Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is debut, young adult, fantasy author, Morgan Keyes, whose “Darkbeast,” has come out to positively glowing reviews. Welcome. First, I’ve got to ask, what is a darkbeast?
Morgan Keyes: A darkbeast is an animal. A darkbeast is magically bonded to it’s human companion when the human is born. There’s a religious ceremony that binds them together. As the child grows up, he or she spends his entire life learning and becoming a responsible adult.
When the child makes mistakes, the child is expected to bring those mistakes to her darkbeast, to tell those sins, to confess them and to learn the error of her ways. At the age of 12, each child is expected to ritually sacrifice his or her darkbeast.
JMW: That’s brutal. That’s totally brutal. Where did you come up with the idea of the darkbeast?
Morgan Keyes: I was asked, about 14 years ago, to write a short story for an anthology that was directed to reluctant readers. The idea was, that they were all going to be fantasy stories. They were all going to involve animals. Our goal was to get children, who typically do not read, to be interested in reading.
I wanted something that had a gritty element. I wanted something that had a challenging element, difficult choices for a child to make. The idea of the darkbeast evolved from that.
JMW: Am I imagining things or aren’t there Greek Gods and gypsies involved in the mix?
Morgan Keyes: In the world of the novel, “Darkbeast,” there are definitely characters who grow out of those traditions that you talk about. The Greek Gods are, by no means, the traditional Greek Gods that we’ve all read about and can recite from memory.
I did start with the idea of the Olympic Pantheon and then figure out, if I only had 12 Gods, what would the 12 areas of religious expertise be within my society. Obviously, because darkbeasts are socially so responsible, there would be . . . So important to the society, there would be a specific God dedicated to darkbeast.
Then, I had to figure out what other things were important in my society Money is important, so there is a God of money. Death is important because everybody dies. So, there is a Goddess of death. And, I could allocate the other 12.
As for the gypsies, I call them the travelers. They have some elements related to gypsies or the roamish people, as we know them. But, more, they draw from other traditions, as well. They are performers. I got to draw on my longstanding interest in medieval theater, in commedia dell’arte and also the passion plays and to bring those together into this group of people.
My heroine, who runs away from home, after she saves her darkbeast and joins up with the travelers.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.