Arwen Elys Dayton spends months doing research for her stories. Her explorations have taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid (which she explored by a single fading flashlight when researching Resurrection), Hong Kong and its many islands, and lots of ruined castles in Scotland. She enjoys creating complete worlds inhabited by characters who charm, frustrate or inspire.
Arwen lives with her husband and their three children on the West Coast of the United States. You can follow her @arwenelysdayton on Twitter and Instagram, or reach her by email at email@example.com.
Kristin Centorcelli: Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a bit about Seeker?
Arwen Elys Dayton: Thank you, and I’d love to.
Seeker is a heroic family tale gone terribly wrong. The story is set in Scotland and Hong Kong 30-50 years from now, in a world that blends elements of the past into its future setting. Seeker is the story of teenagers who’ve been raised on an isolated estate in Scotland. For most of their lives they’ve been put through brutal training in which they’ve been taught to fight, mastered unusual weapons and gradually learned secret knowledge.
This is all to become Seekers, who will make the world better and more fair. The characters look on Seekers as something like the Knights Templar from Medieval times, committed to doing what’s right. They believe they will become modern versions of those legends.
But the adults in their lives have been lying to them, manipulating them. They are, in fact, being turned into terrible people, and early on in the story are forced to do some pretty terrible things.
When they discover the truth, their lives are thrown into chaos. The story gets fast and dangerous and intense as they make a desperate attempt to get away, falteringly discover who’s a friend and who’s an enemy, and try to choose a path for the future.
KC: What inspired you to write Seeker?
AED: A girl named Quin showed up in my mind one day, and she refused to leave. When I first caught a glimpse of her, I sensed that her life would play out on a grand scale with very grave consequences. She was so optimistic and talented, I saw, and yet her life wasn’t going to go at all the way she hoped. This made me sort of sad, but I was also intrigued, and that’s how Seeker began.
Around the same time, I was reading The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene, which is a wonderful book on physics, written to give anyone a basic grasp of the subject, and I became fascinated with string theory. If string theory is true, and there are many “extra” dimensions curled up at every point in the universe, how might one access those dimensions? That line of thought was the first step in creating the special knowledge and skills of Seekers as a group.
KC: What do you think makes Quin a heroine worth rooting for?
AED: Quin has spent most of her life isolated from the rest of the world, working for a goal she trusts is worthy. She’s smart and loyal, willing to fight hard for what she believes in—she’s an idealist. And she would have more of a sense of humor if the last few years hadn’t been so physically demanding. When she discovers how she’s been betrayed, she wants to disappear, to become someone else—anyone else. But the real Quin is still there, buried among her own ruined hopes. I hope readers of Seeker will be pulling for her to make it through. I certainly was.
KC: Will you tell us a bit more about the “world” of Seeker?
AED: Seeker is set in the near future, in Scotland and Hong Kong and also in London. The world of Seeker blends many elements of the past into the future setting, and because of this, the story has a sense of timelessness. There have clearly been some advances in transportation and architecture, but in many ways the story could be set in any time. The world of Seeker is not dystopian, but the Seekers themselves are living a strange, separate life, isolated from the rest of the world, and we see much of the story from that isolated perspective.
KC: What were a few of your favorite supporting characters to write?
AED: Maud, the Young Dread, is one of my favorite characters to write, with her spooky gravity, but she’s really one of the leads.
Among the more minor characters, I have a huge soft spot for Shinobu’s father Alistair. He’s a red-headed Scot, tall and broad, like a warrior out of Braveheart. I love his easy affection with Shinobu, contrasted with his willingness to fight anyone at any time.
KC: What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, SFF?
AED: There are no limits. Obviously, to get a readable, coherent story down on the page, you have to organize your imagination, but you don’t have to shackle it. You can come up with any world, any story, and as long as you imagine it so thoroughly that it makes internal sense, you are free to take your characters and your plot anywhere you wish. Truly anywhere. I love to experience that as a reader and I love the freedom as a writer. Imagination is our best feature as a species, isn’t it? With SFF, it gets free rein.
KC: What authors have influenced you the most?
AED: I grew up reading Heinlein, Herbert, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Asimov and many others of that same lineage. I read Dune aloud with my parents around age 10, and that book, with its complex layers of society, star system-spanning politics, competing religions, all on top of an amazing adventure story, was hugely influential. On top of that sci-fi base was a lot of historical fiction, from Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (arguably speculative fiction rather than historical) to The King Must Die by Mary Renault, which transcends historical fiction with myths made real, gods brought to life, battles, romance, prophecy—pretty much everything you could ever want in a book. I’ve probably read it five times.
With historical fiction, I love the feeling that you, as the reader, are getting to see a small slice of a much larger story that began long ago and will continue into the future. I tried to write Seeker in that mold and I hope some sense of historical fiction has made it into the story.
KC: You’ve traveled quite a bit while researching your books, but where have you not yet been that you’d love to go?
AED: Such a good question! I have many answers, but on the top of my list is South America. I’ve never been there and I want to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I am fascinated with advanced civilizations with non-European origins.
KC: What’s next for you?
AED: Book 2 of the Seeker series, which is called Traveler. I have finished the first draft, and it’s been an intense ride to follow Quin and the others around the world as the stakes grow higher and new characters appear. Traveler picks up just a short while after Seeker leaves off, and the plot accelerates quickly. We also get to meet some of the parents from Seeker when they themselves were teenagers, which gives a new perspective to the family dynamics in the story. I can’t wait to share it.