Many thanks to IceyBooks for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
On the cover of Darkbeast, the author's name appears above the title: Morgan Keyes. It's not a huge secret, though, that Morgan Keyes is not my real name. It's a pen name, chosen specifically for this series.
When I was in elementary and middle school, I studied French. Every year, our teachers asked us to choose a new name, a French name, that we would use in conversation throughout the school year. The thought was that our American names would sound jarring in French; they would hamper our ability to master an appropriate accent.
I loved name-selection day. I always gravitated to long, elegant-sounding names; Catherine and Elisabeth were my favorites. (My own name was short and sounded like a nickname.) With varying success, I tried to convince my friends to call me by my French name outside of class.
In some ways, choosing a pen name offered the same opportunities – I had my pick of any syllables I wanted to string together. But unlike French-class name, my pen name had to do more than just sound good in Gallic conversation.
It had to be easily pronounceable. Readers had to be able to look at it and know how to say it, so that they could tell all their friends about the great new author they'd discovered.
It had to be relatively short. Book designers struggle mightily to fit authors' names on the cover in ways that look right with book titles, review blurbs and all the other necessary content. Names like Alessandra-Evangelina Hefferschmidtson are much more difficult to fit into the overall design.
In addition to those mandates, I wanted a name with the initials M.K. (which are my own initials.) My editor wanted a name that did not otherwise appear in social media, at least in Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. Also, the name had to be available as a web address, and Google couldn't turn up any unsavory results. (You would not believe the number of names that passed four of those tests, then failed the fifth. And shortly after I chose Morgan Keyes, other Morgan Keyeses began to appear in the media.)
Ultimately, the name Morgan came from a character in a book that was one of my absolute favorites in middle school – Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Series (where Morgan is actually a man, Alaric Anthony Morgan.)
The name Keyes came from a wonderful eighth grade science teacher I had. (Also, it met all my other requirements!)
Since selecting my new name, I've needed to train myself to answer to it in public. I've needed to remember what name I used to reserve a hotel room, or to register for a conference. When wearing a nametag, I've been approached by strangers who wanted to discuss genealogy and the specific branch of my "family" name. I sometimes feel as if I'm wearing a Halloween costume, all year round!
What about you? If you chose a pen name, what would it be? And why would you choose that specific name?
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Purchase DARKBEAST: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
A girl’s love for her raven may put her life in jeopardy in this gripping tale.
In Keara’s world, every child has a darkbeast—a creature that takes dark emotions like anger, pride, and rebellion. Keara’s darkbeast is Caw, a raven, and Keara can be free of her worst feelings by transferring them to Caw. He is her constant companion, and they are magically bound to each other until Keara’s twelfth birthday. For on that day Keara must kill her darkbeast—that is the law. Refusing to kill a darkbeast is an offense to the gods, and such heresy is harshly punished by the feared Inquisitors.
But Keara cannot imagine life without Caw. And she finds herself drawn to the Travelers, actors who tour the country performing revels. Keara is fascinated by their hints of a grand life beyond her tiny village. As her birthday approaches, Keara readies herself to leave childhood—and Caw—behind forever. But when the time comes for the sacrifice, will she be able to kill the creature that is so close to her? And if she cannot, where will she turn, and how can she escape the Inquisitors?
Now for the giveaway! Morgan's generous publisher, Simon & Schuster, has provided a copy of DARKBEAST to one lucky US reader. Fill out the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!
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