Author Rae Knightly is a science-fiction adventure author for teenagers and the young-at-heart. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.
My name is Rae Knightly and I live near Vancouver, on the West Coast of Canada, with my husband, two children and two grumpy cats. Before that, I lived in Mexico City, and before that, I lived in Belgium, and before that, I lived in Arizona, and before that… I think you get the idea. I love travelling and immersing myself in different cultures. In fact, I got a BA in translation (those who have read my books will get a chuckle out of this).
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been a writer at heart, but never had time to really do anything about it until 2018, when I lost my job. I already had a rough draft of Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall (The Alien Skill Series, Book 1), so this turned out to be the perfect time to polish it up and publish it. That’s when I decided to go full-time into writing, and I haven’t looked back since.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
2018 was a pivotal year for me. For the first time in my life, I managed to concentrate on a single project and write it from beginning to end. I felt very proud of that achievement because I had never managed to write a full story before. I had to wait until my forties to have enough time, a certain insight into my strengths and weaknesses, and a lot of patience, before I could attempt to become a writer.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
I published the first book in The Alien Skill Series in 2018 (second edition in 2020). This is a science-fiction adventure story for middle-graders and teens, which talks about a twelve-year-old boy, Ben Archer, who witnesses the crash of alien spacecraft in his grandfather’s field and is entrusted with an alien superpower. He goes on the run from government agents with the sole survivor of the crash: an alien man called Mesmo.
I believe that the friendship between Ben and Mesmo, as well as uncovering the reason why aliens came to Earth, have captivated readers of all ages and are the reasons for the series’ success. I have now won multiple awards and have achieved bestseller status on Amazon in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall is the first book in the series. The sixth and last book, Ben Archer and the Toreq Son, published in March 2021.
I am now working on my next series, The Lost Space Treasure, which I plan on publishing in 2022.
What inspired you to write this book?
As mentioned above, I had plenty of story ideas but always struggled to focus on one of them. Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall was supposed to be my ‘practice novella’ – a short and simple story. I wasn’t even focusing too much on the story itself; all I wanted was to prove to myself that I could finish something short. But once I got into it, I became attached to the characters and the story kept growing. I guess you could say I grew with the story and was inspired to see how far I could go.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My mother tongue is French (I was born in Belgium), so I have a certain limit as to what/how I can write. Fortunately, I have enough English knowledge and vocabulary to tell a good story in an easily-accessible way.
Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall is told from multiple points-of-view, which is quite unusual for middle-grade/teen books, but I believe it also the reason why readers of all ages have found a character to relate to.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I did a lot of research for the title, as well as the name of the main character. The original title was David Archer and the Chilliwack Fall, but then I discovered there already was a David Archer series and some smart readers pointed out that no-one would remember the name Chilliwack. I then changed the title to the Cosmic Fall to give it a science-fiction vibe.
The title of a book is important and is worth some thorough thought and research.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Under layers of adventure and excitement, there is indeed an important message in the series. Fortunately, readers have grasped that message and it reflects in their reviews: “A great environmental lesson for young adults.” “Contains environmental yet important themes about our need to protect our planet.” “An extremely timely message for today’s readers.”
In short, I hope to inspire young readers to take action to protect our environment.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in
your own life?
The book is not based on experiences or people in my life. However, they are inspired by real events, short newspaper articles or videos I came across; such as water plumes jutting out of one of Saturn’s moons, imprisoned whales freed off the coast of Russia, images of the Northern Lights in a magazine, major fires in the rainforests of Brazil…
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you
I was an avid reader when I was a teenager, and most of my own writing reflects that. Some of my favourite science-fiction and fantasy authors were Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising trilogy), Lois Duncan (A Stranger with my Face), Monica Hughes (Earthdark), Terry Brooks (The Shannara Trilogy), Paulo Coehlo (The Alchemist).
I loved their stories because they transported me into fantastical realms, away from reality. It was a thrilling feeling full of emotion and discovery. That is what I aim to do in my own writing.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
Cristy Watson, my editor and author friend (Cutter Boy), has been a guiding light since the very beginning of my writing career. As a traditionally published author and teacher, she knew exactly how to gear the story towards my target readers. She has also brought a positive touch to my stories.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
I ran a book cover contest on 99designs.com and received over eighty submissions! I picked five covers, then asked reader and writer Facebook groups to vote for their favourite one. The book cover designer Pintado came out a clear winner. This was an excellent marketing strategy for me because I knew I had a cover that was on target.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Writing, publishing and marketing your book can feel overwhelming at times. I suggest you don’t look at the mountain. Rather, focus on what you can get done today. It doesn’t have to be much, but you have to be constant. Also, forget about pleasing the crowds. What you have to do is find a group of target readers: those who will most enjoy your stories and rave about them.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Although my books are geared towards middle-graders and young adults, I welcome anyone to try them out. You can download a free novella by subscribing on my website: www.raeknightly.com .
This free novella is called The Great War of the Kins and is the point of origin of my two series: The Alien Skill and The Lost Space Treasure. I will also send you a monthly newsletter with news on upcoming releases, book cover reveals, ARC-reader opportunities, free books and more. Welcome to this fun and inclusive reading community!
Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)
Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall
Cover Artist: Pintado