. But if you had to describe your book in five words, what would they be?
Dark. Unsettling. Strange. Supernatural. Sciency (is that a word?).
Can you recommend your top five mystery tv shows/films?
Oh, love this question! I don’t think I was ever asked this before! Here’s a handy list:
- Twin Peaks. To this day it remains my most beloved TV show of all time. Its dark tone and atmospheric mystery has had a huge influence on my writing.
- Stalker. A 1979 Sci-Fi film based on a book by Boris and Arkady Strugasky called Roadside Picnic. Stalker was directed by the brilliant Andrei Tarkovsky. I re-watch Stalker maybe once a year and every time I do I discover something new and it blows my mind all over again. The movie is different from the book, but both are just perfect.
- Mulholland Drive. This one really messed with my mind. David Lynch is a genius.
- Spirited Away. My Hayao Miyazaki favorite.
- Labyrinth. I grew up watching this on repeat.
And finally, what are you working on next?
My second book is called Oasis. It’s tentatively scheduled for a September 2019 release. Oasis is a YA adventure with elements of horror. I hope readers will love its Dubai and Melbourne setting and dig my archaeology jokes (pun intended!).
If you’re in Melbourne, pop into Readings for Katya’s book launch tonight! Details here.
What the Woods Keep is a dark and twisted urban fantasy. We follow Hayden as she inherits her late mother’s manor and is given a quest to fulfill her mother’s final wishes. With cryptic dreams and witches, a sassy beat friend and a mysterious childhood crush, Hayden has her work cut out for her.
I liked Hayden’s knowledge of science and very odd phenomenon. Her voice is authentic and distinct as she analyses the clues left behind in Promise, the town she left in the dust when her mother vanished. I also enjoyed her friendship with her best friend Del, but her interactions with Shannon (said childhood crush) and other supporting characters felt inorganic and at times, forced for the purpose of accelerating the plot.
The premise of this novel has a lot of promise (ha) and some very obscure morments that simply add to its twisted nature; it’s bound to intrigue young adult readers who are interested in magic, mystery and a clever protagonist.
Until next time,