The idea of twisting or retelling a myth always leads one down an interesting path. There are so many different ways of looking at stories, that putting a unique twist on them is really a work of art. Naomi Kelly is no exception to the rule, because she has successfully managed to twist the idea of the Prince Charming ideal, Greek myths, and the damsel trope into one story! Please, read on to read all about Naomi, her new novel, and the exciting world she has created!
L: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
N: Hello! I’m Naomi Kelly and I’m an Irish, self-published YA Fantasy author. I work in retail where I get a lot of inspiration for contrary characters, and I recently just moved to Dublin city.
I have no siblings, a few plants, and a ton of animals. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m probably watching a terrible vampire movie because they are my all-time guilty pleasure (and yes I was one of those teen girls obsessed with Twilight.)
L: What has your writing journey looked like?
I spent many of my teen years typing out terrible short stories and screenplays on my half-broken laptop, but it was not until I reached my early twenties that I really threw myself into the world of writing. Last year, I published my first book, Trial by Obsidian, and once that was on the shelves I was right back into writing another!
L: If you could only own three books, what would they be?
It’s hard to narrow my endless shelves down to three books, but I’d have to say “A Promise of Fire,” by Amanda Bouchet, “Poison Study,” by Maria V. Synder and “The Cruel Prince,” by Holly Black.
L: Oh, amazing choices! The Cruel Prince is definitely a desert island pick for me as well. However, I want to talk about your book! Can you pitch your new novel, Meraki: A Syren Story ?
N: Sure! Meraki is a YA Fantasy novel that follows Wren, a young syren who swims away from her watery world. With mounting pressure growing at home as her eighteenth birthday looms, she’s forced to finally decide what it is she wants, or in her cause what she definitely does not want. When she’s captured with King Kellan’s net and kidnapped to be used for her powerful song, her life takes a sharp turn for the unexpected and she begins to question what is it the gods are playing at?
L: What inspired you to write this story?
N: Whilst walking along a pebbly beach with my boyfriend, I started thinking about how there could be entire Kingdoms, (or in Wren’s case Queendoms), beneath the waves that us mere mortals cannot see. Once I started daydreaming about that, the story unfolded rapidly, and I just had to try my best to keep up!
L: What drew you to write YA fantasy?
N: Fantasy has always been my favourite genre to read, so naturally it was the style I was most comfortable with. When it came to writing I levitated towards a YA style as I enjoy the extra level of uncertainty and growth that comes with it. Often the main character is beginning to discover who they really are at the same time as the reader. I loved the thought of Wren’s blossoming into who she is before the audience.
L: How would you describe Wren, the main character of Meraki?
N: I would describe Wren as stubborn with a disdain for being wrong (or wronged). She finds it hard to open up to people, preferring to ruminate over her thoughts alone and keep her worries and nightmares to herself. But when she does let someone in, she guards them fiercely with every inch of her selfless being. She is exceptionally loyal, which is a problem when she is faced with turning her back on the Queen.
L: Did you find any challenges in writing a main character who is not human?
N: Definitely! The most challenging aspect I had when writing Wren was describing her appearance without it seeming jarring. It’s obvious straight away that Wren is far from human, but weaving in details about her gills, or her periwinkle blue skin without making her seem unrelatable to the reader was important to me.
Often in YA Fantasy novels, the vampire, fairy or witch, is portrayed as flawless and beautiful which was something I didn’t want to focus too heavily on in my novel.
L: Since this is a fantasy story, would you mind describing the world it is set in?
N: The story unfolds across a series of islands which are as diverse as the characters. The most central isles (both in location and importance) are The Lunar Lands: a series of isles ruled by King Kellan. This Kingdom is composed of the Crescent Cove mainland, adjoined by the Meteoroid Spit and Star Spike.
Across the sea to the North, lies Seven Spikes. Here live all the magical creatures, and in a secluded cave before the shoreline of the mainland lies the underwater opening to the Queendom where the syrens reign.
This novel definitely expanded my world-building abilities, and I even learnt some based cartography in order to create a map of the isles which is included at the front of the book.
L: Meraki: A Syren Story placed in a list that named the Top 100 for YA Greek Myths. That’s amazing! How did that make you feel?
N: Thank you! At first it felt surreal. It was so unbelievable that my novel was ranking on the same list as well-known bestsellers, but once I got past the disbelief I was just immensely grateful to all my readers who helped me get there. I cannot wait to see what my lovely readers help me achieve next!
L: What was your path to publication like?
N: Self-publishing is a steep learning curve that encompasses much more than just writing. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be learning about ISBN’s, barcodes, marketing and font sizes but being fully engrossed in the publication process just makes holding your own book more rewarding.
L: What do you believe is the most original aspect of Meraki?
N: I think readers have grown tired of “Prince Charming” saving the day type stories, so I strove to create something different. I believe it’s refreshing to have a book where both main characters had to learn to save themselves from a young age, and then learn to accept help as they get older. Wren definitely destroys the “damsel in distress” trope.
L: What was your favorite part of writing this book?
N: I really enjoyed the research element of writing! I spent weeks reading about Greek gods and creatures, deciding how they would slot into my story. Even though some of the monsters or gods might be well known by the reader from other stories and legends, it was important that I take a unique twist on things. As a writer I had to set my own rules and limitations for the world.
L: Is this a series or a stand-alone? Do you have any future plans for these characters?
N: This novel is a stand-alone, but this will not be the last time we hear of these characters. I have some future plans that revolve around the side-characters in this book which I’m really excited about.
L: Do you have any advice for other writers of YA fantasy?
N: Although it’s incredibly hard not to, try not to compare yourself to the mega-big authors straight away. Of course their books are going to be more popular and have tons of sales, but that doesn’t mean your novel is in any way lesser.
Instead, invest your energy into reaching out to other authors and readers. Focus on building a community where you can all help and support each other.
L: Anything else to add?
N: Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me, I really appreciate it!
A huge thanks to Naomi for taking the time to talk! Please, check out her book, her socials, and support her in any way you can!
Naomi's Instagam: https://www.instagram.com/naomikellywriting/