Interview with T P Keane, author of “The Paladins of Naretia”

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I consider Science Fiction and Fantasy as being two distinctly different genres. Each one has their own following and own set of rules. But they both have one thing in common, they don’t necessarily follow the same rules of reality as we know it. For instance, the sky doesn’t always have to be blue and there doesn’t always have to be only one moon. While Science Fiction still must adhere to certain principles, such as the law of physics (for the most part), Fantasy has the added advantage of being able to bend these rules using magic.

It’s the bending of these rules and the ability to explore strange worlds that draws me to Science Fiction and Fantasy. The genre allows me to interact with new concepts and truly escape the mundanity of life.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been fascinated with stories, often losing myself in them, ever since I was a young child. But I was a terrible student and the teachers who had the misfortune to have me in their class can attest to that. It didn’t dawn upon me that I could be a writer until I was much older, not until I was an adult. That was in large part due to a lack of self-confidence. But being old enough and ugly enough to take any criticism now, I decided to give it a go and I’m quietly surprised by what people have been saying about it.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

For me the hardest thing is finding the time to write. We all have our busy days filled with work, children, friends, and family commitments. Writing, for me, is an immersive thing that I have to allow to drown me. I can’t just write a paragraph, I have to re-read the last two chapters and dive in from there. It’s time consuming, but I love it.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I try to read every day. At the moment I’m powering through a multitude of indie-authors books. Although she isn’t an indie-author, NK Jemisin is slowly becoming my favourite. Among other things, she wrote The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series, and I’m in love with her writing skill.

Does your book have a message?

It does, but the message is subtle. I could tell you the plot and the characters behind it, but that can be read on the cover. Behind the scenes, however, is a completely different story.

While Olórin, an aged wizard, is set the task of saving the kingdom by also saving his adopted son from his real father, the dark god Dantet, this isn’t the crux of the story. The Paladins of Naretia is about love. It examines, on three fronts, the bravery, bitterness, and destructiveness that love can bring.

Firstly, we have the broken love between Dantet and Edwina, the two ruling gods. They are the divorced parents, if you will, caught up in the hatred of each other and using their children, the people of Naretia, as pawns.

Secondly, we have the false love between Olórin and his adopted son, Aramus, who he hopes against all odds will have inherited some humanity from his mother’s side. But Aramus, like Dantet, is incapable of truly loving anything. In the end, Olórin must face the truth of what this means.

Our third, but not last, portrayal of love, is true love. Through the novel, we begin to hope, to pray, that Aramus falls in love with the tyrannical queen, Aria, who must put aside her demons to help them. Olórin hopes that love between them would help Aramus stay away from the darkness. But there is only one true love in The Paladins of Naretia, and that is between Aria and her seven-year-old brother Pearan. Her love for him is unconditional and fearless. In the end she will make the ultimate sacrifice to save his life.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

That if I can do it, so can they. Anyone who knew me as a child, would have never thought that I would publish a book. I would never have thought it either, but my love of story-telling has become like breathing to me. It’s something I have to do. So, if I can get around my inability to spell, my lack of experience, the little voice in my head telling me to “not be so stupid and don’t embarrass yourself,” then so can anyone. Self-belief is crucial to following your dreams no matter what they are.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Currently I’m working on a Science Fiction/Romance trilogy called, Kepler One. It follows the terrible, and tragic life of Zoe Ruthland, who was born on tier five in an underground compound called, Bunker Twelve. Tier five is where the criminals are kept, the scum of society, but Zoe doesn’t belong. She struggles through adversary, prejudice and outright hatred, as she fights for her spot on the only spaceship to leave Earth and escape the radiation that is killing them all. Kepler One is the only hope the human race has to survive, and no one wants a tier five girl to be on it.

I’m also working on book two of the Naretia series, which I hope will be out sometime next year. Sorry, no spoilers.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My husband and kids, hands down. I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of them and they are so giving of their time and enthusiastic for me. Also my parents and my eldest sister.

Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

I’d agree. While a lot of my world building comes from imagination, my character studies are based on the real world. When you hear of the tragedies on the news, or see the triumphs of loved ones, I always begin to wonder, how did they get there? What drove them to do such horrible, or brave things? I’m a people watcher too and I’m amazed to see wondrous characters, that I believe should be in novels, walking about in real life. Large, bellowing men declaring their ineptitude for technology to the world, or meek and quietly spoken women disarming bandits three times their size. It truly is fodder for my characters.

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

I’m a bit of both. I love going for long walks and I wasn’t born in the USA. Although I’m living here for the moment, I was born in Ireland and I also spent 6 years in the UK. I love to travel and have seen many countries, but to be honest, I love sitting by the fire with a good book and a glass of wine too.

Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?

Yes, on many occasions. I went through the usual route of trying to get traditionally published. I came across many literary agents, most of whom sent the usual notice of “I’m going to pass this time.” One or two showed interest in The Paladins of Naretia and asked for full manuscripts, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

There was one, however, (and I won’t name names) who commented on another novel I was shipping around. He told me to literally “blow it up and try again.” He was the only one who had such negative feedback. It upset me, more than I cared to admit, and at that point I did think about just giving up. It wasn’t until a week later that another literary agent came back to me and said that if she covered that genre, that she would have taken me on. To hear such conflicting critiques made me wonder and realise, that one person’s opinion doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I enjoy writing and that there are people out there who enjoy my story.

What advice would you like to give writers who are struggling with their first novels?

Take heart and don’t lose hope. Even if it this novel doesn’t take off, the next one might. It’s a hard process and not easy if you don’t like rejection, but all it takes is that one person to say, yes.

How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?

I took my family out to dinner and when we got home, my husband and I polished off a bottle of wine. Nothing better than that.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I’m a fan of most genres, although horror doesn’t really do it for me (too scary). My preference if for Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I wouldn’t pass up a good old contemporary fiction either.

How possessive are you about your work?

Very. I won’t even put it on the cloud for fear someone will hack into it and take it before it’s ready. I’m a perfectionist at heart.

Do you encourage your children to read?

Yes. My eight year-old in second grade has a reading level of a fifth grader and my 11 year-old in fifth grader has a reading level of a twelfth grader. I started my kids young by appealing to their toilet humour. Captain Underpants was a staple in our house. After that, my kids would get rewards for reading non-picture books. Reading a Harry Potter book would be followed by popcorn and movie night where we would watch the book they just read. In truth, I think I loved it just as much as they did.

Do you have a library at home?

I’m not sure if I would class it as a library, but there are certainly over two hundred books on the groaning shelves in our basement. The books seem to be having babies too, because every time I look, there’s more.

If you could live anywhere in the world, which country would you choose and why?

At the moment I’m living in the USA. I love it here, but as we are on a fixed visa, we won’t be here forever. I was born in Ireland and I love it to bits. However, I’ve come to hold a special place in my heart for the UK. I don’t know what it is about the UK, but it’s a place I can see myself growing old.

Were you a troublemaker as a child?

The biggest trouble maker you’d ever meet. I didn’t do my homework, I never listened in class, and when I was older, I spent most of my time bunking off in the girl’s bathroom. Regardless of my poor attendance, however, I did okay on my exams. How that happened I’ll never know. But when I entered into college to start my four year degree in engineering… I realised very quickly that I was not interested in engineering at all. Then began my struggle to find my place; a place I only recently found as an author.

How many siblings do you have? How many of them share your passion?

I have six other siblings and I’m the middle child. I’d say about half of my sisters and brothers are into books while the other half vomit at the sight of them. We’re a mixed bunch.

Do you blog?

I do. Being an indie-author, I saw the need to help other indie authors out and share their work. I interview them and advertise their books, not too unlike Serious Reading. You can find my blog here http://tpkeaneblog.blogspot.com/