Kaza Kingsley Blog Tour

Erec Rex, a fantasy series for young readers written by Kaza Kingsley, is going to be published internationally. In celebration of the forthcoming Philippine release of Erec Rex, Kaza Kingsley is my guest blogger!

Hi Tarie! Thanks for hosting me at Into the Wardrobe. I'm so glad to be here, and hopefully get to meet a few of your readers!

Below you will see a kid picture of me. If you follow the posts on this tour you can see me "grow up" online! I'd like to take this opportunity to send a message to my potential/future readers there in the Philippines. I am so excited that the Erec Rex books will be available there soon! I really hope you enjoy them as much as I've enjoyed writing them.

I want to open up a relationship with all of you who read the Erec Rex books. Because of the magic of cyberspace, I can be as available to you there as to fans in my own country now! Even though here I tour and meet people, I'm spending more and more time with fans online than in person now. So the problems of distance are vanishing.

When I meet readers here, in person, I let them know that I am interested in their comments and questions. In my website there is a way to contact me, and I try to respond to everyone. I want you to know that, even though I am really hoping to come to your country, in the meantime I am still here for you!

It had been really important to me to make my series a global story. Our world is so small now. Ten years ago there is no way I would have been able to introduce myself to you like this!

So, even though Erec Rex, the main character, starts his journey in New York, USA, he quickly travels overseas. Characters appear in France in the beginning of Book Two, and will be all over the world (in mystical places!) in Book Three.

This was important to me, not just because I knew there would be readers around the globe interested in the series. But also because in our world, today, we are all so entwined. What happens to one affects the other. What good is a villain who wants to conquer just a small section of the world? Internet hackers do more than that every day!

Anyway, I want to thank all my potential and future readers in the Philippines (as well as the rest of the world) for your interest in going on this adventure with me. I hope it's an unforgettable one!

Kaza Kingsley
Author of the Erec Rex series

I also got to interview Kaza! :)

Tarie: Why the Philippines? Did you get to choose where your books will be released? Or was it your publisher that determined there is a good market for Erec Rex in the Philippines?

Kaza: Well, on one hand, it was more a case of the Philippines picking me than me picking the Philippines! The Erec Rex series is coming out in Japan, Thailand, France, Denmark, Poland, Israel, Brazil and Vietnam so far, too!

It was a publisher in the Philippines, Philmont, that got the ball rolling. I have an agent that works out all the details, and she's been great. I'm so excited that Erec will be available there soon!

But the Philippines are also special to me because I have several great friends from there! One is Rocel, a bookseller in Los Angeles. (There are pictures of him on my blog.) I have a doctor friend in LA and a friend in Chicago who are also from the Philippines.

Tarie: Fantasy isn't a very strong genre in the Philippines. (Unlike countries like the UK and the US where fantasy is such an established genre.) But there are great Filipino writers and so many great Filipino folk tales. And Filipinos love fantasy! Do you have any suggestions for how Filipino writers can solidify Philippine fantasy as a genre?

Kaza: I think that writers that have a special cultural history in them have a fantastic advantage. Folk tales are such a rich source to draw from. And I'm sure the folk tales of the Philippines have their own, unique messages and characters.

I think it would be great if a Filipino writer took a few of those stories and let their imagination go wild. Not only would the stories be popular in the Philippines, but everywhere!

Beyond that, even just the amazing setting you have there might be inspiration for some wonderful stories. Fantasy is just imagination gone wild, in a sense, then putting all kinds of rules on it. Writers interested in that genre should just jump in and give it a try! Reading a lot of fantasy helps give a groundwork for what is out there, that can help, too.

Tarie: Do you write every day, and keep a certain schedule?

Kaza: I really wish I did! But because I've been on tour so much I just can't. And also I can get so caught up in planning school visits, etc., that a day will be gone before I realize I haven't written.

I'm more of an all-or-nothing person when it comes to my writing, lately. When I really sink into a book I'll write for eight or ten hours a day, and do almost nothing else. That really works better for me, because I need really few distractions then. And other times I might go weeks without writing at all. But I don't like that. I really feel best when I'm writing.

Tarie: What do you think of your new website?

Kaza: I love it, so much! An amazing artist, Matthew Liam Brady, did the castle art for it. He's so talented! And I just can't get over all that is in it. The quiz is fun - "have you figured out which Erec Rex character you are?" And there is a constantly regenerating maze, too...

There is a brand new forum that is not even fully set up yet, but some people have already made posts. It's just too cool.

Tarie: If and when you visit the Philippines, will you a) visit white sand beaches and underground caves, go sailing, go snorkeling and scuba diving, etc.; or b) check out the natural wonders above ground, like the Taal Volcano, the Banaue Rice Terraces, and the Chocolate Hills. And why? :o)

Kaza: Ohhhh, do I have to pick? Because I'd really want to do it all! I guess if I had to pick I'd go with option B. Although the white sand beaches and underground caves sound spectacular (I'm sooo jealous!) the on-land sights are so unique to the Philippines that I wouldn't want to leave without seeing those. Rice terraces - I've never seen anything like that before! It conjures up such a beautiful image in my mind. I need to get out there soon and experience all this! And Tarie - you better let me see the beaches, too, when I'm there!

Thank you so much Kaza, for stopping by and for answering my questions! Gosh, it's great having guests over. :D I hope Erec Rex becomes a huge hit in the Philippines! If you have any questions or messages for Kaza, please leave them in the comments section below. She will be happy to reply to all notes left for her. :D


Cyam said…
Hi, Kaza! Welcome into the wardrobe and to the Philippines, as well (hmm, at least virtually, hehe)!

I've always wanted to ask a children's literature author:
Do you think children's literature should offer a utopian or dystopian universe? What do you consider healthy for young readers?

Hope to hear from you and good luck on your series! It already looks, sounds, and smells like a hit. =)
Cyam - thank you! I can't wait until I get to see the Philippines in person.

Great question! My feeling is that it's probably ideal for kids to be exposed to both, just so they can see the variety of worlds that can be dreamed up in people's imaginations! But in general, maybe somewhere in between is best. I think it would be hard to write a perfectly utopian universe. It would be hard to have conflict for the plot! Unless it's not a true utopia - at least for some characters. And a pure dystopian universe? Waaay too depressing for me. And maybe too scary and unhealthy for kids.

I think that kids relate to some things going wrong. A little bit of drama or threat of a bad future might kick up the suspense. But not too much. I hope that answers your question!!
Thanks for the great comments!
Cyam said…
Hello again, Kaza! Thank you for your answer. We're on the same page there. =)

Literature in itself is already complex and at times, controversial. When the target audience is children, who are very impressionable, then it gets even more contested.

I asked my question because I wanted to pick the mind of a children's lit author regarding their stand on their "responsibility" to their intended audience. =)

May I ask a follow-up question? Can you name a work that exhibits that delicate balance between good-and-bad/utopia-and-dystopia that you were talking about?

Thanks again! Hope you enjoy your stay in the wardrobe! =)
Anonymous said…
Hi Kaza!

Welcome to the fantastic world of the Philippines! -- in more ways than one. ;)

I'm not really into fantasy, but would like to ask you how easy or hard is it to write fantasy novels, compared to other genres, say crime/mystery or realist fiction (my fav categories) or any other kind of fiction. (Have you tried your hand at other genres?)

Yes, do visit! :)

Publisher, FilipinoWriter.com
Anonymous said…
Hey Kaza! I am so glad you dropped by here. Wise choice to visit Into the Wardrobe :) I hope you can visit the Philippines for real to promote your book. I'll be there in your book signing!

It's really cool to discover a promising new fantasy series. It'll be a new obsession and an added gem to my fantasy book collection once I get my hands on it!

Anyway, here is my question: C.S. Lewis and Tolkien's works are built on strong religious foundations, while Philip Pullman's goes against organized religion . What place does religion occupy in the Erec Rex series, and in the fantasy genre in general?

By the way, I love-love-love your hair! :)
Wow, there have been fantastic questions here! Thanks, guys!

Cyam - What work exhibits that delicate balance? Are you setting me up here (hee hee!) Mine!! Well ... I guess a lot of books fall between a utopia and dystopia, but I happen to like where mine are sitting. In a sense there are bad things happening. In Book One, the castle in the magical world Erec has discovered is on its side. The king is hypnotized by someone. Throughout the series,there are things that are wrong ... but they all seem fixable. There is a strong flavor that there ARE problems (as in our world) but these can be fixed - by doing the right thing. Erec comes from a loving family that cares for him and supports him, and that gives him stregnth, too. So things aren't all perfect, like a utopia, but things are far from a dystopia, too. Sorry to use my own work as an example - it was just the easiest for me!!

Dino - great to meet you! I've had a few friends that aren't into fantasy really like my series. (If you lived here I'd give you a copy as a challenge!) To answer your question - I actually think fantasy is a little harder to write. I'm working on a non-fantasy adult novel, and there is a massive layer of planning that doesn't have to happen in realistic fiction. It takes a lot of time in fantasy to map out your world, decide the political system, magic system, clothing, money, landscape, on and on! In realistic fiction that's all given - people hop in a car, throw on jeans... Beyond that, in both the stories have to be engaging, the characters good... That's just my take!

Hey Bendrix! I can't WAIT to visit the Philippines for real! It sounds amazing!

I tried to keep Erec Rex in a middle ground, as far as religion went. It is definitely not a religious allegory, like Narnia, nor at all anti-religious, like Pullman's. I very much avoided bringing religion into it at all, but instead concentrated on the broader themes of "good v. evil" that will apply to all people's beliefs. In my country there are so many different religions, as there are across the globe. I really wanted a story that could be picked up by a person of any faith and understood on a deep level.

Even though my series is not religious, it definitely explores how humans handle tough decisions, right v. wrong, good v. evil. Erec has to make choices to do things that are not easy, that actually put him in major danger, just because they are the right thing to do. And I really hope that people will walk away after reading my series and think a little harder about doing what is right. I think a strong character learning lessons about life the hard way, and making good choices, can have a profound impact!
:} Luv,
Anonymous said…
Hi Kaza!

Welcome to Pinas (our nick for our country)!

Last November, Neil Gaiman guested on the Philippine Advertising Congress and gave an amazing talk on the power of imagination-- in terms of gaining fame, earning money, and most importantly, forming your sense of self/identity. What's your take on this? :)

It also made me proud when Neil mentioned that the Philippines has one of the richest folklores and that he is willing to share it to the world if none of us would. :)

How do you think we can do this? Our folklores have a lot of grim creatures such as the tikbalang (man with a horsehead), kapre (a tobacco-smoking giant perched on a tree), manananggal (a vampire woman whose upper half can detach from her lower body and fly), and the like. Do you think these characters would be appealing to international readers?

Maybe you can incorporate these creatures in your series too. Filipino readers will find it a pleasant surprise. :)

Thanks, and enjoy your visit!
Hey Opep!
Wow - those characters seem great!! I love the manananggal. Wow! They would definitely have universal appeal. I mean, heck, I have harpies (from ancient Greece, with heads of women and bodies of vultures) as the not-so-nice police in my created world! I think with writing, it's all about "how" it's done. Almost anything can be made really cool, if you do it with heart.

Maybe some of the Filipino writers could start a series based on these characters. Contact one of your favorite writers there and let them know your thoughts. Maybe they don't know people are looking for that!

I just might include one of those characters in the next Erec Rex. I do like taking snippets of cool things from all over the world. And it looks like you have a lot!!

I didn't see the Neil Gaiman thing (what is the Philippine Advertising Congress?) so I can't comment on it. But I agree that imagination is So important - a great way to unlock doors!!!
Anonymous said…
hi Kaza!!

am excited to have a copy of Erec Rex! i'll grab it as soon as it hit the shelves here in the philippines. anyway, aside from being a fantasy novel fan am also a fashion design student. sometimes i even get inspirations from the characters' outfits. my friends and i even brain storm after reading a book to get a pretty detailed picture. hehe

so what's the latest trend in Erec's world? how much time do you spend thinking about their costume design? =)

thanks! again, am super excited!


ei btw, you really have a cute name. is that a pen name? if it's your real one...any story behind it? hehe
That's cool, Carlo! Glad you like my name. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the clothing there. That is a cool thing about inventing a fantasy world - you can make it how you like! Erec dresses casually, as do the folks in Alypium, except the apprentices sometimes wear blue cloaks and sorcerer sometimes wear black cloaks. In Aorth (hot and underground) people wear shiny silver "underwear" - called that because it protects them from the heat underground. And in Oceana scales are all the rage...!
Luv, Kaza
Anonymous said…
Hey Kaza! Great interview. I can't believe people all over the world will be able to read the Erec Rex books. I love the new website I took the quiz and got Bethany she is my favorite character. :)
Cool, Rissa! I love Bethany, too...
Anonymous said…
Hi Kaza!

Tarie's been telling me about your books so I decided to check out your website to find out what the series is all about. Having read the reviews and noticing the comparisons made to the wildly successful Harry Potter series (of which I'm a fan), I'm definitely going to pick up a copy soon! I have a feeling it'll be a marvelously fun read!

Speaking of the comparisons that your reviewers have made with Rowling's series, I was wondering if you were at all inspired by her work when you decided to pen your Erec Rex series? If you were, in what ways have Rowling's insights affected your own work as a writer? If not, what would you attribute to your incredibly wild imagination?

Oh, and I heard you're actually coming over to the Philippines. Hope you have a wonderful trip!
Anonymous said…
Oh! One more thing. As a teacher I'm constantly looking for interesting texts I can use in class. It's even better when there are class lesson plans (or ideas for using the text in a classroom) that go along with them so I'm loving your section for teachers on your website. :)
Hi Corinne!
Sorry it took a while for me to find out this was here! I'm glad you liked the "for teachers" section on the website. I hope it continues to grow! I just talked at a school yesterday. It's something I want to keep doing to keep me in touch with my readers. (It's easier to keep in touch with my adult readers, otherwise!)

I love JK Rowling's work, as well as a lot of other fantasy books in the genre. The more I write, though, the more I tend to just be drawing from myself, strange as it sounds. I have to be careful, actually, as if there is anything remotely similar to Harry Potter I'll hear all about it! So I try to go a different route with my story - and I think I've been successful. I've always had a wacky imagination, which is really fun for me!

Great to meet you, and thanks for your questions!
Anonymous said…
There is a contradiction in the views: fantasy is said not to be a "strong genre" in the Philippines and yet it is also said that the country is rich in terms of folk stories. The truth is that fantasy stories and storytelling in the Philippines has been around for centuries.

Local book stores sell collections of many very old Filipino fantasy works, with many in different languages. Examples include the epics of the Philippine South, "Ang Ibong Adarna," and others. In fact, many of these works are even in the public domain and can be found in sites like Project Gutenberg Philippines.

Local readers should consider focusing on that rich heritage and making it available to more Filipinos.
Tarie Sabido said…
Yes, we do have a heritage in fantasy. I did not mean to imply that there is NO genre or no heritage. I contend that it is not a strong enough genre here. It isn't well-organized yet. It isn't popular enough. And there aren't enough critical studies on Philippine fantasy yet. It isn't as "solid" a genre here as realism, for example. In other countries, fantasy is as "solid" as other genres like realism.

When people refer to Greek mythology or Norse mythology, a unified (even systematic) tradition springs to mind. If you ask about Philippine fantasy, even most Filipinos will give you a blank stare.

Yes, we have a heritage. But (as I mentioned in the interview) is it as "established" in our country as British fantasy is in Britain?

You admit that we need to make Philippine fantasy more available to more Filipinos. I agree! I feel I must use your point to support mine: The fact that we NEED to make more of our fantasy available to more of our own people is a sign of a "weak" genre. We need to organize this collection. We need to firmly establish it with Filipino readers.
pgenrestories said…
Hi Tarie. How are you?

I'm Kenneth Yu from The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. I hope you don't mind, but I quoted you from your blog, and put up a link to here from the PGS blog. In particular, I quoted Kaza's answer to your first question because I liked the fact that she was encouraging people to read more.

However, it also drew a lot of "Anonymous" comments, especially with how you framed your first question. Though it didn't bother me as much as it did these "Anonymous(es)", I'm glad that you clarified your statement very well with your comment. Thanks very much! I'm glad to meet another avid reader over the web!
Tarie Sabido said…
Hi, Kenneth. It's a pleasure to meet you. :o) I wish you all the best for your printing company!
Anonymous said…
Very well put, Tarie.

Anonymous raises a point, although a careful examination of the context in which your question was made would have immediately put this point to rest.

Anyway, since the pot has been stirred - though one has to wonder why the pot-stirrer felt the need to hide behind anonymity - allow me to jump in with a few questions of my own:

1) Clearly, Anonymous disagrees with the position that fantasy is not a strong genre in our country. Is there concrete evidence that it actually IS strong?

Just because we have an abundance of folk stories doesn't mean they form a cohesive whole.

2) If fantasy is really a strong and firmly established genre here, where is the market for it? Who forms its readership base?

And is Filipino fantasy currently being taught and studied in our universities or even high schools the way, say, realism (Noli Me Tangere, Nick Joaquin, etc.) is?

3) In order for a genre, literary movement, or even any ideology to be called strong, it must have a firm foundation and at the same time continue to grow and evolve. On that note, do we have a seminal work that can be said to form the groundwork for Philippine fantasy? And can we trace the growth of Philippine fantasy from decade to decade, or even year to year, by way of looking at critical studies done on it?
Anonymous said…
Oh, you are so awesome, Kaza! You're books are top notch! I am trying to read them all, but man, they're hard to get! You inspired me to start on my own book. I would love to hear from you.

I have one question: How many books do you plan to write?