It’s my honor to bring you an interview with author Kaitlyn Keller! You may recognize her from Episode 42 of RONIN UNCENSORED! (If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out here!)
Kaitlyn is a wife, mother, gamer, and anime otaku writing diverse fiction with a focus on character-driven storytelling! Her upcoming novel, SPLITTER, is a horror novel inspired by creepy video games.
1. Hey, Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for doing this interview! For people who don’t know about you, would you mind introducing yourself a bit?
Sure! My name's Kaitlyn (obviously) and I've been writing since I was 5 years old. I don't stick to one genre, and rather jump around to whatever interest's me at the moment. Currently, I'm working on Japanese Folklore, Fairytale retellings, and dark fantasy. I have a fantasy trilogy out, published by an indie company, and have 2 novels set to release in September and October of 2020. When I'm not writing, I am a freelance editor who loves video games, anime, and attending conventions with my husband.
2. SPLITTER drops on 15 September 2020. I know it’s a horror novel and it’s inspired by scary video games, but what is it about?
Splitter is a novel about the best of both video games and horror novels. It was inspired by playing Outlast and Amnesia the Dark Descent. It follows 23yo Mackenzie, an avid video gamer, who's kidnapped when someone breaks into her house. She wakes up in a strange manor alongside a school teacher and learns pretty quick that there are deranged creatures roaming the halls. The guy who kidnaps her makes it clear that if she survives until the morning, she'll live. But, he won't make it easy. His ultimate creatures, Splitters, are released right before sunrise, and they run purely on instinct. Lucky for Mackenzie, she's played so many horror games that she knows what to do and what NOT to do, so she comes up with a plan to hopefully survive the night.
3. Mackenzie is a badass! She doesn’t just cower in a corner – she actively tries to find her way out of her terrifying situation. A lot of horror characters aren’t like that. What inspired you to write a character that had so much agency in a horror story?
I was tired of reading (and playing) characters that never knew what to do. Even if you hate horror, you know not to go certain places or be an idiot and scream. Yet, for one reason or another it's like horror doesn't exist for them and they have zero idea how to deal with it. Realistically, anyone would use what they know and have seen to help them survive, so I wanted to do the same for Mackenzie. I know for me, I'd be tearing through every bit of knowledge I had to make it through a real life horror scenario.
4. Toot your own horn: what’s one thing about this book that you absolutely love?
One thing? That's tough. I'd have to say Ollie. You don't know who that is yet, but when you read the book you will. Ollie was a bit of a challenge for me, but I'm proud of how he turned out. I had to dig through what exactly makes someone have humanity, so struggling with that and getting it down to a science, for lack of a better term, helped him come to life. He's by far my favorite in the book and crafting him pushed me as an author, helping me grow.
5. Here’s a two-parter. Aside from writing this horror story, you delve into lots of other genres as well! A) What other genres do you write, and B) what did you take from those other genres to craft this story?
Aside from Erotica, I write almost every genre. Folklore, fantasy, dystopian, romance, contemporary, you name it. If it's a genre, I'm sure I have a book about it somewhere. Except maybe westerns. I don't write westerns.
The biggest thing I took from other genres in the open creativity of crafting a world. Though this takes place on earth, in northern America, the manor itself is made up. So the layout, the way it operates, it's a bit fantastical. Also, the creatures throughout are quite sci-fi (and obviously horror) so there's a mad scientist type feel to them in places.
6. You’ve got a serious education in writing. That definitely helps with credentials, but I’d like to know: do you believe your formal education in this field has strengthened your work in any tangible, specific ways?
Absolutely. Getting my Master's degree in English is one of the best and most rewarding things I've ever done. The professor's helped me to tighten my skills when it came to dialogue and character creation. They challenged me to explore different avenues of my voice. When I took my screenwriting class, the professor I had not only encouraged me to pursue writing (which was a huge confidence boost) but he pointed out weak spots in my script that no one else had ever noticed or mentioned. Now, he's specialty is screenwriting, so he paid special attention to certain aspects, but having him address issues I had never thought of before (like light placement in a room or time when it comes to how quick or slow reactions and movement are in a scene) have been marginally helpful to me.
7. The cover for SPLITTER is downright gorgeous! Tell me about the inspiration behind it. It looks like it draws on specifics right from your story! Was that a happy coincidence or were you pretty involved in the cover creation?
To be honest, it was all the artist. I gave him the blurb for the book, told him the genre, and he sketched it up. I didn't give a whole lot of direction, other than the silhouette on the front was female, not male. His vision is what made the cover as creepy and badass as it is, so I can't take any credit.
8. Without giving away too much, care to share a short passage from the book?
Most certainly! Not sure how short you consider short to be, but here's a bit from the first chapter:
The air inside the apartment kicked on, muffling all the odd groans and creaks that came in normal cycles.
I bent down and retrieved the letter, tucking my finger under the flap to tear it open. Inside I found the words,
He’s done it. He’s taken man and stripped him of humanity. Made him bleed until every ripple of skin looked like plaster, cracked and dry. Slicing through the flesh of the innocent, he’s carved grins so wide and upturned that it nearly unhinges the jaw. He’s removed the eyes from their sockets and smoothed over their faces to resemble the shell of a hardboiled egg.
A perfect creation, he called it.
I’m sitting in my own vomit and feces, waiting for the moment when my mind turns off and gives in to the insanity lurking outside the door. I can hear it laughing, taunting me to come closer and embrace its madness.
But I can’t. I won’t. He may have broken the others, but he will not break me.
I can hear the voice calling louder now, thriving in the dark like festering, slimy mold. The voice invites me to the sweet surrender of insanity. It begs me to leap into its arms and never look back. I can taste the ecstasy soiling the air with each word it whispers.
Surrender. Surrender. Surrender.
My body craves the idea like oxygen. I need it.
Oh, God. I’m becoming just like them. Another monster, shaped by the hands of a murderer. No matter how firm I press my palms to my ears, I fear it won’t be much longer until I am powerless to resist the temptation that haunts me.
There is no escape.
I dropped the letter and shot to my feet. “What the hell? Is this a joke?”
A boisterous, guttural laugh soaked the air.
For a fleeting moment, I thought Elijah had returned, ready to pop out from behind another corner to scare me. But as the truth sank in, I knew it wasn’t Elijah.
“Mackenzie, Mackenzie,” the same voice snickered, a slight accent to my name. “We finally meet.”
I whipped my head left and right, but there was nothing, no one. Just my couch, side table, and lamp in the cramped space I called a living room. Peering down the hallway on my left, I saw a shadow snaking out from the kitchen. My heart skyrocketed. My throat swelled.
“Let’s see how you fare when your greatest passion becomes your deadliest fear.”
9. Where can people find the book when it goes to the shelves?
Amazon, for sure. I'm working with IngramSparks for the paperback, to get them into stores like Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble, but they haven't been exactly easy to work with.
10. Who do you think is the perfect audience for this book? Who would just really, really love it?
To be honest, I don't know if there is a perfect audience. It's technically a new adult book, but it's an easy read for young adults, it's engaging for those who have played video games, but it doesn't go over someone's head who hasn't played. Ideally, I wrote the book for gamers who don't usually read, so that they'd feel like they were playing a game. I also wanted to encourage writers and readers to pick up a console and play video games if they haven't prior to reading the book.
You can find Kaitlyn’s work, and all the cool stuff she’s doing, on her website. Just click that link to go! And if you’re interested in getting nerdy about books, games, or anime, Kaitlyn’s always down for a chat on Twitter.
Pre-order SPLITTER now on... Barnes & Noble