Author Spotlight: Arie Farnam
Introducing Arie Farnam, author of the dystopian fantasy Kyrennei series:
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm originally from a remote rural area in Eastern Oregon. I grew up in a family with somewhat alternative values and an earth-based spiritual bent. I also grew up legally blind. Those two influences collided to give me an education in being an outsider as a teenager. Later, I traveled extensively in about 35 countries, worked as a newspaper correspondent in places like Kosovo, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, produced documentary films and generally had a very interesting journalistic career. Now, I live in the Czech Republic with my husband and my two small children. I suppose I am still sort of an outsider, because I'm a foreigner and visually impaired and I often hold minority views. But I've made peace with that. And hence my books, which partly deal with issues of social exclusion and inclusion.
2. When did you start writing, and why?
I was taught to type by a wonderful teacher when I was in sixth grade. That opened up a whole new world to me. I've never been all that good at expressing myself orally and handwriting was always difficult. Typing was like freedom. My imagination and expression ran wild. I have basically written something every since. Sometimes it’s fiction, sometimes newspaper articles, sometimes just very long letters but I have never had to make myself write or suffered from writers block. If there weren't other necessary and fun things to do in life, I would write all the time.
3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
One thing I really love about writing fiction is the feedback from readers. Non-fiction is good too but fiction is really fun to share. Everyone I've heard from has been intensely gripped my series and has fallen in love with the characters. When readers tell me that they meant to just read for a bit and then ended up staying up half the night and wandering around at work the next day daydreaming about my characters, all I can say is, "Yeah, I know. Isn't it bizarre? I had the same problem while writing it."
Right now, I'm finishing up a series that is something between contemporary dystopia and a fantasy thriller. It's my first serious work of fiction. I've had the ideas and characters and much of the plot since I was a teenager but I always dismissed it as being "too out-there", "too-intense" or "too" something else. I was embarrassed to let my fantasies loose on the world. I tried to write all kinds of other fiction and was never satisfied. For a long time, I thought that I must just be a non-fiction writer. But then about a year ago, I decided to try writing this story down, even though I never expected to show it to anyone. I was emboldened partly by recent trends in the dystopia genre, which showed me that my story isn't beyond the pale.
When I started writing it, I was shocked by what happened. I was gripped by what seemed like a "writer's fever." I literally wrote for three months straight. I couldn't stop. I couldn't sleep. I could barely keep the rest of my life together. In three months, I wrote the rough drafts of three novels. I've spent the last few months learning about the new shape of the publishing world, deciding to go independent, creating a website, learning graphic design, editing, editing, editing and seeking out editors and finally publishing and marketing the books. Despite my worries at the beginning, the first book has a five-star average on Amazon.
4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Okay, the series is called The Kyrennei Series.
Book One is The Soul and the Seed. It's out as an ebook and will be out in paperback within the next few days.
Book Two is The Fear and the Solace. That will be published as an ebook in early October.
The third book, The Taken and the Free, should be launched at a series party on November 8 if all goes well.
I'm also reworking my narrative non-fiction book Border Crossing Lessons. It is sort of a memoir, sort of just a story about incredible people I met and harrowing adventures I had as a shoestring journalist and traveler in my early twenties. That will be out in 2015.
5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The Kyrennei Series is about a fantasy world that outwardly looks exactly like the real world. The difference is that so many of the problems of today's world that we have a hard time explaining are explained - everything from inter-ethnic wars to high school cliques, as well as political parties, the military industrial complex and corruption. In essence, it's a whopping good conspiracy theory and it holds water disturbingly well.
There is a clandestine force which usurps the wills and desires of individuals, making them fervent disciples of a secret cult of power. A certain portion of the population - including many politicians, business leaders and socialites - are part of what is called the Addin Association.
The Addin is in essence a manifestation of the human desire for power over others. Humans cannot resist the Addin. If the Addin wants an individual, they take them and there is nothing the individual can do about it. Some people can put it off a little longer than others, but in the end, no human can stand up to it. And once taken by the Addin, you desire more power for the Addin and you can take others under its control as well, except that the Addin doesn't want everyone to have that kind of power and thus only strategic individuals are usually "taken."
As usually happens in nature, the world started out with something to balance the Addin. There was a race of non-human people, a parallel species to Homo sapiens and those people, known as Kyrennei, could not be controlled by the Addin without their consent. In ancient times, some humans wanted to remain free of the Addin and they asked the Kyrennei for help. The Kyrennei allied themselves with some of these humans and thus came into direct conflict with the Addin. In around 300 CE, the Addin decided that the Kyrennei were a threat to their power and thus began a particularly bloody period of history, during which the Addin tried to exterminate the Kyrennei. By around 700 CE they had succeeded, given that the Kyrennei were not very numerous.
But Kyrennei mystics put in place two important things before they were wiped out. First, they equipped their human allies with a strange sign made up of very subtle gestures, which would disappear from their memory if they were taken by the Addin. Thus, their allies, now called Meikans, would always know who among them was taken by the Addin and who was free. The Meikans, being human, were more able than the Kyrennei to hide and some of them still survive today, hiding from the Addin in the general population and passing down through the generations their special sign, their quiet resistance to the Addin and a secret international Pagan religion.
Secondly, the Kyrennei mystics attempted to hide their DNA, through the use of what appeared to be magic, scattered in dormant genes among humans. There was a prophecy that some day the bits and pieces would come together and the Kyrennei would return. But in the twenty-first century few, even among Meikans, actually believe in such things. True, myths and legends about non-human people with pointy ears and slight stature still abound in many disconnected parts of the world, mystifying folklorists from Ireland to Vietnam, but they're only old legends after all.
Or are they?
That is the world that the Kyrennei Series opens on. I hope to someday write more books, beyond the initial trilogy, including historical books about how the modern situation came to be.
6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Aranka is "semi-normal" sixteen-year-old girl. She's a bit awkward and more athletic than most. She doesn't pay enough attention to fashion or social cliques, so she's not real popular in high school but she has a couple good friends. Then, some doctors come to her school to administer a surprise blood test and they claim she's sick with a terrible super virus. Aranka and several other kids are shut away in a quarantine and wake up imprisoned in cages in a warehouse. Aranka doesn’t know the Addin, which holds true power in the world, exists any more than your average kid in twenty-first century America does. And when a young doctor tells her that she is belongs to an extinct non-human race called the Kyrennei, she's pretty sure he's delusional. But after a strange illness and gene therapy, she does now have pointed ears and her body has changed in other ways... and the people keeping her in a cage are killing others who look like her.
Kenyen is the young doctor who tries to tell Aranka about the harsh realities of their world. He's an undercover agent for an international group of outlaws who actively resist the Addin. The leaders of the resistance have prepared him for this ever since he was a kid, including putting him through medical school. The modern study of genetics has given the Addin access to the dormant Kyrennei genes hidden deep within the human genome and they have decided to force the Kyrennei to return on their own terms, so that they can easily eradicate those who defy their power. Kenyen's mission is to infiltrate the Addin laboratories and participate in killing Kyrennei at first. Then once the scheme has picked up speed, he is supposed to use his inside position to spearhead a raid by resistance fighters that should free a great number of Kyrennei. The problem with that plan - other than the fact that it’s insanely dangerous to try to infiltrate a group that can control your will in an instant if they ever find out you're not really one of them - is that he's a doctor and he has to help kill innocent kids. And it's destroying him.
Beyond Aranka and Kenyen, the main characters are the members of J. Company, a diverse group of resistance fighters. There's Thanh, the young Vietnamese Meikan outlaw who narrates a good part of the first two books in the series. He's just an incredibly awesome character and whenever I was stuck for a voice, I settled on him. Then there's Jace, the Australian mastermind of J. Company. Jace's second in command is a tough-as-nails, middle-aged Russian lesbian named Dasha. There's also Cho, a Japanese medical student who’s in love with Thanh; Rick, Kenyen's Arab foster brother; Kwasi, an East African musician and mechanic; and Radek, a Czech cartographer with a suspicious streak.
The primary bad guy isn't actually the boss of all the Addin. One problem with the whole Addin puzzle is that there isn't really a boss. The Addin isn't just the people controlled by it and can’t be that easily destroyed. But one Addin figure does stand out, at least for Aranka and Kenyen, because he's the kind of guy who really hates it when someone small and weak stands up to him or makes him look less than invincible. And this guy Bradley becomes obsessed with torturing Kyrennei prisoners, particularly Aranka, because they resist his domination without even trying.
7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Many of the locations in the book are real, so you can read it and have fun navigating with the characters on GoogleEarth.
The Pagan religion of the Meikans is fictional but similar Pagan belief systems now make up the fastest growing religion in the United States.
THE SOUL AND THE SEED (Book One of the Kyrennei Series)
What if your very existence threatened the heart of power?
It's the 21st century, right now, in America and on the surface everything looks just fine. But the commonly accepted image of society is an illusion. A clandestine force usurps the desires of individuals, and those who won't conform must be crushed to preserve the appearance of free will.
Aranka is just a sixteen-year-old girl but a fluke in her genes makes her a threat. Those with power will stop at nothing to protect their supremacy. She is kidnapped by doctors who claim she´s sick but it´s only a matter of time before it´s her turn to die.
A diverse band of outlaws from every corner of the globe represent the only hope of resistance. Kenyen, a young doctor, infiltrates to the heart of the oppression but he can't stop the terror. He just wants to save one life. In the process he uncovers "the Seed," the first flicker of hope in a thousand years.
"This could be the next big thing! It presents a dystopian, world-shattering vision while taking place in the recognizable here and now. The characters are flawed, angst-ridden, and totally believable. The plot is instantly engaging, carefully laid out, and strewn with unexpected twists. Subtle yet apparent undertones surrounding issues of race, politics, language, geography, and urban vs rural culture all contribute to the rich, aromatic "stew" in which this story bubbles. ." -George Lederer, school librarian and radio actor
"The Soul and the Seed is a well-crafted tale, full of dynamic characters and showcasing some of the best aspects of fantasy literature: world building and meaningful social commentary by way of holding up a fantastical mirror to our own world. This is modern fantasy, with no vampires or werewolves or inane teenage romance, and it succeeds where so many similar books fail." -Damian Roache
THE FEAR AND THE SOLACE (Book Two of the Kyrennei Series)
What if you had to fight a war you knew you could never win?
Twenty-two-year-old Cho is temporary commander of the J. Company compound in Montana when disaster strikes. The scouting team in Portland, Oregon has been ambushed on the 205 bridge. If they're captured, their souls will be usurped by the malevolent Addin Association. Then Cho will be on her own in a secret world war that cannot be won. Two of her closest friends are dead, the man she loves is at the epicenter of the peril and the one who carries the first hope in a thousand years is lost, almost certainly killed in a rain of bullets.
Hope is a fragile thing and fear is constant companion. It's the twenty-first century, right now, in America, and a clandestine force controls the highest seats of power. It will stop at nothing to stamp out resistance. Meikans like Cho have lived in terror of the Addin for generations and those who dare to stand up to its power are shunned as outlaws by their own people. Then a mere girl fulfilled an almost forgotten prophecy and hope briefly flowered in unlikely places. But does a giant even notice the crushing of a single flower? One girl is easy enough to kill.
The Fear and the Solace will be published in the first days of October 2014.
The Soul and the Seed is available at Amazon.
Where to find Arie Farnam:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook
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I am Kyra Halland, author of tales of fantasy, heroism, and romance.
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