Author photograph courtesy of Frank Auer. Cover (below) by Najla Qamber Designs.
Keely Brooke Keith is the author of the Uncharted series. Her novels are known for weaving together elements of history, science fiction, and romance. We recently collaborated to produce the audiobook version of her first novel, The Land Uncharted. I sat down with Keely to talk about her series, audiobooks, and life as an author.
The Land Uncharted is centered on a young doctor living in a preindustrial society untouched by the outside world since 1860. Where did you find inspiration for the story?
I've always loved maps. When I was a kid my grandma saved National Geographic maps for me. I would paper my bedroom walls with them. I often stared at the wide blue swaths of ocean on the maps and wondered if there was any land there that we just didn't about. Then as an adult, I researched my family history. Most of my ancestors moved west in the middle of the 19th Century. They traveled in groups like so many Americans at the time and it made me wonder: what if instead of going west a group of families wanted to find a whole new land and got on a ship? I wondered what that settlement would be like several generations later and decided to drop a modern man into the middle of it to find out.
The next novel in your Uncharted series is out now, and book 3 is slated for release in May. Did you plan on writing a series from the very beginning?
Yes. I wanted to write a series about one family where each book focused on a different sibling. This series arc is so multi-faceted that after telling Lydia's story in The Land Uncharted, I was able to continue the threat of the outside world while focusing on Levi's story in Uncharted Redemption. And Bethany's story in Uncharted Inheritance... well that's when it all breaks loose!
I had a blast working with you on the audiobook of The Land Uncharted. What initially got you thinking about releasing an audiobook?
When I told friends about signing my first publishing contract, several remarked that they didn't have time to read so they'd wait for the audiobook. I'm not sure if they were kidding or not, but I immediately started researching audiobook creation.
What has surprised you about being an author?
Reader response! I never imagined I'd get fan mail. Well, it's not mail these days--it's emails and Facebook messages and links to reviews they want me to see. Every little encouragement is huge to an author because we spend most of our days writing alone. I also love the questions from readers about the Land. The Land is a product of my imagination, but I ended The Land Uncharted by putting geographic coordinates in the epilogue. Readers have messaged me that they've looked it up on Google Earth or they send me links to articles about the South Atlantic Anomaly or things that they think make the existence of the Land plausible.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new author?
That's a hard question to answer because the authors and agents and publishers I've met have been extremely generous with advice, so I felt prepared.
What books are you reading right now?
I don't have a very presentable reading list at the moment. I just finished writing the story of the founders of the Land, which required a ton of research (Balfour's Class Book of Botany or Naval Surgeon: Blockading the South, 1862-1866 anyone?), plus I also critique for other authors, so I get to read books before they are books.
What are you writing next? Is there another series in the works?
Good question! The founders' story (working title: Aboard Providence) will be released sometime in 2016, but I'm not sure what I'll write next. I'm keeping a notebook handy and it's already full of ideas. It's only been a week since I finished writing my last book. This is the longest I've gone between stories and I already miss writing, so I'm sure I'll start a new story soon. I don't think we've heard the last from the Land just yet!