What the Woods Keep
by Katya de Becerra
Published by: Imprint Macmillan
Publication date: September 18, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Thriller
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On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.
What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.
Hi everyone! Today’s special guest for the author spotlight, a segment I’m calling Behind The Pages, is Katya de Becerra!
After I saw What the Woods Keep featured by a fellow book blogger on Waiting On Wednesday, I was intrigued and got very excited. The moment I read what it is all about, boom! It’s a perfect trifecta of genre that I like to see in a book or a movie.
I’m so thrilled that I’ve got the chance to feature her here on my blog. When I read today’s topic the first time, I literally cried! It is awe-inspiring and I know you will feel the same way like I did. She also has a second book called Oasis which is forthcoming in 2019.
THE ANTHROPOLOGY BEHIND WHAT THE WOODS KEEP
Growing up, I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt. But as I started high school and, for the first time, had to seriously ponder my further education choices, I quickly realized my chances of actually becoming an Egyptologist were slim. The thing is, I grew up in a small Russian town and, aside from informal advice, there was very little information available about university choices (it wasn’t until much later that I learnt I could’ve just specialized in history – but alas!).
Then something cool happened: a totally new program opened up in one of my local universities! The new specialization was called cultural anthropology; and the moment I heard about it, I was totally on board. Besides, Egyptology is actually a sub-set of anthropology, so going the anthropology way was a compromise of sorts. And so commenced my educational journey which spanned three continents and lasted nearly two decades, and counting.
Then came 2010, and I was a newly minted Australian, and about to start a PhD program in cultural anthropology at the University of Melbourne. By then, my Egyptological aspirations were firmly relegated to a personal hobby status, meaning once in a while I’d catch up on the latest discoveries in the field and shiver with jealousy reading Kara Cooney’s articles about scarabs, tombs and sarcophagi (The Woman Who Would be King, Cooney’s masterpiece about my childhood obsession, Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled over Egypt as a cross-dressing king, would not be published until 2015.
Meanwhile, as a PhD researcher I was getting deep into my project exploring the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in an Australian university, a process involving months of intense fieldwork, interviewing, transcribing, and analyzing many hours’ worth of audio data. As much as I loved what I was doing, I was worried my brain was going to explode. PhDs are great, you see, but exhausting. As a way to save myself from a mental fatigue blackout, I started reading books again; that is, books that had nothing to do with my research. This is when I rediscovered Young Adult books and, after gobbling down everything YA I could put my hands on, I was a goner.
Due to some serendipitous turn of events, around the halfway mark of my PhD, Richelle Mead came to tour Australia with her latest Vampire Academy book. I’m so glad I overcame my shyness and went to see Richelle talk! There was something seriously contagious about a room full of excited readers, and, as I was standing in a three-hour line, waiting for my turn to get a book signed, the idea hit me: I should be writing a book. After all, it made perfect sense. I’ve always been writing something – poetry, short fiction, academic articles . . . And so, the stars have aligned, and it was meant to be: while seeking a refuge from my exhausting research and tension-filled ethnographical fieldwork, I began work on what eventually became my first novel.
As an anthropologist, I’m trained to look out for the nuances in the world around me, to try and hear what’s not being said, to see what’s normally hidden. After all, anthropologists are interested in human culture, in its patterns which get reproduced but also altered with each new generation – traditions, beliefs, identities. But then, anthropology is also about the human condition – our universal need to belong, the desire for our experiences and struggles to make sense, to matter. I wanted to infuse my book with that sense of uncertainty, that yearning to belong, the need to understand oneself and one’s heritage.
And so, in a way, WHAT THE WOODS KEEP is a book about an identity crisis. In it, a young woman is desperately clinging to her familiar codes in an attempt to make sense of her rapidly changing world, while quickly learning to think outside of a box, to accept there might be another explanation for the mystery she faces, even if it goes against everything she knows.
But then also, in addition to being an anthropologist, I’m an expat, and that plays a big role in how I understand the idea of belonging. Living a great distance away from my parents and grandmother means I can no longer think of home as a strictly physical place. Instead, it is truly a state of mind – once more, there’s that desire to belong somewhere. So, in WHAT THE WOODS KEEP, among other themes of importance to me, I endeavored to capture this universal need to belong. In her own pursuit for meaning, Hayden, the book’s protagonist, reaches her own conclusions in the end, though, to be honest, her journey is a lot more complicated than my life’s ever been. And while Hayden has her own quirks and obsessions that she lovingly fostered as a kid and which continue to influence her into adolescence, I know for a fact she’d love The Woman Who Would be King, if only she had a chance to read it.
About The Author:
Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. What the Woods Keep is her first novel.