28 June 2011

Interview: Darby Karchut (Griffin Rising)

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.

But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever.

Taking on the identity of father and son, Griffin and Basil forge a special bond where honesty and trust go hand in hand to secure Griffin’s destiny as a Terrae Angeli. Griffin’s belief in himself and the love of a mortal girl are the perfect combination in overcoming the darkest days of his life. But will it be enough for him to succeed?

For Griffin, it’s time to angel up.

Today, I have the pleasure and honor to feature an interview with Darby Karchut, author of debut novel Griffin Rising.  In a young adult world dominated by coming of age heroines and bloodsucking heroes, Darby Karchut presents a story where the main character doesn’t creep on girls at night and doesn’t grow fur when trouble strikes.  Our boy Griffin is an angel—a Terrae Angeli in fact.  You like angel stories right?  Of course you do.  That’s why you’re sneaking fond glances at your copy of Hush, Hush stowed in your bag under the table.  Well today you can go grab a copy of Darby Karchut’s gem Griffin Rising at your favorite local or online drug—*cough*—excuse me, I mean bookstore.

To celebrate the release of her debut, I have Ms. Darby here to answer a few questions.

Griffin Rising was inspired by a text from the Middle Ages. Terrae Angeli and Tiro are Latin terms. Your work includes aspects spanning from Irish mythology to the Plains Indians of North America. Can you elaborate on your interests in world cultures?

I’ve always been fascinated with the mythologies and religions of various world cultures, hence my bachelor’s degree in anthropology. When I started writing Griffin Rising, I knew I wanted an “angel” series that was not necessarily based strictly on the Judeo-Christian belief system. So I pulled from cultures/religions as diverse as ancient Babylon, Islam, the Bronze Age Celtics, and even Great Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War Two. In the next book in the series, I am even pulling in aspects of the Cold War between the U.S.S.R and the United States.

What appeals to you about the hero’s journey type of story?

The fact that the archetypal hero is found in every world culture, which means it is primal to all humans. We all see ourselves in the hero and his journey and the lessons we can learn from it.
What’s your favorite hero’s story?

Gosh, there are so many, but right now, my current favorite is The Ranger’s Apprentice stories.

Are any of your characters directly or loosely based on people you know?

Griffin has a bit of me in him, perhaps more than I care to admit. His insecurities are mine to some degree. But certainly many of his traits and affectations are pilfered directly from the many students that grace my classroom from day to day. (I teach junior high social studies.)

Basil is a blend of the best of good men I have known in my life: my husband, my dad, and my step-dad.

How have your students responded to you getting published?

They’ve been awesome! They insisted that I autograph their books when school is back in session this coming fall. And my school is hosting a book signing party on August 31st – how cool is that?!

What was the strangest inspirational moment? (Ex: Did a caterpillar inspire a critical scene?)

I don’t know if there was any strange inspirational moments. But there was a funny I-am-way-too-wrapped-up-in-my-characters moment: One day, I was dashing through Target and skidded to a stop by the young men’s section because I spied a tee shirt Griffin might wear.

And bought it.

And took it back because it was the wrong size.

Griffin Rising is your debut. Can you talk about your road to writing a book and getting it published?

I have never written a thing until I wrote Griffin Rising. Never even wanted to be an author. But I read all the time, especially fantasy. I eat books. And you know the old sayings: you read and you read, and then one day, you throw up a book. Inelegant, but true.

So one day, the idea of warrior angels who live among us while training their apprentices simply slammed into my head. Like an avalanche, you might say.

So on July 17, 2009, I started writing the first of over thirty drafts of the book. Then about six months later, I began querying agents and editors. In June of 2010, I sold it to Twilight Times Books. I am still giddy with delight! The next book in the series will be released in April 2012.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read. Read everything, but especially in your genre. Fill your mind with good writing. There is nothing like studying the masters to improve your own craft.

Do you write to a playlist? Further, what is your writing environment and schedule like?

I am one of those authors who need silence to write, so I often wear earplugs. I write on a laptop and have trained myself to write whenever I have a fifteen minute block of time: during lunch, after school, evenings, weekends. I’m not too proud to say I have a work ethic that make the Puritans look like slackers.

Did you jot your ideas down in a notebook or did you keep everything in your head?

I actually type ideas as I work on the rough draft and highlight them. So my draft version on my computer has these islands of canary yellow all over it. (*Smacks forehead with hand* Did I just say “islands” and “canary” in the same sentence? Sheesh-what a geek!)

Annnnyway, I find that system works best for me. However, I do carry a permanent marker pen with me while I work out because some of my best ideas hit me while I running the trails by my house. The only weird part is holding my hand open while I jog so my sweat doesn’t smear the ink.

What? We all sweat! Get over it!

Thanks so much for having me here on your blog, Amelia. You asked the bestest questions ever!

Now if you’re not convinced that she’s a pretty awesome lady, click out of this blog right now.  Oh, you heard a threat?  I’m glad you aren’t deaf. ;)

About that "Ranger's Apprentice" part.  That's by John Flanagan and the first book you should go read (since it's an extensive series right now) is Ranger's Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan.  Yeah.  Carry on.


All her life, the archetypal hero and his journey have enthralled Darby Karchut. A native of New Mexico, Darby grew up in a family thatvenerated books and she spent her childhood devouring one fantasy novel after another. Fascinated by mythologies from around the world, she attended the University of New Mexico, graduating with a degree in anthropology. After moving to Colorado, she then earned a Master’s in education and became a social studies teacher.
Drawing from her extensive knowledge of world cultures, she blends ancient myths with modern urban life to write stories that relate to young teens today.
Darby is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Pikes Peak Writers Guild. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her husband, where she still teaches at a local junior high school. She enjoys running, biking, and skiing the Rocky Mountains in all types of weather.
Griffin Rising is her first novel. She is currently working on the sequel, Griffin's Fire.