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.


Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Read an excerpt of Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye. Visit Kaza Kingsley’s blog. Follow Kaza Kingsley on Twitter.

16 Comments on “The Big Idea: Kaza Kingsley”

  1. The story sounds fun but the cover looks like Harry Potter without the glasses or scar. If I didn’t read about it here I’d probably dismiss it in the bookstore as a knock off.

  2. That sounds like a really cool series. I too was enchanted with mythology as a kid (although not quite as much as Kaza, it sounds like). I might have to pick it up, or at the very least gift it to my young cousin.

  3. willywoollove:

    You’d be dismissing quite a lot of books, I suspect; the cover treatments of many YA books are reminiscent of Harry Potter at this point.

    Nor is this sort of thing limited to YA: There’s a quite intentional similarity between the covers of my Old Man’s War books and the books of Orson Scott Card’s Ender series, down to the same artist and nearly the same typography, because Tor wanted to make that sort of association in the minds of both booksellers and science fiction fans. I can’t say it hasn’t worked out well for me.

  4. Oh, this is excellent. I’ve read both Kaza Kingley’s books, but hadn’t realized what mountains she moved to get them to me. Kudos to her!

  5. It’s not just that it’s in the style of Harry Potter, it’s that it’s *second rate* in the style of harry potter. The OMW covers were done by decent artists who’s hand is recognizable. This cover looks like a bad pastel. The perspective and shading are poorly executed, and the kid’s expression makes him look like he’s got to pee badly.

    Kingsley might have written a great book, but it’s a poor illustration. Good design work that’s not part of the illustration though.

  6. Oh, I just love that “Well, I’ll just do it myself” attitude! The books sound like fun, too.

  7. Josh Jasper:

    Eh. Athena, who is in the intended market for the book, likes the cover.

    That said, let’s not have a discussion on the merits of the cover right now.

  8. @6 M.A.: To quote (I think) Dilbert , “the person who says something can’t be done should never interrupt the person doing it.”

    It also sounds like a good book. My theory is that the YA market is opening up to people who wouldn’t be caught dead in the YA section of the bookstore, because they can simply go to Amazon and no one is the wiser.

  9. Indeed, the cover art fills me with dread. The plot description fills me with apprehension.

    Fortunate that I am not the target market.

    I could be though, I purchased the audio books for all the Unfortunate Events books.

    I waded through the first Artemis Fowl book and found its promising beginning horribly spoiled the further in I got.

    I bought The Thief Lord and enjoyed it.

    I bought Coraline and read in wonder as the movie version got raves since I thought the original story was only so-so, I suspect it’s the wonderful animation.

    Harry Potter, well all the movies are better than the books, since the process involved the much needed editing of the original stories down to their proper size.

    Shoot, I’ve got lots of Daniel Pinkwater.

  10. Congrats to Ms.Kingsley for garnering this much interest in her novels. They sounds exactly like the sort of stories I would have been interested in as a kid. Granted, I’m 22 now and still interested in and love fantasy novels, so I may pick up the first installment and read it despite the young adult listing.

    I’m glad there’s still a market for something other than Twilight and Gossip Girl in the YA world.


  11. OK, a dumb question: If the target audience for YA books is, say, 11- to 15-year-olds, why are they called “Young Adult”?

    Or is my thinking that “young adults” are those between, say, 18 and 22 just a sign of my lack of perspective due to old-fartdom?

    Not that it matters or anything, I’m just wondering how the term came to be applied to that market.

  12. DG Lewis @12: The term “Young Adult”, in this context, is a publishing term of art to refer, as you say, to young people between roughly 11 and 15. This is, I think, at least partly a matter of marketing. Publishers and librarians feel that kids in that age range will respond more positively to their product if you approach them as adults (albeit qualified) than if you call them “juveniles,” which is the term YA replaced. The word “juvenile” has taken on enough negative connotations over the past few decades that kids would bristle at being called that. “Juvenile” has fallen into such disuse in publishing that reviewers referring to the Heinlein “juveniles” of the 1950’s often put the word in quote marks, as I just have. I believe it is still used by some libraries, but refers to much younger children — those, say, 8-and-under.

    Referring to college age folks (18 to 22) as “young adults” is usually used only outside of a publishing context; political polling, for example.

  13. Wow – it’s so interesting to see people’s responses here!

    The book is obviously marketed to look good to kids, but I hope that adults will give the series a chance too, as a lot of adults are fans now.

    Personally I like both adult novels and kids fantasy. Absolutely love the Bartimaeus Trillogy by Jon Stroud (amazing art – also by Melvyn Grant, the Erec Rex artist) and Susan Cooper’s books (some versions of which have lousy art, but who cares?)

    John – thanks again for having me on your site! It’s great to meet everyone here.


  14. Congratulations Kaza. And thanks, John, for pointing out these books. I’ll have to check them out once the semester’s over.

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