I’m pleased to introduce this book review and Author Interview for Day Four of Sci Week. Blue Dust: Forbidden is the first in a new series of YA Sci Fi books by author Katy Krump, published by Ghostly Publishing and if the first book is anything to go by, then the series I’m certain will be a huge hit. It tells the story of Qea, who for reasons unknown at the beginning of the book, is hiding on Earth under the guise of Kerry Johnston; a teenage girl with a limp. After discovering all is not as it should at home, Kerry realises her cover has been blown and crosses the breadth of England to Devon to meet at the rendezvous spot. And so starts Qea’s journey that will take her across the galaxy to her home system; the Octad.
We discover that Qea was third born to a family; which goes against the rules. In a land where Warlords rule the desolate land, diamondine mines and have contacts in every liveable sector. Natural resources are sparse and a reproduction law deems only two children per family. Qea has only known solitude for her early life and when her parents are killed she is captured by an evil warlord who uses her for his own gain.
But after betraying this warlord, Qea meets Adam on Earth, who causes a bit of a dilemma. Qea is torn between her instincts for survival and her heart when she is thrust back into the ruthless land she grew up in and must find a way to survive against the mysterious Inquisitors; a unique alien police force who govern the laws.
I think Katy Krump is on to a winner here with Blue Dust; a YA Sci Fi novel is a unique proposition amongst a plethora of successful fantasy novel featuring vampires and witchcraft. It is indeed original and it sucks you in within the first chapter, where the action blasts off almost instantly. Who is this Kerry Johnston? And why is she taking refuge in our planet? Ms Krump doesn’t release all of the details all at once mind you, but slowly gives you tit bits of life on the Octad and the politics that govern the system.
In the first quarter of the book, what works extremely well is the flashbacks of Qea to when she was a young girl hiding away with her parents and her trying to understand the life she was unfairly thrust into. It’s a wonderful balance of innocence and curiosity and I thought that this was perhaps the most important part of the novel. What this does is allow us to feel for Qea’s predicament and will her on to become free. This young Qea is almost a complete contrast to the spunky, no nonsense teenage Qea who is always on the look out and suspects danger around every corner. With her back story we can see how her life must have been difficult; trying to stay hidden from a warlord must be daunting task.
Blue Dust: Forbidden is extremely well written; concise, descriptive and engaging. Ms Krump’s use of language is also interesting as it is quite educated compared to other YA novels. I however, loved the originality of the world she creates where water is treacle like and red.
The love interest between Qea and Adam is also extremely well crafted and never comes across as cheesy and obviously fabricated which could alienate some readers, especially male readers. However, the subtle references are believable and written in a more dependable way. The character’s of Qea and Adam make a great team and must get use to each other’s way of dealing with things to come out on top together. They are thrust with responsibility with the looking after of Forbidden Children quite early on and their disagreements give us an insight to the core of both characters. Soppy romantic writing doesn’t make an appearance and I think this book is very much multi sex. It has enough action and imagination to appeal to both male and female readers.
And what action there is! Fights with warlords, battles with Inquisitors and deadly escapes from prison camps; it is all in here. Ms Krump even goes as far to mix supernatural elements with appearances from spirits. Her reference to the Troiqa is a unique subtle reference to religion and it is these delicate mentions of our life that make this book very special indeed. This is exactly what YA novels need and Katy Krump almost does everything right.
Where Blue Dust: Forbidden falters ever so slightly though is perhaps the last
quarter of the book where it seems to run out of steam in parts. It doesn’t ruin the story, but the flow of the book seems to slow down and it isn’t until the very end where it picks up again. Another problem I had with the book was something quite silly, but still affected ones opinion and that was the front cover. It just didn’t fit and didn’t give a correct representation of what the book was about. Thankfully the cover has since changed and all is OK again.
If you are new to the Sci Fi genre, then Blue Dust: Forbidden is exactly the introduction you need and with it’s pacey, well structured story interwoven amongst a backdrop of callous warlords and crime, it is exciting to get stick in and follow Qea’s turmoil. Adam creates a wonderful balance and represents us humans into the story and he is so easy to get behind, with his gentle approach and caring nature. You can’t help but get pulled into the new world this book creates. It’s addictive, appealing and very accessible and a brilliant start to what is bound to be an action packed series. Give it a go; I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
Author Interview with Katy Krump
Katy Krump is here to talk about her Science Fiction novel Blue Dust: Forbidden. I took my time when formulating some questions to ask her and I hope you find them interesting to read.
- Blue Dust: Forbidden is the first chapter in your Blue Dust series. Tell us a little about what we can expect as we follow Qea on her journey across England and indeed the Octad.
Qea’s journey is fraught with danger. She’s constantly fleeing in fear of her life and is seldom given a moment to relax or feel safe. Her nature and past make it impossible for her to lower her guard and she struggles with this, especially when she meets Adam. At first Qea’s on the run from her enemies, who have tracked her to Earth, but once she’s taken back to the place of her nightmares, the Octad, she’s faced with a whole new set of problems as the beings and strange, alien planets attack her. It’s also a journey of self-discovery, not always easy for her as she’s confronted with her true self and has to decide who she’ll become to survive. She’s never entirely certain what her next move will be, and this ups the tensions for both her, Adam and the other Forbidden children. For the first time she realises that her decisions and choices affect others and she has to face her own mortality and decide whether or not her life matters more than those she’s responsible for now. She has the role of heroine thrust upon her and is never entirely comfortable with this part. You’re never sure if she’s simply going to run away and leave everyone else to their own devices or if she’s going to stay and embrace her destiny.
- Qea is such a tough and gritty young woman. What was your inspiration behind her character?
I’d like to say ‘me’, but that’s not true. I wanted a strong female protagonist because I think that the girls are too often relegated to the role of side-kick or love interest. I drew on the character traits of a number of woman in history from Joan of Arc to Boudicca and Miss Marple – weird, I know. I also took the strong male protagonist traits we see so often and made them female, because girls are just as strong as boys, sometimes stronger, and I felt there’s a gap in the market for feisty teenage heroines. And of course, I’m a girl, and have very clear memories of the confusion that becoming a teenager can bring, so I wanted to reflect that too. Life isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t a ‘chick flick’ where everyone lives happily ever after as soon as the handsome prince has galloped up on his trusty steed. There’s far too much in magazines, television and other media telling girls that all they need to succeed is good looks, big boobs and a strong man and that happiness only comes when you’re rich enough, skinny enough, have big enough eyelashes and hair or have caught a footballer. Girls are disempowered by vacuous celebrities who are famous for nothing more that the size of their chest. Qea becomes her own person through what she has experienced and it’s her experiences that make her who she is. She’s never entirely comfortable with herself and this brings added conflict to her story. I wanted to create a heroine that is untouched by the shallowness of some of the values on Earth. I hope that she’ll be a positive role model for girls, and that boys will see girls as more than simply accessories.
- What I thought worked really well was the conflict of the young innocent Qea back when she was learning that she is in fact one of the Forbidden. Talk us through your approach to writing the two sides of Qea ~ the younger Qea and her older self.
As I said, being a teenager can be rough and Qea’s past has been traumatic, it’s made her what she is, so I wanted to show this. We’re all shaped by our history, but we don’t have to allow that to define us forever. Qea not knowing why she lived as she did adds a new dimension. Her early years were bizarre, she doesn’t understand why she’s been kept in seclusion, and the discovery that she’s Forbidden is devastating and informs how she reacts throughout her adventure. I thought back to my own childhood, that foggy feeling when things happened that I didn’t fully understand and the light bulb moment when suddenly everything became clear. I wanted the older Qea to remember her younger self and to become more tolerant of her own failings as she understands where she came from and why she was treated the way she was. In the sequel Destiny, even more of her early life is revealed. I felt it important that the readers understand why Qea is so hard and inflexible, why she’s had to become tough and I hope I’ve conveyed this effectively.
- Sci-Fi is predominately the main genre of this book, yet throughout you manage to keep everything believable and somehow realistic. Were you always drawn to the Sci-Fi genre and how important was it for you to keep everything so believable?
The first time I saw an episode of Star Trek as a child, something clicked inside me. The thought that there might be other worlds out there was so amazing and it gave my imagination a huge shove, though I did struggle to put aside the part of me that wanted to know ‘but how is this possible?’. I had to learn how to suspend belief and understand that I was watching a story. My dad took me to see 2001 A Space Odyssey when I was quite young, and it put me off Science Fiction for years, because it seemed so random and inexplicable and I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. But then we got television and I met Captain Kirk and Mr Spock and they were believable despite the setting, because they had personalities and characteristics I could identify with. Now with special effects and CGI, other worlds are so much more believable than the cardboard rocks in the early Star Trek episodes I saw. I still love Sci-Fi that makes sense, there must be strong characters, an amazing setting, constant danger and conflict. I wanted to keep Qea real, even though she’s an alien, my readers must be able to relate to her and see their own circumstances reflected in hers. It was important that I kept the characters and beings of the Octad possible, without falling back into a cliché. The readers need to see themselves in Qea’s struggles and I hope I’ve conveyed this.
- I think Adam’s character is a nice balance to the over eager Qea. Even though Qea is very much the main protagonist within Blue Dust: Forbidden, it is still Adam’s story too. Did Adam start off in your mind like this or did his character just take over in your writing process?
Adam grew as I wrote him, it’s funny how characters do that. Suddenly they do something you never expected or planned and I’m constantly surprised as they take on a life of their own. Adam challenges Qea and brings his own Earthly constructs into her world, which is why they clash so often. I wanted to make him the alien in her world, but the way he reacted wasn’t planned, he did that all on his own. Being an ‘alien’ myself, I released a lot of my own frustrations into Adam, except I moved him from Earth to the Octad, whereas my own journey was only from South Africa to England. He certainly has aspects of my own feelings of disempowerment and alienation in him, and though I planned these for Qea initially, they unexpectedly manifested in Adam too.
- Tell us about some of your writing heroes? With the cold winter fastly approaching, which book can you always rely on to hook you and let the time just slip away into the night?
My first heroine in fiction was Jo March in Little Woman. She moved away from home to become a writer and that resonated with me even back then. Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple as well as Tommy and Tuppence, influenced my love of crime and I spent many happy hours wandering around the neighbourhood looking for clues and writing down car number plates ‘just in case’. I love a good thriller on a cold night. A recent hero of mine is the much flawed Harry Hole in the Jo Nesbo books. I also admire Lizbet Salander (to a point) in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the sequels and I’ve recently discovered Lord PeterDeath BredonWimsey in the Dorothy L Sayers series. He’s a bit old fashioned, but I enjoy his eccentric Englishman sleuth. And of course Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games trilogy. I only found her when Blue Dust : Forbidden was already complete and it was great to find a strong female character for the YA market.
- I think you have found a gap in the YA market with Blue Dust: Forbidden. Do you think Sci-Fi is a genre that is somewhat left in the shadows too often or do you think that it is a genre that can grow?
Sci Fi films and television shows have certainly helped the genre grow, and I’m hopeful they will continue to attract and steer new readers to the genre. It seems to me from reading various magazines that there is a bit of snobbishness out there, and often Sci-Fi isn’t taken all that seriously by those that consider themselves ‘proper’ writers. Nor is YA fiction for that matter. Of course any writer knows that writing for the YA market is just as much proper writing as anything else and there are loads of crossover books where adults also enjoy YA books. I’m finding many Sci-Fi and fantasy loving adults who are enjoying Blue Dust : Forbidden and that’s wonderful. I think the genre will continue to grow and will hopefully pull new younger readers in as it did to me. Yes, it has been left in the shadows, Sci-Fi followers seem to have a reputation as nerdy geeks, but intelligent readers know this is nonsense. You have to be particularly bright to understand Sci-Fi, I think.
- But what about you Katy? Tell us about yourself and how you got into writing?
I was born and raised in South Africa and have always enjoyed writing and telling stories. I had an over-active imagination, something my teachers didn’t always appreciate and I often felt ‘squashed’. I was an English and music teacher before almost losing my sense of humour (and mind) and deciding I needed to devote myself to the thing I love most – writing. While teaching I published a number of children’s musicals and realised that I wanted to write full-time. I was lucky enough to become a television scriptwriter for children, entered a nationwide scriptwriting competition and was selected to be on the writing team of a popular South African soap. I also worked as an advertising copywriter, wrote radio ads and jingles, educational textbooks and readers…anything writing-related to keep the wolf from the door. Basically, I’m constantly writing; books and TV or film scripts and if not that then plotting, planning and scheming how to take over the world!
Like my creation Qea, the feisty heroine in Blue Dust: Forbidden, I understand something about being an alien after I embarked on a new journey, crossing the galaxy to settle on a new planet (England) many moons ago. Some like to call this process ‘immigration’. I am now the proud possessor of a maroon Intergalactic Wayfarer Permit and have come to love the aliens I mix with daily, even though they don’t always speak the same language.
- And lastly, if you could describe Blue Dust: Forbidden in just five words, what would they be?
Exciting, frightening, sad, romantic, hopeful
Thanks for those insightful answers Katy! We wish you luck with the book launch! Blue Dust: Forbidden is now available! You can purchase it from the following links. Amazon Paperback, Amazon eBook, Waterstones.
Stay Tuned to Sci Fi week because I am giving away a free copy of Blue Dust later this week, with the addition of a special gift from the Author!