Today, Olivia from YA-Mag is talking with Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki, co-authors of BRANDED!
Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society.
To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.
Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home.
Brutal and savage violence.
Every day is a fight for survival.
But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
Olivia with YA-Mag: Abi, Missy, welcome to the Young Adult Magazine! We’re here today chatting about BRANDED!
YA: Let’s talk about Lexi Hamilton. How did you two first meet? What makes Lexi the perfect character to tell this story vs. any other character?
Abi Ketner: Lexi, is a mix between Missy and myself; she shares some of our own qualities and even our faults. Our main goal for Lexi, was to make her as realistic as possible. Hoping our readers might relate to her or even learn from her.
Missy Kalicicki: I think she’s a perfect blend of both our personalities and physical attributes as we each incorporated ourselves into her. Bringing Lexi to life, was easier when I’d write her from my perspective- how I’d react in a certain scene or thinking about what I’d say. We wanted her to be vulnerable, and yet strong. We also made her younger, because we felt it would make her more relatable to our audience.
YA: What sets Lexi’s story apart from other YA dystopian novels, like THE 100 by Kass Morgan or Sophie Jordan’s UNINVITED duology? What will readers find that is unique to this tale?
AK: Lexi’s story is all about survival; she knows she can’t change or save the world that she lives in. She’s just an ordinary girl accused of a crime she didn’t commit, and is sent to the Hole to live amongst all the other sinners. And Branded doesn’t have any science fiction, which we think, makes her world feel more real.
MK: Lexi’s story is different because Branded has absolutely no sci-fi in it at all. We tried very hard to keep it real, gritty, and relatable as much as possible. We wanted it to be something our audience would relate to but to also question if it’s truly possible for it to happen. A lot of readers have loved Lexi’s lovable, goofy sidekick Zeus, the Great Dane.
YA: What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story?
AK: Growing up, when I was going through hard times my father would always say to me. “Aber. You can overcome anything short of death.” Obviously, he was my number one influence. Books/Movies: Twilight and The Hunger Games. Kelly Clarkson has two songs that gave me inspiration for Branded, Dark Side and Honestly.
MK: I think for both of us, music is always a HUGE influence. I listened to a lot of Linkin Park while writing Branded. It helped me get ready to write action scenes. I also really enjoy running outside, which helped spark my creative side. When it came to how the Hole looked and felt, I watched some war movies or YouTubed firefights and etc. to get a feel for how it sounds and looks. As far as real people, my dad and the close bond we share, definitely influenced the times I wrote about Lexi’s dad… and even when I’d write Sutton’s character.
YA: When you were teens, what were your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re authors for teens, what are your favorite contemporary YA?
AK: Growing up, believe it or not I despised reading. It wasn’t until my friend forced me to read Twilight (I was 26 years old) that I realized I actually could love reading. And The Fault in Our Stars is by far my favorite contemporary YA novel.
MK: When I was younger, maybe fourth grade, my dad bought me Ann Rinaldi’s The Last Silk Dress, which we managed to include in Branded. It was one of the first books that I really enjoyed reading and I still have it to this day. Throughout my teen years, I mostly read historical non-fiction books. Can you believe that?!
As an adult, I’ve really enjoyed Colleen Hoover’s Slammed and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I can’t really narrow down my favorites, because there are so many good ones! Currently, I’m reading The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings.
YA: What is the story behind the title BRANDED?
MK: We originally called our book SIN. Haha! Soon after, we decided to start calling it BRANDED because we felt it fit what our book was about. When we started writing it, we weren’t planning on doing anything but writing a story we loved, so it’s incredible to have gotten this far. 🙂
YA: This is the first in the SINNERS series. Tell us a little more about what’s up next in the series!
AK: HUNTED and book 3 are extremely different from BRANDED, but full of action and suspense.
MK: HUNTED is next, and we hope it lives up to its name. You’ll learn more about Sutton, Lexi, and Cole’s pasts. We hope to keep you hopping with action and as engaged as BRANDED.
YA: As co-authors, what has been the most challenging part of working on a novel together? What has been the most rewarding?
AK: The most challenging is having enough time to write. I have four-year-old triplets, two boxers, and a husband to manage. But you know, that’s just life right? The most rewarding? I get to write with my best friend and I love every minute of it. We work so well together it’s kind of scary. And she’s so talented, her writing blows me away. I’m honored to be writing with her.
MK: The most challenging part for me, is just getting together to work things out in the storyline! We have five children between the two of us, and all are young. Finding time is a luxury. So, we rely on emailing and texting a lot every day!
The most rewarding part? I get to share in the success of having Stacey Donaghy as our agent, and signing with Month9Books, with my best friend! It’s something we’ve worked hard for together!
YA: If you could cast the Dream Film of BRANDED, who would be in the lead roles?
AK: Josh Hartnett as Cole. Maiara Walsh as Lexi, Elle Fanning as Alyssa, Richard Gere as Sutton, The Commander would be Sean Connery,
MK: What she said. Haha. And Zeus can be… well, Zeus!
YA: What’s up next for you in YA land? Any pet projects you can tease us about?
AK: We have a few ideas brewing, but you can always expect to have action and love in our novels.
MK: Right now, we’re working on HUNTED and then book 3. We’ve bounced around some other ideas, but our focus is the Sinner’s Series. So, stay tuned!
YA: All right, last one! If you could spend one day with Lexi and Cole, what would you do together? What advice would you give to Lexi about her past or future?
AK: I would go to Lexington Bay with them; you can’t beat a day at a beautiful beach. As far as advice for Lexi, I would tell her exactly what my father says. “You can overcome anything short of death.”
MK: I think I’d like to go hiking so we can take Zeus along too. Cole and Lexi have been in the Hole so long, they’d probably appreciate exploring the peace of nature. Ha. Advice for Lexi? I’d say, be strong, have faith that everything will work out, and never give up regardless of what it costs.
YA: Thank you very much, Abi and Missy! And again, from YA Mag, congratulations on BRANDED! We look forward to hearing a lot more from you in years to come!
BRANDED, published by Month9Books, is now available at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter.