Karsten Knight joined the ranks of many new authors on July 30th, 2011 when he arrived at Books of Wonder for the New York launch party of his debut novel Wildefire, an adventurous, often dark though plenty funny story about a Polynesian goddess who’s reincarnated into the body of a 16 year old girl. The inspiration behind this story isn’t a thrilling tale, much to Knight’s dismay, as it doesn’t involve “being chased by volcanoes” or “escaping volcanic eruptions”, but all started when he lost his job as a college admissions counselor because of his boss, known to him as, “The Ice Witch of Narnia”.
The job wasn’t one the now-Young Adult author thought he was particularly good at himself and he assumed this to be because he knew there was a pull to something else – that being his writing roots that date back to age 6. After having dinner with a close friend post-termination, Knight casually brought up his writing which surprised his friend who wasn’t aware that it was a passion he had, all on account of his not being the ardent writer he was for the two years he was employed as a counselor. That night, Knight went home and sat at his computer where the immortal Polynesian goddess of Wildefire was born… again.
Blogger Grace Fonseca opened up the Q&A with inquiries about the amount of research went into the gods used throughout this novel. The thorough research of Wildefire, Knight answers, mainly came from Pantheon.org which categorizes the gods from the continents their origins are from. Readers can expect to see gods from all continents but one in the upcoming two books, “Sorry, penguins.” Knight added that he doesn’t use all the information he’s learned as he doesn’t want his novel to read like a textbook, but also because the reincarnate characters are reborn with no memories from their many past lives and it would feel inorganic for them to know who they are.
A teen enthusiast asked about Knight’s decision to use a female protagonist when it’s widely known that the YA world is lacking with male leads and the author answered, “It was practicality” as this allowed him to use Pele, the volcano goddess. He enlightened the audience that while there will be more male gods in the sequel, the narrative will always be told through Ashline, a very sarcastic heroine radiating more than enough substance to rival the female leads of other YA novels.
When blogger Genna Sarnak asked about Knight’s input with the cover, and if he was aware of similarities to John Green’s Looking For Alaska, the author responded, “I had zero input which was probably for the best. My kindergarten teacher told my parents I would never be artistic.” He agreed with the resemblance to Looking For Alaska, but his cover was unique for not being digitally created; the photographer captured calla lilies with one lit up from the inside, at the angle seen, before layering the photo with incense to produce the stunning cover.
Knight broke away from questions about his writing today to discuss what it was like being a bookseller years back. “Highs and lows,” he answered, explaining that the highs involved being around books again after his two year hiatus of not reading or writing. “I was a horrible English major.” One of his lows involved a customer of his at Borders (“Rest in Peace”, he lamented) who asked for gift receipts after ringing up their thirteen books, forcing him to redo the transaction from the start. “I wanted to cry,” he said.
Knight is open to writing for another audience outside teens (who he prefers to be called “adults-in-training” rather than “young adults”) and that would be for middle-grade. “Their breadth of imagination is bigger, not in terms to what they get out of it, but what they accept.” He previously wrote a manuscript for adult fiction, but refused to submit it and has no intentions on writing a new one anytime soon.
The sequels of this trilogy, Embers and Echoes (summer 2012 release) and Afterglow (summer 2013 release), are the next in line for Knight where we can expect Ashline and the godly cast of characters to leave their school and travel to Miami, carrying with them grief and cliffhanging revelations from the end of Wildefire. To pick up a signed copy of this not-to-be-missed debut novel, visit the Books of Wonder site or store.
For more information on Karsten Knight himself, visit his blog where you will sometimes find him dancing or forcing his book to wear hats.