I recently managed to partner with Macmillan International, and they sent me an ARC of The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty. To be honest, I requested this book because of the controversy surrounding it. Still, I delved into the book with an open mind so that I could form an objective opinion. Thankfully, my optimism paid off; I enjoyed the book a lot, so much so that I wished to have a written interview with the author. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TTK, you can check out my review. Overall, I honestly believe that TTK is a great start to a riveting trilogy. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know the author as much as I did. ^^
- What was your inspiration for the not-so-fantastical world in TTK? I actually enjoyed it because it reminded me of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.
“I get compared to that trilogy a lot, which is a huge compliment, but I honestly didn’t read it until I was in the final stages of editing TTK with my publisher. It was a bit of bummer to see all the similarities because it meant I hadn’t done something as unique as I’d thought. My inspiration was drawn heavily from my background in personality typing, which always made me curious about dating websites that used those kinds of tests in matching people. Coupled with phase of reading a lot of Tudor-era books, both fiction and non-fiction, with all the marriages and divorces for political advantage, it set the wheels in motion for wondering if a matching system would have worked or been handy in those times. I could see it being necessary to hold a weak nation together and also see the women running the system as a way to protect each other. It could easily become more powerful than most people (particularly men) realized. But if one group can game the system to their advantage, so can another. Who would even notice it but the matchmakers? Plot!”
- What made you decide to feature colored characters in your novel? What is your take on the importance of diversity in YA literature?
“I mostly created a world with a history of several different cultures and environments, some that were related to each other in development and some that weren’t. When it came to nailing down what people from regions generally looked like, I mostly relied on the geography and climate I’d created. In a couple of cases I made people look specifically unlike the real-world people they were kind of based on or the people they were working with or against. You have to be able to both tell people apart and tell where someone’s from by their looks. When it all came together, it seemed fairly diverse, but there wasn’t really a super conscious effort to make it so. Diversity is important, though, because the real world is diverse. If one particular ethnicity or skin color or gender or sexuality is always the good guy or the bad guy or the sidekick or absent altogether, it’s harmful. Good and bad exist across the spectrum, just like people.”
- How did your educational background (your degree in rocket science) affect your writing of TTK?
“Engineering at its heart is about the interaction of forces and the creation of complex systems, and I love that stuff. If that background helped, it was in always looking for the way events interact. Real world societies are a product of engineering – internal and external events coming together and functioning as a team of sorts. It also can make me obsess over getting some details right. My friends are teasing me about how I’m frustrated that the physics of an event in Book 2 aren’t working and need major revisions, but dang it, that’s important to me!”
- Sage is undeniably an empowered female protagonist, and her male peers gradually learn to appreciate her true worth. With that in mind, what gender roles/stereotypes did you aim to explore/debunk in TTK?
“You say that like I meant to do it. I love the butt-kicking female protagonists I grew up reading, but I found few friends interested in those stories because they felt intimidated by or unconnected to a girl who likes to hit things. A friend once told me women doctors and fighter pilots and dragon slayers are inspiring, but she hated feeling like she was inadequate or wrong because she didn’t want to do any of those things herself. I totally understand that – nurses and teachers and mothers are just as worthy of admiration. As for me, a 5 foot 6, medium build woman, I only look threatening to my kids, so what made me formidable or a legitimate authority in a male-dominated Navy? Rank will only get you so far. You have to be willing to learn, ready to act, and one step ahead of the crowd. Sage is all of those things, and she does it mostly within the confines of a traditional gender role. In fact, that’s her advantage. There are things only she can accomplish because she’s a woman, and a smallish one at that. Additionally, I think her finding romance with a military man is appropriate because competency is what matters most to them in succeeding. I guess if there’s a message to young women, it’s work with what you got where you are. There are many, many ways to make a difference or save the day – find the one that fits your strengths.”
- What inspired you to explore or emphasize the political aspect of marriage in TTK? If you were in Sage’s shoes, would you be willing to marry for power or connections?
“Political marriages were historically important across all cultures, and still are in many places of the world, so everyone is familiar with it. That’s not to say it’s right, just realistic. But I love the idea of “powerless” women turning that system to their advantage. As for being in Sage’s shoes, in her case there’s no real advantage to marrying her, which is incredibly freeing. Anyone who married her would have to really want to. If there were some advantage or peace between nations to be gained, then I might be willing to accept marrying under those circumstances. Might. Possibly sacrificing my own happiness to save lives is a worthy cause to consider. Very logical, in fact: the needs of one versus the needs of many. But I would go into it with open eyes, and I would make sure my husband did, too.”
- As a debut author, how do you respond to both praise and criticism?
“I try to avoid seeing much of either, and I respond sparingly, even to the nice stuff. If it’s praise, it can give a false sense of security and pride, which makes you lazy, not to mention high-and-mighty. Or it can make you insecure because you feel you don’t deserve it. Criticism (and praise) often has as much to do with the critic as the work, so it’s important to take it all with a grain of salt. Things that come from outside my target audience matter less, but criticism always hurts. Always. And that can be just as damaging to the creative process, not to mention mental health. But I do need to know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve, so I can’t ignore what people are saying either. I see what others point out to me, mostly. It gets filtered by people with less of a personal stake in the work. Veteran authors have said that’s the best strategy. It helps that I have a busy life outside writing, so I just don’t have much time to deal with it anyway.”
- What can you tell us about the sequel to TTK? Does it already have a title?
“I’m hacking my way through the jungle of revisions right now, so I both don’t know what I’m allowed to say and what I can say because plot points are still in flux. I can say that even people who love each other very much still have a lot to work out, and we all carry our own demons. As for bad guys, sometimes they aren’t really bad people, they’re just caught in a bad situation, fighting for their survival. It does have a title (as does #3!), but I think there’s going to be a reveal down the road, so I have to keep it to myself for now, sorry!”
About the author:
Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.
She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.
Visit Erin’s website