Title: Rise of the Branded
Author: Scott Keen
Series: Scar of the Downers #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Pursued into the wild by the soldiers of Ungstah, former slave Crik and the other freed Downers encounter the magical and terrifying nature of their world. They face spectral Shepherds, man-eating Rukmush, and the ancient giants of the earth. When two of their group are captured, Crik is distraught and powerless.
Meanwhile back in the city, Durgan, former Captain of the King’s Guard who allowed Crik and his friends to escape from Ungstah, is now a Downer, one of the Branded. Amid the murmurings of an uprising among the Branded, Durgan just wants to be left alone to search for his missing son. But in the process, he discovers how dark the powers of Sulfus the king truly are. Durgan must take a stand in the coming war between the Branded and the powerful armies of Sulfus.
To kill any hope of escape for the city’s Branded, the army comes after Crik and his friends to make an example of them. The answers for Durgan, Crik and freedom for all Downers lie hidden in the dark recesses of the Northern Reaches, in the treacherous places Crik and his companions are about to enter.
Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.
Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.
Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings, and scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.
To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before – escape from the city of Ungstah.
What is the biggest influence/interest that brought you to this genre?
I would have to say that the biggest influence in my life that brought me to writing fantasy was J.R.R. Tolkien and his work. The Simarillion and the history of middle-earth fascinated me, all the stories and characters that grew out of it. It revealed to me the depth that is possible in a fantastic world. But even before I knew of Tolkien, I always loved fantasy. I remember watching The Neverending Story as a kid and being amazed by it. Whenever there was a special and The Wizard of Oz came on television, I always wanted to watch it. There is something inside of me that has always been drawn to that genre more than any other. I think it gives me, as a writer and the way I write, the chance to explore what it means to be human.
When writing a book, what is your favorite part of the creative process(outline, plot, character names, editing, etc)?
My favorite part of the creative process besides writing the actual book is developing the story. Before I sit down to write, I usually spend quite a lot of time just thinking about the story and the characters. I take notes of the plot points, the characters and their names, and any other detail I want to include. In screenwriting, I begin outlining the story with what they call a step outline. When I prepare to write a novel, I spend time listing the chapters and what each one may include. That way, I can see the story progress as a whole. That’s not to say that it doesn’t change while I do the actual writing. It is always fluid. But that, I would say, is my favorite part. Discovering the world I’m building is exciting. It is completely unchartered territory. You can go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone you want. As the saying goes, the world is your oyster, and that is most definitely true when writing fantasy.
When reading a book, what genre do you find most interesting/intriguing?
My reading tastes are very similar to my writing ones. I spend a lot of time reading young adult and middle grade fantasy. After all, that is what I write. I like to see what other authors are writing and what children are reading. But beyond that, I am drawn to books that take me away from the modern setting. So, the classics and stories set in history have always been intriguing. In a way, if the story sits too close to home, I find myself having very little interest in it.
If you could co-author with any author, past or present, who would you choose?
That’s a very good question, and one I’ve never thought about it before. In fact, the more I think about it, the more difficult it is to answer. Although I’ve never written with someone else, I have brainstormed a stage play before with my wife. She left the writing of it to me. I would imagine that it could be a sensitive process unless the visions matched. But if I had to choose someone, I would probably choose Tolkien.
Have you always wanted to write or did it come to you "later in life"?
I didn’t come to novel writing until quite late. As a teenager, I wrote songs for the band I was in. I also wrote poetry to some extent, but it was very sporadic. Looking back, I believe I was trying to scratch an itch, but I couldn’t ever satisfy it. When I went to college, I signed up for a screenwriting course and loved it. But the idea of trying to write for a living hadn’t entered my mind. At one time, before I started law school, I did try to write a novel. I never got past the first page. I didn’t know where to go. Then, after one semester in law school, I realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer. So, I entered the Script & Screenwriting MFA program. However, it wasn’t until I read The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. that I truly sat down to write my first novel. That was in 2006-2007. I was nearly 30 at that time. But I have worked at some form of writing since my teenage years.
Scott grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing – he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools.
The Rise of the Binded #2
Scar of the Downers #1