Monday, September 24, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Guest Post / Giveaway with Darkbeast author Morgan Keyes

Happy Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! I am so excited about today's feature, as I have author Morgan Keyes on the blog today!! She newest release, Darkbeast was recently released by Simon & Schuster, and she's hear to talk about it.

Many thanks to Mundie Moms, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast.  Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.

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.

Life in Keara's world is controlled by the Twelve, by a dozen gods and goddesses.  Each deity has a specific "area of expertise" (darkbeasts, money, death, etc.)  Each is worshipped in a particular type of building (round wooden hall, rectangular marble enclosure with an open roof, etc.)  Each is signified by a specific animal (a dun cow, a brindle hound, etc.)

I reveled in creating the details about the Twelve.  I pored over lists of gods and goddesses from other religions, picking and choosing from Greek, Roman, Slavic, Celtic and other pantheons.

In part, my fascination with Keara's religion stemmed from my experience designing worship rituals for my first fantasy novel.  There, my world was built around the Thousand Gods.  People in that society looked to literally hundreds of deities; every aspect of their lives was controlled by some divine being.

Defining the Thousand Gods was challenging.  I needed to decide just how granular to make worship.  Was it enough to say that there was a god of animals?  Or was there a god of cats, one of dogs, one of cows, and on and on and on?  What about foods?  Weapons?  Emotions?  

One thousand is a large number, but it's obviously far short of infinite.  Would a thousand gods accommodate different deities for different phases of the moon?  If those gods were developed in modern society, probably not – we twenty-first century folks aren't particularly tied to a lunar calendar.  But if we needed the moon for night-time illumination, we might pay more attention to its phases.  Nocturnal people who lived in an age before man-made light might very well devote four of their thousand gods to lunar phases.  (Maybe even more!)

The Thousand Gods taught me that specified deities describe their societies in subtle ways.  I applied that knowledge to Keara's world.

In Darkbeast, every person is magically bound to an animal, a scapegoat that takes away their darkest, most evil thoughts and deeds.  Surely that function is so important, so vital to social structure, that one of the Twelve would be dedicated solely to darkbeasts.  Thus, Bestius was born.

Similarly, Keara and her people worship Venerius, the god of the hunt.  Hunting provides key food to people.  It's also a sign of prestige for noblemen who are allowed to hunt the most valuable prey.

One by one, I identified the pantheon of the Twelve.  Each time I settled on a specific god or goddess, I filled in huge gaps about the society I was crafting.  Religion defines my characters, even as it illuminates their behavior.  The Twelve are the basis for almost everything that happens in Darkbeast.

So?  What do you think?  What books have you read that contain unique twists on religion?  What gods or goddesses do you remember the most clearly?

Morgan can be found online at:

Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including:  Amazon | B & N | Indiebound

Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat.  Also, there were books.  Lots and lots of books.  Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C.  In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads.  Because there are still books.  Lots and lots of books.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~