Topher Hoffman: Hello and welcome folks to this most exciting interview by the fantastic YA author Caytlyn Brooke!
Recently I posted my book review of her first novel Dark Flowers, and let me tell you, it kept me at the edge of my seat. If you can check out the full review here!
I see that you are the author of two astonishing books. Have read in your profile that you write about the shadier side of fantasy. What inspired you to start writing books in that genre?
Caytlyn Brooke: Thank you! Growing up I was always drawn to the darker aesthetic. Whether it was movies, books, poems, or haunted houses, I wanted it. Fear is a huge motivator and for some reason, people love scaring themselves, it’s like an adrenaline rush. I saw that that fear was underrepresented in YA fiction and wanted to be the one to send the shivers up readers’ spines and make them nervous when they turned off the lights. Fantasy books typically revolve around magic and love, adventure and exploration. I took all of those things and scraped a few layers down. In my writing, I aim to create nightmares. If it scares me or grosses me out, it’s going in the book!
TH: Every author began writing at various stages in their life. When did you start to write?
CB: There is no magic age to begin writing, and that’s what I love about it. I started writing in the 3rd grade. I remember our teacher brought in a specialist for a creative writing assignment and gave us a prompt to craft a story around. I loved every second and wrote triple the amount of my classmates on that horrible yellow paper. The specialist read everyone’s piece, but when she got to mine she paused and I remember her saying, “Wow, these descriptions are incredible. You’re going to be a writer one day.” Bam! I never looked back.
TH: Writing takes a lot of time. Does this have any effect on your family?
CB: Writing doesn’t take a lot of time, it takes all of the time! My family is wonderful and very supportive of me! I have two young kids so I only have time to write during nap time and late at night after they go to sleep. So my husband takes the brunt of the sacrifice. It gets hard, especially when I’m on a deadline to finish a book or wrap up my edits because unfortunately all of our time together is put on hold until I am done, but luckily I have taught myself to type really fast, and my husband never runs out of Cops episodes to watch.
TH: Has your family read your stories? If so, have they gave you any feedback? If they did, what was it?
CB: Yes they have! It took a lot for my mom to read, Dark Flowers because she does not do scary, and the sad parts had her in tears, but she made it through! My husband is always the first one to read my books and offers fantastic constructive criticism. My sister, however, is basically who I write for. Out of all the readers in the world, she is the top person I am trying to impress. I greatly value her opinion, and she gives me honest feedback, even if it’s harsh. Just recently I had her read the first draft of my newest book coming out next year, and she told me it was so horrible she didn’t even finish it. So I completely scrapped the first draft and summoned all the forces of darkness to me and wrote a fresh new take on it. This time she agreed it’s much better, thankfully!
TH: I’ve overheard that authors get into the zone when they start to write? Is that true? If so, what does it take for you to get into your writing mood?
CB: Haha, yes! I love that zone! My husband is still working on respecting that zone! It doesn’t take too much for me to start writing. In my head all day long I am constantly thinking of how my characters and the challenges they face so when I finally sit down to write, everything just pours out of me. I do have to have a large cup of tea beside me though, that is a must!
TH: Being an author, you must read a lot. What type of publications do you read?
CB: Oh yes! Reading is how I relax. YA is my favourite genre, and just as I write, I tend to drift toward fantasy and horror when I read. I’m just starting to get into sci-fi now that that genre is expanding to include a million other things other than aliens, those aren’t my favourite. Some of my favourite authors are Cassandra Clare and the Mortal Instrument Series, Laini Taylor and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, and my absolute favourite author I just started reading is Leigh Bardugo and The Grisha Trilogy.
TH: Speaking of reading. I know that I will be writing a review on my blog about your book Dark Flowers. Do you check your comments and reviews?
If so, how do you deal with the negative ones?
CB: I sure do, but only every few months when I think about it. It’s so easy to get hung up on negative reviews, whether they are warranted or not. If someone doesn’t like my book, I’m completely okay with that. Not everyone will love everything I do. They sting for sure because in a perfect world, every reader would think my books are amazing, but that’s not realistic, so I just brush them off.
TH: Can you please describe your new book, so the readers have an understanding of what the story is about?
CB: My newest book is a YA sci-fi/contemporary called, Wired. It is set in 2031 and technology has become the new drug whether people are aware of it or not. Maggie is a brand new book agent. She has her dream job, a steady paycheck, and good friends. The book opens on the launch of the brand new technology, the Vertix H2, which is described as revolutionary and it is. Rather than a phone that can only provide a very static, one-way experience, the Vertix completely submerges you in social media through the use of sophisticated virtual reality apps. At first, Maggie is hesitant, however, just like a drug, the first time she connects, she is hooked. Slowly her world begins to spiral out of control as she chooses to spend more time in the virtual world and thereby neglects her reality. Can she kick the social addiction or will it pull her under forever?
TH: Where did you get the idea for the book?
CB: I wrote it when I was waitressing actually. I grew so tired of dealing with diners’ wild children because they were too absorbed with their phones to notice their child scaling the wooden divider separating the tables. Phone addiction is everywhere, from toddlers to grandparents. Every person has a phone glued to their hand at all times. Moms at the park, dads taking their kids out for ice cream, a woman walking her dog, and a grandparent at their granddaughter’s birthday party. I wanted to write a book to shed some light on this cultural phenomenon because no one is talking about it. No one seems to see just how much they are missing and how dangerous phone addiction has become. So hopefully, Wired will help readers open their eyes and reflect on their own social media usage.
TH: Eliza and Millie are two charming little girls. Are they based on anybody that you know? If not, how did you come up with them?
CB: Thank you! The girls are actually based on my sister and I. Growing up we were obsessed with finding fairies in the woods. We would build little houses out of sticks and moss and leave chocolates for them. I took the idea of innocence and twisted it to the fairies’ advantage. Innocence is now a flaw, the reason why the girls’ are tricked by the shallow beauty. Every little girl wants to find fairies, but not every fairytale ends happily.
TH: When you wrote your first book and knew how much hard work was put into writing, how did you feel about continuing your writing career?
CB: I was actually never intimidated by the amount of work writing took. It’s been my dream to be an author since elementary school, and now that I’ve finally put all my words on paper and my dream is happening, I couldn’t be more excited! I have encountered several drawbacks and challenges, but dreams are never easy. If they were they wouldn’t be dreams, right? Now that I have two published books under my belt everything has started to get much easier which is awesome! Both of my books have won multiple literary awards, and I’ve been invited all over the country for speaking opportunities and book signing events which is really cool! I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!
TH: Is there anything in either one of the two books that are parts of you?
CB: There are a lot of little fun details that relate to either my siblings or me actually. For example, in Wired, Maggie laments about having small boobs the size of recess cups. That definitely stems from my own wish. Also in Wired, when Maggie orders pizza, she explains how much she loves the smell of pizza in a box. That’s a fun nod to my sister who can identify that smell on the busy New York streets! Also, in Dark Flowers, Millie mentions how badly she wants a kitten. That was taken from my own desire as a child. I love cats! In every single book I write a cat is included.
TH: Did it trouble you to write about kids and the experiences that they went through in the book?
CB: Oddly enough, no. The horror never bothers me. Watching it on the other hand, my gracious I couldn’t! The hardest part to write about was Eliza’s back story when she was five. I won’t spoil anything, but that was heartbreaking to write.
TH: Dark Flowers is an excellent name for a book. How did you come up with that?
CB: Thank you! I wanted something obviously dark to convey the horror. I settled on flowers because they represent the fairies. Flowers are flowers, innocent, beautiful, enticing, just like the outward appearance of the fairies and the realm. However, as you begin to scrape away the false outer layer, there is true terror beneath. I also like the idea that flowers don’t last forever. Very soon the beauty crumbles and death claims them. I won’t say any more!
TH: What character in your novel was the most entertaining to write?
CB: I really enjoyed writing Eliza from Dark Flowers. She is strong and sassy, not afraid to stand up for what is right. I wish I had had that confidence when I was thirteen. I also love her persistence and her devotion to Millie. I think that’s rare to find in friendships today.
TH: You now have two books. What is your favourite?
CB: Oh this isn’t a fair question! I love the creepy adventure of Dark Flowers, but I think Wired is such a strong piece and is so relevant to the issue of technology addiction many of us are currently facing. Can I say both for different reasons?
TH: What is next on your plate when it comes to writing?
CB: Next I can’t wait to dive into my YA adventure/fantasy trilogy! The first book is called, Among the Hunted and it’s about Blake, an eighteen-year-old guy trying to find himself in the wake of his dad leaving. What he didn’t plan on was meeting Kaitaini, a beautiful wind nymph on the run from a lustful God, who will stop at nothing to have her. I’m very excited for this trilogy because I’ve been working on it for years and it’s different than my other books. There’s epic battles, magic, and even some racier scenes I haven’t been able to really include in my other books yet. So stay tuned, it’s going to be fun!
Follow Caytlyn Brooke on Twitter to keep up to date with upcoming release dates and writing news! @caytlyn_brooke
Check out her books on Amazon and buy yourself a copy Darkflowers or Wired today!