Tuesday, April 11, 2017

BLOG TOUR & AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Scott Keen for "Rise of the Branded (Scar of the Downers, #2)"

Rise of the Branded
(Scar of the Downers, #2)
by Scott Keen
Publication date:
November 22nd, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pursued into the wild by the soldiers of Ungstah, former slave Crik and the other freed Downers encounter the magical and terrifying nature of their world. They face spectral Shepherds, man-eating Rukmush, and the ancient giants of the earth. When two of their group are captured, Crik is distraught and powerless. 
Meanwhile back in the city, Durgan, former Captain of the King’s Guard who allowed Crik and his friends to escape from Ungstah, is now a Downer, one of the Branded. Amid the murmurings of an uprising among the Branded, Durgan just wants to be left alone to search for his missing son. But in the process, he discovers how dark the powers of Sulfus the king truly are. Durgan must take a stand in the coming war between the Branded and the powerful armies of Sulfus. 
To kill any hope of escape for the city’s Branded, the army comes after Crik and his friends to make an example of them. The answers for Durgan, Crik and freedom for all Downers lie hidden in the dark recesses of the Northern Reaches, in the treacherous places Crik and his companions are about to enter.

~AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Scott Keen~

1)    What gave you the inspiration for the storyline?  

Sometime in 2006, I was supposed to be doing homework. It was my last year of graduate school and I was staring out of my home office window. My wife was at work and my daughter was taking a nap. We lived in Virginia Beach and it was raining at the time. For some reason, I had the image of an orphaned child playing in the mud and his adopted father staring down at him. Who was this orphaned child? That was the first question I had.

I began developing several different stories around this boy over several months. None of them got off the ground very far. I had tried writing a novel before and never got past the first page. So, I began developing the story as a stage play. That story didn’t progress either, though I did find my antagonist, and he was this orphaned boy’s “father.” It wasn’t until I read The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. that I felt I could write this as a novel. I had developed it for over a year and finally gained enough confidence to sit down and do it.

My first drafts are usually the blue print for the entire book. That means they are usually shorter than the following drafts. With that being said, the first draft of my novel, Child of the Downers, (now Scar of the Downers) was 130,000 words. Once I finished it, I knew it was going to be too long, so I began dividing it. That’s where it is now to some degree. Rise of the Branded is the middle part of that original story.

2)    Are there any hidden themes in the book that you hope readers will discover?

I don’t know if there are any hidden themes. If there is one, it would be this: there are some things one experiences in life that may seem horrible, but in the end, those experiences may turn out to be some of the best things for you. Without giving anything away in the second book, I’ll use the first book in the series as an example. In Scar of the Downers, someone takes Crik’s money from him, money that he and his friend, Jak, needed. While it seems horrible at the time, it brings about life-changing events.

3)    Are any of the characters based on real people you know?

Not really. Although, can I really say that? The characters I write are always sketches of people I know. At least to some degree. There are characteristics of Durgan that I see in myself. There are qualities in his wife, Onenna, that I see in my wife. So, while I don’t do it purposely, I can’t help but draw from the people closest to me.

4)    Who has influenced you most as a writer?

Professionally, I would say Walter Wangerin Jr. has me influenced me the most. It was his book, The Book of the Dun Cow, that convinced me I could write my own. Without reading his novel, who knows if I would have ever started mine. Now creatively, however, I would say J.R.R. Tolkien has had the biggest impact on my writing life. I have drawn from him more than any other author. He, for me, has been the gold standard.

But the one who has personally influenced me the most is my wife. Though other people convinced me I could write the novel, it was she who convinced me to keep going. It was she who believed in me, and still does. Without her, I would’ve probably quit a long time ago.

5)    If you could have any three literary characters over to your place for game night, who would you invite, what would you play, what would you serve, and why?  

One character I would definitely invite over would be Jean Valjean. All that he has been through and the lack of bitterness in his life is a testimony to his faith. Perhaps, he would be able to give me some tips! And if he did come over, bread would have to be served. We wouldn’t want him to end up back in prison.

Another character I would ask to come over would be Gandalf. What is a game night without a wizard? He would definitely add a bit of irritability and wisdom to the evening. And when the games were finished, we could sit outside, smoke a pipe, and watch his fireworks. As far as what kind of food I could serve… well, that’s a sort of a mystery. But I’m sure he would enjoy a bit of cereal. Let’s face it. Who doesn’t like cereal?

The third literary character I would invite would be Aslan. I would ask him if he could, at least for a little while, open a door into Narnia so that I might be able to visit. I would offer him whatever food I had, but something tells me that he probably would decline. Besides, does Aslan have to eat? That could be up for debate.

I think the four of us would play the game, Risk, though I doubt I would win. It would be interesting to see each of their take on world domination. But now that I think about it, and knowing their character, maybe they’d let me win. That, or advise against such a foolish endeavor since two of the characters actively fought against such a thing.

Author Bio:
Scott grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing – he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he home schools.