One of my own Bookstagram photos with the always photogenic Peppy, alongside the utterly phenomenal What the Woods Keep.
Above photos supplied by the wonderful aforementioned author, Katya De Becerra, who penned the amazing “What the Woods Keep”.
After finishing this book and obsessing over its glorious details, and thinking about every amazing aspect, I couldn’t help but reach out to Katya De Becerra on Instagram/Bookstagram and see if she would be willing to answer some questions for an interview! My fangirl heart was so happy when she accepted, so here we go! 😀 (I have put Katya’s answers in italics).
1. What inspired you to write ‘What the Woods Keep’?
My love of mythology and psychological horror. I find that I make a lot of my writing decisions subconsciously and only realise later what I’ve done and why (human brain is so fascinating!) It’s taken me a few total rewrites of What The Woods Keep before it clicked that I was actually writing a very loose mythological retelling inspired by the atmospheric horror of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
2. The book often has chapters which start with scientific theories, playing an important part with what’s to come within the story, what is it about the juxtaposition of Science and magic that drew you to include it in the book?
My extended family includes both active churchgoers and atheists. Also, I grew up surrounded by people who exercised casual beliefs in the supernatural world, seeing omens and signs everywhere. Therefore, I was always intrigued by that strange, multi-layered space where faith, supernatural and science meet. I wrote my debut’s protagonist to have this drive to understand the world around her, and the mystery at hand, by using science, and physics specifically. But when she experiences something that can’t be explained that way, I was thrilled to write her thinking process as she came to accept the existence of the supernatural phenomena in her world. The framing of each chapter with a specific scientific theory felt true to the protagonist also because she used physics to understand her own life and the strange events that shaped her childhood.
3. Can you tell us what some of your earliest reading memories are? What books made you fall in love with the art of reading?
I was always very voracious reader—and luckily, my parents always had alot of books in the house. Because I grew up in Russia, my reading choices were shaped by what was available at the time. As a kid, I remember loving Tove Jansson’s stories about Moomins—I’ve read and re-read those books multiple times, with Little My being my all-time favourite character.
As a teen, I loved Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. It’s still one of my most beloved books, along with Roadside Picnic and other books by the Strugasky brothers. I grew up reading lots of science fiction, so I pretty much lived and breathed “first contact” stories.
4. Even though Hayden is reunited with her childhood friend, Shannon, it doesn’t divert from the main friendship in the book that is Hayden and Del…and I thought their constant loyalty and trust towards one another was such a delight to read! Definitely one of my favourite book friendships! What made you have Hayden and Del’s friendship at the core?
Thank you so much for saying this! When I was myself a young adult, I really craved friendship—the kind where you could completely trust one another and rely on one another. Writing Hayden and Del came very naturally to me. They represent what’s always been important to me, personally.
5. Were there inspirations for the town of Promise? I just love how you described it- from the runes on the Manor door, answering to Hayden only, to the white Ravens (I could visualise and hear them, it was wonderful, so unique!) and also just how the town didn’t want Del and Hayden to leave? Brilliant stuff, I remember having such chills when I was reading that scene!
Thank you so much! I’m absolutely thrilled you’ve connected with Promise so much. I’m obsessed with the whole “small town with a mysterious secret” theme and find myself returning to it over and over in my writing. While Promise is a fictional town in Colorado, I did lots of research into the history and lore of that state. I remember, once upon a time, when What The Woods Keep was in its earliest draft form, the story was set in the (real) town of Wenatchee, Washington, but then because I wanted to take many liberties with the town’s layout and history it made more sense to fictionalise it, so Promise was born. Like I mentioned earlier, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks had a lot of influence on me when I was writing Promise, hence its atmosphere of this semi-sentient landscape. I’m also seriously into historical mansions, family histories and curses—and all of that had made its way into Promise.
6. Hayden had always longed to know more about her Mother, wanting to know more about her mindset and what happened to her all those years ago, and I suppose Ella is the magic to the side of Tom’s science coin. And I really admired the scene where Hayden got to talk to her Father about her Mother, it was so raw and emotive! What made you think up the contrast to such a wickedly detailed extent?
Thank you so very much! I thrive on (writing) family drama and unearthing secrets and how those secrets influence relationships. I think it all goes back to my own upbringing and being surrounded by faith and atheism and belief in supernatural—all under the same roof! I think we all experience such extremes in our lives, one way or another, but in writing Hayden’s family dynamics I wanted to take it up a notch and ramp up the tensions.
7. Before we conclude, I’d love to know, what have some of your most favourite reads been lately? What are you currently reading? What are you looking forward to reading?
I always love talking about my favourite books, so thank you for asking me! A friend of mine recently introduced me to the books of Martha Wells, and I’ve inhaled All Systems Red pretty much in one day. I’m reading the sequel now and looking forward to the other two books in this series. Last month, I’ve read Neverworld Wake and truly enjoyed its cleverness as much as its creepiness. It’s my second Marisha Pessl book, after Night Film, and next I’m looking forward to reading Pessl’s debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (as you can see, I’m reading her books out of order!). I also read at least one Haruki Murakami book a year. He’s one of my favourite authors. This year, I’ve read Sputnik Sweetheart, which I liked, though my favorites of Murakami’s remain 1Q84 and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.
Brooklyn, thank you so much for these wonderful questions and for your support of my debut book! It means lots and lots to me. Cheers, Katya.
Annnnd cue fangirling! Brb, I’ll just be obsessing over Katya’s answers for the rest of the year 😉
For those who haven’t, do pick up a copy of this perfectly wonderful, eerie, fabulous book, you need to! It is so atmospheric and all kinds of gloriously spooky!
Ooh, and for those of you who celebrate it, I hope you have a wonderful Easter! 🙂