Many thanks to Alma, for allowing me to visit 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 chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.
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.
I have a confession to make: I want to run away with the Travelers. I have always been fascinated by theater, by the special power that builds between performers and audiences, by the way a story is changed by acting it out, aloud, in public. In college, I indulged my passion for drama by serving as stage manager for several productions. After college, I set aside my love in favor of a stable, reliable job as a lawyer.
But still, the theater called. Once, I was attending a lawyer convention in Toronto, and I sneaked away to spend the afternoon at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Before long, I found myself standing in front of a display case, ogling the statuettes that depicted a Commedia dell'Arte troupe.
Now, in literature, coincidence is often considered a crutch, a support for a thoroughly incompetent writer who cannot build a plot to save her life. But there – in front of the figurines of Harlequin and Pierrot and Pantalone – someone called me by name. I turned around to find a friend from college, John, who had lived in my dormitory freshman and sophomore years.
We chatted for a few minutes, and I confessed that I didn't know a great deal about the Commedia characters; I just loved the way they were posed, performing a play. He laughed and reminded me that he had written his senior thesis about Commedia dell'Arte. We spent almost two hours in front of the statuettes, while he regaled me with tales about the theatrical tradition.
When I left the Gardiner, I had the seeds of a story – about a girl who runs away from home to save her best friend. She takes up with a Commedia troupe (in my world, the Travelers). She learns that there are some plays (in my world, the Common Plays) that can be modified at will, improvised endlessly, crafted like the finest Commedia entertainment. But there are other plays (in my world, the Holy Plays) that can only be changed with the most dire of consequences…
I had all the seeds of Darkbeast – harvested right there, in front of the Commedia figurines. In fact, I even had the key to my writing career. In yet another stunning coincidence, John was also a lawyer, practicing in my area of expertise. When I left the practice of law a few years later to find more time to write novels, John took my place at the law firm.
Certainly, if I saw that story acted out on a stage, I would never believe it. But perhaps if it were performed by just the right Commedia troupe, with just the right thumbing one's nose at authority… Naw. No one would ever believe it. Even if it's the truth!
What is the most dramatic (either in the sense of "of the theater" or "life-changing") coincidence that you ever experienced?
Morgan can be found online at:
Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including: Amazon | B & N | Indiebound
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.