Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Morgan Keyes' Best Friends and DARKBEAST giveaway!!!

It's my distinct pleasure to welcome my friend and fellow Washington DC-area writer, Morgan Keyes to Honestly YA! She's got a great Stand by Me story and an extra special giveaway for you all...

Many thanks to Honestly YA for allowing me to visit here 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.

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.

When Lea told me that this month's theme was "Stand By Me" I was immediately thrilled, because that idea is central to Darkbeast.  The novel starts with a twelve-year-old girl asking whether her family is really willing to stand by her.  Almost immediately, Keara needs to decide whether she's willing to stand by Caw, her darkbeast, her best friend.  Once she takes to the road, Keara discovers new friends – ones who stand by her side, ones that she chooses to stand beside.  And she discovers that some people aren't friends; some people can't be relied upon to stand by her in a crisis.

All of that seemed incredibly natural to write about, because Darkbeast grew out of the games I played with my own friends in middle school.  Okay.  I'll admit it.  We were not the popular kids – not the most physically fit, not the most fashionably dressed, not the most socially leading.

But even when I most felt like a gawky, misfit tween, I had my friends.  I had a core group of girls with whom I shared everything – my super-secret crushes on the cute boy who had the lead in the school play, my newly-discovered favorite books that were expanding my horizons by leaps and bounds, my dream of being a writer some day (!).

I cherished those friendships – they were intense in a way that no other relationships have been in my life.  With those friends, I first tested my own morals and ethics, I first had to decide when I was going to stand with a friend who was being bullied, whether I was going to accept people who were different from me because of money or looks or religion or interests.

I had to confront all the issues, all the decisions that Keara has to face in Darkbeast.  I needed to decide what sort of person I was going to be, just as my main character has to decide what she values.

And I did it, successfully, because of the friends who stood by me.

Middle school was a long time ago.  I have to be honest – I drifted away from those friends over the years.  But when Facebook arrived, I found myself reaching out, typing in names, rediscovering old friends.  Sure, we've all changed over time.  We have different politics, different careers, different families.  But there's a core of friendship there.  A core of knowledge.
Keara and Caw (and all the people they meet on their Darkbeast journey) will never be on Facebook.  But their story resonates with the same magic of friendship, the same aura of standing by the people they love.


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. You can learn more about Morgan at her website and on Facebook.

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

So what about you, dear readers? Do you keep in touch with friends from middle school?  Does your reading and/or writing reflect what you read and wrote then?  Do you stand by your middle school self, even now?

*And now for the giveaway! Leave a comment below to enter to win your very own hardcover copy of Darkbeast! Don't forget to leave your email address so we can contact you!  One lucky commenter will be picked at random. The contest will end on Wednesday September 19, 2012 and is restricted to those in the US and Canada.


Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Morgan! Darkbeast sounds amazing! Can't wait to read it. :D

Melissa Landers said...

Congrats on your release, Morgan. It sounds awesome!

To answer your question, no, I don't keep in touch with anyone from middle school. I was an Air Force brat, and we moved around so often that I lost touch with all those kids long before I even graduated from high school.

Chloe Jacobs said...

Dark Beast sounds fantastic!

When I was in middle grade (called elementary school in Canada) -- I moved around so much I was never in the same school for longer than a year or two, so I didn't have really solid friendships until we settled and I was starting high school. However, there was one friend who I've kept in touch with. Ever since we were both five years old. Both of our families moved across the entire country and we didn't see each other for fifteen years, but when we met again as adults, it was still the same! Now, we keep in touch online and try to get together every few months!

Morgan Keyes said...

Lorie - Thanks for your kind words!

Melissa - I moved twice in two years (between eighth and ninth, and then between ninth and tenth grades), and that was *way* too much for me. I've always admired kids who learned to settle well with military moves!

Chloe - I met up with my best-friend-from-second-grade a few years back. Hadn't seen her in decades, and I was *floored* by how many mannerisms we shared!

Kimberly said...

What a great post! I think we all have stories that reflect our personal experiences. This is a case in point. Books that have strong friendships are much easier to write when you're relying on memories of your own.
Even when the story is completely different--set in a different time and place--those bonds generally remain the same. It's great that you had a group of girls who stood beside you. Many young girls don't experience that kind of honesty in female relationships these days. I want my daughters to experience what you did. What I did as well.
Thanks for sharing your story! I can't wait to read your book! It sounds great!

Gayle C. Krause said...


Darkbeast sounds like the kind of books I love to read. Magic and fantasy and a spunky heroine...Great!

To answer your question, yes, by the power of Facebook my fellow 4th, 5th and 6th graders have found me after all these years and we keep in touch.

Would love to win the copy of Darkbeast. Congrats on the book. :)


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Just discovered your site! Thanks for letting me know about it, Lea.

Major congrats to Morgan! I'd love to win a new MG share with my MGer, of course.

Karennina Posa said...

Congrats on the release, Morgan! Darkbeast sounds great. Thank you for telling us a bit about how the story came about. Makes me want to read the book even more.

My best friend is from way back in 3rd grade. We still keep in touch, and call each other "best friend." :)

Snfrog7 said...

congrats, and thank you for the giveaway!

Cloib said...

I teach Middle School and I'm still best friends with my friend from MS who was my maid of honor in my wedding!I'm always looking for great reads for my students who are struggling readers. In today's troubling times, your book sounds like a breath of fresh air! Look forward to reading :)

Eliza Knight said...

Sounds like a fab book!

As for me, I am actually still BFF's with a gal I met in 7th grade French class. We still get together all the time, now with our kiddies. Unfortunately, my reading/writing doesn't reflect what I read or wrote then... BUT I love having a middle schooler now, and I get to show her the books I used to love AND help her write her own stories.