Title: The Soul Keepers
Author: Devon Taylor
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 28th, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
“A fantastic high-stakes adventure on a ghost ship sailing forever into eternity, where every soul is (literally) worth fighting for—what’s not to love? Devon Taylor weaves an endearing tale of friendship and loss with heart-stopping action and a whole lot of terrifying monsters. You’ll root for Rhett and his fellow reapers through every twist and turn!” —Rin Chupeco, author of The Bone Witch and The Girl from the Well
Full of danger, stormy otherworld seas, ghost ships, and terrifying monsters, this thrilling debut novel is perfect for fans of Taran Matharu and Neal Shusterman.
Death is just the beginning.
After dying in a terrible car accident, Rhett awakens in the afterlife and is recruited to join the crew of the Harbinger, a colossal seafaring vessel tasked with ferrying the souls of the dead. To where exactly, no one knows. But the crew must get the souls there, and along the way protect them from vicious soul-eating monsters that will stop at nothing to take the ship and all of its occupants.
Rhett and his new friends have a hard enough time fighting back the monsters that grow bolder and more ferocious every day. But then a new threat emerges, a demon who wants something that Rhett has. And if she gets it, it could mean the end of everything… for both the living and the dead.
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Soul Keepers is a pulse-pounding, cinematic adventure by debut author Devon Taylor.
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1. What does your writing process look like? Do you know the whole story when you start? Or do you just start writing and go with it (seat of the pants writing)? If you plan it out, how do you do that? Outline, notecards, post-it-notes, etc.?
I guess I’m kind of a hybrid plotter/pantser. I definitely can’t write completely by the seat of my pants—I almost always write myself into a corner that way, and it’s A LOT of work to get back out of it, which usually involves just starting from scratch. But if I plan the book out completely, I lose interest in it. If I can’t surprise myself at some point along the way, then it’s just not any fun. So I usually give myself major bullet-points that I use as guideposts, which help steer the plot toward the super vague ending that I have in mind. Then I just kind of write from one bullet-point to another, filling in the blank spaces in between as I go. That gives me plenty of room to discover things about the character or story that I never could have plotted out ahead of time. I usually scribble out my bullet-points in a notebook and refer back to them from time to time when I need a refresher on what Past Devon thought was a good idea.
2. Do you edit as you go, or wait till you're finished before you edit? How many times would you say you go over it yourself before having another set of eyes look it over?
I try very hard to resist the urge to edit as I go. I’ve learned, and am now a firm believer, that first drafts are meant to be crummy, they’re meant to look messy and scribbled-on and decorated with coffee rings. But you can’t edit a blank page, and trying to edit only a fraction of a whole story is like replacing the tires on a rusted-out junkyard car. Though I do admit that sometimes I’ll make tweaks as I’m drafting—it’s just too tempting to avoid. In the case of The Soul Keepers, I kind of took a risk because when I uploaded it to the Swoon Reads website, I didn’t let a single other person read the book. I was under the wire with the submission deadline, and knew if I didn’t hold my breath and submit the manuscript right then, I’d chicken out and not do it at all. With the sequel to The Soul Keepers, I let my wife read it before I submitted it to my editor for the first time. My wife is my first reader, and she always has the best advice and feedback.
3. Are you part of a writers group that gets together and helps each other with their writing?
I don’t have a local writers group, where we get together and chat in person (although that would be pretty awesome). But there is a “Swoon Squad” group online, where a lot of the Swoon Reads authors talk about their experiences, offer advice/encouragement, and just generally gab with each other. It’s a really awesome group. I’m also part of the Electric Eighteens debut group, for authors whose debut YA novels are releasing or have released this year. Another super positive and encouraging group of people. Oh, and I’ve met up a couple times with a young writers group at the bookstore where my book launch is being held. Those kids are LEGIT, and are coming up with concepts that are going to be super kick-ass novels in a few years.
4. How do you come up with your ideas for your stories?
Neil Gaiman always has the best answers to this question, but I’m not nearly as clever as he is. Most of my ideas have always started out as what-if questions. For The Soul Keepers in particular, it was “What if Charon was still ferrying souls across the River Styx today, with the world population as big as it is?” And from there, other questions start popping up. The answers to those questions are generally where the story develops from.
5. What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
As a person who was also an aspiring writer only a little over a year ago, I feel severely underqualified to answer this question, but I’ll give it my best shot. The best advice I can give is to finish the projects that you start. Even if those manuscripts end up in a shoebox or on a shelf, the feeling of satisfaction that comes with writing “The End” is just so worthwhile. Plus, the learning experience you get from writing and writing some more and writing until the story’s end is invaluable. The only way to get better at writing is to write. That’s been my experience, anyway.
6. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen or had an experience with a ghost?
I definitely believe in ghosts! When my family and I were still living in Las Vegas, my dad and stepmom bought a house that had been built in the 40s or 50s. It wasn’t exactly big or creepy-looking, but it totally had a vibe. My brother and I shared the converted garage. One night, I woke up, looked across the room, and saw a woman standing at the end of my brother’s bed, staring down at him. It was one of those moments where you’re sure that once you close your eyes and reopen them, the weird thing you’re seeing will be gone. So I closed my eyes, counted to five, and opened them again. And the woman was still there. At that point I freaked out, leapt out of bed, flipped the light on. After that, my dad and I started noticing weird things happening around the house. Like pots and pans clanging together in the middle of the night, windows inexplicably opening by themselves, and just the general sense that you weren’t alone when you were supposed to be. That’s my single legitimate paranormal experience, but it solidifies my belief in ghosts.
7. What are your favorite:
Books: Pretty much anything by Stephen King or his son, Joe Hill. There are too many fantastic YA books to try and pick even a few, but I definitely love anything speculative, like science fiction or supernatural or horror. The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear (which helped inspire The Soul Keepers) is one of my go-to book recs.
My wife and I are huge superhero movie nerds, especially when it comes to the MCU. We also really, really love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Like, I honestly don’t think I’ve been as emotionally invested in a television show as I am in that one. We also really dig The 100 on the CW.
I’ll listen to pretty much anything that catches my ear, but anyone who knows me well knows that my default genres are metal and pop-punk, and pretty much any sub-genres therein. One of my favorite albums in the last couple of years was Phantom Anthem by August Burns Red.
Coffee and pastries are where it’s at for me. I have a major sweet tooth. I love anything with carbs, really. Bread, rolls, buns. Stuff that generally doesn’t want to make me do anything but take a nap, but still somehow gets me through a writing day.