Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spencer Hill Press Summer Blog Run--Darby Karchut

The SPENCER HILL PRESS SUMMER BLOG RUN will be coming to a close soon. Only a couple more awesome authors to meet. Remember everyone who has left a comment on any of the blog posts is automatically entered to win the grand prize--a very generous B&N gift card from all the authors who have participated in the blog run.

You know, because we were thinking of you and your love of books. So, we wanted you to go buy some.

The next writer on The Spencer Hill Press Summer Blog Run is Darby Karchut, who has won some extremely impressive awards for Griffin's Rising and Griffin's Fire: 2012 Bronze Readers Favorite YA Novel, 2011 Sharp Writ Book of the Year, and 2011 Reader's Favorite Honor Book.

Awww, I’m blushing!

Pretty cool! I'm pretty excited to learn a bit more about Darby.

I’m not that interesting, as my students could testify.  LOL!

Darby is the author of Finn Finnegan due to be released March 12, 2013, and the next in the series, Gideon's Spear. Wow! Grats to all your success. 

Thanks, Judy. And I can’t wait for Perfection to come out, too!

Not only is Darby an awesome writer, but she is also a teacher and likes to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn.

You can keep up-to-date with Darby on facebook, her webpage, Goodreads, and her blog.

Welcome, Darby, to my little blog. Thank you so much for visiting.

*Jugglers and flamethrowers gallivanting about*

Thanks, Judy, for having me here today. *dodges the flamethrowers*

So, Darby, the word on the street is you're a teacher. Can you tell us what you teach?

I teach social studies at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School in Colorado Springs, CO. (Go Thunderbirds!) Our school was recently awarded the Colorado Middle School of the Year and was the runner up for the Middle School of the Year for the entire nation. We have an awesome faculty and even more awesome students!

Do you use your love of reading and writing to inspire your students?

I try to. I embed non-fiction reading and writing strategies into the social studies curriculum.  But we also explore the literature from other countries into our studies. Plus, I help our librarian run a weekly book club that meets during lunch. About forty members strong, it is a mix of boys and girls. We read about eight books a year. We are beginning this school year with Griffin Rising and Griffin’s Fire. Then, this spring, we’ll finish the year with Finn Finnegan.

Do you use any classroom antidotes between the pages of your books?

In Griffin’s Fire, much of the plot is set in a public school. Several of our teachers were actually portrayed, as well as our vice-principal.  And, in Finn Finnegan, Finn’s best friends’ dad is a science teacher.

When did your love for reading take root?

I grew up in a family that venerates books. We always had loads of books and my mom always bought us books as Christmas and birthday gifts.

Please tell us the very first book you remember reading.

Little Black, A Pony.

Please tell us your favorite books as you grew up. 

The Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkien and The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander.  In fact, I have dedicated Finn Finnegan to the memory of Lloyd Alexander.

What are you reading now?

The Ranger’s Apprentice series and the Brotherband Chronicles, both by John Flanagan

What author do you idolize?

Thomas Cahill for his non-fiction series, The Hinges of History and J.R.R. Tolkien, for giving fantasy the gravitas it needed to be taken seriously.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Fantasy (either high or urban) with a male protagonist.

Who influenced your writing?
J.R.R. Tolkien, the most, but there are loads of others.

Tell us your interest in mythology.

I’ve always been fascinated by myths from around the world and their power on people. Because of that, I earned my undergraduate degree in anthropology (my master degree is in education). I have continued to explore myths and folktales in my novels. In the back of my books, I always write an author’s note about the cultures I “borrow” from.

Besides writing and reading, do you have any other hobbies?

I enjoy running, mountain biking, skiing (downhill and cross country), mountaineering, and hiking. Also, my husband and I have spent the last five years building a vacation cabin in the mountains. I am the biggest tomboy in the world. I also grew up riding and showing Arabian horses, both Western and English. In fact, my horse, Beau Bar-Drift, was the reserve horse the 1980 U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team. Of course, the U.S. boycotted the Olympics that year. (Stupid Cold War.)

How do you manage your time between teaching, writing award-winning novels, and your hobbies?

I never watch television. I work every minute of every day. But I know this pace will ease up in the spring of 2014, when I officially retire from teaching.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share with us?

No. I hate to cook. Since it’s just my husband and me, we usually just have a salad for dinner. Or maybe some cheese and fruit.

First thing to pop into your head….

Coke or Pepsi? Neither. I loathe carbonated drinks.

Jogging or relaxing on the couch?  Jogging. Duh.

Sweats or a dress?  Running tights under my skirt.

Abs or eyes?  Actually, voice. I love a deep voice in a man. Especially if he has an accent. Irish or British, of course.

Most embarrassing moment in your life? (Like everyone else, you have to share...mua ha ha)
So, so many to choose from, but one of my favorite was when I interviewed for my first teaching job and found out afterwards I had food stuck in my teeth. Good times. Good times.

Tell us a little about the Griffin's Rising and Griffin's Fire:

They are the first two in a four book series about the coming of age of a guardian angel and the stalwart mentor who saves him. The books are based on a myth from the Middle Ages about a low caste of guardian angels who are said to control the ancient elements of Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water. It is set in modern-day Colorado Springs. In Griffin’s Fire, one of the characters from Finn Finnegan makes a cameo, and in Finn Finnegan, Griffin makes a cameo. Lots of fun to have my two boys meet each other.

How do you build your characters?

I wish I could say I have some formula, but they always seem to appear to me fully formed. I do pay close attention to speech cadence and nervous tics to help round them out. And I always give them an internal struggle: with Griffin, it is rising above an abuse childhood. With Finn, it is dealing with an out-of-control temper. 

Also, names are extremely important to me. Griffin means Strong in Faith - appropriate for a guardian angel. Finn MacCullen is actually my Anglicized version of the ancient hero from Celtic mythology: Fionn mac Cumhail.

What methods do you use to create a believable world?

With urban fantasy, a great deal of my worlds are already built. But I try to infuse a wash of magic and wonderment throughout the stories.

What intrigues you about young adult?
Like most YA/middle grade authors, I enjoy the power of the storytelling and how we can address the Big Questions, especially for boys as they take their first steps into manhood. Writing for boys is my passion.

Tell us about Finn Finnegan and Gideon's Spear.

Finn Finnegan is the first book in The Adventures of Finn MacCullen. Here’s the blurb from book one:
Finn (not bleedin' Finnegan) MacCullen is eager to begin his apprenticeship. He soon discovers the ups and downs of hunting monsters in a suburban neighborhood under the demanding tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. Both master and apprentice are descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan, a magical race of warriors from Ireland. Scattered long ago to the four corners of the world, the De Danaan wage a two thousand year old clandestine battle with their ancient enemy, the Amandán, a breed of goblin-like creatures.

Now with the beasts concentrating their attacks on Finn, he and his master must race to locate the lost Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan, the only weapon that can destroy the Amandán, all the while hiding his true identity from his new friends, Rafe and Savannah, twins whose South African roots may hold a key to Finn's survival. Armed with a bronze dagger, some ancient Celtic magic, and a hair-trigger temper, Finn is about to show his enemies the true meaning of "fighting Irish."

Gideon’s Spear will continue the adventures. In that book, we’ll learn more about Gideon’s past.

Time for the Tantalizing Teaser Temptation.

Thanks for letting me add this, Judy. This is one of my favorite scenes – Finn’s first day as an apprentice to his no-nonsense master (who cannot resist teasing his thirteen-year-old apprentice:

“C’mon! Do I have to?” Finn grimaced when Gideon handed him several pairs of folded jeans of various sizes.

“Aye, ye do.” Gideon pointed to a nearby dressing room. “Spending an afternoon at Wal-Mart is not the way I planned to celebrate both the ceremony and yer birthday, but ye’re woefully lacking.” He checked the price tag on one of the jeans, then pulled out a wallet and thumbed through the bills. “We can afford two, plus a few shirts.” And another pair of shoes, he thought, glancing down at the boy’s feet. Although he’ll most likely outgrow them before he outwears them. “And what about…?” Gideon’s voice trailed off as he gestured vaguely toward Finn’s middle region

            Finn glanced down in confusion. “What about…what?”


            “You mean, like…like…am I wearing any?” Finn’s voice cracked with thirteen year old boy indignation.

            Gideon fought a smile. And lost. “No, ye dolt. Do ye need more?”

“I guess,” Finn mumbled, blushing as red as his hair. He ducked inside the dressing room. With one last glare, he pulled the door closed with a snick. 

Laughing softly under his breath, the Knight pressed against a rack of shirts as he attempted to stay out of the way of the other shoppers packing the aisles. He watched as Finn emerged a few minutes later and stood in front of the full-length mirror, tugging at the waistband of the jeans.

            “And just what are ye doing?”

            “Getting them right. They don’t sag enough.” Finn pulled up his tee shirt to check the fit.

            “I can see the top of yer boxers.” Gideon stepped closer to shield Finn as two teenage girls walked past. “As can everyone else.”

            “Yeah, that’s the point.” Finn examined himself in the mirror, then looked up. “What?”


            “No? Why? Gideon, this is how everyone dresses. We’re supposed to fit in human society, right?”

            “Mine are not on display, and I’ve manage to blend in,” Gideon declared. “For quite some time, now.”

 For all the lucky people who stopped by, Darby is kind enough to give away...

 a signed copy of both Griffin Rising and Griffin’s Fire, as well as signed Finn Finnegan bookmarks.


  Would it be strange if the host won the prize. HMMM? *Strokes chin*

Just two things to enter:

1)  You have to follow my blog.  Need directions---scroll back up closer to the top, right hand side and click follow
2) Tell us your favorite epic or urban fantasy and why.

Contest ends Saturday, Sept. 15th.
Winners will be announced Sunday, Sept. 16th.

Oh, and don’t forget, everyone who comments is automatically entered to win the grand prize of a Barnes and Noble gift card at the end of whole summer run. 

Thank you all for stopping by.  Please leave Darby a comment thanking her for her time and for the ultra-cool prizes.


  1. Thanks for having me here today, Judy! And for putting up with my tardiness! I should get a detention or something...

  2. Darby is truly All That and the Cat's Meow!!

    1. Nu-uh! YOU, Sheri! And congrats on you and your new literary agent!

  3. Awesome interview! Loved the excerpt-so funny! Favorite fantasy series is LOTR, of course. :)

  4. Great interview Darby. I am soooooo excited for you. "2012 Bronze Readers Favorite YA Novel, 2011 Sharp Writ Book of the Year, and 2011 Reader's Favorite Honor Book." WOW WOW and WOW! You are amazing

    1. Aww, thanks, Lisa! You're not doing too badly yourself! :-)

  5. I love reading these interviews! I don't have a fave fantasy.....I love so many books it's impossible to choose!

  6. Okay, up until lately, I haven't been much of a high fantasy reader--but then I started reading The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima and it just kind of got under my skin. And Darby, my first (shelved and rightfully long-forgotten) ms was steeped in Celtic mythology. I also have a soft spot for male MCs and I think I'm going to love your book! Good luck and fun reading all about you. Teachers rock!!!

    1. YAY! Another Celtic gal! We should form a club or something! And I love writing boys, too!

  7. Yay for Darby! I love a man with a great voice, too! ;)

    1. Thanks, Kelly. And I love your new cover!

  8. Great interview Darby - feel I know you much better now. It's so wonderful to see all you've accomplished. Wishing you all the best on your publishing journey. :-)

    1. Hey, Lexa. Nice to see you here and many thanks!

  9. Hey, Darby, I enjoyed learning more about you. The horse story is neat. We used to have quarter horses, and I loved those beautiful animals.

    1. Oooooh, my first horse was a Quarterhorse mare from the King Ranch in Texas!

  10. I love the excerpt you posted here -- that's too funny! I definitely remember seeing this style when I was in middle school/high school.

    1. Yeah, that scene had me giggling the whole time. Inspired by true events!

  11. Hmmmm. This sounded like a bit of a throwaway scene, but even so, I wonder why a Gaelic kid would try to go ghetto. In my urban neighborhood, a white kid trying to dress like a homey would be challenged and tested. I would have believed Finn more if he chose to wear no underwear.