Feature by Arunima Sharma
Young adult paranormal fiction author, Khaiah Thomson, offers us an escape into the world of Blackwood. ‘Welcome to Blackwood’ is the compelling tale of Freya, a young Syphon with the ability to draw energy from others, including their powers. When things take a wrong turn, she and her family are on the run and return to her mum’s hometown of Blackwood, where her abilities remain a secret. At Blackwood, a golden-eyed stranger enters her life and things get a lot more interesting.
The Book Launch
The launch for Khaiah’s book comes at a time when artists and businesses alike are avoiding releasing new works or products for the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought. On the flipside, it has resulted in new innovative ways to get the message across.
Khaiah has chosen to launch her book at her local café, ‘Hidden’ in Kelmscott, Perth, Western Australia. Khaiah had stumbled across Hidden exactly on its opening day. A little off the beaten track, Hidden was originally part of a bicycle suspension shop. Its quirkiness, friendly staff and supply of caffeine created the perfect ambience for Khaiah to get into the right headspace to write. Regulars could spot Khaiah penning her thoughts in one of the old leather chesterfields where some of her best scenes were written. Whenever she needs inspiration for new characters all she does is look up.
The author has only the kindest words to say when asked about launching her book at the very café where the story came alive. ‘It’s pretty awesome. I never imagined getting to the point of launching a book. It’s great to be able to do it with people who’ve gotten to know me well and are excited about the book too. The guys at Hidden know how to spell my name, so that shows how often I haunt the place.’
Khaiah was blown away by the overwhelming response to her book launch. With friends of friends already pre-ordering copies, there is a strong sense of the community coming together to support local.
The cherry on top is that she will be working the counter on the 24th October during the café’s opening hours. This is nothing new for her as she used to work at cafes when she was studying her Bachelor of Social Work Degree at Curtin. Khaiah is eager to interact with the customers and celebrate the book’s launch with them.
Western Australia makes an appearance in Blackwood
One of Khaiah’s favourite places is the Margaret River region. Inspired, she has taken different pieces of the area and stitched them together to create the setting of ‘Welcome to Blackwood’. There is actually a hint on the cover of the book, and it’s not the forest in the background. It would be interesting to see if anyone can spot it. Get down to the café and point it out to Khaiah if you think you got it!
Reflecting the humour that’s apparent in her book, Khaiah said, ‘Hidden is always packed on a Saturday so it’s only fair that I help out when I’ll be bringing in even more people (for my book launch). Other than being nervous that no-one will rock up, I’m most worried that I’ll spill the coffee.’
Why Freya (the lead character) would be handy right now
Khaiah has a knack for humour, and she believes that it is essential in all stages of life.
Talking about the story, I was curious to know how Freya, the protagonist would function in a COVID-19 pandemic. The author said considering Freya has a lot going on in her life, a pandemic probably would not rate too highly on her list of worries. Besides, not only is Blackwood an isolated community, but there’s bound to be a gifted Healer somewhere close by.
When asked if she would rather be a Syphon like Freya and her father, or a wolf shifter like her mother and brother, Khaiah Thomson had no hesitation in choosing syphon. She loves the idea of being able to see and draw energies.
‘Even though the gift comes with a lot of challenges, it would be the ultimate defence mechanism. It’s a gift with endless possibilities.’
Struggling to fit in – we can all relate at times
‘Welcome to Blackwood’ touches on many themes—family, identity, dependency and romance amongst other things. For Khaiah, identity is one of the most important themes.
‘Freya struggles to accept her abilities and where she fits in the world. This is something we can all relate to, minus the supernatural abilities. Identity is something that grows and changes throughout our lives. We think we’ve figured ourselves out and something changes or challenges us.’
Family is also a big draw card for Khaiah. She believes that Freya is lucky enough to have strong relationships within her biological family and outside of it as well. For her, the saying that ‘family isn’t always blood’ rings true through the story.
Khaiah is excited for readers to get to her favourite scene where Freya first meets the handsome golden-eyed stranger.
‘Freya is the kind of girl I would have liked to be at seventeen.’
Khaiah is signed to Hawkeye Publishing.
Immediately signed for a 3-book deal
‘Khaiah’s book is so addictive I signed her for a 3-book deal,’ said Hawkeye Publishing’s Director, Carolyn Martinez. ‘She came to our attention when she won the Hawkeye Publishing Manuscript Development Prize 2020. Her humour, timing, world building and suspense are simply divine. I couldn’t put her manuscript down. I read her book in a weekend, and readers will too.’
As for the 3-part series, without giving too much away, Khaiah revealed that as Freya’s abilities grow, she battles her darker side. The romantic tension continues, and new characters enter the scene. Basically, expect a lot of action, adventure, soul searching and romance.
Where to go on the 24th October 2020
Meanwhile, note down 24th October 2020 in your calendars! It sounds like a great plan for the 24th to hit up Hidden café during the day and watch the AFL final later that night!
Welcome to Blackwood is available in all good bookstores and libraries, and direct from the publisher here. Thank you for supporting Australian authors!