The Big Idea: Kaza Kingsley
One of the nice things about going to a science fiction convention is that sometimes you meet new authors with interesting stories about their path to publication. When I was at Millennicon this year, I met Kaza Kingsley, whose story of her Erec Rex series of young adult books was interesting indeed: Kingsley built her own publishing house from the ground up — not only getting the books printed but getting actual bookstore distribution and making foreign sales of the books — doing the really hard back-end things that need to be done to get the books to readers.
And it worked: the first two books in the series sold well enough to attract the attention of major publishers. Now the first two books in the Erec Rex series are being reissued into trade paperback this week by Simon & Schuster (Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye being the first book) and the third book is prepped for release this summer. It’s a reminder that there is more than one road to publishing success… if you’re willing to do the work (and of course, if the work itself is good enough).
I’ve told you the backstory of Erec Rex’s path to publication, and here is Kaza Kingsley to tell you the backstory of the Erec Rex saga itself — and how it owes something to fantastic tales you may have already heard of.
I’ve joked at times that writing is like an illness. No normal person would come home after a long day at work and write until the wee hours of the night. Or take the risk of giving up their job to write full time.
I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t writing something. Not that the little stories I penned in grade school were anything special. But it was always a great love of mine. I must have finished a hundred short stories before I started my first novel. And then I spent years in editing groups, reading books on story arcs… pretty much doing everything I could to work on my craft.
If writing is an illness, one of its major symptoms is reading. As a kid, fantasy was my entertainment of choice. I loved the Wizard of Oz series so much in second grade that I began to believe the characters were real, and was sure I would eventually escape through a cyclone, an earthquake, or some other natural disaster to meet up with my buddies in Oz.
So it was no real surprise when the idea for Erec Rex came to me, and it was a combination of my two loves: young adult fantasy and mythology.
Certain tales from mythology still make me shiver with fascination. The echoes of the past seem to resonate with our lives today. There is something so beautiful and haunting about stories such as the opening of Pandora’s box, Orpheus losing his great love Eurydice because he was unable to keep from looking back at her, and even the tragedy of King Midas.
I saw an incredible play called Metamorphosis, right before I began designing the Erec Rex series. There was no plot in the play, but it was the most beautiful reenactment of some of the ancient Greek myths by Ovid. The actors performed the short scenes in and around a huge pool of water that filled the stage. It was so vivid, the images stuck with me for months. So I was inspired again to pick up some mythology reading-this time including Norse and Celtic mythology as well as re-reading things like Jason and the Argonauts-all of which were adding fuel to a story which had started brewing in my mind.
The concept for this series struck me so hard that I literally had to write it. I imagined a kid-a normal kid from our world-that had to face and go through things that paralleled the most harrowing adventures in mythology: the Hercules legend. How would he deal with the tough decisions he would face? Would today’s hero have doubts? Would he fail at times, and lose the very things that are the most precious to him?
The Erec Rex series is my own version of this legend, twisted into something new. Just as Hercules had twelve labors that he had to face, Erec must tackle twelve quests if he will ever become king of the magical Alypium-saving it from sure destruction. Oh, and he has a few other problems thrown in, such as finding out that he might be turning into a dragon, and needing to rescue his missing mother, learning who his father is . . .
Forgive me. I am an excited author, getting ahead of myself. Suffice it to say that I am having a lot of fun writing this series. Within the story line I have woven in all kinds of references to mythology. For example, the three rulers of the Kingdoms of the Keepers-Piter, Posey, and Pluto-are reflections of the three ancient Roman gods: Jupiter, Poseidon, and Pluto. But I hope that readers will ultimately come away with something more important than legends and history. I hope that my stories offer a small escape to readers, a place to dream, and inspiration to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.